Tuesday, 11 June 2019

In what sense and to what extent do we remember what we were aware of in sleep?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, How to practise self-enquiry (ātma-vicāra)?, a friend called Rajat Sancheti wrote:
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?
Rajat, the following is my answer to these questions of yours.
  1. Our memory of our existence in sleep is not derived from the mind but solely from the very nature of our ever-present self-awareness
  2. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 24: though ego as such does not exist in sleep, its essence and reality, sat-cit, which is our fundamental awareness ‘I am’, remains there, so ego remembers ‘I was asleep’ as if it existed in sleep
  3. Ego is the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so it obscures but does not entirely conceal the nature of our real awareness ‘I am’, and hence we as ego are vaguely aware both of our own immortality and of our existence in sleep
  4. Why can we not remember what we were aware of ourself as while asleep, even though we can remember that we were in that state?
  5. If we find it difficult to recognise that we were clearly aware of our existence in sleep, that is because we have not yet practised being self-attentive keenly and deeply enough
  6. If we exist in sleep, we cannot be this thinking mind, because it does not exist then, so to understand that we are not this thinking mind we need to recognise that we do exist in sleep
  7. Our memory of our existence in sleep is not only more useful but also far more reliable than our memory of any phenomena
  8. Our memory of having been aware of our existence without being aware of anything else in sleep is what guides us to go deep within ourself by trying to attend only to our fundamental self-awareness, as we experienced it in sleep
1. Our memory of our existence in sleep is not derived from the mind but solely from the very nature of our ever-present self-awareness

Our memory of what we experienced in sleep (which in the context of Bhagavan’s teachings means only dreamless sleep) is of a different order to our memory of what we experienced in dream, or rather, it is memory in a different sense. In its usual sense, memory is an impression left by phenomena that have previously appeared in our mind, so our memory of what we experienced in dream is memory in this standard sense. In sleep, however, there are no phenomena, nor is there any mind in which they could appear or leave an impression, so though we do remember having been in sleep, a state in which we were not aware of any phenomena whatsoever, our memory of our existence then is not memory in the conventional sense. That is, we do not remember what we were aware of in sleep by the same mechanism by which we remember phenomena that we were aware of in waking or dream.

Memory in the conventional sense is a function of the mind, so it can operate (record and later recall) only in waking and dream and not in sleep, because mind seems to exist only in waking and dream and not in sleep. So how do we remember anything at all about sleep? How are we aware that we have ever been in such a state? If awareness were limited to the mind (or rather to ego, which is the essence of the mind, being the only element of it that is aware), we would not be aware of any such state as sleep, because in sleep there is no mind or ego at all. The fact that we are aware of having been in a state in which there was no ego (and consequently no mind) shows that we are an awareness that is more fundamental than ego and that exists independent of it.

We who were aware of our existence in sleep are also aware of our existence in waking and dream, so our awareness of our existence is permanent and unaffected by the appearance of ego and phenomena (subject and objects) in waking and dream and their disappearance in sleep. It is this continuity of our self-awareness that is experienced by us as our present memory of our existence in sleep, so unlike all our other memories, this memory is not derived from the mind or from anything that appeared in the mind. It is derived solely from the very nature of our ever-present self-awareness.

2. Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu verse 24: though ego as such does not exist in sleep, its essence and reality, sat-cit, which is our fundamental awareness ‘I am’, remains there, so ego remembers ‘I was asleep’ as if it existed in sleep

Paradoxically, however, what now experiences this memory of our existence in sleep is ourself as ego, even though we did not exist as ego in sleep. How then are we as ego able to remember what shone in our absence? Though we did not exist as ego in sleep, we did exist as our fundamental self-awareness, which is the basis and essence of ego. That is, ego is a confused and distorted form of self-awareness, an awareness of ourself as a person (a body consisting of five sheaths, namely a physical body, life, mind, intellect and will), which is not what we actually are, so it is a mixture of pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are, and a set of adjuncts, namely this person, which is what we now seem to be.

As Bhagavan says in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
சடவுடனா னென்னாது சச்சித் துதியா
துடலளவா நானொன் றுதிக்கு — மிடையிலிது
சிச்சடக்கி ரந்திபந்தஞ் சீவனுட்ப மெய்யகந்தை
யிச்சமு சாரமன மெண்.

jaḍavuḍaṉā ṉeṉṉādu saccit tudiyā
duḍalaḷavā nāṉoṉ ḏṟudikku — miḍaiyilitu
ciccaḍakki ranthibandhañ jīvaṉuṭpa meyyahandai
yiccamu sāramaṉa meṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்: சட உடல் ‘நான்’ என்னாது; சத்சித் உதியாது; உடல் அளவா ‘நான்’ ஒன்று உதிக்கும் இடையில். இது சித்சடக்கிரந்தி, பந்தம், சீவன், நுட்ப மெய், அகந்தை, இச் சமுசாரம், மனம்; எண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): jaḍa uḍal ‘nāṉ’ eṉṉādu; sat-cit udiyādu; uḍal aḷavā ‘nāṉ’ oṉḏṟu udikkum iḍaiyil. idu cit-jaḍa-giranthi, bandham, jīvaṉ, nuṭpa mey, ahandai, i-c-samusāram, maṉam; eṇ.

அன்வயம்: சட உடல் ‘நான்’ என்னாது; சத்சித் உதியாது; இடையில் உடல் அளவா ‘நான்’ ஒன்று உதிக்கும். இது சித்சடக்கிரந்தி, பந்தம், சீவன், நுட்ப மெய், அகந்தை, இச் சமுசாரம், மனம்; எண்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): jaḍa uḍal ‘nāṉ’ eṉṉādu; sat-cit udiyādu; iḍaiyil uḍal aḷavā ‘nāṉ’ oṉḏṟu udikkum. idu cit-jaḍa-giranthi, bandham, jīvaṉ, nuṭpa mey, ahandai, i-c-samusāram, maṉam; eṇ.

English translation: The insentient body does not say ‘I’; being-awareness does not rise; in between one thing, ‘I’, rises as the extent of the body. Know that this is the awareness-insentience-knot, bondage, soul, subtle body, ego, this wandering and mind.

Explanatory paraphrase: The jaḍa [insentient] body does not say ‘I’; sat-cit [being-awareness] does not rise; [but] in between [these two] one thing [called] ‘I’ rises as the extent of the body. Know that this [the spurious adjunct-mixed self-awareness that rises as ‘I am this body’] is cit-jaḍa-granthi [the knot (granthi) formed by the entanglement of awareness (cit) with an insentient (jaḍa) body, binding them together as if they were one], bandha [bondage], jīva [life or soul], nuṭpa mey [subtle body], ahandai [ego], this saṁsāra [wandering, revolving, perpetual movement, restless activity, worldly existence or the cycle of birth and death] and manam [mind].
What he refers to here as ‘உடல்’ (uḍal), ‘body’, is not just the physical body but all the five sheaths (that is, it is a combination of five elements: a physical body, life, mind, intellect and will), because in verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu he said, ‘உடல் பஞ்ச கோச உரு. அதனால், ஐந்தும் ‘உடல்’ என்னும் சொல்லில் ஒடுங்கும்’ (uḍal pañca kōśa uru. adaṉāl, aindum ‘uḍal’ eṉṉum sollil oḍuṅgum), ‘The body is a form of five sheaths. Therefore all five are included in the term body’, so in this context ‘body’ means the entire person or set of adjuncts that we as ego mistake ourself to be, and as he says here, it is சட (jaḍa), insentient or non-aware, so it ‘does not say I’, which is a metaphorical way of saying that it is not aware of itself. What he refers to as ‘சச்சித்’ (saccit), which is a compound of two words, ‘சத்-சித்’ (sat-cit), ‘being-awareness’ or ‘real awareness’, is pure self-awareness, our fundamental awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, which is what we actually are.

Though sat-cit, which is our awareness of our own existence, and the body, which is non-aware, are obviously not the same thing, when we rise and stand as ego we conflate these two things as if they were one. That is, as ego we are not ourself as we actually are, namely pure (adjunct-free) sat-cit, nor are we whatever body we seem to be, yet we usurp the natures of both, as if they were our own nature, because we are aware of our existence as ‘I am’, which is the nature of sat-cit, and we seem to appear and disappear, and to be confined within the limits of time and space, which are the nature of the body.

