Tuesday, 14 May 2019

How to practise self-enquiry (ātma-vicāra)?

A friend recently wrote to me, ‘Please forgive me, as I suppose this question has been asked thousands of times, but can you describe in basic everyday language how YOU practice self-enquiry? Perhaps you have addressed this somewhere else. If so, please be kind enough to direct me to the source’, and in reply I wrote:

In the context of ātma-vicāra, vicāra means enquiry in the sense of investigation, not in the sense of asking, so ‘ātma-vicāra’ is best translated as self-investigation rather than self-enquiry.

The basic tool in any investigation is observation or attention, and in self-investigation this is the only tool available to us, so we can investigate ourself only by being self-attentive. That is, our aim is to see what we actually are, and in order to see anything we must look at it, so to see what we actually are we must look at ourself very keenly and carefully. In this context ‘to see’ means to be aware of and ‘look at’ means attend to.

We are always aware of ourself, but we are usually negligently self-aware, because we are more interested in being aware of other things, so if we are interested to know what we actually are, instead of being negligently self-aware we must try to be attentively self-aware. Therefore self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is just the practice of being self-attentive or attentively self-aware.

As Bhagavan wrote in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘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 keeping the mind always in [or on] ātmā [oneself]’. In this context ‘mind’ means attention, so in this sentence he defines ‘ātma-vicāra’ simply as the practice of keeping our attention always fixed firmly on ourself.

However, like any appropriate words that may be used to describe this practice, these words of Bhagavan and the other words I have written here just point us in the correct direction, but to actually learn how to investigate ourself we must just try to do so, because it is only by practice that we can learn. That is, just as the only way to learn to ride a bicycle is to try to ride one, and no matter how many times one may fall, just to keep on trying till one succeeds, so the only way to learn to investigate ourself is to try to do so, and no matter how many times one may fail to see what one actually is, just to keep on trying till one succeeds. The more we try to be self-attentive, the clearer the way will become, so we just need to patiently persevere in trying to be as self-attentive as we can.

If you would like to read any more detailed answers to your question, you can such answers in other articles I have written, such as How to start practising ātma-vicāra? and How to attend to ‘I’?.

121 comments:

anadi-ananta said...

"...and no matter how many times one may fail to see what one actually is, just to keep on trying till one succeeds. The more we try to be self-attentive, the clearer the way will become, so we just need to patiently persevere in trying to be as self-attentive as we can."
What I learnt from my own experience is that it is just then important to keep on trying till one succeeds when one fails to see what one actually is even for decades.

Aham said...

.

Thank you for this article Mr James.

The mental question "who am I?" is often associated with Sri Ramana's ātma-vicāra.

Given the ego is fueled by association with thoughts, did Sri Ramana ever intend for aspirants to ask the question "who am I?" mentally (even if only sparingly) as a means of returning to self-attentiveness?

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Michael James said...

Aham, Bhagavan taught us to investigate who am I, not just to ask ‘Who am I?’, and in order to investigate what we actually are we need to turn our entire attention back towards ourself and thereby sink deep below the surface activity of the mind. When our attention is distracted by anything else, asking ourself ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Who is aware of these other things?’ may sometimes help us to turn our attention back to ourself, but self-investigation is only turning and fixing our attention on ourself and not merely asking ourself such questions.

However, some people misinterpreted what he taught to mean that one should repeatedly ask oneself ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Whence am I?’, so to make it clear that we should not float on the surface of the mind asking such questions instead of turning back and sinking deep within he composed verse 2 of Ēkāṉma Pañcakam:

தானிருந்துந் தானாகத் தன்னைத்தா னானெவன்
யானிருக்குந் தான மெதுவெனக்கேட் — பானுக்கு
யானெவ னெவ்விடம் யானுள னென்றமது
பானனை யீடு பகர்.

tāṉirundun dāṉāhat taṉṉaittā ṉāṉevaṉ
yāṉirukkun thāṉa meduveṉakkēṭ — pāṉukku
yāṉeva ṉevviḍam yāṉuḷa ṉeṉḏṟamadhu
pāṉaṉai yīḍu pagar
.

பதச்சேதம்: தான் இருந்தும் தானாக, தன்னை தான் ‘நான் எவன்? யான் இருக்கும் தானம் எது?’ என கேட்பானுக்கு ‘யான் எவன்? எவ் இடம் யான் உளன்?’ என்ற மதுபானனை ஈடு பகர்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): tāṉ irundum tāṉāha, taṉṉai tāṉ ‘nāṉ evaṉ? yāṉ irukkum thāṉam edu?’ eṉa kēṭpāṉukku ‘yāṉ evaṉ? ev iḍam yāṉ uḷaṉ?’ eṉḏṟa madhupāṉaṉai īḍu pagar.

அன்வயம்: தான் தானாக இருந்தும், தன்னை தான் ‘நான் எவன்? யான் இருக்கும் தானம் எது?’ என கேட்பானுக்கு ‘யான் எவன்? யான் எவ் இடம் உளன்?’ என்ற மதுபானனை ஈடு பகர்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): tāṉ tāṉāha irundum, taṉṉai tāṉ ‘nāṉ evaṉ? yāṉ irukkum thāṉam edu?’ eṉa kēṭpāṉukku ‘yāṉ evaṉ? yāṉ ev iḍam uḷaṉ?’ eṉḏṟa madhupāṉaṉai īḍu pagar.

English translation: Declare a drunkard who mutters [in confusion] ‘Who am I? What place am I?’ to be equal to one who oneself asks oneself ‘Who am I?’ [or] ‘What is the place in which I am?’, even though oneself is as oneself [that is, even though one is always clearly existing as one’s own real nature, which shines as pure awareness, ‘I am I’].

Aham said...

.

Thanks for the reply.

When our attention is distracted by anything else, asking ourself ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Who is aware of these other things?’ may sometimes help us to turn our attention back to ourself, but self-investigation is only turning and fixing our attention on ourself and not merely asking ourself such questions.

Yes that was/is my view also, prior to asking my question 14 May 2019 at 21:33. However I sometimes had the impression from your writings that to ask ‘Who am I?’ etc (even sparingly) was not the Teaching. But your perspective on the matter is now clear.

.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
could you please briefly clarify the meaning of that verse-translation ? Is the clause 'declare a drunkard ...to be equal' used as infinitive or in imperative mood ? (Who declares a drunkard...?)

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, the final word of the verse, ‘பகர்’ (pagar), is an imperative that means tell, say, declare or announce, but in this context it implies consider. That is, if we ask ourself ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Whence am I?’ instead of keenly investigating what we actually are or from where we rise as ego, we should consider ourself to be no better than a drunkard who in the confusion of intoxication babbles ‘Who am I? What place am I?’

anadi-ananta said...

Thank you Michael, with your clarification now I understand the meaning of that verse.

Michael James said...

In a comment on my latest video, 2019-05-11 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 18, a friend wrote: “In this verse [paragraph] it is said: ‘In dream the mind takes another body to be itself’. The question may arise whether that dream-body is just quite the same more subtle version (often called ‘astral body’) of the dense physical body we apparently have/experience in waking. In other words, is the dream-body the same as the ‘astral body’ which is generally considered as the more subtle sheath of the dense/gross physical sheath? Or is the dream-body a completely new creation (of the mind) which has not at all any affinity with the so-called ‘astral body’ which is a subtle copy of the gross physical body? One could also ask whether the dream-body is ‘alive’ also in waking and as such exercises any function while waking.”

In reply I wrote:

Josef, the bodies we experience as ourself in waking and dream are both equally gross or equally subtle, because they are just a creation of ego and they seem to be equally real and physical while we experience each of them. If any state we take to be waking is actually just another dream, as Bhagavan says, then nothing exists unless we perceive it, so all the bodies we experienced as ‘I’ in other dreams do not exist in this dream, and this body does not exist in other dreams.

What Bhagavan teaches us is very simple and in perfect accord with our experience, so we should not allow ourself to complicate it by mixing it up with other more complex and dubious beliefs such as those that speak of an ‘astral body’.

AsunAparicio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
because theosophy was then (more than four decades) my approach to the 'spiritual world' I have still its view in my mind. [According the theosophic conceptions there is an astral world with diverse subtle planes or levels. To human beings a scale of 'soulbodies' which become always more subtle is attributed. They are called sheaths, subtle bodies or vehicles, comparable with the model of an onion, although they are penetrating one another. We are constructed like an onion with its skins. The inner heart is the higher self, the eternal divine part in us. The more distant the skins/sheaths/ covers/frames are from the higher self the more they are shaped by an individual consciousness and separated from the divine heart. The most remote is the physical body. A well-known impeccable 'astral-traveller/hereafter-traveller of my circle of acquaintances admits that his perceptions of the astral-world are only subjective. Nevertheless in his experiences he considers the view of the theosophy at least as a quite practicable hypothesis.]
J.B.

