– written by “Jai”, an imaginary individual, and
fortunate student of “Nome”, disciple of
Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi who
for all practical purposes was / is
the Absolute Reality, Brahman,
appearing as a Tamil Sage.
The single Non-Dual Absolute Reality, Brahman alone exists as Existence, infinitely conscious as Consciousness, consisting of complete happiness as Bliss itself. Time, Space individuals / things are illusory.
From the perspective of the apparent individual, “it will all work out” – as Enlightenment, Liberation, Self-Realization. Such may not seem easy or quick, but spiritual practice will hasten the process that can last one or many life-times, each a repeating “dream” with evolving destiny, with ups and downs determined by self-made Karma. Spiritual practice can take many forms, some blended, others simple, more or less direct, more or less preliminary or “final”. One role of a Realized Guru lies in guidance in all this, while the seeker experiments with details – whatever works.
Again, from the perspective of the apparent individual, simplifying one’s life in accord with what is Good / Wise yields better spiritual growth than themes that are Bad / Foolish. Identifying with Ego – I, Mind, Body, in a World is Foolish. Finding out, as direct experience and conviction, “Who am I ?” is identical with Realization that oneself, that all is Brahman alone.
On the spiritual path, the Good can include the obvious moralities of relieving suffering, and of not causing suffering. This can range from ordinary kindness and love through more distributed group responsibilities like refraining from exploitation, group greed, violence, war, any selfish unfairness, and not supporting other creatures, the environment, and fragile climate. Be they illusory entities like ourselves, yet all creatures deserve well-being. Besides being opposed to the Good and thus the Wise, all such Bad hardens attachment to and mis-identification with the false Ego, the source of all personal suffering.
The ultimate Good, that is God is, according to Ramana Maharshi, “as real as you are” and thus is transcended only with loss of Ego mis-identification. Transitional terms like Meister Eckhart’s “God-head”, the Buddha-Mind, Tao, and Brahman-with-characteristics are even less dualistic. Ultimately, all definitions, all that is objective is to be transcended. Some traditions begin with surrender of the Ego to and devotional love toward God, and some combine such with Non-Dual Self-Inquiry until the very last. Devotion likewise arises toward the Guru along with faith in his/her teachings.
Self-Knowledge by fathoming the Self-Inquiry “Who am I ?” completes true self-identification with the one true Self, Atman, non-different from Reality, Brahman – undifferentiated, formless, pure Existence-Consciousness-Bliss – ever the case in a timeless, spaceless, dimensionless Absolute Reality.
One analogy to compare the levels of illusory mis-identification, as in the hierarchy: Ego, Mind, Body, and World could be an arithmetic analogy. A full “100%” dis-identification from Ego individuality could be equivalent to “100%” Liberation / Enlightenment. By a roughly linear proportion, some 50% of the one could be 50% of the other. A similar arithmetic analogy applied to mis-identification with Mind might commence with a rating of constituent Thoughts according to just how “binding” they are. Such include the “Bad” as described in commandments, “deadly sins”, and comparable schemes in Buddhism and other traditions. On sequence of decreasingly binding Concepts could be Ego > Mind > Body > World. Removing key Concepts carries more weight, marks greater progress than less significant ones. Less fundamental mis-identifications could be gender, ethnic – national, and political identity, age, “race” > socio-economic status and possessions > historical era, an so on. Less weight accrues to less fundamental Concepts. Targeting the more binding ones like Ego, Mind, and Body is “Wise” but all opportunities to lose binding Concepts is well-advised in that such progress weakens their support of more binding Concepts and all binding Concepts represent the one and only cause of true Suffering. The Buddha enumerated categories of Suffering (not simply pain as such) as getting what you don’t want, not getting what you want, and even getting what you want because we sense that desired things are in Time and do not last.
Ego-loss is the ultimate goal of Self-Inquiry, but dis-identification with the Mind / Body is almost a proximate guarantee. This dis-identification with Body represents a tipping point toward total inevitable Liberation. Some do not attain dis-identification with the World prior to dis-identification with the Body, but the World too must be relinquished. The terms of all of this analogy may not be found in the all records of spiritual progress, and even some of this essay’s analytical – philosophical approach may not mark the spiritual practice of many or most on the spiritual path.