Since ego is neither sat-cit nor the body, yet seems to be a combination of certain qualities of each, Bhagavan says in the third sentence of this verse: ‘உடல் அளவா ‘நான்’ ஒன்று உதிக்கும் இடையில்’ (uḍal aḷavā ‘nāṉ’ oṉḏṟu udikkum iḍaiyil), ‘In between [sat-cit and the body] one thing, ‘I’, rises as the extent of the body’. What he refers to as ‘நான் ஒன்று’ (nāṉ oṉḏṟu), which means ‘one thing, I’ or ‘the one [called] I’, is ego, the ‘I’ that rises (appears) and subsides (disappears), and that seems to be limited in time and space to the extent of whatever body it currently mistakes itself to be. What he means by ‘இடையில்’ (iḍaiyil), ‘in between’, is not that ego rises literally in between sat-cit and the body, because sat-cit is the infinite whole, since it is what alone actually exists, whereas the body is just an appearance that comes into seeming existence only when we rise as ego, so he uses this term here in a metaphorical sense to imply that ego is neither sat-cit nor the body, yet seems to be a combination of certain qualities of each (just as we may say, for example, that a certain story is neither true nor false but somewhere in between, meaning that it combines elements of both fact and fiction).

Though ego is neither sat-cit nor the body, it could not exist without combining qualities of both, so it is described as cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) formed by the seeming entanglement of awareness (cit) with a body, which is non-aware (jaḍa), binding them together as if they were one. However, in this confused mixture of cit and jaḍa, only one element is real, namely cit, which is pure awareness, because like all other phenomena (objects of perception) the body is just an illusory appearance, which seems to exist only in the view of ourself as ego. Therefore the essence and foundation of ego is only sat-cit, which is our fundamental awareness ‘I am’, so though ego as such does not exist at all in sleep, its reality does exist there as ‘I am’.

That is, ego is just the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so since no body seems to exist in sleep, ego itself does not exist there. However, in this false awareness, ‘I am this body’, what is real is only our fundamental awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, so the same awareness that shines alone as ‘I am’ in sleep continues to shine in waking and dream, and since ego usurps this awareness ‘I am’ as if it were its own awareness of its own existence, it remembers ‘I was asleep’ as if it existed in sleep. That is, even though ego does not exist in sleep, in waking and dream it is aware of the unbroken continuity of its fundamental awareness ‘I am’.

In other words, we always exist and are always aware of our existence, whether we happen to be aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, as in waking and dream, or just as ‘I am’, as in sleep. We are always aware of our existence, firstly because self-awareness is what we actually are, so our existence (sat) and our awareness of our existence (sat-cit) are one and the same thing, and secondly because, being what we actually are, our awareness of our existence is unchanging and therefore unaffected by the passing of time. As Bhagavan says in the second sentence of this verse, ‘சத்சித் உதியாது’ (sat-cit udiyādu), ‘being-awareness [or real awareness] does not rise’, which implies that our fundamental awareness of our own existence (our real self-awareness) does not ever appear or disappear, because it always remains as it is.

3. Ego is the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so it obscures but does not entirely conceal the nature of our real awareness ‘I am’, and hence we as ego are vaguely aware both of our own immortality and of our existence in sleep

As ego we are not aware of ourself as we actually are, because we are aware of ourself as if we were a body, and we are aware of the mortality of our body, yet we are also vaguely aware of our own immortality. This is why our own death never quite seems real to us, and why it is natural for us to believe that we will endure in some form or another after the death of our body. We can easily conceive the death of our body, but in spite of knowing that our body will certainly die sooner or later, we can never quite conceive our own non-existence. Even if we try to conceive a state in which we do not exist, we cannot quite do so without unintentionally and unavoidably picturing ourself in the background being somehow aware of that state.

Our own existence is so clearly real to us, and it is the background against which we are aware of everything else, because we are the awareness in which all other things and states seem to exist. Therefore, not only can we never adequately conceive our own non-existence, but we also have no adequate reason to suppose that we could ever be non-existent. The possibility of our own non-existence is just an idea, and like all other phenomena this idea can appear only in our awareness, so it cannot arise independent of our existence. Even if it is argued that though we exist now, we might not have existed at some time in the past or might not exist at some time in future, that would be possible only if time existed independent of ourself, but even time is something that seems to exist only in our awareness, so we have no evidence that it could exist independent of our awareness of it. In fact, time seems to exist only in waking and dream, so it appears in our awareness in waking and dream but disappears in sleep, so it is an appearance that depends for its seeming existence on our awareness of it. This is why our own existence is even more real to us than the existence of time or anything else.

Therefore the rising of ourself as ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, does not entirely conceal our real nature, which is the eternal (timeless) and immutable real awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’. It obscures our awareness of our immortality and immutability, making it seem rather vague and uncertain, but never entirely conceals it. Likewise, it obscures our memory of having been aware of our existence in sleep, making it seem rather vague and uncertain, but never entirely conceals it.

4. Why can we not remember what we were aware of ourself as while asleep, even though we can remember that we were in that state?

If we carefully consider what we remember about having been asleep, it is clear that we remember definitely that we were in such a state, but we do not remember exactly what we were then. That is, we remember having been in a state in which we were not aware of anything else, so we must have been aware of our existence then, because if we were not aware of our existence in that state, we would have no memory of having being in it. In fact we would not be aware of the existence of any such state, and it would therefore seem to us that we have only ever experienced an uninterrupted succession of just two alternating states, namely waking and dream, and had never experienced any gaps between successive states of waking and dream. Since we are clearly aware that we experience not just two but three alternating states, in two of which we are aware of ourself as if we were a body and are consequently aware of other phenomena, and in one of which we are not aware of a body or any other phenomena, we are clearly aware of our existence not only in waking and dream but also in sleep, even though in sleep we were not aware of anything else whatsoever.

In waking and dream we remember that we were in sleep, but that is all that we remember about that state. In contrast to waking and dream, we can say what we were not aware of in sleep, but we cannot say exactly what we were aware of except that we existed in that state. We remember that we were not aware of ourself as a body, but though we clearly remember that we existed then, we cannot clearly remember what we existed as. We remember that we were peaceful and happy, because there was nothing there to disturb our innate peace and happiness, but our memory of that peace and happiness is no clearer than our memory of what exactly we existed as then.

The reason why we can now clearly remember that we were but not what we were in sleep is very simple. We are now clearly aware that we are, but we are not clearly aware what we are, because we now mistake ourself to be a body (a person consisting of five sheaths: a physical body, life, mind, intellect and will), which is not what we actually are. What we actually are never changes in any way whatsoever, so what we actually are now is what we actually were in sleep. Therefore, since we as ego are not aware of what we actually are now, we cannot remember what we actually were in sleep.

That is, the same self-ignorance that prevents us being aware of ourself as we actually are now also prevents us remembering what we actually were in sleep. This self-ignorance (avidyā or ajñāna) is nothing other than ego, the false awareness ‘I am this body’, so what we actually are now, which is what we actually were in sleep, can never be clear to us so long as we rise and stand as ego.

Ego, which is nothing but the false awareness ‘I am this body’, dissolves and disappears entirely in sleep, albeit only temporarily, so what remains then is only the real awareness ‘I am’. What we are actually aware of in sleep, therefore, is only our own real nature (ātma-svarūpa), but this is obscured as soon as we rise as ego in waking or dream, so as ego we can never remember ourself exactly as we were in sleep. Therefore, though we now clearly remember being aware of nothing other than ourself in sleep, we cannot clearly remember what we were then aware of ourself as.

Only when we do not rise as ego, as in sleep, are we aware of ourself as we actually are, because when the false awareness ‘I am this body’ is removed (whether temporarily or forever), what remains is only our real awareness ‘I am’. However, though we were then clearly aware of ourself as we actually are, our memory of that clear awareness is obscured by the rising of ourself as ego in waking or dream, so if we want to lose ourself forever in the absolute clarity of self-awareness that we experienced in sleep, we need to eradicate ego entirely, which we can do only by keenly investigating ourself in either waking or dream.