AsunAparicio said...

Michael,

I deleted my previous comment because I found the answer already. Specifically in "The paramount importance of self-attention" by Shadu Om which I was reading yesterday. There can´t be more clarity and simplicity.

It can be downloaded from some R.M. pages in FB, if someone is interested.

Thank you so much for all your sharings.

AsunAparicio said...

Yes, “sink deep below the surface activity of the mind” till only the feeling I am or self-awareness is left and clinging to it . This has its own action on us in an amazing way.

Even if for a brief moment, a day without that “touch” is a wasted day. I wouldn´t change it for any "experience" given by anyone nor even if it would take me one thounsand lives to get so called self-realization (I´ve been reading the post on Papaji :))

Rajat Sancheti said...

Thank you Michael.
Desires, fears, etc belong to the ego or to the person? The person is insentient and cannot desire or fear anything, so they must belong to ego, i suppose. But then why do these desires and fears have such a personal nature? For example, the desire for money, lust, status, etc, they are only the body's desires. Is it that when ego identifies this body as 'I', it takes this body's desires and fears to be its own? Or are desires and fears only the ego's desires and fears?

While doing atma vichara, one big challenge seems to be recognising that I'm thinking of things other than myself. Almost the whole day I'm too busy thinking of the world to remember that I should instead be trying to do atma vichara. If sometimes i remember and if the cloud of thoughts clears a little, then I try to investigate to whom the thought arose. But the cloud of thoughts is so dense that mostly I don't remember. Is that the function of a 'kurnda mati', to recognise when thoughts arise, and then to discard the thought and focus on the thinker? Is this 'sharp intellect' in any way like the intellect required by a scientist or a mathematician?

Rafael said...

AsunAparicio, it is easy to reject an experience you never had, have you as easily rejected the experience of sex? This is a rhetorical question since we all know the answer. If I understand Mr. James correctly, everything is orchestrated by Sri Ramana, that includes encounters, seemingly having gone astray with a cult, and various experiences. That all has only one purpose, to lead us back to the Heart.

AsunAparicio said...

Rafael,

How do you know I didn´t reject and/or discarded it?

Sadhu Om says something very interesting in “The paramount importance of self-investigation” I completely agree with: “Erratic behaviour only occurs if a disciple has a profound change of outlook while still retaining some individuality.”

Nothing can be compared to the clean, peaceful, thoughtless intimacy of being in touch with self-awareness trough effortful self-investigation, even for a while which becomes on its own more than a while and effortless since, the same way we look for it, it looks for us.

Overcoming tendencies, so called passions such as fear, desires, etc. and attachments which is included in self-investigation, can´t be avoided. No shortcuts.

Rafael said...

AsunAparicio, yes I do not know and I should not assume. From what I understand though attachment to sex is one of the last things to go besides the desire to get self-realized. From that understanding you have not discarded sex unless you are a sage.

AsunAparicio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my recent videos, 2019-04-13 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Nāṉ Ār? paragraph 17, a friend wrote: “I love this guy-he's very likable, and very compelling. And I want very much to believe that Maharshi was the real deal. BUT-how can we tease apart what might be true in Mr. James’ presentations from what is likely to be a result only of his devotional hero-worship? Hero-worship sometimes results in folks drinking kool-aid.”

In reply to this I wrote:

By using your own judgement and power of reasoning. If you study Bhagavan’s teachings deeply and carefully, you will find that their fundamental principles are very simple, clear, coherent, logical and in perfect accord with our own experience of ourself. He does not ask us to accept his teachings on faith, but challenges us to critically question all our beliefs and assumptions and to analyse our actual experience. However, though critical thinking and logical reasoning are the starting point, deep and abiding conviction can come only from the deep inner clarity gained by putting his teachings into practice.

AsunAparicio said...

Michael,

Awareness is not given nor brought about by anyone nor by any teaching, It is already, more or less overlooked by us. Ramana and his teachings only point to its real importance so that it can be seen the futility of focusing on what is false, limited and temporary instead of focusing on what is real, unchanging and eternal and help us to discern. True guidance is the feeling of being as well as, as you say, the true source of clarity and conviction.

Tendency of mind is to focus on the second and third person, as if there were something in there, and so are sages and teachings, unless they are used properly to go inside, they become one more obstacle since they keep mind struggling with concepts away from self-awareness but, are we going to blame them for it?

It is not necessary to believe in awareness, it is a fact enough by itself to attract attention towards it, even science tries to find out what is it and where it lays in the body. Ramana only tells us to cling to it and how to deal with tendencies which is not small thing since all around us seems to drive us in the opposite direction.

Personally, I find your talks a very good practice themselves regarding to discrimination. Leave it or take it, it´s up to each one. But it is confusion of mind what brings confusion and doubts about, not the teachings nor the impeccable way you hold on to them. You only have to read comments, responses and discussions to see it: malice, aggressiveness, frustration and so on, always looking for veracity or falsity in the person, as if it proved something or would be of any help for them. Only one can know.

This is an inner and solitary journey, actually.

anadi-ananta said...

According Michael James:"deep inner clarity gained by putting his teachings into practice."

That is by keenly investigating oneself, keenly investigating oneself, keenly investigating oneself...
Of course, there is nothing more necessary than deep inner clarity, deep inner clarity, deep inner clarity...
Hope by Arunachala's grace I will be able to pay any price for that...to learn keeping up the required penetrating sharp scrutiny of my present mistaken identity. As Bhagavan wrote to his mother in December 1898 at Arunachala's eastern spur Pavalakunru: being silent is good.

Aham said...

.

‘The name ‘ātma-vicāra’ [refers] only to keeping the mind always in [or on] ātmā [oneself]’. In this context ‘mind’ means attention, so in this sentence he defines ‘ātma-vicāra’ simply as the practice of keeping our attention always fixed firmly on ourself.


Is it not the case Mr James, that the very 'I' that ātma-vicāra directs us to attend to, is also the 'I' that is popularly referred to as Self! Albeit obscured (for most) by attachments.

There is no second (Realised) 'I' waiting in the wings. It is the 'I' that is right now, however faint to the aspirant, that is in fact Self.

As such, ātma-vicāra is Self attending to Self. Or more rightly, Self being Self. And kept up until Being (alone) is constant is effortless.

.

anadi-ananta said...

Aham,
is it not clear that self itself does not need practising ‘ātma-vicāra’ ?

Aham said...

.


Yes anadi-ananta,

hence I wrote "Self attending to Self. Or more rightly, Self being Self."
the implication is that Self is not doing (practicing) only being.


As for the term "kept up" which implies effort, it refers to ceasing to attend to objects. Which is required of all practicing ātma-vicāra.


.

Michael James said...

Aham, regarding your comments of today at 03:32 and 09:24, the ‘I’ that is popularly referred to as Self is what Bhagavan calls ‘ātma-svarūpa’ (the ‘own form’ or real nature of oneself) or just ‘svarūpa’ (our own real nature), but it is not correct to say that ātma-vicāra (self-investigation) is our real nature attending to our real nature or even our real nature being our real nature, because our real nature is always as it is and it is always aware of itself as it is, so it does not need to attend to itself.

Attention is a selective use of our awareness, because attending to something (whether ourself or anything else) means selecting to be aware of (or to focus our awareness on) that thing rather than any other thing, so attention is possible only when there is more than one thing that we could be aware of. Therefore attention is the nature of ourself as ego and not of ourself as we actually are (ātma-svarūpa), because in the deluded view of ourself as ego there seem to many things, whereas in the clear view of ourself as we actually are there is nothing other than ourself. Hence what needs to attend to ourself rather than to anything else is only ourself as ego and not ourself as we actually are.

Our real nature (ourself as we actually are) does not need to investigate itself, and it cannot do so, because it is perfect as it is, and it is eternally immutable, so it is not affected in any way whatsoever by whether we as ego choose to investigate ourself or not. It is only when we rise as ego instead of just being as we actually are that we need to investigate and see what we actually.

Of course, there is only one ‘I’, not two, so ourself as ego and ourself as we actually are are not two separate ‘I’s. The only real ‘I’ is ourself as we actually are, namely ātma-svarūpa, but when we rise as ego this one real ‘I’ seems to be ego, the finite awareness in whose view other things seem to exist. Since we are now aware of ourself as if we were this ego, as this ego we need to investigate ourself, so what is investigating and what is being investigated is only ourself as ego. However, we are investigating ego in order to see what we actually are, because what now seems to be ego is actually just ātma-svarūpa, the infinite awareness in whose clear view no other things seem to exist.