Beyond God, seeking the “un-qualified” Brahman “with-out characteristics” is the meaning of India’s Advaita Vedanta. Some traditions, included or even began exclusively with a “qualified” Brahman “with characteristics” or God, the Creator. Ramana taught on multiple levels for multiple audiences. When asked whether God is real, Ramana would say: “as real as you.” In the prior millennium, Ramana Maharshi supported the practice of Surrender and Devotion to God, but most notably held Advaita Vedanta’s Self-Inquiry to be the necessary “final practice”. The same could be said of Sri Shankara in the even prior millennium. Following one’s strengths and the Guru’s guidance serve to delineates the structure of one’s meditation practice. Such is Wise. That broad scope and the Guru’s exceeding Karmic bliss often mark such a “world teacher.” Regardless of an apparently less blissful Karma, however, every Liberated disciple is identical with the Guru, with Brahman. In part, the highest teachings were initially left as “secret” until the listener was prepared to take it in with a fresh newness. On the other hand, so-called “western vedanta” is sometimes a premature prattling of verbal assertions “before” the listener is capable, or sufficiently unburdened from concepts. It might also be noted that the historically-absent “Jesus” may have “actually” (within the limits of the waking-dream) been Apollonius of Tyana. Aside from the New Testament’s partially faithful rendition, virtually all of his teachings were burned at the ancient Library of Alexandria, along with those of his own inspirations that include probable sages like Parmenides, Pythogorus, and Hermes Trismagistus. Yet still we are blessed with “you and I are One,” “overcome the World” and so on. Even the Old Testament has those few proclamations like “I am Existence (that I am) and “Be still and know that Existence (I am) is God.”
In between, “qualified” Brahman “with characteristics” and “un-qualified” Non-Dual Brahman “with-out characteristics”, some addressed a less anthropomorphic God such as Meister Eckhart’s “God-head” or the Tao of Lao Tse. Some dozen major cultures have supported Enlightenment practice through the ages but the majority of current examples now appears in Westernized and other societies inspired by Indian Vedanta, and to a less common extent: Southern Chinese Ch’an Buddhism though such flourished in the past, with the expect changes in terminology. Furthermore, the ancient promise is that no spiritual progress is ever lost. Running out of time this lifetime–dream leads to commencing again in a future lifetime–dream, or illusory reincarnation.
Some centuries ago, the Anglican bishop George Berkeley followed the lead of Rene Descartes and reasoned that the World could never be directly known. At best we experience those thoughts known as Sense Percepts and other thoughts about these. It is unclear, however, whether Berkeley saw his Body and indeed very Individuality as based in Sense Percepts. Nagarjuna, founder of Madhyamaka Buddhism did seem to complete that conclusion. One helpful strategy toward dis-identification with the World and Sense Percepts could be the examination of the Subject–Object in terms of “reference”. To this some rare-to-find attention can be given here as a Contemplation supportive of more direct Meditation and ultimately dis-identification with the tipping-point of the Body concept, as well as Senses and the World. To overcome the conceptual “log–jam” of Time, Space, and an external World.
We can return again to Rene Descartes and his two dimensional (2–D) “graph”. A simpler starting point could be that integer/positive xy valued graph we call a “map”. In fact Descartes’ Graph derived from Greek longitude “verticals” and latitude “horizontals” and the fishing net grids before that.
We imagine W-E horizontal streets crossed in a rectangular array by S-N vertical avenues, with (0th Av, 0th St) a starting intersection point in the lower left corner (somewhat like Manhattan, NY, NY). Coursing along 0th Av to the East, we successively pass (0th Av, 1st St), (0th Av, 2nd St), and so on. Coursing along 0th St to the North, we successively pass (1st Av, 0th St), (2nd Av, 0th St), and so on. Consider then a slightly further out point (2nd Av, 3rd St). Without additional geographical knowledge, we do not yet know where (2nd Av, 3rd St) is.
But should we assume geographical knowledge for (0th Av, 0th St) or simply (0,0) on an xy Graph, then in or by “reference” to that standard (0,0) “origin” we can claim to know where (2nd Av, 3rd St) or (2,3) seems to be. Given a location for the (0,0) Origin, we simply extrapolate 2 street blocks East along 0th St; and then in our imagination continue 3 avenue blocks North along 3rd St to our mental destination (2, 3) with borrowed “reference” with respect to the (0,0) Origin. In an analogous manner, of the Origin, (0,0) where like our primal Ego-notion “I”, then a thought Concept or Percept would take on borrowed meaning with “respect” to that Ego Origin (0,0). But then again, our information about (2,3) is only, at most, as valid as the Ego Origin (0,0) itself.