5. If we find it difficult to recognise that we were clearly aware of our existence in sleep, that is because we have not yet practised being self-attentive keenly and deeply enough

I hope that what I explained in the previous four sections is sufficient to enable you to resolve the questions you asked in your comment, but in case it is not, I will consider each of them individually in these final four sections.

Your first question was, ‘Why is it that the memory of having existed in dream is much clearer than the memory of having existed in dreamless sleep?’ To answer this we need to consider which now seems to us to be more clear, our present awareness of phenomena or our present awareness of our own existence. Throughout all or most of our time during waking and dream our attention is dwelling on phenomena rather than on ourself, so it may seem to us that the appearance of phenomena is clearer to us than our awareness of ourself, but if that is the case, it indicates that we are so habituated to overlooking our fundamental self-awareness that we fail to see that it is actually clearer than anything else could ever be.

The more we practise being self-attentive, the clearer it will become to us that what is always shining more clearly than anything else is only our own self-awareness. Just as a cinema screen is the constant and unchanging background on which all the movie pictures appear and disappear, our fundamental self-awareness is the constant and unchanging background on which all phenomena appear and disappear. If we are interested only in watching a movie, we may overlook the screen on which it is appearing, but even when we ignore it, the existence of the screen is perfectly clear to us. Likewise, if we are interested only in being aware of phenomena, we may overlook our own self-awareness, on which they are appearing, but even when we ignore it, the existence of our own self-awareness is always perfectly clear to us. If we were more interested in attending to our own self-awareness than in being aware of any phenomena, we would be able to see how perfectly clear our own self-awareness always is.

If what we experienced in dreams seems clearer to us than what we were aware of in sleep, that is because we are now more interested in being aware of phenomena than in attending to our own self-awareness. Your question implies that for you ‘the memory of having existed in dream is much clearer than the memory of having existed in dreamless sleep’, but the reason for this is that in dream you were aware of phenomena whereas in sleep you were not aware of any phenomena, so your memory of being aware of phenomena in dream makes it clear to you that you existed then, whereas your lack of any memory of being aware of phenomena in sleep makes it seem to you that you do not so clearly remember having existed then.

Our awareness of phenomena depends on our fundamental awareness of ourself, and not vice, but for those who have never attempted to be self-attentive, or have not practised it sufficiently, it may seem that one is not aware of oneself unless one is aware of phenomena. This is why most people believe we are not aware of ourself at all in sleep, and why you believe that you are not as clearly aware of your existence in sleep as you are in dream.

The difference between our awareness of ourself in waking or dream and in sleep is that in waking and dream we are aware of ourself as a body, whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself just as we always actually are. Therefore the answer to your second question, ‘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?’, is yes. Because you are now aware of your existence as if you were a body, and because in dream you were likewise aware of your existence as if you were a body, it is clear to you now that you were aware of your existence in dream, whereas it does not seem so clear to you that you were aware of your existence in sleep, since you were then not aware of yourself as a body.

Therefore your difficulty in recognising that you were clearly aware of your existence in sleep is because of the fact that you have not yet practised being self-attentive keenly and deeply enough. However, your interest in this subject will certainly motivate you to continue trying to be self-attentive, and the more you try the clearer it will become to you that you are always clearly aware of yourself, whether you happen to be also aware of other things, as you are in waking and dream, or not, as in sleep.

Not only are we clearly aware of our existence in sleep, but we are in fact more clearly aware of our existence then than we are in waking and dream, because in waking and dream we mix and confuse our awareness of our own existence with the seeming existence of a body, whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself as we actually are, without any such mixture or confusion.

6. If we exist in sleep, we cannot be this thinking mind, because it does not exist then, so to understand that we are not this thinking mind we need to recognise that we do exist in sleep

Your third question was, ‘But how else to think of deep sleep, to try to see that we are not this thinking mind either?’ Thinking is the process by which we form thoughts in our awareness, so our formation (creation) of thoughts and our awareness (perception) of them are one and the same thing, and hence, since all phenomena are just thoughts (mental phenomena), according to Bhagavan no phenomena are created or exist independent of our perception of them. This view is therefore called dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda, the contention (vāda) that perception (dṛṣṭi) alone is creation (sṛṣṭi), and is clearly illustrated by dream, in which everything that seems to exist is created only by our perception of it. Since the perceiving element of the mind is what is called ego, what you refer to as ‘this thinking mind’ is only ego.

As Bhagavan says in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, ego is a formless phantom that comes into existence, stands, feeds itself and flourishes only by ‘grasping form’, so since it is formless, ‘form’ means anything other than itself, namely any phenomena, and it can ‘grasp’ phenomena only by being aware of them. In other words, ego comes into existence, stands, feeds itself and flourishes only by perceiving phenomena, all of which it brings into seeming existence by its mere perception of them.

Without perceiving phenomena, ego itself would not seem to exist, so since no phenomena are perceived in sleep, ego does not exist there. Therefore, if we exist in sleep, we cannot be ego, this thinking mind, so to understand that we are not this thinking mind we need to recognise that we do exist in sleep.

We can be sure that we existed in sleep, even though ego did not exist then, only to the extent that we are able to recognise clearly that we were aware of our existence then, and as I explained above, the most effective means to recognise this clearly and indubitably is to patiently and persistently try to be as keenly self-attentive as we can. The more we practise being self-attentive, the more familiar we will become with being aware of ourself distinct from the body and all other phenomena, and thus the more clearly we will be able to recognise that we were aware of ourself while asleep, in spite of not being aware of anything else whatsoever.

However, even if we have not yet practised being self-attentive enough to recognise clearly that we do remember being aware of our existence in sleep, we can recognise this conceptually by carefully considering what we do remember about sleep. We clearly remember ‘I was asleep’, and we are able to distinguish sleep from dream and waking, so it should be clear to us that we must have been aware of being in such a state. If we were not aware of being in it, we would not be aware of the existence of any such state at all.

That is, if we were aware only in waking and dream and not at all in sleep, it would seem to us that what we experience is only an uninterrupted succession of alternating states of waking and dream without any discernible gap between successive states of waking or dream. Therefore, since we are aware of such a gap, in which we are not aware of any phenomena, we must have been aware of being in that gap, which is what we call sleep. Therefore, since we were aware of being in sleep, we can be sure that we existed then, so since ego, the thinking element of the mind, did not exist there, it should be clear to us that ego cannot be what we actually are.

7. Our memory of our existence in sleep is not only more useful but also far more reliable than our memory of any phenomena

Your fourth question was, ‘On what basis to reject the memory of childhood, and accept the memory of last night’s sleep?’ I assume that what you mean by ‘memory of childhood’ is not just memory of our existence then but memory of some of the things (phenomena) that we experienced then, whereas our memory of last night’s sleep is not a memory of any phenomena but only memory of our existence in a state devoid of phenomena.

Memory of our childhood or any other phenomena is a kind of internal perception of mental impressions that we believe correspond to phenomena that we experienced in the past, but we can never be sure that we actually experienced such things then. If we had come into existence as ego just five minutes ago along with a set of memories of a childhood and adulthood that we never actually experienced, those memories would seem no less real to us now than if they had been memories of a childhood and adulthood that we had actually experienced.

According to Bhagavan our present state, which now seems to us to be waking, is actually just a dream, as also is any other state in which we are aware of phenomena, so all our present memories are just a part of this dream. Therefore we cannot be sure whether our present memories of our childhood, of last year or of yesterday are things that we actually experienced or not, but whichever is the case does not any difference to us now, because in either case they seem equally real to us.

If our aim is just to know what we ourself actually are, we need not concern ourself about whatever memories we may have of phenomena, because no phenomenon can be what we actually are, since all phenomena appear and disappear in our awareness, and we exist and are aware whether they appear or not. Our memory of our existence in sleep, on the other hand, is something that should concern us, because we remember having existed in sleep without being aware of any phenomena, so this clearly proves that no phenomenon can be what we actually are.