A rope and the snake that it seems to be are not two different things. What is actually there is only a rope, but in the deluded view of an observer it seems to be a snake. If the observer observes it carefully enough, he or she will see that that it is just a rope and was therefore never a snake. Likewise, if we as ego attend to ourself keenly enough, we will see that we are just ātma-svarūpa and were therefore never any such thing as ego.

Aham said...

.

Thank you Mr James,

because what now seems to be ego is actually just ātma-svarūpa

This is exactly the point I wished to make.


so it (Self) does not need to attend to itself.

Yes, I did not intend to imply it as per my response to anadi-ananta.

.

anadi-ananta said...

As Michael said, because our real nature is always as it is and is always aware of itself as it is, it will do us good not to remain in our unreal nature as seeming ego.:-)

AsunAparicio said...

As for understanding Maya, I find it is easier from the bhakti perspective.

The same way we confuse ego with the person, we confuse love with likes. Attention isn´t but love. As attending to likes in order to get fulfillment, mind is following the senses and the fulfillment is only temporal, always followed by its opposite which is dissatisfaction, or pain in case of pleasure, and so on. This kind of attention, as Sadhu Om says, only multiplies the second and third persons endlessly without finding fulfillment ever and you can go really deep down into misery and confusion, whereas attention to the first person which is love for our self and the only true love since we can´t really love any other than ourselves, diminishes it or it directly fades away altogether with the second and third persons.

Yet, I don´t agree with what it is said that all of it vanishes in absolute terms, it is the confusion or the belief of what is unreal to be real what fades away. Whenever there is a body, there is a world too. You know you are not that, and what appears to be is not in reality so that you are not bound by it anymore nor can´t say this is “me” and that is whatever it may appear to be, simply. You have realized the movie is just a movie but the movie goes on till its end. A so called Jnani´s body is subject to the laws of nature and to its prarabdha as much as the ajnani´s body .

Ramana said when he was beaten by those thieves that who knew what he had made to them in his previous live, if I remember correctly.
He also tells that he tried to leave the ashram several times and to stay alone but he always was brought back. So …

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
"...but he always was brought back." - not by his prarabdha but for his infinite love of Arunachala and us (both as not separated from himself).

AsunAparicio said...

Anandi-ananta,

Who knows?

Ramana hismself used to say that he left his home because that was his prarabadha when someone wanted to do the same.

It is not very clear to me this stuff of predestination regarding to the body and a superior power driving the manifest.

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
it is said that only ego and its bodies are subjected to prarabdha-karma, by no means a sage. Till middle of July 1896 there was the boy Venkataraman, afterwards was no ego anymore. Perhaps some actions of the previous person Venkataraman continued to have to some extent a prarabdha-effect, as it is the case when a running electric fan is switched off and its rotary motions/revolutions do not come to an end immediately because the rotation swing continues as long there is a rest of remaining rotation energy.

Rafael said...

Whatever Sri Ramana 'did' is only from the viewpoint of ignorance, he did nothing being atma-svarupa. So wherever Sri Ramana's body went, it was not by any intention or will, it was merely a projection by Jivas, back then and now. Seeing him as a body is born out of ignorance and ignorance is inherent until Jnana.

anadi-ananta said...

Rafael,
the talk was about the former boy's (Venkataraman's) actions, not about those of the later sage Sri Ramana.

AsunAparicio said...

Anadi-ananta,

Venkataram as well as Ramana and Anandi-ananta are just names given to a body and body as well as world are ego´s projections, tools to fulfill its will. Once ego is seen as nonexistent but just as a thought, so are body and world, remaining awareness as pure awareness aware only of itself as the only reality. This doesn´t mean that body and world get vanished too, except at certain moments of complete absorption which seems it was usual in Ramana´s case.

I agree that what we call Ramana wasn´t there anymore. Anandi-ananta isn´t there either despite of our belief. There is just a body fulfilling egoless will for the universal purpose in the first case and the ego´s will for egoist purposes in the second case since both bodies still are (obviously Ramana´s is not) or appear at this level of manifestation and are subject to action which doesn´t mean that there is someone doing something.

I can understand that once ego disappears also its subtlest sheath, will, disappears yet, prana, intellect and senses still go on functioning, otherwise, it wouldn´t be but a corpse and would be buried by others which didn´t happen, did it? and, on the other hand, it would be unable of functioning in the world which the body we call Ramana could do perfectly.
My question is what is it that enables a body to function in the world, being both ego´s projections, without ego or awareness of the body and world. Maybe it is as you say with your analogy, but it would seem as if there is something to it than just mechanical stuff. Don´t know.

Regarding to prarabdha it is just the cause-effect law, being ego the cause and the whole show multiplying endlessly itself, the effect. This I can get it.


Rafael said...

Seeing any body is ignorance, not just the body of a sage.

Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my recent videos, 2019-05-19 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to develop vairāgya and humility, a friend wrote: ‘The concept mentioned around the 5:00 mark (a little before and after): I don’t get it. It’s confusing — I think to the translator, too. Please explain that concept more slowly, perhaps with some analogies. And “We cannot be anything in the absence of which we are still aware of ourselves”. Can’t understand. Can that be phrased differently please?’

In reply to this I wrote:

Ross, the logic of the argument that I expressed from 4:31 onwards is very simple and absolutely irrefutable. If A and B are numerically identical, that is, if they are not two things but one and the same thing, whatever is true of A must also be true of B. For example, if we are aware of A, that means that we must also be aware of B, because A is B. We cannot be aware of A without being aware of B, and we cannot be aware of B without being aware of A, because A and B are not two different things.

According to this simple and undeniable principle, if this body (B) were ourself (A), we could not be aware of ourself without being aware of this body. Therefore, since we are aware of ourself in dream (and also in sleep, by which I mean dreamless sleep) without being aware of this body, this body cannot be ourself.

This same logic applies to anything else that we are aware of. If we are ever aware of ourself without being aware of any particular thing, that thing cannot be ourself. Therefore anything that ever either appears in or disappears from our awareness cannot be ourself. This applies even to ego, the awareness that is aware of phenomena and aware of itself as one set of those phenomena, namely a body and everything associated with it, because ego appears in waking and dream but disappears in sleep.

Therefore what we actually are cannot be anything other than the fundamental self-awareness that exists and shines not only in waking and dream but also in sleep. We now mistake ourself to be this body because we have turned our attention away from ourself towards other things, thereby neglecting the pure awareness that we actually are, so to be aware of ourself as we actually are we must break this habit of attending to other things by repeatedly, patiently and persistently trying to attend to ourself alone. This is the simple path of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) that Bhagavan taught us, and it is the only means by which we can be aware of ourself as the pure awareness that we actually are.

AsunAparicio said...


Sorry, I´m behind. Too much to read in this site.

In http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2019/01/how-to-be-self-attentive-even-while-we.html Ramana answers this question:

"...one paramēśvara śakti [supreme ruling power or power of God] is driving all kāryas [whatever needs or ought to be done or to happen]"


Seems that the answer is God and the power of God but since it is also said that body, world and God arise altogether with ego, this God and its power must be ego too which doesn´t make much sense unless ego still remains at some extent and so long as there is a body.




Rajat Sancheti said...

If I give it some thought, and try to recall last night's dream, it becomes quite clear that in dream I am aware of myself without being aware of this body. But if I try to see the same thing (that I am aware of myself without being aware of this body) regarding dreamless sleep, it is not very clear. Why is it that the memory of having existed in dream is much clearer than the memory of having existed in dreamless sleep? Or is it that in the case of dream, what is clearer to me is only the memory of having existed as some body, and not the memory of simply existing?
I suspect I am wrong in relying on memory for this manana, (because, in dream I can remember my childhood, etc, but obviously the dream body I took to be myself didn't have any childhood, so memory cannot be trusted). But how else to think of deep sleep, to try to see that we are not this thinking mind either? On what basis to reject the memory of childhood, and accept the memory of last night's sleep? Should it be discarded altogether?

AsunAparicio said...

I´m not saying that Ramana had an ego, if someone is offended, he had nothing and neither have we. Ramana, or what we take by Ramana, existed as much as any of us does. The more I read, the more it seems so, maybe I should stop :)

Lewis Oakwood said...

Hello Michael,

If the Self is always aware of itself why then does it rise as the deluded view of itself as ego and, exactly what is the ego?



Michael James said...

