Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Is there any difference between being self-attentive and sitting down quietly in meditation?

A friend wrote to me recently asking, ‘Is there a difference in being self-attentive and sitting down quietly in meditation? Do they both help in dissolving the ego gradually as we continue to practice being self-attentive?’, in reply to which I wrote:

We can meditate either on ourself or on something other than ourself.

Meditation on ourself is what Bhagavan calls சொரூபத்யானம் (svarūpa-dhyāna) in the tenth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār? and ஆன்மசிந்தனை (ātma-cintana) in the thirteenth paragraph, both of which mean self-contemplation, self-meditation or self-attentiveness, and which are therefore just alternative terms that he uses to describe the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra). This is the direct path and the most effective means to purify our mind and thereby surrender ourself completely, as he says in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph:
ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

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

Being ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ [one who is completely fixed in and as oneself], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any cintana [thought] other than ātma-cintana [‘thought of oneself’, self-contemplation or self-attentiveness], alone is giving oneself to God.
Meditating on anything other than ourself may be an indirect means to gradually purify our mind, particularly if it is done with heart-melting love for God, but it cannot by itself eradicate ego, so it must eventually lead us to the path of self-investigation, which alone can eradicate ego. This is why Bhagavan says in verse 8 of Upadēśa Undiyār that rather than meditation on anything other than ourself (anya-bhāva) meditation on nothing other than ourself (ananya-bhāva) is ‘அனைத்தினும் உத்தமம்’ (aṉaittiṉum uttamam), ‘best among all’, which in the context implies that it is the most effective means to purify the mind:
அனியபா வத்தி னவனக மாகு
மனனிய பாவமே யுந்தீபற
     வனைத்தினு முத்தம முந்தீபற.

aṉiyabhā vatti ṉavaṉaha māhu
maṉaṉiya bhāvamē yundīpaṟa
     vaṉaittiṉu muttama mundīpaṟa
.

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

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

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

Explanatory paraphrase: Rather than anya-bhāva [meditation on anything other than oneself, particularly meditation on God as if he were other than oneself], ananya-bhāva [meditation on nothing other than oneself], in which he is [considered to be] I, is certainly the best among all [practices of bhakti, varieties of meditation and kinds of spiritual practice].
When you say ‘sitting down quietly in meditation’, what exactly do you mean? Sitting down quietly, in itself, will not help to dissolve ego, so whether we are sitting, standing, walking or whatever, what is important is what we are attending to. If we are attending to ourself, that is not only the most effective means to purify the mind but also the only means to eradicate ego, whereas if we are, for example, lovingly attending to the thought of God, that is a means to purify the mind, at least to a certain extent, but cannot by itself dissolve ego. In order to dissolve ego, we must eventually turn our entire attention back towards ourself and thereby away from everything else, as Bhagavan describes beautifully in verse 16 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
வெளிவிட யங்களை விட்டு மனந்தன்
னொளியுரு வோர்தலே யுந்தீபற
      வுண்மை யுணர்ச்சியா முந்தீபற.

veḷiviḍa yaṅgaḷai viṭṭu maṉantaṉ
ṉoḷiyuru vōrdalē yundīpaṟa
      vuṇmai yuṇarcciyā mundīpaṟa
.

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

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

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

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

English translation: Leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena], the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real awareness [true knowledge or knowledge of reality].
The mind’s ‘ஒளி உரு’ (oḷi-uru) or ‘form of light’ is our fundamental awareness of our own existence (sat-cit), ‘I am’, which is the light that illumines the mind, thereby enabling it to know வெளி விடயங்கள் (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷ), external phenomena, so instead of using the reflected light called mind to know other things, we must turn it back to face its source, the original light of pure awareness, which is always shining within us as ‘I am’. This is the only means by which we can dissolve ego entirely and forever.

27 comments:

AsunAparicio said...

Michael,

When you say :

“The mind’s ‘ஒளி உரு’ (oḷi-uru) or ‘form of light’ is our fundamental awareness of our own existence (sat-cit), ‘I am’, which is the light that illumines the mind, thereby enabling it to know வெளி விடயங்கள் (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷ), external phenomena, so instead of using the reflected light called mind to know other things, we must turn it back to face its source, the original light of pure awareness, which is always shining within us as ‘I am’.”