Since we cannot be sure that any memories we may have of phenomena correspond to anything that we actually experienced in the past, how can we be sure of our memory of having existed in sleep? As I explained in the first section of this article, unlike all our other memories, our memory of our existence in sleep is not derived from the mind but only from the unceasing continuity of our own ever-present self-awareness, so it is far more reliable than any other memory we may have.

Ultimately the only thing we can be absolutely sure of is our awareness of our existence here and now, because if we did not exist we could not be aware of anything, whether real or illusory. Everything else that we are now aware of could be just an illusion (and according to Bhagavan it is just an illusion), but our awareness of our own existence cannot be an illusion, because we must exist as awareness in order to be aware of any illusion. Even time could be an illusion, because like all other phenomena it appears in waking and dream but disappears in sleep, so sat-cit, our awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, is more indubitably real than time or any other thing.

Since our awareness of our own existence is so certain, and the reality of time is so uncertain, we have more reason to doubt the existence of time than we have to doubt the existence of ourself at any time in the past or future. Therefore our memory of our existence in sleep is not only more useful but also far more reliable than our memory of any phenomena that seem to have appeared in our mind at some point in the past.

8. Our memory of having been aware of our existence without being aware of anything else in sleep is what guides us to go deep within ourself by trying to attend only to our fundamental self-awareness, as we experienced it in sleep

Your fifth and final question was, ‘Should it be discarded altogether?’, in which I assume that what you meant by ‘it’ is memory. We obviously need memory to navigate our way through this dream of ours, so for mundane purposes we have no choice but to rely on our memories of phenomena. Even to follow Bhagavan’s path we use our memory of his teachings and of our understanding of them, so memory has a suitable role to play in all aspects of our life as a person.

However, as he said in the final sentence of the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘கற்றவை யனைத்தையும் ஒருகாலத்தில் மறக்க வேண்டிவரும்’ (kaṯṟavai y-aṉaittaiyum oru-kālattil maṟakka vēṇḍi-varum), ‘At one time it will become necessary to forget all that one has learnt’, because memory belongs only to ourself as ego, so we must eventually be willing to discard it entirely along with ego. Even our memory of our existence in sleep belongs only to ourself as ego, in the sense that it is only as ego that we remember having been asleep, even though in sleep we did not exist as ego but only as pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are.

However, until we are willing to surrender ourself entirely along with all our memories, we must of necessity continue to use our various kinds of memory, each in their own appropriate sphere. In the sphere of self-investigation, the most important memory we have is our clear memory of having existed and having been aware of our existence without being aware of anything else in sleep, because this memory is what guides us to go deep within ourself by trying to attend only to our fundamental self-awareness, ‘I am’, as we experienced it in sleep, thereby excluding everything else from our awareness.

73 comments:

Michael James said...

When I was about to post this article yesterday afternoon the broadband in my area went down, so I could not post it till today. In the meanwhile, however, I was reminded by a comment that an unknown friend wrote last night about another article I wrote on the same subject five years ago, Our memory of ‘I’ in sleep, so some of you may be interested to read that article along with this one. In the third section of this article I mentioned briefly our inability to conceive our own non-existence, but I considered and explained this in more detail in that article.

Rajat Sancheti said...

Michael, thank you for this beautifully clear and detailed article.

AsunAparicio said...

Michael,

Regarding to section 7 of this article, I see what you say about memory of past events and phenomena as a way of explaining world as a phenomena itself, arising from moment to moment, not like something real with a beginning, a continuation and an end. But then, where do those impressions come from if they don´t correspond to phenomena experienced in the past?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 1.,
"We who were aware of our existence in sleep are also aware of our existence in waking and dream, so our awareness of our existence is permanent and unaffected by the appearance of ego and phenomena (subject and objects) in waking and dream and their disappearance in sleep."
I - in my awareness as ego - certainly was not aware of my existence as a person in sleep.
I only did remember having been in sleep, a state in which I was not aware of any phenomena whatsoever.
So the referred continuity of our self-awareness covers obviously our permanent self-awareness which is said to be our real being.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 1.,
"It is this continuity of our self-awareness that is ... derived solely from the very nature of our ever-present self-awareness."

It takes much attention-effort to me to treasure that ever-present self-awareness in my heart.

AsunAparicio said...

Anadi-ananta,

I´m starting to consider it an almost impossible task.
When I came to know about vasanas I thought they meant “big” and obvious moral stuff but now I´m realizing that they are the more silly, considered as innocuous things, those which keep us attached and the attention away from self-awareness.

Aham said...

.

Vasanas for most of us are very powerful; complicated by the fact that so much of life encourages their expansion. Consequently vasanas ensure attending only to 'I' (ātma-vicāra) is very difficult for most people.

No doubt the act of attending to 'I' does diminish the strength of vasanas, but I have often pondered what is easier for the impure and scattered mind, to attempt to hold to 'I', or first cultivate a sattvic and one-pointed mind via for example japa or mantra, so that mind is primed for holding to 'I'?

My personal view is that when mind is impure and scattered it is much easier to cling to japa or a mantra than it is to cling to 'I'. Now whilst attending to second person objects does not end ego, the boon with such sadhana's is they cultivate a sattvic and one-pointed mind. And a sattvic and one-pointed mind is essential for vicāra.

.

anadi-ananta said...

Asun Aparicio,
could you state more precisely what do you consider as an almost impossible task ?

AsunAparicio said...

Anadi-ananta,

Being what we are, ever-present self-awareness and nothing else but I was looking at it from the wrong point of view, as something that is continuous in time and therefore has to be held by us, the person. But once you are that, you are out of time, it is eternity itself and, on the other hand, it is just being not doing. And it happens in a split second. A single moment of perfect introspection.

Nothing to do with the devotee´s complaints which are mostly an expression of his longing for being what he really is. Devotion keeps you near the beloved despite appearances, purifying mind.

Aham,

Yes, absolutely.

I started to practice self-inquiry spontaneously and without knowing what I was doing as being very young. When I realized that it wasn´t so for everybody I wanted to know how it was living without being in touch with yourself, so to speak, and then all vasanas came out. When I wanted to recover it, I found I hadn´t access to it anymore. I had to go through an intense process of purification to be able of attending pure self-awareness again.
Despite of what many say that purification of mind is not necessary, my experience is quite the opposite. You can get some nice and even deep insights through what they call “pointers” but that doesn´t change anything.

To practice self-inquiry mind has to be purified to a certain degree at least, and this purification goes on with self-inquiry. As you say, ”the act of attending to “I” diminish the strength of vasanas”.

anadi-ananta said...

Asun Aparicio,
as you say "being what we are, ever-present self-awareness and nothing else... is eternity itself , a single moment of perfect introspection". But that is possible only after sufficient purification of mind.
When many say that purification of mind is not necessary shall we assume that their mind is already sufficiently pure ? :-) Do they seriously assert that an impure mind is equally good to carry them in the Promised Land ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 2.,
"Though we did not exist as ego in sleep, we did exist as our fundamental self-awareness, which is the basis and essence of ego."
"...(sat-cit), ‘being-awareness’ or ‘real awareness’, is pure self-awareness, our fundamental awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, which is what we actually are."

How can we be sure that the mentioned fundamental, pure self-awareness, is our fundamental awareness as our own existence, 'I am' ?
Is it not imaginable that our ego as a mere peripheral phenomenon has nothing to do with that reality at all ? Is it not quite easily imaginable that a 'fundamental self-awareness' does quite well exist albeit not as any 'basis and essence of ego' ?
Why should the 'fundamental self-awareness' undergo/endure/tolerate/or even support any (imagination of) ego or any mixture of pure self-awareness and this person ?

Bob Morrison said...

Apologies in advance for the off topic post:

Sanjay Lohia
Have not heard from you in some time and had some concerns, hope all is well with you and family.
If you feel inclined please drop me a line; my email address is listed in Blogger.
Bob Morrison

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 2.,
1.)"However, in this false awareness, 'I am this body', what is real is only our fundamental awareness of our own existence, 'I am', so the same awareness that shines alone as 'I am' in sleep continues to shine in waking and dream, and since ego usurps this awareness 'I am' as if it were its own awareness of its own existence, it remembers 'I was asleep' as if it existed in sleep."

How do we know for sure that the awareness that shines alone as 'I am' in sleep is the same as that which seemingly continues to shine in waking and dream ?

