Thursday 31 December 2020

Bhagavan’s verses on birthday celebrations

Bhagavan was born at one o’clock in the morning on 30th December 1879, which was during the lunar constellation (nakṣatra) of punarvasu, which this year occurs today, 31st December 2020, so according to the Hindu custom of celebrating a person’s birthday on their birth nakṣatra, today his 141st birthday or jayantī is being celebrated by devotees all over the world.

Friday 18 December 2020

If everything is predestined, how can the law of karma be true?

Last month a friend wrote to me posing two questions, ‘If everything is predestined, how can the law of karma be true? And if it is true, how can everything be predestined?’, to which he offered his own answers based on his understanding of Bhagavan’s teachings. This article is adapted from the replies I wrote to this and several subsequent emails, because what Bhagavan taught us about the law of karma in general and the scope of predetermination in particular is an area of his teachings that have been widely misunderstood and misinterpreted, and hence I am often asked about this subject.

Monday 16 November 2020

Saturday 14 November 2020

Dīpāvali Tattva: the reality of Deepavali

In Guru Vācaka Kōvai there is a chapter called Naraka Jaya-t-Tiṟaṉ (Explaining the Conquest of Naraka), which consists of five verses, three composed by Muruganar and two composed by Bhagavan. The former are verses 181 to 183, in which Muruganar recorded what Bhagavan explained about the real import of Naraka Caturdaśi and Dīpāvali, and the latter are verses B4 and B5 (and verses 2 and 3 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ), in the first of which Bhagavan summarised the ideas expressed in verses 181 and 182, and in the second of which he expressed the same idea as verse 183 but in a simpler and clearer manner.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

If this world is just a dream, why should we justify to others that it is so?

Yesterday a friend called Asiakas posted a comment on one of my videos, 2020-03-14 Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK: discussion with Michael James on Ēkāṉma Pañcakam verse 4, asking, ‘Dear Michael. Why try to justify that this world is a dream? Do we try to justify to people in our dreams, that it is a dream? Who realizes it is a dream?’, but before I had time to reply to this it was deleted. However, these are questions that deserve a reply, so the following is my reply to them:

Sunday 1 November 2020

We can practise self-abidance only by being self-attentive

A friend asked me to adjudicate on a disagreement that he and another friend had about self-abidance and self-investigation. One of them believed that “the terms ‘self-abidance’ and ‘self-investigation’ mean two different things. That is, according to his understanding, in self-abidance we do not use our sharp mind (nun mati or kurnda mati). However, in self-investigation, we are using our sharp mind (nun mati or kurnda mati)”, whereas the other believed that “both these terms, ‘self-abidance’ and ‘self-investigation’ mean the same thing as long as we are practising self-attentiveness. These terms — self-abidance and self-investigation — are just two different ways of describing the practice of atma-vichara”.

The following is adapted from the reply I wrote to them:

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Doership, sleep and the practice of self-attentiveness

A friend wrote to me saying:

It appears that the doership tendency is one of the hardest to overcome. I grapple with it quite often these days. Although I am more acutely aware and do recognise it most of the time when it arises, it simply refuses to disappear altogether. I sometimes wonder as to whether attempting to be self-attentive in all three states will eventually reduce one’s identification with the body, and thereby destroy the doership tendency. Getting into a state of complete stillness prior to falling asleep does sometimes help one experience the Self in deep sleep. However, I haven’t so far been able to become self-attentive at all in the dream state. I should perhaps just concentrate on being more keenly self-attentive, and leave the rest to Bhagavan.
In reply to this I wrote:

Monday 26 October 2020

How to practise surrender when faced with a dilemma?

A friend wrote to me asking for some personal guidance regarding a dilemma he was facing, in which whatever choice he made would have a major impact on his life and possibly on his health, and which also had a moral dimension to it. Faced with this dilemma, he found that his mind tended to become agitated, making it difficult for him to cling calmly to the practice of self-investigation. In reply to him I wrote:

Friday 16 October 2020

The direct path to direct perception of our real nature

A friend wrote to me recently:

I wondered if you could shine some light on something regarding Ramana’s Enlightenment for me. I’ve always thought that when the moment of Enlightenment transpires for anyone that it is instantaneous & does not involve time, even though there may have been a Spiritual progression up to that point. It is commonly said that when Ramana laid down & watched the death of his self at that point he was instantly Enlightened.

Saturday 19 September 2020

How is ego to be destroyed?

A friend wrote to me recently:

I came across the following quote supposedly by Bhagavan:
Question: How is the ego to be destroyed?