Lewis, what you refer to as ‘the Self’ is what Bhagavan calls ‘ātma-svarūpa’ (the ‘own form’ or real nature of oneself) or just ‘svarūpa’ (our own real nature), and as he says in the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே’ (yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē), ‘What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa’. Since nothing other than our real nature actually exists, our real nature is immutable and not affected even in the least by whatever else may appear or seem to exist, so it never rises or undergoes any other kind of change. It is as it is, now and forever. And since it is what we actually are, this means that we are as we are, now and forever.

What rises is not ourself as we actually are (our real nature), but only ourself as ego, and as you say, ego rises only in its own deluded view. That is, it does not rise or seem to exist at all in the clear view of our real nature. So the question you ask is the correct one: what exactly is this ego? This is what we need to investigate, and as Bhagavan taught us, if we, this ego, investigate ourself keenly enough, we will dissolve and disappear, and what will then remain shining all on its own is just ātma-svarūpa, ourself as we actually are.

Why does ego dissolve and disappear when we investigate it keenly enough? Because it does not actually exist, but merely seems to exist whenever it attends to anything other than itself. That is, when it looks elsewhere, it seems to exist, but when it turns back to look at itself alone, there is no such thing, so what then remains shining is just pure self-awareness, which is ourself as we actually are, and which is what always exists as it is, untouched by the appearance of ego or anything else.

Michael James said...

In reply to the reply I reproduced in my comment of 24 May 2019 at 18:50 the same friend wrote another comment saying: ‘[...] In vichara, there is always the last match illuminating the way. When the last match is gone, how can there be a return? Therefore, I (my ego) will not go there. It is the end of my self. In deep sleep, I may go there and return, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about my deep sleep since there was no registering, so memory can’t draw upon it. But in vichara — oh, this must be very different! — a conscious concession to the end of my self. The ego will never sincerely embark on such search. So is it my ego that is on here leading this search? That would be mere entertainment because it will refuse to go the distance.’

In reply to this I wrote:

Yes, Ross, the nature of ourself as ego is to be unwilling to let go and end ourself. Therefore vicāra is possible only to the extent that we are willing to surrender ourself. We start off with just a slight willingness to surrender, but as we go deeper in our practice of vicāra our willingness to surrender increases, until finally we are willing to surrender ourself entirely, whereupon we are able to attend to ourself so keenly that we are aware of absolutely nothing other than ourself, and that pure attentive self-awareness will eradicate ego entirely and forever.

Lewis Oakwood said...




Thank you, Michael.

How can something that doesn't actually exist -the ego- as an actual separate entity investigate itself, indeed, by what means does it suppose to be real: how can a phantom have any properties whatsoever; even its appearance surely must be known to something other than itself especially as it is non-existent?

.

For example, Lewis can be daydreaming that he is a superhero going around doing this or that deed but, how can the imagined superhero (being non-existent in actuality) do (practise self-investigation) or know anything?

Michael James said...

Lewis, such is the nature of māyā, which is another name for mind, whose root and essence is ego, and this is why Bhagavan described it (in verse 6 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam and the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?) as an atiśaya śakti, an extraordinary or wonderful power, and why it is said to be anirvacanīya, indescribable or inexplicable.

As Bhagavan explained, māyā means ‘what is not’ or ‘she who is not’, because it and all its products seem to exist only in the view of ego, which itself does not actually exist, even though it now seems to exist. Ego seems to exist (or rather, we seem to exist as ego) only because of avicāra, non-investigation, because if we investigate ourself keenly enough, we will see that we are and always have been only pure awareness, so we have never risen as ego.

Asking how something that does not actually exist, namely ego, can seem to exist only in its own view is like asking how the son of a barren woman can have been born. The son of a barren woman can never exist, so he can never have been born. Likewise, though we seem to have risen as ego, we can never actually have risen as ego, because what we actually are is only pure awareness, which can never undergo change of any kind whatsoever.

To verify that we have never risen as ego, all we need do is investigate ourself keenly enough. If we have not yet investigated ourself keenly enough to see that we are nothing other than immutable pure awareness (awareness that is never aware of anything other than itself), that is only because we are not yet willing to surrender ourself (this ego) entirely, but that is another issue, and one that can be solved only by patient and persistent attempts to investigate ourself.

The nature of māyā defies the ability of our intellect to understand it, but we need not understand it, because it does not actually exist. All we need do is investigate ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are. Therefore in this context a well-known analogy used by Buddha is relevant. If we have been hit by a poisoned arrow, the only thing we need do is urgently remove it. If instead we try to work out who may have shot the arrow, why they may have done so, what type of poison they may have used, where and how they may have obtained it, we would be wasting valuable time and may die in the process. Likewise, rather than wasting our time and effort trying understand how a non-existent ego can seem to exist only in its own view, we should investigate it to see what it actually is and whether it actually exists at all. If we do so, we will find that there is no such thing, and therefore no need to explain anything about it.

AsunAparicio said...


Being the nature of ego to recall in fear at the crucial moments, persevering seems as being stuck in a catch22 situation. How to overcome it?

anadi-ananta said...

In addition to Michael's above reply to Lewis I want to express my consideration gained from my own "spiritual experience":
To surrender ourself entirely to the higher power (self, God, brahman or atma-svarupa or whatever name you want to give) one must have first unshakeable trust to that omniscient and omnipresent power/reality and the imperturbable conviction that preserving his/her feeling to be and to become happy as a separate person is indeed a completely unfortunate, dishonest, illogical, listless, unpleasant, unnatural, useless, unjust, unprofitable, inappropriate, unrealizable and summarily wrong enterprise.
Only after having won these prerequisites one can hope to be on the right path of totaly annihilation of ego and its supposed or imagined identity of a separate 'I'.
That being aware of absolutely nothing other than ourself as we really are is our greatest cognition, good and therefore highest goal we should be able to recognize without the slightest doubt, albeit it seemingly may take many, many lifes.

Michael James said...

Asun, the reason why we as ego recoil in fear at the crucial moments, as you say in your comment of 25 May 2019 at 14:16, is that we are not yet willing to surrender ourself entirely. However, this does not mean that we are stuck in a catch-22 situation, because if we persevere in trying to be self-attentive as much as possible (that is, as much as we are willing to do), our willingness to surrender ourself will steadily increase.

As Bhagavan expressed it in the sixth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?: ‘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’. What he describes here as ‘தன் பிறப்பிடத்திற் றங்கி நிற்கும் சக்தி’ (taṉ piṟappiḍattil taṅgi niṟgum śakti), ‘the power to stand firmly established in its [or one’s] birthplace’, is our willingness to surrender ourself, because we can abide firmly in and as our real nature (which is our ‘பிறப்பிடம்’ (piṟappiḍam), ‘birthplace’, the source from which we have risen as ego) only to the extent that we are willing to let go of everything else and thereby surrender ourself entirely.

Therefore there is no catch-22 in this path of self-investigation and self-surrender. The more we follow it, the more willing we will become to surrender ourself, and the more willing we are to surrender ourself, the less we will fear our own annihilation. Rather than fearing our annihilation, as we do now, we will eventually welcome and embrace it, because only by embracing it can we lose ourself forever in the infinite peace, satisfaction and happiness that is our real nature.

Anonymous said...

Michael, the teachings do make sense once pursuing practice, however for novices why would one pursue the practice if they are unsure of the teachings? This can get circular. People degrade "devotional hero worship" yet i believe devotion is a very strong aspect to taking to the teaching in the first place. As Bhagavan Himself says Bhakti is the mother of Jnana. We need to accept what Bhagavan says unconditionally as our logic can only take us so far even with regards to the clarity of the teachings by Bhagavan's Grace. In this case our Heart tells us this is true beyobd the mind. To some extent it is a leap of faith in Bhagavan as our Guru and what He says and until you have that you cannot pursue Jnana wholeheartedly. I wouldn't bother too much with muggles who perceive such people as those who have drunk kool aid, Bhagavan is not recruiting devotees, thise who feel called to Him shall surrender to Him with their whole Heart and those that don't, quite simply won't.

anadi-ananta said...

Regarding the always demanded willingness to surrender,
Actually my fear of annihilation is tremendous. Surrender to an at best suspected omnipotent power there is a certain amount of risk involved in it because we do not really know whether we end in unlimited eternal happiness even when the sages assure us of that. Only a fool will run the risk of his willing surrender and finally its own annihilation in favour of an unknown power. Therefore it is necessary to know the real nature/character of the "superintendent" from the outset. One must clearly recognize who is in charge here in one's life. For instance, an apprentice cook will readily surrender to his superior/head cook only when he is fully aware of the advantage associated with the qualities of his chef.:-)
Submitting us to an unknown fate out of enthusiasm will only happen when clearly no true alternative is seen.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Thank you, Michael.