2.) "That is, even though ego does not exist in sleep, in waking and dream it is aware of the unbroken continuity of its fundamental awareness 'I am'."

Quite honesty, as far as I am concerned it is more accurate to say that ego neither in waking and dream nor in sleep is aware of the unbroken continuity of its fundamental awareness 'I am'.

Aham said...

.

Despite of what many say that purification of mind is not necessary, my experience is quite the opposite. You can get some nice and even deep insights through what they call “pointers” but that doesn´t change anything.

To practice self-inquiry mind has to be purified to a certain degree at least, and this purification goes on with self-inquiry.


".....what they call “pointers” but that doesn´t change anything."

Yes, if ego cannot cling to itself (ātma-vicāra) what use is it! Only when sattvic and one-pointed can ego cling to 'I'.

As for the Western version of advaita, it is essentially a belief system. At the core of which is the belief there is no ego so therefore there is no sadhana to be undertaken. Suffering eventually corrects this deception.

.

anadi-ananta said...

Aham,
"Suffering eventually corrects this deception."
Yes, suffering seems to be the most powerful correction/revision of all kinds of misconception and wrong views. Such experience has the most lasting effect on us and - if we are sufficiently attentive - teaches us a lot and thus we can learn our salutary lesson from it.

AsunAparicio said...

Yes. According to them to realize your true nature you just have to:

Hear their pointers (reading their books) coming directly from pure awareness and they will do the work for you (coming from disciples of some western Nissargadatta´s disciple)

To be exposed to the energy arising at their meetings (coming from Osho´s disciples)

Then there are the showmen (coming from Papaji) But nor even Papaji himself took them seriously. He said that he gave them what they went looking for, like you give a lollipop to children.

They are doing more harm than good and in the process, deepness, subtlety and beauty of Ramana´s teachings get completely distorted. But this is just my opinion and I´m a hopeless case :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0RN1knAPvU


anadi-ananta said...

section 2.,
According Bhagavan our fundamental awareness of our own existence (our real self-awareness) does not ever appear or disappear, because it always remains as it is.
It's just a pity that I am not in the position to be [aware of] that real self-awareness. So I remain in the hope of Arunachala's grace to remove all the obstacles.
Is it not said that Arunachala, the light of awareness, alone exists ?

Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my recent videos, 2019-05-21 Battersea Park: Michael James discusses verse 5 of Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam, a friend wrote: “Michael, I read a book ‘Living by the words of Bhagavan’ by David Godman. In that book Annamalai Swami says that if one happens to meet an Enlightened Guru or Sage in one’s life, then it’s most likely that that person will wake up from this dream in the next 4-5 lives. Is this true Michael? 🤔 If it’s true then I wonder what scope do most of us have since we haven’t met any Sage yet ? :) I haven’t been fortunate enough to have come across a living Guru but yeah, I am fortunate to be a Ramana devotee and have been blessed by Bhagavan to do Arunachala Pradakshinas”

In reply to this I wrote:

Sachal, what is a ‘living Guru’? As Sadhu Om used to say, if a ‘living guru’ means a living body, then such a ‘living guru’ will one day become a dead guru, so what is the use of such a guru? What we need is an ever-living guru, so Bhagavan is such a guru, because he is the one reality, which is ever living in our heart as ‘I’, the infinite light of pure awareness. Therefore, if you are trying to follow the path he has shown us, you already have the perfect living guru, so there is no need for you to seek any other guru.

Since Bhagavan is not the body that he seemed to be but the light of awareness that illumines our mind, meeting him does not mean meeting his body but turning within to attend to him in our heart. Therefore how long it will take us to wake up from this dream depends on how much love we have to attend only to him as ‘I’, so it is absurd to say that “it’s most likely that that person will wake up from this dream in the next 4-5 lives”. If our love is strong enough, we can wake up here and now, and if our love is not yet strong enough, we can strengthen it by patiently and persistently trying to be self-attentive.

Therefore, since Bhagavan has already come into our life and shown us that the means to eradicate ego and thereby wake up from the sleep of self-ignorance, in which all dreams appear, is to follow the path of self-investigation and self-surrender, what is required now is that we try patiently and persistently to follow this path. As he said in the twelfth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?:

“God and guru are in truth not different. 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.”

Aham said...

.

Therefore, if you are trying to follow the path he has shown us, you already have the perfect living guru, so there is no need for you to seek any other guru.

Since Bhagavan is not the body that he seemed to be but the light of awareness that illumines our mind, meeting him does not mean meeting his body but turning within to attend to him in our heart.


Excellent Mr James. "I Am" is always with us, not waiting for us in another location.

That said, it seems at least some jnani's radiate a palpable peace which helps to settle the aspirant's mind. If true the physical presence of the jnani would be desirable.

.

anadi-ananta said...

"...it is necessary to walk unfailingly in accordance with the path that guru has shown."
To carry out that necessity (our duty) to follow the path of self-investigation and self-surrender, that is trying patiently and persistently to follow this path, much love is necessary. So the former is mutually dependent from the latter.
Arunachala, though you are the one real substance and existence, why do you hesitate and show reluctance to swallow ego ? Do you not want to teach me what you make a further condition ?

AsunAparicio said...

Is not any living guru “the one reality, which is ever living in our heart as I, the infinite light of pure awareness”?

Most of us are strongly identified with the body and meeting a guru as a living body can be a great help since we come to love ourselves through loving, in the first instance, the guru as a living body which, in the other hand, is the greatest mystery of all the mysteries, never mind if the path they suggest to follow is not the path we are inclined to adopt. Love of the self as it really is for the self as it really is, is infinite and unconditional and is willing to provide us with whatever we need in the most unexpected ways, provided that your longing for it is heartfelt.

I wouldn´t discard this possibility in such a rigid and clear cut manner, Michael. Not all of us have been fortunate enough to “absorb” Bhagavan´s teachings side by side with one of his closest disciples in the perfect environment as you did, it is fair to say that for our own benefit too. But to get here, some of us need a little, or big, push.

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
"Is not any living guru “the one reality, which is ever living in our heart as I, the infinite light of pure awareness”?".
As Bhagavan said, Arunachala is not only a (dead) rock-mountain but in its real nature "the one reality, which is ever living in our heart as I, the infinite light of pure awareness". So it seems that you simply cannot or want not believe that the desired living guru is already in (y)our heart giving us the required push.

AsunAparicio said...

Anadi-ananta,

No, I don´t believe it. I´ve always known it yet, at certain point of the journey I needed outward help and it was graciously given to me. I say “outward” only for communicating since, precisely, meeting a guru in a living body blurs the distinctions between “in” and “out”. Being deeply grateful for it, I consider my duty to let it know in case others might be living a similar situation. If it is not your case, just ignore it.

The ways the guru living in our heart pushes us are countless and rarely expected but never questioned. Not here, at least. Bhagavan will never mislead us.

If you can´t understand or accept this, maybe it is you who should check his beliefs and assumptions. With all respects :)

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
as you say, the ways are countless; the goal is only one. With all respects.:-)

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 4.,
saying "...it is clear that we remember definitely that we were in such a state, but we do not remember exactly what we were then."
Is it not more accurate to say that our notion having been asleep is not really 'memory' (as the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information [from the past]) but simply derived only by looking at the time passed by ?
If it were so, logically we did not actually 'remember' having been in a state in which we were not aware of anything else, and consistently we were not really aware of the existence of any such state.
To me it seems that it could not convincingly be proved that I as awareness have existed at all in sleep. But of course I do not seriously doubt Bhagavan's teaching.

AsunAparicio said...

I´m not sure to what extent suffering is as decisive as you say, Aham and Anadi-ananta.

Being aware is not the same as being awareness, is it? This “state”, I don´t know how to call it, of being aware is what has to be given up ultimately, because it seems to be the very fact of being aware or of experiencing what we are attached to and what confers satisfaction regardless of what we experience, whether joy or suffering so that even suffering can become joy. I know how this sounds but, isn´t it so?

I guess this is what Michael means when he says that letting go likes, dislikes and so on is not enough and that what has to be surrendered is ego itself. There is where things get complicated ...