I understand that you are referring to “sphurana” or clarity of self-awareness but if it is so, Shadu Om says in “The paramount importance of self-attention” that this sphurana has to subside too and that its subsidence is our natural state, actually:

“There are two processes in spiritual practice (sādhanā), one is ascending and the other descending. The ascending process is negating everything as 'not I' by refining our mere awareness 'I am', disentangling it from all its superfluous adjuncts, and this leads to the rising of sphurana, a fresh and intense clarity of self-awareness. The descending process is embracing everything as 'I', by recognising that 'I' alone exists and all else seems to exist only because I am. This descending process leads to the subsidence of sphurana, which is our natural state (sahaja sthiti).”

Would you say that the “descending process” is concurrent to the “ascending process” which is what you are talking about?

Sanjay Lohia said...

By dwelling on guilt or pride, we are sustaining ego because ego lives on things other than itself

A Friend: How to overcome our guilt?

Michael: When we feel guilty, it is our conscience telling us that what we have done is wrong. So it is good to recognize our mistake. But Bhagavan says we shouldn’t dwell on our mistakes because whatever has been done cannot be undone. However, recognizing our mistakes will help us avoid such mistakes in future. However, guilt is for ego. So the most effective way to avoid doing the same thing in future is to investigate ego. We do right or wrong only when we rise as ego.

If we do the right things we feel proud; if we do the wrong things we feel guilty. But we shouldn’t feel either guilt or pride because such guilt and pride is only for ego, but are we this ego? If we look at ourself very keenly, we will recognize that we have nothing to do with ego because there is no such thing as ego. Ego is a phantasy. We seem to be ego only when we attend to things other than ourself. If we attend only to ourself, ego will dissolve and disappear. Our ego is still there only because we have not attended to it keenly enough.

By dwelling on guilt or pride, we are sustaining ego because ego lives on things other than itself. Guilt or pride is not our real nature because both are other than ourself. So why should we attend to them? We should attend only to ourself. If we experience our real nature, we will recognise that we have never done anything good or bad because our nature is being not doing. So investigating ourself, we can free ourself of all pride and guilt because neither belongs to us.

• Based on the video: 2019-11-24 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to overcome desires and fears (1:47)

AsunAparicio said...

Cont. to my previous comment to Michael:

Could you also explain the difference existing between “sphurana” and our “natural state”?

Thank you.

anadi-ananta said...

Asun,
regarding 'sphurana' you may also read Michael's article of Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Self-awareness: 'I'-thought, 'I'-feeling and ahaṁ-sphuraṇa.

AsunAparicio said...

Great. Thank you, anadi-ananta.
I think the answer to my question is in paragraph 8 of that article:

“That is, when the ego is eventually destroyed by the clear shining of ‘I’ (aham-spurippu), the shining of ‘I’ will cease to be experienced as a viśēṣa-jñāna (a different, distinctive or special knowledge) and will instead be experienced as it really is, which is prajñānam: pure self-awareness (that is, self-awareness that is completely adjunct-free and hence nirviśēṣa: featureless and not distinctive or different). In other words, aham-spurippu or ahaṁ-sphuraṇa (the clear experience ‘I am only I’) will seem to be viśēṣa (different, distinctive or special) only so long as even the slightest trace of the ego (the illusory experience ‘I am this body’) survives, and it will cease to seem viśēṣa as soon as the ego is completely annihilated. This cessation of the seeming viśēṣatva (difference, distinctiveness or specialness) of the aham-spurippu or ahaṁ-sphuraṇa is what Sri Ramana sometimes described as its subsidence or extinguishment.”

I just had a look at it now. I´ll read it more carefully. Thank you :)

Sanjay Lohia said...

No one has harmed us in any way

A friend: I want to forgive somebody, but I am not able to do so. How can Bhagavan help me to achieve this?

Michael: In order to forgive someone, we first have to think they have done some wrong to us. But why should we think someone has done any wrong to us? Whatever happens is the fruit of our past karma, and Bhagavan has allowed it to happen for our own good. No one has harmed us in any way, so we have no one to forgive. We first have to blame somebody before forgiving them, but why blame in the first place? If we blame somebody, then we should definitely forgive them.