I wrote: Lewis can be daydreaming that he is a superhero going around doing this or that deed but, how can the imagined superhero (being non-existent in actuality) do (practice self-investigation) or know anything?

I wonder with regard to verse 6 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam and the fourth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār - "an extraordinary or wonderful power...indescribable or inexplicable" is it accurate to say that Lewis, māyā, mind, and ego are synonymous and that by the practice of self-investigation ego when looked at can be seen to be non-existent by ego itself?

Also, in light of your what you wrote in your reply — "The nature of māyā defies the ability of our intellect to understand it, but we need not understand it because it does not actually exist. All we need do is investigate ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are" — there has come a feeling that it may be more beneficial to stop inquiry into the nature of ego and from whence it comes instead to focus the attention upon whether there is any actual validity to this thing called ego.

Michael and anadi-ananta, yes, I see what you mean about surrender. Is it accurate to say that there doesn't need to be a willingness to surrender, it simply appears to arise naturally alongside the practise of self-investigation?

AsunAparicio said...

Thank you for your response, Michael.

It is difficult acknowledging that unwillingness to surrender because it is also difficult to find it, except at those moments when you don´t stay to go on the investigation hence, the feeling of being stuck in a catch22 situation.

At the intellectual level it is very clearly seen the futility of clinging to the false awareness and in the practice there is a feeling of well - being , of being at home as attending only to self-awareness, and the brief moments when grace is showed and it is experienced “I alone am”, so to speak, are pure joy in its simplicity and naturalness. Not a big deal. Yet, there is still this recoiling in fear at certain moments I don´t know where it comes from. Must be because, as you use to say, we turn only 150 or 170 degrees and ego still feels safe unlike at those moments of recoiling when it feels seriously threatened since it is perceived as something definitive and completely unknown.

I guess the firmness and stability to stay at those moments are given by the practice too.

Having certain gift for something, so to speak, is not always an advantage.It can even be deceiving at some extent.

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood,
the reason why surrender to brahman alone is good in any case should be understood mentally and wholeheartedly.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
relating to your yesterday reply to Lewis at 08:43,

"...but when it turns back to look at itself alone, there is no such thing, so what then remains shining is just pure self-awareness, which is ourself as we actually are, and which is what always exists as it is, untouched by the appearance of ego or anything else."
Only a thought which suddenly wanders in my head:
When we already and actually are just pure self-awareness, which is what always exists as it is, untouched by the appearance of ego or anything else, one might ask whether there is at all any need for keenly investigating ego and we instead of the effort of keen self-investigation could simply leave ego as it is. Why occupy/concern/bother oneself with trivial details as dissolving something anyway non-existent phantom (ego) ? :-)

Rob P said...

Extract from Friday, 31 July 2015

By attending to our ego we are attending to ourself


Though Bhagavan described this practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) in various different ways, he made it clear that these are all just various descriptions of one and the same practice. Therefore whether he described it as investigating our ego, investigating the source from which this ego rises, or investigating what we actually are, the practice he was describing in each case was the same, because we are only one self, so though we now seem to be this finite ego, what we actually are is the source and substance of this ego, which is the one infinite reality, other than which nothing exists. We can experience ourself as we really are only by investigating, closely observing or keenly attending to ourself, and since we are only one self, there cannot be more than one way in which we can investigate ourself.

Since we now seem to be this ego, we need to investigate this ego to see what we actually are, but since we ourself are what now seems to be this ego, we cannot look at our ego without actually looking at ourself (what we really are), just as we cannot look at an illusory snake without actually looking at the rope that it really is. Therefore if anyone thinks that self-investigation entails looking only at our ego and not at our real self, they are just clinging to one particular way of conceptualising this single practice and excluding other ways of conceptualising it. However, so long as we try to attend to ourself alone, it really does not matter whether we conceptualise this practice as attending to our ego, attending to our real self or attending to both, because when we actually try to do so we need to set aside all mental concepts and try to experience only ourself, the sole source of all concepts, who now seem to be the experiencer of them, even though we are actually untouched by them.

Generally speaking it is best if our understanding of this practice is not too rigid or bound by fixed ideas, because rigidity of understanding is created by attachment to particular ideas or limited viewpoints and can stifle true investigation, which is an open and fluid process of inward discovery that is best aided by a nuanced understanding that is able to see the real intent behind whatever words may be used to describe it.

Michael James said...

Lewis, in answer to your comment of 25 May 2019 at 19:35:

Firstly, regarding your question ‘is it accurate to say that Lewis, māyā, mind, and ego are synonymous?’, in some contexts mind is synonymous with ego, but not in all contexts, because sometimes the term ‘mind’ refers not just to ego but to the totality of all thoughts, which includes both ego, the primal thought ‘I’, which is the subject or perceiver of all other thoughts, and all other thoughts or mental phenomena, which are objects perceived by ego. However, since no other thought can appear or seem to exist in the absence of ego (because they all seem to exist only in ego’s view), ego is the root from which all other thoughts spring, and hence it is the essence and foundation of the mind, so when Bhagavan uses the term ‘mind’ he is generally (but not always) referring to ego. Therefore we have to understand from each context whether this term ‘mind’ is being used as a synonym for ego or in a more general sense.

Similar is the case with the term ‘māyā’. Ego itself is māyā, but the term ‘māyā’ is often used to refer to the products of māyā, namely all other thoughts or phenomena, so māyā is in some contexts synonymous with mind in the sense of ego and in other contexts synonymous with mind in the more general sense of the totality of all thoughts or mental phenomena.

Ego and Lewis are not synonymous, because Lewis is one of the many people projected and perceived by ego, and though he happens to be the person whom ego now perceives as itself, ego does not always perceive itself as Lewis. Before perceiving itself as Lewis, ego had perceived itself as so many other people, so Lewis is just the identity that ego has assumed in its current dream. Therefore ego is not Lewis, but is the false awareness that is currently aware of itself as ‘I am Lewis’.

Secondly, regarding your question ‘is it accurate to say […] that by the practice of self-investigation ego when looked at can be seen to be non-existent by ego itself?’, no, ego can obviously never see itself to be non-existent (as I explain in more detail in one of my recent articles, Is it possible to have a ‘direct but temporary experience of the self’ or to watch the disappearance of the I-thought?, particularly in the final two sections, What is to investigate ego is only ego itself, so when it disappears there will be no one left to see its disappearance and Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam verse 2: our real nature cannot be revealed by any means other than silence, which is what remains when we look within to see who the seer is). When ego investigates itself keenly enough, it dissolves and disappears forever in the clear and all-consuming light of pure self-awareness, and what then remains is only that pure self-awareness, in whose clear view nothing other than itself ever exists or even seems to exist. In other words, what is sometimes described as seeing the non-existence of ego is just seeing that we alone exist, and what sees that we alone exist is not ego but only pure self-awareness, which is what we always actually are.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Lewis:

Thirdly, regarding your statement ‘it may be more beneficial to stop inquiry into the nature of ego and from whence it comes instead to focus the attention upon whether there is any actual validity to this thing called ego’, what we need to investigate is only ourself, who now seem to have arisen as ego, and we can investigate ourself only by being keenly self-attentive (that is, trying to attend to nothing other than ourself, this ego), so we can describe this investigation equally well as investigating the nature of ego, investigating what ego actually is, investigating from where ego has arisen, or investigating whether ego actually exists. In practice all these descriptions amount to same thing, namely attempting to be as keenly self-attentive as possible.

Finally, regarding your question ‘Is it accurate to say that there doesn’t need to be a willingness to surrender, it simply appears to arise naturally alongside the practise of self-investigation?’, if we did not have at least some willingness to surrender ourself we would not even begin this practice of self-investigation, because to the extent that we turn our attention back to ourself we are thereby surrendering this ego. At first our willingness to surrender ourself will be deficient, but that does not matter, provided we persevere in trying to investigate ourself, because the more we choose to attend to ourself rather than to any other thing, the more our willingness to surrender ourself will increase.

AsunAparicio said...


Rob P,

Great quote and a very enlightening article. This cleared things up quite a lot.

Thank you.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
My body came in this world because I failed in a previous life to see what I actually am. And now I am not really out of danger of suffering from the same fate of lacking sufficient insight.
Can we not simply be happy to have never risen as ego ?
Why must we verify and see that ?

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, in your comment of 26 May 2019 at 10:11 you ask: ‘When we already and actually are just pure self-awareness, which is what always exists as it is, untouched by the appearance of ego or anything else, one might ask whether there is at all any need for keenly investigating ego and we instead of the effort of keen self-investigation could simply leave ego as it is. Why occupy/concern/bother oneself with trivial details as dissolving something anyway non-existent phantom (ego)?’