Maharshi: Hold the ego first and then ask how it is to be destroyed. Who asks this question? It is the ego. Can the ego ever agree to kill itself? This question is a sure way to cherish the ego and not to kill it. If you seek the ego you will find it does not exist. That is the way to destroy it.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

The return of the prodigal son

A friend wrote to me recently asking:

If all the Bhagavan’s teachings are telling us to ignore the world and only look within, then why does the world of thoughts and things manifest at all? Is it there for us to be seduced by to suffer in until we voluntarily start the journey home to the only true reality, the I am? Is this the meaning of the Parable of the prodigal son in Christianity?
In reply to her I wrote:

Monday 24 August 2020

Praising or disparaging others is anātma-vicāra

In a comment on 18 July 2020 at 11:27 I appealed to everyone writing comments on this blog:

I have not had time to read most of the comments that have been posted here recently, but a friend has written to me pointing out that of late many of the comments have been blatantly transgressing the Guidelines for Comments, so could I please ask you all to abide by these guidelines for the sake of all who read your comments. That is, please do not allow any discussion about Bhagavan’s teachings to deteriorate into a series of ad hominem attacks and abuse. If you disagree with any idea expressed by anyone else, you are welcome to explain why you disagree with it, but please do not criticise personally whoever has expressed whatever ideas you disagree with.
I still have not had time to read most of the recent comments, but from the few I have read and from emails I have received from several friends deploring the tone of many of them I understand that what I wrote in this comment had little or no effect, because the same behaviour seems to have been continuing. This is very sad, because it shows a lack of respect for Bhagavan and his teachings, and it is inconsiderate, because it deters many serious aspirants from taking part in what could otherwise be useful discussions about his teachings.

Monday 22 June 2020

Why did Bhagavan sometimes say the heart is on the right side of the chest?

A friend sent me a WhatsApp message yesterday saying that while explaining the first verse of Saddarśanam someone had said, ‘Many ask why Ramana Maharshi stated that heart is on your right. It is because you think that it is on the left. Heart actually is where one experiences the existence as consciousness’. I understood this to mean that that person had implied that the right side of the chest is where one experiences existence as consciousness, so I replied accordingly, but later my friend clarified that what that person was trying to convey was that ‘ullam or heart is not on right or left or nothing to do with the position in the body, but where or what one experiences as consciousness — not the body or mental consciousness which many associate this word with’.

Sunday 21 June 2020

How do we remember being asleep?

A friend wrote to me today asking, ‘In the deep sleep state, it is said that there is no mind. In that case, what is it that carries through the information back to the waking state that one has experienced deep sleep? Is the mind present but it is dormant (thereby registering experience and creating memory)? In other words, is there anything other than the true I (I-I) in the deep sleep state?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Tuesday 2 June 2020

We can be self-attentive in waking and dream but not in sleep

A friend recently wrote to me:

It seems to that “Self-Attention” as taught by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi is possible only when I am in the Waking State, and not when I am in the Sleeping State and in the Dreaming State. In that case, what do I have to do in the latter two states, according to the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi? If I cannot do anything in those two states, will that be a problem or should I take it that as long as I am doing “Self-Attention” correctly during the Waking State, that will be enough?

Thursday 28 May 2020

Though we are not aware of any phenomena in sleep, we are aware of our own existence, ‘I am’

A friend recently wrote to me:

There is something I find hard to “understand”. You say that Sri Ramana Maharshi said that when we are in deep sleep, without dreams, that we have let go of the ego and are still aware of our self existence.

How can we know that, when seemingly there is no awareness in that time? It leads me to think that if the oneness of the true self, of existence/god itself is nothing, no experience at all, then why would I want to get there? While there is suffering in this life with the ego here, there is also pleasure. As I get closer to non-attachment I suffer far less (I witness the suffering), but if I achieve complete non-attachment I will cease to exist in this way. In my form as a human I reach states of freedom and happiness but I am experiencing/aware of that. In sleep (and therefore death) am I really experiencing that?

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Self-investigation as the way to love

In April of last year a Finnish friend, Jussi Penttinen, invited me to Helsinki, where he had arranged for me to give a talk and answer questions at a meeting organised by Forum Humanum. A video of this meeting, 2019-04-03 Forum Humanum, Helsinki: Michael James discusses self-investigation as the way to love, is available on my YouTube channel, Sri Ramana Teachings:

Wednesday 15 April 2020

The dreamer is ourself as ego, not whatever person we seem to be in a dream

A friend called Reinhard recently sent me what he described as ‘a pleasant exchange with David [Godman] about ajata and the discrepancy to ‘our’ ordinary perception’ and wrote, ‘If you have some comments, they are always welcome’.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

How can we just be?