I don´t think either that pure awareness we are in sleep can be remembered because this remembrance implies also the experience of being aware of being awareness which is impossible.

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
I consider 'being aware' as quite the same as 'being awareness'. How can one be more than being awareness ?
Letting go likes, dislikes and so on quickens certainly (gradually) surrender (of) ego.
What contradiction in terms do you see in "the experience of being aware of being awareness" ? Why should it be impossible ?

AsunAparicio said...

Anadi-ananta,

All experience implies the experiencer which is ego, and in pure awareness there is not ego to experience it so, how can there be the experience of being awareness and a remembrance of it if there is only awareness without ego to be aware of awareness?
As I understand it, when it is said that pure awareness is aware only of itself it is meant that there is only awareness and nothing else. There being only awareness, of what use the awareness of awareness? How would you call that awareness of awareness and how the awareness it is aware of? See what I mean?

Regarding to letting go likes and dislikes, it is by experiencing them that we come to be aware of ourselves, i.e., we become aware of that which is aware of the likes and dislikes (ego) which is much more satisfactory than the likes themselves, but this self-awareness arising as a counterpoint from phenomena still is an experience. This experience is what I find more difficult to let go than the very likes and dislikes.

Don´t know it any of this makes sense. I have not words to explain it, sorry.

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
the term 'awareness of awareness' you brought into it.
Nevertheless, if I remember correctly, Michael James wrote about that in an article some time ago in reply to a question or comment.
Perhaps you may read/study Michael's article of Wednesday, 8 March 2017
"Rather than being aware of being aware, we should be aware only of what is aware, namely ourself". There are many other articles on 'awareness' on this blog:
According "Search this blog" the search box at the top left-hand corner of this page will search for words in the articles,...

AsunAparicio said...


"Rather than being aware of being aware, we should be aware only of what is aware, namely ourself".

Yes, I can understand that.

This article about remembering sleep is a bit confusing for me. I´ll read that other you say.

Thank you.



anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 5.,
"If we find it difficult to recognise that we were clearly aware of our existence in sleep, that is because we have not yet practised being self-attentive keenly and deeply enough".

"...we may overlook our own self-awareness, on which they are appearing, but even when we ignore it, the existence of our own self-awareness is always perfectly clear to us. If we were more interested in attending to our own self-awareness than in being aware of any phenomena, we would be able to see how perfectly clear our own self-awareness always is."
"Not only are we clearly aware of our existence in sleep, but we are in fact more clearly aware of our existence then than we are in waking and dream, because ..., whereas in sleep we are aware of ourself as we actually are, without any such mixture or confusion."
Quite honestly I never was clearly aware of my existence in sleep, because I have not yet practised being self-attentive keenly and deeply enough. Therefore I never was able
to see how perfectly clear my own self-awareness always is. So I am a master (of) overlooking my own self-awareness.
That in sleep I am aware of myself as I actually am, I would like to give my own confirmation. But unfortunately I cannot acknowledge such experience.


anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 6.,
"...the contention (vāda) that perception (dṛṣṭi) alone is creation (sṛṣṭi), and is clearly illustrated by dream, in which everything that seems to exist is created only by our perception of it."
At best I can understand that creation (sṛṣṭi) and perception (dṛṣṭi) of that which was created occure simultaneously.
"Therefore, since we are aware of such a gap, in which we are not aware of any phenomena, we must have been aware of being in that gap, which is what we call sleep. Therefore, since we were aware of being in sleep, we can be sure that we existed then, so since ego, the thinking element of the mind, did not exist there, it should be clear to us that ego cannot be what we actually are."
Yes, I may slowly grasp that.
But why should we reliably assume that that awareness of being in that gap (namely devoid of any phenomena) is our real being (pure self-awareness) ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 7.,
how can we be sure that there is an unceasing continuity of our own ever-present self-awareness ?
I easily can accede to your statement "Ultimately the only thing we can be absolutely sure of is our awareness of our existence here and now, because if we did not exist we could not be aware of anything, whether real or illusory. Everything else that we are now aware of could be just an illusion (and according to Bhagavan it is just an illusion)".
But how can we be sure that our awareness of our own existence cannot be an illusion ?
Though it is a correct conclusion that in order to be aware of any illusion there must be an awareness, but how can we be sure that even such an awareness is nothing but an illusion too ?
So it seems that we have quite well much or at least some reason to doubt the existence of ourself at any time in the past or future. Therefore I cannot share your optimistic view that sat-cit, our awareness of our own existence, 'I am', is indubitably real and therefore "so certain".
However, such ignorant view of a blind seeker like me will be nothing of any significance.:-)

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 8.,
"Even our memory of our existence in sleep belongs only to ourself as ego, in the sense that it is only as ego that we remember having been asleep, even though Even our memory of our existence in sleep belongs only to ourself as ego, in the sense that it is only as ego that we remember having been asleep, even though in sleep we did not exist as ego but only as pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are."
Because I still did not come by own experience to the firm insight that in sleep I did exist as pure self-awareness, which is said to be what we actually are, I could not develop the indispensable will to surrender myself entirely along with all my memories to the mentioned but completely unknown fundamental pure self-awareness.
Lord Arunachala, will you not have mercy upon me ? :-)

anadi-ananta said...

Sorry Michael,
in my reference to section 8., by pasting a part of a sentence twice I unfortunately quoted wrongly.
It should be "Even our memory of our existence in sleep belongs only to ourself as ego, in the sense that it is only as ego that we remember having been asleep, even though in sleep we did not exist as ego but only as pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are."

AsunAparicio said...

"Even our memory of our existence in sleep belongs only to ourself as ego, in the sense that it is only as ego that we remember having been asleep, even though in sleep we did not exist as ego but only as pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are."

This doesn´t make any sense to me.

"Because I still did not come by own experience to the firm insight that in sleep I did exist as pure self-awareness,I could not develop the indispensable will to surrender myself entirely along with all my memories to the mentioned but completely unknown fundamental pure self-awareness."

Anadi-ananta, if you had that insight, you wouldn´t need to develop any surrender, you would already know you are eternal.

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
could you please give your objective reasons for your reservation against the first quoted sentence (of Michael's section 8.) ?

AsunAparicio said...

Anadi-ananta,

I did already, but maybe it was a superficial reasoning.

We don´t really know ourselves nor even as ego. For instance, I didn´t know that the appearance of the different ego´s seaths, including the physical body, can be seen by the subtle intellect as well as their disappearance so, maybe getting at certain degree of subtleness , it also can be seen what we really are and despite of it, due to the lack of clarity altogether with latent tendencies, to go on arising as ego hence, that having been asleep can be remembered by us as ego, and this only at its best because most of us haven´t nor even that remembrance. We just know about a gap not knowing what that gap is, only that it provides us with peace and rest.

As Michael says, the more we practice being self-attentive, the clearer it all becomes.

Lewis Oakwood said...
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anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood,
how can there be experience without experiencer ?

Michael James said...

Lewis, how can there be any experience without something that is experiencing? Whatever is experiencing must be aware, because if it were not aware, how could it experience anything? Experience presupposes awareness, because only that which is aware can experience anything, whether itself or anything else.

When Bhagavan says that we are awareness, what he means by ‘awareness’ is that which is aware. However, he clarified that real awareness is not aware of anything other than itself. That real awareness alone is what actually exists, so it is what we actually are.

In your comment you suggest that ‘awareness is simply another appearance’, but real awareness cannot be an appearance, because whereas everything else appears and disappears, real awareness never appears or disappears, because it exists and shines eternally, without ever undergoing any change, and is therefore not confined within the limits of time.

In this context ‘appearance’ means anything that seems to exist but does not actually exist. Everything other than real awareness is just an appearance, because it appears and disappears, and it appears only in the view of ego, so it never appears except when we appear as ego. Even ego is just an appearance, because it appears in waking and dream but disappears in sleep, and even when it appears, it seems to exist only in its own view and not in the view of real awareness, which is what we actually are.

Real awareness (sat-cit) is aware of itself just as ‘I am’, whereas ego is aware of itself as ‘I am this body’. However, though it is always aware of itself as ‘I am this body’, it is not always aware of itself as the same body, because whereas it is aware of itself as one particular body in its present state, in any other dream it is aware of itself as some other body, so it cannot actually be any of the bodies that it mistakes itself to be.