Ultimately, everything is our own making. The whole world and all the people in it are just a projection of our own vasanas. All this is just a dream, and we dream only when we look away from ourself. So why look away from ourself and why thereby dream? In this dream, we may blame some and praise others; however, ultimately all this is just a mental play.

• Based on the video: 2019-11-24 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to overcome desires and fears (1:54)

AsunAparicio said...

Yes, just a mental play. You can blindly go into it or you can use to it to overcome it, otherwise, it will go on and on, dream after dream.

For instance, what´s more significant: to prove in front of others that you are right or to overcome the compulsion to prove in front of others that you are right? When we fight with others, we are fighting only with ourselves, i.e., our fears, desires , limitations, shortcomings, etc. Just play cleanly. Using subterfuges is deceiving ourselves and a complete waste.

As someone said “this is an inner journey and nobody can see it”, in this sense, “all barriers are crossed in the darkness.”

Sanjay Lohia said...

Nobody merges back into their source without prolonged and intense stugggle

A friend: Did Jesus, Buddha and other awakened beings also had to go through fears, attachments and so on?

Michael: Buddha had to go through so much austerity and had to face so many problems before he attained enlightenment. Likewise, Jesus is supposed to have spent 40 days and 40 nights in a desert, where devils come to tempt him and so on. The desert is when we try to turn within and thereby try to turn our back on phenomena, and in that emptiness all our desires rise up and try to tempt us outwards. That is what is described metaphorically as the devil tempting Jesus.

Even young Venkataraman had to fight his attachments, but he overcame them in a very very brief moment. The fear of death arose and immediately his mind turned inwards and merged back in its source.

So nobody reaches this state without a struggle. If we are struggling to turn within, if we are struggling to give up our desires and attachments, all these are part of an inevitable process to reach our goal. Our struggle indicates that we are progressing. So let us cherish our struggle!

• Based on the video: Based on the video: 2019-11-24 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses how to overcome desires and fears (1:32)

Sanjay Lohia said...

Asun, as you rightly say, ‘When we fight with others, we are fighting only with ourselves, i.e., our fears, desires , limitations, shortcomings, etc’. Our desires and attachments prompt us to rise and act in various ways through our body, speech and mind. So when we fight with others, we are prompted to do so only because of our desires. We will be at perfect peace both with ourselves and with others if we had no desires and attachments.

So if we fight with others or hate others or blame others, we are thereby bringing our inner devils to the surface. The fault lies within us and not with others.

Yes, ‘this is an inner journey and nobody can see it’ and nobody needs to see it. If we want others to see our inner journey, we are not serious about our sadhana. A serious sadhaka does not want to see others and nor does he want others to see him. He goes about his job quietly away from the glare. So, yes, our barriers are crossed only in darkness.

Michael James said...

Asun, I have replied to your comments of 26 November 2019 at 16:13 and 26 November 2019 at 17:01 in a new article, Upadēśa Undiyār verse 16: a practical definition of real awareness.

Salazar said...

Fighting compulsion is not atma-vichara, it is ego being ego :-)

The do-er cannot vanish while "doing" things, that very doing keeps it alive [in being a do-er]. Basic understanding and yet many have not fully grasped it nor applied it.

Good luck with fighting compulsion, it is the same as trying to remove fear, the opposite is the result.

As I said before, Bhagavan's path is about transcending the dyads not grasping one dyad and "fighting" or disliking the other. Duh :-)

AsunAparicio said...

Nobody said anything about fighting compulsions, the word used was “overcome” which is quite the opposite, like grasping-dropping.

Reading comprehension is important.

AsunAparicio said...

Sanjay,

Yes :)

I don´t know what you meant exactly but I remember something you said some time ago which sometimes comes to my mind and I find helpful. It was something like (paraphrasing): “most of us are born to die, with nothing to show in between.”

I think it is related to what you say in your response to me, but I´m not sure and I have always wanted to ask you, what did you exactly mean by that? The sentence is a bit cryptic.

AsunAparicio said...

Sorry, rather than “reading comprehension”, reading carefully.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Asun, yes, ‘most of us are born to die, with nothing to show in between’. What I meant was we are born but most of us waste our lives in utterly trivial and worthless material pursuits. We know these will not last long, but we live our lives as if we will be here forever. And one day we die. The End! If we live this way, we have definitely wasted our lives because we have not turned towards God. We have not tried practising self-surrender and self-investigation. So metaphorically speaking, we have nothing worthwhile to show in-between.