The point of this scenario is to display the “borrowed” reality of (2,3) by a “reference” assumption. So it is for all Concepts and Percepts regarding the World and so on, all resting on the validity of the dualistic Reference process subsequent to unfounded assumption of real “knowledge” about the primal Ego-notion “I” Origin. Without the arithmetic or the Vedanta-like terminology, Berkeley and Nagarjuna came to a similar conclusion that Concepts and Percepts, and thus the World and the Mind, have no self-established reality, while the Ego-notion “I” Origin is assumed with no support, even though it seems “strengthened” by the Concepts arising from it. Thus, no basis for a World, or an Ego is found.
If I view a “chair” for instance, I assume a 3-D object with a specific form. But each view or image of that chair is taken from a specific direction and distance, and further qualified, all only for an instant, that is: by momentary information of the viewer Percept. If asked to imagine a chair, that Ego–“I” Origin might visualize some slightly aerial view, perhaps from on side or the other. These instantaneous Percepts or Concepts do not a real Object make, do not a real World see. Every moment furnishes the Seer with another View, (an likewise with the other Sense and the Mind), every Seer views only his own World images. All these are Contemplations but they support Meditations and then Realizations, especially regarding the unreal World. The Body consists of World-stuff, matter, and that Body is the Origin Reference for much of the Mind functions, and for the Ego which in turn is a reference, notably for binding Concepts. Questioning “Who am I ?” (not mere repletion but deep subjective fathoming) yields Liberation from the idea that there ever is an Ego–Individual.
It-is-so Sutra, part 2
Guidance from the Guru, as was mentioned before may be essential if one is to realize in this lifetime–dream or reincarnation. Of teacher–Sages who did so without a Guru, only a couple of women and a couple of men come to mind – Buddha and Ramana, and then Anandamayi Ma and Brahmagna Ma. One could start with hints found here, but search we must, forsaking near missed along the way, but search we must. If one cannot see the Absolute Self, Atman, as oneself, one is helped by seeing it clearly in the Guru first. Books, etc, can help but the Guru (you true self) can be found in this lifetime–dream if we seek him/her and are fortuante enough to have evolved far enough to “try out” the surprising Teaching of Non-Duality. Considering the minimal “risk” by any measure, and on the other hand, the limitless reward promised, it would seem logical to attempt the path to Enlightenment. Aware that even well-meaning “false” teachers requires our discriminative faculties, so as to stay or try another, no imperfect experiment need be feared, for we grow through these experiences as well – so long as we keep an open mind free of dogmatic acceptance or rejection.
As mentioned previously, it is only by “reference” to the Ego (0,0) Origin that any entity or principle takes on “relative” meaning for us. Only Brahman is Absolute and knowable absolutely, and then only by the Brahman that you are. In the case of physical Perception, and at time mental Concepts as well, the Body is the striking “relative” Reference Origin or reference point. This holds all the way up to the World itself. Likewise, “now” is the Origin for the passing Relative thoughts about Time, while “here” is the striking “relative” Reference Origin / reference point. One layer deeper, we see the Body, Here, and Now to be Relative concepts in themselves.
Applying any such Contemplation against reality for a World, and thereby the Body, the brain, other people and things may not succeed early in anyone’s spiritual; practice, but whenever, if ever this is accomplished, can foster Self-Realization. But dis-identification with the Body is a must, dis-identification with the Mind is also necessary, while dis-identification with the Ego id Liberation. Turning inward to the source of the Ego and/or its “source” which is the true Non-Dual Self, Atman, leads to dis-identification with the Ego which is Enlightenment. Such is the goal of the Self-Inquiry, “Who am I ?” and again, not just mantra-;ole repetition. Such is Sri Ramana’s prescription for Meditation, so long as Meditation continues as much as possible, all the time as it were. As Descartes declared, only ones own Existence is certain. And all that is found in Self-Inquiry is the Non-Dual Consciousness that seems to “play host” to that Self-Inquiry and all thought processes. Bliss is ever the goal, I seek greater Happiness or the decrease of un-happiness in every thought and action. This reveals the steady background goal for all thought, again our identity as Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Brahman. We seek Happiness in order to seek the Self. Herein lies the clue that Love, which is Bliss as well, can launch s spiritual path, in terms of Devotion and Surrender to God and Guru. And yet, Self-Knowledge is ever the final step, “Who am I ?”