Not only is it always aware of itself as ‘I am this body’, it is also always aware of things other than itself, all of which are an illusory appearance, so it is not real awareness but only a false awareness: a mere semblance of awareness (cidābhāsa). Therefore the awareness that is an appearance is not real awareness but only the false awareness called ego.

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

Lewis Oakwood,
according Bhagavan
a.) "Real awareness is not aware of anything other than itself".
b.) "Real awareness alone is what actually exists".
c.) "Real awareness it that what we actually are".

So real awareness is simply aware of itself - which in my view is the same as "having an experience of itself i.e. oneself as one really is.
In order to be aware of our real nature pure awareness itself does not need any imparting by ego. On the otherhand - as long as we rise as ego - ego will function as a spring-board.
When you say to yourself 'I am the experience' and you mean 'I am (the) awareness' you should clarify to whom that awareness does appear.
Finally awareness is certainly not a case of using thoughts/words.

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood, regading your recent comment,
ego certainly "is a dream including itself as an actual separate entity in a world of other separate things". Therefore imagining "I am lying on a sunny beach somewhere else" is the imagination of only ego.-:)

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 1.,
"The fact that we are aware of having been in a state in which there was no ego (and consequently no mind) shows that we are an awareness that is more fundamental than ego and that exists independent of it."
Could you please explain in more detail why you come to that conclusion ?
Could the alternation/succession of states of awareness in which ego first seems to be present and then absent [unaffected by the appearance of ego and phenomena (subject and objects) in waking and dream and their disappearance in sleep] show only natural events and not the asserted continuity of our self-awareness ?

AsunAparicio said...

This as explained by R.M. is interesting:

“Though in sleep the awareness of the Self is not lost, the ignorance of the 'jiva' is not affected by it. For the ignorance to be destroyed this subtle state of mind ('vrittijnanam) is necessary; in the sunshine cotton does not burn; but if the cotton be placed under a lens it catches fire and is consumed by the rays of the Sun passing through the lens. So too, though the awareness of the Self is present at all times, it is not inimical to ignorance. If by meditation the subtle state of thought is won, then ignorance is destroyed. Also in 'Viveka Chudamani': "ativa sukshmam paramatma tattvam na sthoola drishtya" (the exeedingly subtle Supreme Self cannot be seen by the gross eye) and "esha svayam jyotirasesha sakshi" (this is Self-shining and witnesses all).
This subtle mental state is not a modification of mind called 'vritti'. Because the mental states are of two kinds. One is the 'natural state' and the other is a transformation into forms of objects. The first is the truth, and the other is according to the doer (kartru-tantra). When the latter perishes, 'jale kataka renuvat' (like the clearing nut paste in water) the former will remain over.

The common man is aware of himself only when modifications arise in the intellect (vijnanamaya kosa); these modifications are transient; they arise and set. Hence the 'vijnanamaya' (intellect) is called a 'kosa' or sheath. When pure awareness is left over it is itself the 'Chit' (Self) or the Supreme. To be in one's natural state on the subsidence of thoughts is bliss; if that bliss be transient - arising and setting - then it is only the sheath of bliss (Anandamaya kosa), not the pure Self. What is needed is to fix the attention on the pure 'I' after the subsidence of all thoughts and not to lose hold of it. This has to be described as an extremely subtle thought; else it cannot be spoken of at all, since it is no other than the Real Self. Who is to speak of it, to whom and how?”

“What is needed is to fix the attention on the pure 'I' after the subsidence of all thoughts and not to lose hold of it. This has to be described as an extremely subtle thought.”

Is this extremely subtle thought the same as stillness? The brink of the abyss. Few won´t take one step back :)

anadi-ananta said...

AsunAparicio,
this extremely subtle thought is the same as stillness.
By the way, from what text did you quote Bhagavan's ("R.M.") indeed interesting explanation ?

AsunAparicio said...

Thank you, anadi-ananta. It is important for me this clarification.

The quote is from "Talks with Ramana Maharshi" (talk 624)

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 1.,
"We who were aware of our existence in sleep are also aware of our existence in waking and dream, so our awareness of our existence is permanent...".
I do not really remember having had any awareness or existence in sleep. So I cannot be sure that I was aware of my existence in sleep. Only at or after awak(en)ing from deep sleep I notice that I was evidently not destroyed in sleep.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 2.,
"Though we did not exist as ego in sleep, we did exist as our fundamental self-awareness, which is the basis ...".
Apart from Bhagavan's advice in UN do we have any proof/evidence in support of the accuracy/faithfulness of this statement/theory ?

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
section 2.,
"...even though ego does not exist in sleep, in waking and dream it is aware of the unbroken continuity of its fundamental awareness 'I am'."
"...we always exist and are always aware of our existence, whether we happen to be aware of ourself as 'I am this body', as in waking and dream, or just as 'I am', as in sleep."
"...our fundamental awareness of our own existence (our real self-awareness) does not ever appear or disappear, because it always remains as it is."

Can these details be checked without the practice of self-investigation ?

Rajat Sancheti said...

Trying to deal with my vasanas and my desire for experiences, I try to consider the idea that for lifetimes I must have been experiencing all kinds of phenomena, but clearly I'm still dissatisfied. So I try to convince myself to give up running behind phenomena, and to follow Bhagavan's advice to finally turn within. However, the idea that I must have experienced so many phenomena in countless lifetimes, and should therefore be tired of them, is just an inference I make from Bhagavan's teachings, because obviously I have no recollection of these experiences. But at least I remember the experiences I have had so far in this lifetime and how they have been ultimately dissatisfactory, and I can conjecture that even future experiences won't really make me happy. Still, I keep running behind phenomena, trying to change things, that at least I may be less dissatisfied than I am now. But what Bhagavan taught is the path to complete happiness without any misery. How foolish then it must be to be running after only relatively less dissatisfaction! Like the beggar who wouldn't exchange his pennies for all the wealth in the world, as Michael explained.

Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my recent videos, 2019-06-16 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses vivarta vāda and the mistakes of neo-advaita, a friend wrote: “Here is one crude but direct question, does Michael, this talk and everything else for that matter, just pretending to exist and have their life? Does it mean it never happened, the only things that "happened" are the ones I perceived? There is no I in other people independent of the I of this body(mine)? If answer is Yes, there are no lives then it is very understandable people won't accept, but that is even absurd if it is true, the only one who can accept is me, if I only exist. Otherwise drishti shisti vada is incorrect. I get that the compassion argument still stands.. Can someone please answer? Or pretend to answer? I know it seems like I am breaking the equality of same degree of reality of this and other bodies and minds, but let's just ignore that or you can trust me that I am not. Also the only logical explanation that nobody is asking this, is that it is actually true, so there is no one who can actually ask, besides me? Or if someone is asking he is just pretending? Oh my God, this actually means that I am also pretending right now.”

In reply to this I wrote:

Nikola, there are many people who can ask questions and provide answers, but all those people seem to exist and all their activities such as asking and answering seem to happen in the view of just one perceiver, just as all the people and their activities that appear in a dream seem to exist and happen in the view of just one perceiver, the dreamer of that dream.

Who is that one perceiver? It is not Nikola, nor Michael, nor any other person, but only ego, the false ‘I’ that appears in waking and dream but disappears in sleep, and that is now aware of itself as ‘I am this person [called Nikola, Michael or whatever]’.

The only pretender, and the original pretending, is just this ego, the false awareness ‘I am this person’, so to see through all its pretence this ego must investigate itself keenly enough to see what it actually is.

anadi-ananta said...

Rajat Sancheti,
could you please tell the mentioned story of the beggar who wouldn't exchange his pennies for all the wealth in the world, and what Michael explained in that context ?

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, you have written many comments above, and in most of them you are asking for further clarification on what I wrote in this article. If I had time I could try to answer each of your questions, but I doubt if my answers would help you any more than what I have already written here, because ultimately we have to find the clarity we are seeking within ouself. To a certain extent we can gain such clarity by manana (thinking deeply and carefully about all that Bhagavan has taught us), but manana by itself is inadequate, because deep and abiding clarity can come only from nididhyāsana, deep contemplation on ourself, the original light of awareness that illumines our mind, enabling it to know all other things.