In a comment on my previous article, What can be simpler than just being self-attentive?, a friend called Chandra asked: ‘how to practice self enquiry sir? has just to be not doing anything without activity of mind and body, just be?’ The following is my reply to this:

Thursday 12 March 2020

What can be simpler than just being self-attentive?

A friend wrote to me recently saying that he had been reading about self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) but was unable to understand ‘how can the I enquire into the I itself’, and while expressing his confusion he asked several questions such as: ‘So how do we comprehend SELF? How do we enquire this SELF? And Who enquires SELF? The mind?’ In reply to this I wrote:

Monday 9 March 2020

Though we appear in two distinct modes, we are just one awareness

When I woke up on Saturday morning, a fresh clarity occurred to me. If I try to put this clarity into words, as I will do in this article, it is what I knew already, but somehow on that morning I saw it with a fresh clarity. In words I cannot actually express this clarity, but I can explain what it is about: that is, what it is that somehow became more clear.

Monday 24 February 2020

Though we now seem to be ego, if we look at ourself keenly enough we will see that we are actually just pure awareness

A question that troubles some people when they want to understand the practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) is whether the ‘self’ or ‘I’ we are to investigate is ego or our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), but as I will try to make clear in this article, investigating ego is itself investigating our real nature, because what seems to be ego is just our real nature, just as what seems to be a snake is just a rope. We are just one self or ‘I’, not two different selves or ‘I’s, but when this one ‘I’ remains just as it is, without any adjuncts, it is pure awareness, which is our real nature, whereas when it seems to be conflated with adjuncts, it is what is called ego.

Friday 7 February 2020

To curb our rising as ego, all we need do is watch ourself vigilantly

A friend wrote a long email to me recently asking for advice about how we should behave in this world, and in particular about how we should respond to certain challenging situations. This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to him.

Sunday 2 February 2020

There are many interpretations of advaita, but Bhagavan’s teachings are the simplest, clearest and deepest

In a comment on my previous article, To know what we actually are, we need to cease being interested in any person, a friend called Mouna referred to one of my recent videos, 2020-01-19 Yo Soy Tu Mismo: Michael James discusses why Bhagavan’s path is a path of unlearning, and wrote:
Michael mentioned in one of his recent videos (I’ll be paraphrasing) that one of the problems of vedantic teachings is that historically, the simple teachings of the Upanishads started to be complicated to understand because all the commentaries, and the commentaries on the commentaries (and the commentaries on the commentaries on the commentaries!) appeared...

Thursday 23 January 2020

To know what we actually are, we need to cease being interested in any person

A friend wrote to me recently saying he wants to know more about me as a person, including about my family background, such as whether my parents were devotees of Bhagavan and whether all my siblings are also interested in his teachings, and he asked me whether he should try to convince his brothers and sisters to learn about his teachings, because they have other interests and opinions, some of which he disagrees with. This article is adapted from the reply I wrote to him.

Thursday 16 January 2020

What does Bhagavan mean by the term ‘mind’?

In a comment on my previous article, Self-investigation is the only means by which we can surrender ourself entirely and thereby eradicate ego, a friend called Rajat referred to two sentences in the fifth paragraph of Nāṉ Ār?, ‘மனதில் தோன்றும் நினைவுக ளெல்லாவற்றிற்கும் நானென்னும் நினைவே முதல் நினைவு. இது எழுந்த பிறகே ஏனைய நினைவுகள் எழுகின்றன’ (maṉadil tōṉḏṟum niṉaivugaḷ ellāvaṯṟiṟkum nāṉ-eṉṉum niṉaivē mudal niṉaivu. idu eṙunda piṟahē ēṉaiya niṉaivugaḷ eṙugiṉḏṟaṉa), ‘Of all the thoughts that appear [or arise] in the mind, the thought called ‘I’ alone is the first thought [the primal, basic, original or causal thought]. Only after this arises do other thoughts arise’, and asked, ‘I am unable to understand this. Isn’t the “thought ‘I’” same as the mind, or ego? If yes, then how does the I-thought appear or arise in the mind, because they are the same thing? Should this be understood to mean that the first thing the I-thought sees is itself?’, and in a subsequent comment he referred to this and asked ‘Since “the thought I” is nothing but “our mind”, how to understand Bhagavan’s statement that the thought ‘I’ alone is the first thought that appears in our mind? If I-thought were to arise in the mind, then mind must exist prior to the arising of I thought’.

This article is written primarily in reply to these two comments, but also in reply both to a later comment in which Rajat asked some other questions related to the nature of the mind, and to another related subject that was discussed in other comments on the same article.