Self-investigation is not needed by our real nature, which is pure self-awareness, because our real nature is not at all aware of or affected by the appearance or disappearance of ego or anything else. It is needed only by ourself as ego. However, if you do not want to investigate yourself and thereby see what you actually are, Bhagavan would not ask you to do so. If you are satisfied with your present state as ego, you can continue enjoying and suffering it for as long as you like. The choice is yours.

Self-investigation is the medicine that Bhagavan recommended for those of us who are profoundly dissatisfied with this illusory state of rising and standing as ego and who therefore wish to free ourself from this pernicious disease. Therefore whether we choose to consume this medicine or not is entirely up to each one of us.

anadi-ananta said...

Asun Aparicio,
all the articles and comments given by Michael are a treasure.

anadi-ananta said...

Thank you again, Michael,
yes, of course it is so as you write in your reply.
But whenever ego feels not in a good mood it makes a belch.:-)

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, regarding what you wrote in your comment of 25 May 2019 at 19:18, there cannot be any risk involved in surrendering ourself, because surrendering ourself means giving up our false identity and thereby remaining as we always actually are, and in the absence of our false identity, namely this ego, there will be no one remaining to experience the consequence of any supposed risk. All dangers and risks will come to an end only when we surrender ourself entirely.

Surrender of ourself means eradication of ego, and what remains when ego is eradicated is only that which always exists and never undergoes any change, so surrendering ourself is the safest option there is. In fact, it is the only option that is absolutely safe. There is certainly risk involved in living, but what risk can there be in dying? Dying is the ending of all risks, at least when the dying in question is not just death of the body but death of ego, the one who mistakes the body to be itself.

True self-surrender is not ‘surrender to an at best suspected omnipotent power’, nor is it ‘submitting us to an unknown fate’. It is just the willing subsidence of ego back into the source from which it rose, which is the pure self-awareness that shines all on its own in sleep, and with which we are therefore perfectly familiar. Sleep is temporary subsidence of ego due to tiredness, whereas surrender is permanent subsidence of ego due to overwhelming and all-consuming love to be just as we always actually are.

AsunAparicio said...


Yes, Anadi-ananta.

And yes, Michael. Can´t tell you the amount of "hearsay trash” that has been left behind altogether with useless struggles and confusion since only what is simple and natural really and perfectly suits.

Thanks so much.

anadi-ananta said...

Thank you Michael for remembering me what true self-surrender is.
Obviously I am unfortunately lacking that overwhelming and all-consuming love to be just that pure self-awareness.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
"However, if you do not want to investigate yourself and thereby see what you actually are, Bhagavan would not ask you to do so. If you are satisfied with your present state as ego, you can continue enjoying and suffering it for as long as you like. The choice is yours."
I do quite well want to investigate myself and thereby see what I actually am.
But my attempts of self-investigation did never lead me in seeing what I actually am but ended often in total disaster. Because naturally I do not intend to continue enjoying and suffering from my present state as ego I certainly will somehow wriggle out of the mess.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Thank you, Michael.

Much appreciated is the link to a previous article and the responses from anadi-ananta and Rob P.

*

What is meant by self-investigation? Does it mean the focus of attention to be placed on this sense of being present/being aware?

It's as though the ego is a distorted lens that creates a view/scene of fragmentation/individual objects and the ego-lens and imagined individual objects (the world) are one and the same— 'an erroneous awareness of ourself...an awareness of ourself as something other than what we actually are...our real nature, which is pure, infinite, eternal and immutable self-awareness.'

Is enlightenment/self-knowledge the eradication of ego and there isn't anything beyond that.

Elsewhere, I have seen mention of the words Brahman and ParaBrahman, do these have anything to do with the real nature of oneself/pure self-awareness?

What exactly do we look at when we say ego?— 'We must not just look at it, but look at it so keenly that we cease to be aware of anything else whatsoever.'


anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
regarding your today's response to me at 12:39,

what you say "...pure self-awareness that shines all on its own in sleep, and with which we are therefore perfectly familiar." does not apply to me as ego which is absent in sleep. At least I do not consciously notice any benefit from that perfect familiarity.

Ego or Self Awareness? said...

Clarification requested from Michael James: A guest said as follows. Quote. Because naturally I do not intend to continue enjoying and suffering from my present state as ego I certainly will somehow wriggle out of the mess. 26 May 2019 at 16:33.Unquote.

Is it possible for ego to do so? Is it not another method for "ego" to further sustain its own separate and individual bodily existence as ego and continue to be entangled in its own present imaginary mess? How can "ego" wriggle out of its present imaginary mess unless it dies once and for all and realizes it has never been ego or the body? Is any ego ever prepared or ready to die to realize it is but only absolute Self awareness?








26 May 2019 at 16:33

Aham said...

.


"trying to attend to nothing other than ourself, this ego" (James)

"What exactly do we look at when we say ego?" (Lewis)

As I read Mr James' statement (quoted) I wondered if someone unfamiliar with ātma-vicāra would be able to discern its meaning. Sure enough, Lewis raised the question quoted above.

No doubt Mr James will reply to you Lewis, but I would like to share my own view here.

To "attend to nothing other than ourself, this ego" is to simply Be.

What does that mean?

As a felt experience, the ego does not rise up and latch onto any object (namely thoughts), it is simultaneously self-contained, holding only to being-ness, yet there is also a sense of spaciousness and "lightness" at the same time.

And if that doesn’t make sense....there is an undeniable sense of 'I' or 'I exist' within you, paying attention to that and that alone is equivalent to "trying to attend to nothing other than ourself, this ego".

.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Aham, thank you.

What exactly do we look at when we say ego? —

'attend to nothing other than ourself, this ego...an undeniable sense of 'I' or 'I exist'...paying attention to that and that alone...nothing other than ourself, this ego.'

Yes, I see where the focus/attention is to be placed and when doing so there is indeed 'a sense of spaciousness and "lightness".' —

Also, —that sense of 'I'— a kind of unremovable presence.

anadi-ananta said...

Ego or Self Awareness?,
the fact that the guest has not died once and for all and therefore having not realized that he has "never been ego or the body" and is actually nothing "but only absolute Self awareness" is just his lamented mess.
As Michael said already a thousand times, ego has to be dissolved by keen investigation - if prepared/ready or not.
There is no other way. Only ego can wriggle itself out of the imagined mess albeit grace will support its suicide.
Kind regards. The guest.:-)

Michael James said...

Lewis, in your latest comment, 26 May 2019 at 19:41, you ask, ‘What is meant by self-investigation?’, which is what I tried to explain in this article, so please read it again. You also ask, ‘Does it mean the focus of attention to be placed on this sense of being present/being aware?’ That is one way of expressing it, but who is present? Who is aware? Who has this sense of being present/being aware? It is you, so attending to this sense of being present and being aware means attending to yourself.

What you call ‘this sense of being present/being aware’ is just your fundamental and ever-present self-awareness, and you are nothing other than that. All other things appear and disappear, but your self-awareness (your ‘sense of being present/being aware’) is always shining, so that alone is what you actually are.

Now your self-awareness is mixed and confused with awareness of this body called Lewis, so you are now aware of yourself as ‘I am Lewis’, but Lewis cannot be what you actually are, because he appears as one body in waking and as another body in dream, so you cannot be either of those bodies, and he disappears altogether in sleep, but whether he appears or disappears, you are always present and aware. That is, even when Lewis and his various bodies disappear entirely in sleep, you remain present, and though you are then not aware of anything else, you are still aware of yourself, but just as ‘I am’, not as ‘I am Lewis’.

Generally we think of sleep (dreamless sleep) as a state devoid of awareness, because we are not aware of any phenomena in sleep, but we are nevertheless aware of ourself, because after waking from sleep we are clearly aware that we were not dreaming but were in a state in which we were not aware of any phenomena. How could we now be aware of having been in such a state if we were not then aware of ourself being in it? If we are not aware of ourself being in sleep, we would not be aware of sleep at all. We would only be aware of two states, waking and dream, and we would not be aware of any gap between successive states of waking and dream. But we are aware of such a gap, which is what we call sleep, so we are always aware of ourself, both when phenomena appear in our awareness, as in waking and dream, and when they disappear from our awareness, as in sleep.

Since we are aware of ourself even when everything else disappears, we cannot actually be anything other than this simple self-awareness, ‘I am’, so this self-awareness (this ever-present sense of being present and being aware) is what we need to investigate by trying to focus our entire attention on it, thereby withdrawing our attention from everything else.

You also ask, ‘Is enlightenment/self-knowledge the eradication of ego and there isn’t anything beyond that?’ Yes, true self-knowledge or enlightenment just pure self-awareness, ‘I am’, which is what alone remains when ego is eradicated, and yes, there is nothing beyond that, because that alone is what actually exists.