Awakening to Reality brings release of the fear of Death, and likewise Reincarnation for cultures that think in thise terms. Even most Christians foresaw Reincarnation for the first few centuries before the great “councils” voted out that dogma in order to foster more immediate obedience to church and state, all by the same patriarchs who adopted the insane invention Eusebius, namely “eternal” Hell. Many in the East fear no Hell, but only the Suffering of human life prolonged by Reincarnation. But release of the Ego is also the release of Individuality, Objectivity, Reference, Suffering, the Body and Mind. So how now to proceed ? For Meditation, select books (or other media) can help, but remain open to finding the Guru, or vice versa. The Guru is one’s True Self appearing in the dream-world. But in the meantime, where to put initial emphasis: Self-Inquiry or Devotion/Surrender ? Devotion to God is ever beneficial, and the Guru can guide one further. Anyone can read about Self-Inquiry and get started. Where should emphasis to placed?
One analogy-scenario by which seek and answer to the last question places one in a plane about to crash. With minutes to live, where in one’s heart would you find the intuition that chooses your last ditch Meditation, for this lifetime ? Whatever direction spontaneously wins our trust is the same path: Self-Inquiry or Devotion–Surrender, proceed with that one now, while free to let the other contribute along the way.
In concluding for the moment, a few observations can be added to the prior Reference analogy for mediation on the unreality of the World, and thus the Body and Individuality. As with release of the Ego-notion, trust in the wise Sages, trust in the Guru’s Teaching can carry those meditations through to completion. But to include with the Reference Meditation some historical context, it can be noted that Anglican Bishop George Berkeley reasoned out that thought-bound Sense experience alone cannot prove or even validly suggest a World. Such Contemplation can support Meditation about the unreality of the World, and thus the Body and Individuality. The Madhymika Buddist Nagarjuna had completed the same Contemplation through to Meditation as Consciousness and Realization. The 20th Century Sage, Krishna Menon, Sri Atmanda followed the same line of Meditation as found in the works of Shankara. More academically, the philosophical implications of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity can in themselves spur initial Contemplation as to the unreality of the World, given that to be the “containing space” of the waking-dream, a dream whose structure seems to include some rules that Science seeks to understand and apply.
Firstly, we can try to visualize and impossible-to-visualize size or dimension issues. What we conceive as “atoms” are so small that we might first imagine hollowing out the Earth and stuffing it with grapes, for instance. How man grapes would that be ? (Buddhists and Taoists carried on this exercise with grains of sand.) Atoms are small enough that about this same number of them make up some familiar structure, like a thumb for instance. That many because they are so tiny. Now take one atom to be a large sports stadium. Note a candy wrapper in the middle of the field, and on that small paper place a pencil point dot. That dot compares to the atom’s nucleus, in size that is, but it contains 99.9% or more of the atom’s mass. Now scrutinize one of the nucleons, a proton or neutron. Any one of those could be imagined as is a solar system in itself. Now visualize our relatively tiny moon dwarfed within the size of that “solar system”. Three of these constitute the nucleon, as three quarks, again between them constituting all of the nucleon’s mass – so small is the atom and its central nucleus. The “moon” can stand in, not only for each quark, but for any other lepton quantum particle such as any of the “orbiting” electrons.
Now lets direct a dilute stream of such tiny electrons through a “double slit” scattering equipment. Experiments reveal those quantum particles to be non–“solid” mathematical probability entities, wavefunctions. These wavefunctions can be found to be in “two or more places” at the same time, and even to “sense” micro-events in the future, thus confounding all our everyday intuitions about a World of distinct objects in Space and Time. Relativity furthermore denies the micro-causality-sequence of Cause / Effect. and of “ordinary” Time and Space. For any spiritual practitioner inclined explore these apparent patterns, or the incredible vastness of the containing Universe, the possibility of the World being unreal may not be too far a leap of Contemplation. Thereupon direct Self-Inquiry Meditation can continue to dis-identify from the Body, brain/Mind, and Individual Ego.
With or without the other various World–denying Contemplations, one can harness humility to dis-identify from the Mind and Body, and thereupon the Individual Ego, all my means of Self-Inquiry. Fathoming “Who am I ?” we turn inward from all objective Percept and Concept, to “know” Consciousness to be the sole Reality, the one True Self. Experiencing a falling away of all the Objective, merge one’s Being in that Consciousness. “Mantras” can be utilized for initiation of Meditation by Devotion and Surrender to Brahman. Some comparable “verbal cues” can similarly be “warm-ups” for Self-Inquiry. Here we close with a few:
“I am not the Body, not the Ego-Mind, no Senses, no Prana (life-force). no World.”
“No ‘my’ (World, Body, Mind, Ego) – One Self.”
“Who am I ? – Consciousness”
“Lose the ‘reference’, no World.”
“To that Guru, again I bow.”