The more we attend to the fundamental awareness that is always shining in our heart as ‘I am’, the more clear all the subtle principles of Bhagavan’s teachings will become to us, and the more clearly we will recognise that sleep is a state of pure self-awareness.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
"...so to see through all its pretence this ego must investigate itself keenly enough to see what it actually is."
What shall one do if one could not develop the required keenness of self-investigation ?
Will such one never see what (s)he actually is ?

anadi-ananta said...

Thank you Michael for your reply. As you say deep and abiding clarity can come only from nididhyāsana, deep contemplation on ourself, the original light of awareness that illumines our mind, enabling it to know all other things. Hope that even for such an unpolished mind like me all the subtle principles of Bhagavan’s teachings will become more clear to me and finally I will recognise that sleep is a state of pure self-awareness.:-)

Michael James said...

In reply to the reply I reproduced in my comment of 21 June 2019 at 09:07 the same friend wrote: “What is the difference between Nikola, Michael and the ego? Isn’t Nikola just a “tale” of the ego head. So to be precise my question is, is that only ego attached to Michael or to Nikola, or both? And how can there be both?”

In reply to this I wrote:

Nikola, ego cannot be any particular person, because in each of its many dreams (of which the life of Nikola is just one) it is aware of itself as a different person. Now ego seems to be Nikola, because it is currently aware of itself as ‘I am Nikola’, but Nikola is not what it actually is, so it needs to investigate itself in order to see what it actually is.

Though in each dream ego is aware of itself as a different person, it is never aware of itself as more than one person at a time, so in your present dream you are aware of yourself as Nikola, and Michael is just one of the many other people you see in this dream.

Michael James said...

In a second reply to the reply I reproduced in my comment of 21 June 2019 at 09:07 the same friend wrote: ‘You have put brackets “... [called Nikola, Michael or whatever]”. How these brackets don’t imply that there are many egos?’

In reply to this I wrote:

The names in brackets are the names of different people, not of different egos, so they imply that though in this dream ego is aware of itself as one particular person, in each other dream it is aware of itself as some other person. That is, though ego is always aware of itself as ‘I am this person’, ‘this person’ does not always refer to the same person. It could be aware of itself as Nikola, Michael or any other person.

Michael James said...

Anadi-ananta, in reply to your questions, ‘What shall one do if one could not develop the required keenness of self-investigation? Will such one never see what (s)he actually is?’:

The keenness of our self-investigation is determined by the strength of our bhakti (love to be aware of ourself alone) and vairāgya (freedom from desire to be aware of anything else), which are in turn determined by the purity and hence clarity of our mind and heart. If we had sufficient clarity, bhakti and vairāgya, we would be so keenly self-attentive that we would see what we actually are, thereby eradicating ego forever.

Therefore none of us yet have sufficient clarity, bhakti and vairāgya to be so keenly self-attentive, but this does not mean that we are forever doomed to fail. No matter how inadequate our clarity, bhakti and vairāgya may be at present, we can try at least little by little to be self-attentive, and if we persevere patiently in our attempts, we will gradually cultivate the required clarity, bhakti and vairāgya and will therefore surely succeed.

As Bhagavan says in verse 27 of Bhagavad Gītā Sāram (which is his translation of Bhagavad Gītā 6.25):

தீரஞ்சேர் புத்தியினாற் சித்தத்தை மெல்லமெல்ல
நேரச் செயவேண்டு நிச்சலன — மாரதனே
சித்தத்தை யான்மாவிற் சேர்த்திடுக மற்றெதுவு
மித்தனையு மெண்ணிடா தே.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here he says that the manner in which we should practise being self-attentive (and by which we can certainly succeed) is ‘மெல்ல மெல்ல’ (mella mella), which is a translation of ‘शनै: शनै:’ (śanaiḥ śanaiḥ) and which means slowly slowly, softly softly, gently gently, calmly calmly, quietly quietly, gradually gradually, steadily steadily, little by little, step by step.

Rajat Sancheti said...

anadi-ananta,
In my comment, I was referring to an analogy Michael gave in a video, sorry I don't recall in which video or even the exact context. The analogy was of a beggar who, even if he were offered all the wealth in the world in exchange for the few paisas (a low denomination coin) he owned, wouldn't let go of them. In my comment I recalled this analogy and applied it to my case - Bhagavan has revealed the path to eternal infinite happiness, and still I hold on to phenomena, which prevents me from following Bhagavan's path. Actually, I am worse than the beggar, because while the pennies may have been of at least a tiny bit of use to the beggar in providing sustenance, in my case, this dream provides no nourishment and only brings misery.

anadi-ananta said...

Many thanks Michael for replying again to my repeated insisting questions.
May even this little charioteer become able to fix the mind [my attention] in [or on] ātman [myself]. (mella mella), (śanaiḥ śanaiḥ).(:-)

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

Rajat Sancheti,
yes we are worse than that beggar. But according to Michael no matter how inadequate our clarity, bhakti and vairāgya may be at present, we can try at least little by little to be self-attentive, and if we persevere patiently in our attempts, we will gradually cultivate the required clarity, bhakti and vairāgya and will therefore surely succeed.

anadi-ananta said...

Yes AsunAparicio,
to be swallowed by Arunachala, the hill of bright light, will totally clarify our ignorance.

Lewis Oakwood said...

Anadi-ananta, thank you for your replies to my comments, much appreciated, especially: 'When you say to yourself 'I am the experience' and you mean 'I am (the) awareness' you should clarify to whom that awareness does appear.'

Rajat Sancheti said...

2017-12-02 Sri Ramana Center, Houstan: discussion with Michael James on Ulladu Narpadu verse 11

"Why are we all sitting here talking about this subject? We could be doing so many other things. For you it is a Saturday morning, for me it is a Saturday afternoon. We could be watching football, we could be going to the pub and drinking. So many things people spend their weekends doing. They could go on a short holiday, on a skiing holiday...Why we choose to be sitting here and talking about this subject. Bhagavan has put a seed of interest in this subject in our heart, he has sown this seed, and now we find this subject more and more fascinating, we keep on being drawn to it. Though we know that this a suicide mission. Studying and practicing Bhagavan's teachings, we are on a suicide mission. We are like a moth flying around a flame. Sooner or later we are going to get too close to the flame, we are going to get burnt, and we know that. But still we can't leave this flame. Somehow it has attracted us and we can't leave it. Bhagavan has put the seed of love in our heart, and he is never going to cheat us. He himself prayed to Arunachala -

[verse 60 of Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai]
Nē/sami/lenak/kun
Ā /saiyaik/kāt/tinī
Mō/sanje/yā/darul
Arunā/chalā.


To me who has no love for you, you gave me that little bit of desire for you, do not cheat me. Though Bhagavan said that as a prayer, I take that as an assurance. Having once put the seed of love in our heart, having kindled that interest in our heart... we may not be sincerely following what Bhagavan has taught us, we may not yet have enough love, but Bhagavan is such a gardener, when he sows a seed, he will water it and nurture it, and he will make sure that seed grows into a beautiful flowering plant, We may not be ready to flower yet, but we are being tended by the best gardener in the world. He will ensure that he will give us the water, he will give us the nourishment, he will give us all the favourable circumstances.. When the winter comes he will take us into the greenhouse to protect us from the cold, he will do all that is necessary to ensure that one day we will be ready to flower. "

Bob Morrison said...

Rajat Sancheti

thanks much for the 2017 Houston discussion. I had not seen or read this before and suddenly it appears and it was just what I needed.

cheers and best regards

Michael James said...

Lewis, I have replied to your first four comments above (which I now see you have since deleted) in a new article: How can there be any experience without something that is experiencing it?

Lewis Oakwood said...

Michael, thank you.

anadi-ananta said...

Lewis Oakwood,
as you have seen, not even your comment-deletion could you preserve from studying Michael's thorough explanation of the fundamental principles of Bhagavan's teaching.
So deletion of comments once posted is neither necessary nor effective.:-)