Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Other people seem to be real because we seem to be a person

A friend asked me, ‘As we believe there is only one dreamer so why is it that when this dreamer awakens all don’t awaken?’, in reply to which I wrote:

What Bhagavan would reply to such a question is: Let the one dreamer first wake up and then see whether or not there are any others who are still dreaming.

When we ask such questions, we are asking from the perspective of the dreamer, in whose dream there seem to be many others, some of whom (like Bhagavan) the dreamer believes have awakened. However, as Bhagavan explained, guru is not a person but our own reality, which is what is always shining in our heart as ‘I am’, but in our present dream guru has appeared as a person (whom we call Bhagavan) in order to teach us to turn our attention back within to see what we actually are, so that person is like a lion that appears in the dream of an elephant.

That is, it is believed that elephants are so afraid of lions that if an elephant sees a lion in its dream, the fear will cause it to wake up. The lion who caused that fear was unreal, but the resulting awakening is (relatively speaking) real. Likewise, the person whom the guru seems to be is unreal, but the awakening into pure awareness that is brought about by the appearance of that person in our dream is real.

While we are dreaming we meet and interact with so many other people, and those people are just as real as the person we then seem to be, but when we wake up from that dream we immediately recognise that all those people, including the one we seemed to be, were just our own mental fabrication and that what actually existed in the dream was only ourself and not anything else. Likewise, in our present state what is real is only ourself, not as the person we seem to be nor as the ego who mistakes that person to be itself, but only as the fundamental awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, which remains constant and unchanging in all states and all times.

However, when we rise and stand as ego we seem to be a person, who is a small part of a vast universe in which there seem to be many other people (both humans and other species). Because we are real, ego (the false awareness ‘I am this person’) seems to be real, and hence the person we seem to be also seems to be real, and consequently the whole universe of which that person is a part likewise seems real. What is real in ego is only ‘I am’, but as ego we superimpose our own reality upon a person (a body and mind) and consequently upon the entire world.

This is why everything we experience in a dream seems real so long as we are dreaming, but as soon as we wake up our identification with the dream body is severed, so that body no longer seems to be ourself and therefore no longer seems to be real, and hence we immediately recognise that the entire dream was unreal.

This is why this present world and all the people in it seem to be so real. They are all as real as the person we now mistake ourself to be, so as long as we are dreaming this dream we should treat all the other people in it with the same degree of care and concern that we treat this person whom we now take to be ‘I’. But the greatest good we can do for all the people in this dream is to wake up, because this is the only way to put an end to all the suffering we see in it, and the only way to wake up is to investigate and know what we actually are.


Michael James said...

A friend asked me ‘if being aware of being aware is the same as self attentiveness?’, in reply to which I wrote:

Yes, being aware of being aware is one way of expressing it, but it would be more precise to describe it as being aware of what is aware, namely ourself.

Moreover, we need to understand that we are always aware of being aware and of what is aware, but because of our interest in other things our attention is on those other things rather than on ourself, who are what is aware, so the missing ingredient in our awareness of ourself is attentiveness. Therefore it would be even more precise to describe the practice as being attentively aware of what is aware, namely ourself.

This is why I generally describe it as being self-attentive or being attentively self-aware.

Michael James said...

In a comment on one of my recent videos, 2021-09-17 Palani and Michael discuss why and how to practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), a friend wrote:

“Sri Michael James, please correct any errors in my (simple minded) understanding: In summary, ‘self attention’ and ‘self surrender’ seem to be the key to happiness. In the realm of doing, attending to and surrendering appear to be in opposition to each other: seeking and giving up, respectively. So, the word ‘self’ is used here to mean two somewhat different things. The first one is ‘fundamental awareness’ and the second is ‘ego.’ Self attention is constantly identifying with fundamental awareness to the exclusion of everything else. Self surrender is surrendering one’s ego.”

In reply to this I wrote:

Anitya, self-attention and self-surrender are not in opposition to each other, because the nature of ego is to subside and dissolve back into its source to the extent that it attends to itself, so being self-attentive is the only means by which we can surrender ourself completely. To the extent that we hold on to ourself, we are thereby letting go of everything else, and ego cannot stand or survive without holding on to things other than itself.

We are not two separate selves or ‘I’s but only one. What we actually are is only our fundamental awareness of our own existence, ‘I am’, but now we seem to be this ego, the adjunct-mixed awareness ‘I am this body’. Just as a rope may seem to be a snake but nevertheless remains just a rope, we seem to be ego but nevertheless remain just pure awareness, ‘I am’.

The rope and the snake are not two different things, but just one, so the difference between them is not a difference in substance but only a difference in appearance. Likewise, pure awareness and ego are not two different things, but just one, so the difference between them is not a difference in substance but only a difference in appearance.

If we look at the snake carefully enough, we will see that it is actually just a rope and was never a snake. Likewise, if we attend to ourself keenly enough, we will see that we are actually just pure awareness and were never this ego that we now seem to be. Therefore the only way to surrender ego is to attend to it keenly to see what it actually is.