AsunAparicio said...

Sanjay,

Right. Thank you :)

anadi-ananta said...

Sanjay Lohia,
"We have not tried practising self-surrender and self-investigation. So metaphorically speaking, we have nothing worthwhile to show in-between."
There is no need to show anything. Because there is only one atma-svarupa, even people who don't turn themselves to God and "waste their lives in utterly trivial and worthless material pursuits" are nothing other than God.

Salazar said...

Asun, whatever negative attributes you are singling out about “Salazar”, it is like saying “the sun is hot”. As long as there seems to be an ego there is imperfection.

So what purpose do these comments serve but to inflate your own ego?

anadi-ananta said...

If there is only one ego how can one have an "own ego" ?

Salazar said...

anadi-ananta, is there only one ego? Find out.

anadi-ananta said...

Michael,
"...so instead of using the reflected light called mind to know other things, we must turn it back to face its source, the original light of pure awareness, which is always shining within us as 'I am'."
I assume the mirror or the reflecting medium is the mind or the 'I'-thought/ego. Can the reflected light be turned back to face its source by - figuratively spoken - simply directing the mirror ('I'-thought) directly to the sun of pure self-awareness ?

anadi-ananta said...

Salazar,
of course I spoke of the one seeming ego.
According Bhagavan: By investigating this seeming ego it takes flight and therefore one may find out that there is not such thing at all.:-)
Or what do you presume ?

Salazar said...

anadi-ananta, you asked "can one have an own ego"? Apparently one can unless one investigates [if] that ego [exists]. Bhagavan can say a lot and it is worth nothing unless one verifies its veracity. Until then it is just some religious belief without actually truly knowing.

So this talk about one ego, many egos, an "own ego" is only useful if it is seen as a pointer. Jumping back and forth between these concepts from an absolute viewpoint to the relative viewpoint and back again to the absolute viewpoint [what you seem to be doing] is disregarding the intention of these pointers. It is the futile attempt of the mind to understand something it simply can't.

anadi-ananta said...

Yes, Salazar, let's break off this discussion and jump back to self-investigation. Thank you for your comment.

Michal Borkowski said...

Dear Michael,

Can one actually see where from the 'I/ego/personality' arises while that same 'I/ego/personality' is risen? Does the questioning or attending to 'it/ego/i' slow it down and make it subside so that it's place of origin may be seen/experienced/revealed? Or are there more suitable times when 'it/ego/i' is less active that may be better for attending/seeing its place of origin, in order for it to be seen that it is only a ghost, and that the real'I' may shine forth?

Michael James said...

Michal, in reply to your comment of 30 November 2019 at 03:30, in this context the verb ‘see’ is used metaphorically in the sense of ‘be aware of it as it is’. In this sense we as ego can never see the source from which we have risen, because our very rising as ego is what obscures our source from our view.

Our source is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is pure awareness, and which we are always aware of as our fundamental awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, but though we are always aware of it, as ego we are not aware of it as it is, because instead of being aware of ourself just as ‘I am’ we are aware of ourself as ‘I am this body’, in which the term ‘body’ refers not just to the physical form but also to the other four ‘sheaths’ that we always experience along with it, namely life, mind, intellect and will. Because we as ego are always aware of ourself as this fivefold package, we are not aware of ourself as we actually are.

However, though we as ego can never see the source from which we have risen, we must try to do so by being ever more keenly self-attentive, because the more we try to see ourself, the more we subside, and when eventually we are so keenly self-attentive that we cease to be aware of anything other than ourself, we will see ourself as we actually are and thereby ego will be dissolved forever.

Regarding more suitable times to try to be self-attentive, it is best to consider every time to be suitable, because if we wait for more suitable opportunities we will be missing the opportunity at hand. Our aim should be to be self-attentive as constantly and as keenly as possible. Most of us fall far short of this aim, but this does not matter so long as we try as much as we can, because every moment of self-attentiveness takes us one step closer to our goal.

anadi-ananta said...

"...because every moment of self-attentiveness takes us one step closer to our goal." Thank you Michael, thus certainly you leave not the worst message.:-)