The terms brahman and parabrahman are synonymous, and they are just alternative names for ātma-svarūpa, the real nature of ourself, which is just pure self-awareness.

Ego is a false and distorted form of self-awareness, the awareness that is aware of itself not just as ‘I am’ but as ‘I am Lewis’ or ‘I am Michael’. In other words, it is self-awareness mixed and confused with adjuncts, namely a body called Lewis, Michael or whatever. It is like an illusory snake, which seems to exist but does not actually exist. Just as what seems to be a snake is actually just a rope, what seems to be this ego is actually just pure self-awareness. If we look at the snake carefully enough, we will see that it is just a rope and was never a snake. Likewise, if we attend to this ego keenly enough, we will see that it is just pure self-awareness and was never an ego.

Rob P said...

Extract from Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Just being (summā irukkai) is not an activity but a state of perfect stillness

http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.com/2015/02/just-being-summa-irukkai-is-not.html



Sadhu Om used to explain ...... In a reservoir the water is standing still, but in order for it to do so the dam must hold it firmly. If the dam loosens its hold by cracking or breaking, the water will at once start moving, rushing to get out through the crack or break. Here the dam represents the state of keenly focused self-attentiveness, and the water represents our mind. So long as we are attending only to ourself, our mind remains perfectly still, but as soon as we slacken our self-attentiveness, our mind rushes out to experience other things.

Until we succeed in turning back the full 180 degrees to experience ourself alone, thereby destroying forever the illusion that we are this mind, being self-attentive requires effort, because the natural propensity of our mind is to go outwards to experience other things. Therefore in order to be motionlessly poised in a state of unwavering self-attentiveness we need to make intense effort, until we manage to turn the full 180 degrees, whereupon we will discover that self-attentiveness (pure self-awareness) is our real nature, so only then will we experience summā irukkai (just being) as our natural state and hence as effortless and unavoidable.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Michael, thank you for your patience and for answering all the questions in such an easy to understand manner.

As I am new to your website, I am trying to become acquainted with the terminology. I have again read the article and all is clearer.

I mentioned Brahman and ParaBraman because I had been given the impression (elsewhere) that these were something beyond self-awareness, hence the confusion, so, thank you for sorting that out.

And, after all, it's down to attending to this sense of being present...the focus of attention on I am.


Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my recent videos, 2019-05-19 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to develop vairāgya and humility, referring to an explanation that I gave between 11:16 and 12:57, a friend wrote: ‘Michaelji, I don’t understand the first reason which you elucidate in the 11:00 minute. That is why we can’t be the ego?’

In reply to this I wrote:

Sujan, ego is the awareness that is aware of itself as ‘I am this body’ (that is, ‘I am Sujan’ or ‘I am Michael’), so it exists in waking and dream but disappears in sleep. However, though ego disappears in sleep, because we are not then aware of ourself as ‘I am Sujan’ or ‘I am Michael’, we still exist there, and we are aware of our existence, not as ‘I am Sujan’ or ‘I am Michael’ but just as ‘I am’.

Generally we think of sleep as a state devoid of awareness, because we are not aware of any phenomena in sleep, but we are nevertheless aware of ourself, because after waking from sleep we are clearly aware that we were not dreaming but were in a state in which we were not aware of any phenomena. How could we now be aware of having been in such a state if we were not then aware of ourself being in it? If we were not aware of ourself being in sleep, we would not be aware of sleep at all. We would only be aware of two states, waking and dream, and we would not be aware of any gap between successive states of waking and dream. But we are aware of such a gap, which is what we call sleep, so we are always aware of ourself, both when phenomena appear in our awareness, as in waking and dream, and when they disappear from our awareness, as in sleep.

When we are aware of phenomena, we are aware of ourself as if we were a set of those phenomena, namely a body and mind, so it is only as ego that we are aware of phenomena. In waking and dream we rise and stand as ego, and consequently we are aware of phenomena, whereas in sleep we do not rise or stand as ego, and consequently we are not aware of any phenomena. Since we are aware both of the presence of ego and phenomena (subject and objects, perceiver and things perceived) in waking and dream and of their absence in sleep, we are distinct from this ego, even though it now seems to be ourself.

Ego and phenomena appear and disappear in our awareness, so what we actually are is not this ego or any phenomena but only the awareness that exists whether ego and phenomena appear or disappear. Therefore, so long as we rise and stand as ego and are consequently aware of phenomena, we need to investigate ourself in order to be aware of ourself as we actually are.

Michael James said...

‘Ego or Self Awareness’, in answer to the questions you asked in your comment of 27 May 2019 at 00:00, we as ego can certainly wriggle out of the mess we have created for ourself, but we can do so only by investigating ourself keenly enough to see what we actually are. Investigating ourself is certainly not a means to sustain our own separate existence as ego. Quite the contrary, it is the only means by which we can dissolve and eradicate our seeming existence as ego.

Of course we cannot literally wriggle out of this mess, but it would be reasonable for us to assume that Anadi-ananta used the term ‘wriggle’ only in a metaphorical sense, not a literal one, because to interpret what he wrote in a literal sense would not only be uncharitable but also far-fetched.

Regarding your final question, ‘Is any ego ever prepared or ready to die to realize it is but only absolute Self awareness?’, obviously we are not yet willing to surrender ourself entirely, because if we were we would not be here discussing this matter, but though our willingness to die as ego is not yet sufficient, we can cultivate sufficient willingness by patiently and persistently following the path of self-investigation and self-surrender that Bhagavan has taught us. The very fact that we are now trying at least to some extent to follow this path shows that we do want to cultivate the required willingness, so we already have a partial degree of willingness, and this partial degree will grow as we follow this path, until finally we are sufficiently willing to surrender ourself entirely by turning our entire attention back within to face ourself alone.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
because you mentioned my comment of 26 May 2019 at 16:33 in above reply to 'Ego or Self Awareness?,
As you correctly assume I used the term 'wriggle (out of a difficulty)' only in a metaphorical sense. However, I do not understand the meaning of the clause 'because to interpret what he wrote in a literal sense would not only be uncharitable but also far-fetched.'

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, when you wrote ‘I certainly will somehow wriggle out of the mess’, it would be far-fetched to interpret what you meant by the term ‘wriggle’ in a literal sense, because in the context it seems obvious that you used this term only in a metaphorical sense. Moreover, not only would it be far-fetched, it would also be uncharitable, because in a discussion if one interprets in such an absurd manner what another person has said, that is being uncharitable to them, because it makes it seem that what they have said is something absurd. If we want to have a reasonable discussion, we need to be charitable in our interpretation of what others mean, because otherwise we would be depicting their views in an inaccurate and unfair manner.

anadi-ananta said...
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anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
no matter, it seems that I came up against limiting factors in using phrases from my old Oxford Dictionary because I did not notice that the mentioned words could be interpreted in any absurd or 'uncharitable' manner. I regard it also as a matter of course that for having a reasonable discussion I need to be charitable in my interpretation of what others mean.

Ego or Self Awareness? said...

Mr. Michael James, Thanks for replying but you completely misunderstood my question and it appears from your various comments you cannot tolerate any kind of dissent. But since you are the blog owner you have every right to use or lash your whip at your own whim and fancy.

What the concerned guest said applies to all of us because we have had that kind of thought of wriggling out of our ignorance of being the ego-body and gaining Self knowledge one time or another. Since I was not uncharitable or absurd in my comment to anyone here there is no reason for me to apologize just because of your own habit of jumping to premature conclusions.
Chill out a bit young man.

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, regarding your latest comment, there was nothing wrong with your use of the word ‘wriggle’ in your earlier comment of 26 May 2019 at 16:33, because it is the sort of word that is often used in a metaphorical sense, and in the context in which you used it it should have been clear to anyone that you were using it in such a sense. If any word is used in an obviously metaphorical sense, it would be absurd to interpret it literally, and if anyone were to interpret it literally in order to repudiate or find fault with what has been said, that would be uncharitable.

By the way, I did not say or even imply that ‘Ego or Self Awareness’ had actually interpreted your use of this word ‘wriggle’ in a literal sense, and that he or she was therefore being uncharitable to you. In my reply of 27 May 2019 at 21:01 I merely pointed out, “Of course we cannot literally wriggle out of this mess, but it would be reasonable for us to assume that Anadi-ananta used the term ‘wriggle’ only in a metaphorical sense, not a literal one, because to interpret what he wrote in a literal sense would not only be uncharitable but also far-fetched”, because in his or her comment of 27 May 2019 at 00:00 he or she referred to what you had written, namely ‘Because naturally I do not intend to continue enjoying and suffering from my present state as ego I certainly will somehow wriggle out of the mess’, and asked me to clarify whether it is possible to do so, or whether trying to do so is not ‘another method for “ego” to further sustain its own separate and individual bodily existence as ego and continue to be entangled in its own present imaginary mess’.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
thank you for clearing our dialogue and for exonerating me from wrong use of words.:-)
I too cannot comprehend why ‘Ego or Self Awareness?’ gets all huffy.

anadi-ananta said...

By the way, the reason why I deleted my yesterday's comment at 23:23 was that it was correctly to post it to the matching article of 8 th May 2019.

Rob P said...

Extract from Guru Vachaka Kovai

One-Pointed Devotion


734. Those who have one-pointed devotion towards God,
like the magnetic needle [of a ship’s compass] which
always stands facing towards the north, will never be
perplexed and go astray in the ocean of attachment
of this world.

735. Those who live in the world, clinging whole-heartedly
to God, are like children who whirl round and round a
pillar holding it firmly. Since they have a strong and
unshakeable hold on God, they are devoid of ego
[anava] and therefore will never fall a prey to the
delusion of the world.

736. If one fixes one’s mind firmly on that pure Supreme
Reality which pervades all activities, one will not be
affected by any number of activities that are done.

Sadhu Om: Just as the cinema screen, which is the base pervading all the pictures, is not burnt by a picture of fire or drenched by a picture of a flood, so Self, the Supreme Reality which is the base pervading all activities, is not affected by any number of activities. Therefore, since the one who attends to Self remains as Self itself, he is not affected by any number of activities he may appear to be doing.

Sri Muruganar: (i) The words ‘all activities’ include both worldly
activities and religious activities. (ii) Since he who abides in the
reality [Self] loses his doership, it is said ‘he will not be affected’.
Therefore, though [it may appear as if] he does everything, in fact he does nothing.

Michael James said...

Rajat, I have replied to your comment of 18 May 2019 at 15:24 in a separate article: How can we refine and sharpen our power of attention so that we can discern what we actually are?

Aham said...

.

A common misinterpretation of Sri Ramana's Teachings concerns the belief that the question "Who am I?" is an invitation to philosophise our way to Truth. That is, all we need do is keep pondering the question, churning it over in novel ways, in the hope that one day there would be a break-through. I know I fell into this trap, and no doubt most do.

There is a wonderful quote of Sri Ramana's that counteracts this misunderstanding, "Mind cannot kill itself. Your job is to find its source and remain there" (paraphrased). It can take quite a bit of sadhana before this Teaching is understood. But once understood you realise that the question "Who am I?" is only for returning to stillness, not for keeping mind working.

.

anadi-ananta said...

Aham,
finding the mind's source and remaining there as a sadhana does not work at any time for every seeker. It is grace to be able to return to stillness. If one cannot find stillness shall he/she hang himself/herself ?
If I do not misunderstand you, you seem to recommend mentally pondering the question "Who am I?". That alone does certainly not bring out eternal happiness - at least in my experience.
What exactly is "churning it [the question] over in novel ways" ?

Aham said...

.

If one cannot find stillness shall he/she hang himself/herself?

I do not know how you arrived at this based upon my post. Nevertheless, these words by Sri Ramana may be of inspiration.

No one succeeds without effort. Mind control is not one’s birthright. The successful few owe their success to their perseverance.

And,

However great a sinner a person may be, if instead of lamenting and weeping ‘I am a sinner! How am I going to be saved?’ he completely rejects the thought that he is a sinner and is zealous [or steadfast] in self-attentiveness, he will certainly be reformed [transformed into the true ‘form’ of thought-free self-conscious being].


If I do not misunderstand you, you seem to recommend mentally pondering the question "Who am I?".

I actually wrote the opposite. Pondering the question mentally is of little use. As such, "Mind cannot kill itself. Your job is to find its source and remain there".

.

anadi-ananta said...

Aham,
how to get the required perseverance ?
How realistic will it be that a sinner becomes zealous [or steadfast] in self-attentiveness ? His prarabdha will bend him downwards. At least as a rule he will have no steadfastness in self-attentiveness.
Sorry that I interpreted the term 'pondering' in the sense of 'thinking about or reflecting' in your previous statement.
Certainly, finding one's source and remaining there is grace.

Aham said...

.

how to get the required perseverance?

Typically via much suffering or complete dissatisfaction with the world (ego) is one compelled to persevere with sadhana.

In addition, you have fallen into the "jaws of a tiger", as such perseverance is bound to come.

Just as what has been caught in the jaws of a tiger will not return, so those who have been caught in the look [or glance] of guru’s grace will never be forsaken but will surely be saved by him; nevertheless, it is necessary to walk unfailingly in accordance with the path that guru has shown.
(Sri Ramana)


.

anadi-ananta said...

Aham,
"much suffering or complete dissatisfaction with the world (ego)" can one spur on but does not produce automatically the required perseverance to try to be constantly self-attentive. Even those who have been caught in the look [or glance] of sadguru Ramana’s grace are not getting perseverance in any case.

Michael James said...

Rajat, I have replied to your comment of 24 May 2019 at 20:27 in a separate article: In what sense and to what extent do we remember what we were aware of in sleep?

Anonymous said...
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anadi-ananta said...

Anonymous,
your state experienced was quite good but it was only temporary - manolaya. Let us strive for permanent annihilation of ego/mind, manonasa. What remains after manonasa is said to be our real nature, atma-svarupa, our real self.:-)

AsunAparicio said...

Anonymous,

All is self, even ego is not apart from it and, as you say, it is permanent and always here. Thing is to completely surrender this ego or false awareness “I´m this body” to that higher power so that it doesn´t arise anymore. What prevents from this total surrendering is the subtlest “part” of the body which is the will, all vasanas and samskaras driving actions, outwardly as much as inwardly. That´s why it is said that so long this ego still arises we have to go on with the practice till we are willing to surrender.

If you don´t practice self-inquiry, then identify which are your vasanas and work on them. There can´t be even the slightest movement nor any room for any thought in order to fully surrender, only “consciousness and stillness”, as Ramana puts it.

This is what I was told too by someone I consider a true jnani even though at that moment I didn´t understood it because I didn´t know anything about vasanas nor believed in previous lives. These vasanas and samskaras have been acquired over the course of many lives and they are very subtle and strongly rooted.

It is told that Bhagavan assisted a devotee when he was dying and at a certain moment he said that he had finished there and to go for dinner. When he was eating, someone told him that the devotee had died already, that before dying he opened his eyes and smiled to his sisters and Bhagavan said, oh, so that thief arose again! This illustrates how strong is our habit of turning outward and attending others than our self.

Don´t know where is Michael, surely he will respond you as soon as he can :)

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Anonymous said...

If God, world and body arise together with ego, why are we able to see/feel body and world , but not God?

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Anonymous said...

Thanks going to read this again and try to understand it. The last line looks interesting. Does he say that no activity takes place at all?

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AsunAparicio said...

Anonymous,

Maybe this could be of interest for you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRDyDTD-BU4&t=1291s

You also can find the e-mail contact in the respose to the last comment of the video.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Asun. I watched this. Not impressed at all. Sorry to say this. Her book is also not free. That for me is a red flag. I am watching K. Ganesan’s video on faith and compassion. Really good info there. I got my answers from Michael few years ago on my experience. I am deleting all my posts again:). Just realized it is not going to be of any value to anyone here. Strictly following Bhagavan’s teaching is the only reliable path for all of us. I am not saying this out of mere intellectual understanding of concepts . I am saying this out of my own experiences.

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AsunAparicio said...

Yes, all of us have our own ideas about how things and people, including sages, have to be and behave and if they don´t suit, we discard them. Wonder how many opportunities placed by Bhagavan in our path to facilitate our practice we miss because of applying our pity and rigid measuring rod to what is immeasurable, unintelligible at first sight and pure freedom.

Good decision, deleting those posts :)

AsunAparicio said...

"... our PETTY and rigid measuring rod.", sorry.

But it is a pity, yes :)

By the way, she had nothing to do with the publishing of the book. She has familiy, children, a job ... yet, she spends almost the whole night answering seekers questions without asking anything in return. Just to clarify. I´m very grateful to Alan Jacobs for making her known.

Lewis Oakwood said...
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Lewis Oakwood said...
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Anonymous said...

I think you are right. Surrender comes from grace of The higher power and not from willingness to surrender.

Lewis Oakwood said...
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AsunAparicio said...

Lewis,

I didn´t any interview with Smt Rajini Menon, just a few translations into spanish.

Lewis Oakwood said...
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