Analogy of the 10th man (retelling of one told by Sri Ramana) :
Hiking the hills & needing to cross a raging snow-fed river in Spring, 10 traveling “Fools” made of themselves a human chain to safeguard their passage. Given the slippery stones underfoot & unexpected high water level & onrushing force, there was natural concern that they all had made it to the other shore. The first one to think of it began a head count, pointing at each, calling out as he wagged his finger: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.” Suddenly upset the poor Fool cried out: “That’s it, only 9. Omigosh! Who did we lose ?”
In horrified disbelief, another Fool repeated the head count: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9” & so did another, & another, until every Fool on shore gave it a try, all confirming the original tragic announcement. The confusing part for them, of course, was that no one could figure out who was the missing one. Easy for us, we aren’t shivering & wet with freezing river water, exhausted & frightened. But then again, it was kind of silly, given that they all followed the misguided example of the first, pointing only at other heads as they counted. If only one of them had kept track & counted the number of counts called, they would have be reassured when the only 9 counts were initially made.
Their luck soon changed when just then an eminent spiritual master & teacher, a Guru much revered in the region, came walking down their shore, having seen the pantomime of their plight from the distance as he approached, not needing to be within earshot get the picture. But upon listening patiently & trying in vain to explain the proper Arithmetic to them, he decided to quickly demonstrate after kindly letting them off the hook, saying that many people experience confusion like this, as when told that such & such will occur in 10 days. some will ask: “Does that 10 count today, or do we start counting tomorrow as 1?” “But practical experience is best, so here we go” he said, & continuing: “when I tap your head with my staff, you the first one call out 1 & next 2 & so on until I’ve tapped the last one.”
And so he did, & they called out, a bit nervous as they got to 9. But sure enough, they distinctly heard one last hollow bonk of the staff on a head & the call 10. There he was smiling & laughing with relief, the one the Guru had arranged to be last, the same first one the Guru saw start the counting, recognizing him now since he had seen him from a distance. Smiling with kindness the Guru concluded for him: “Yes: Thou Art the 10th.”
When equating the Non-Dual Self with Absolute Reality Brahman, the most authoritative Upanishads repeatedly intoned the Mahavakya or Great Proclamation “Thou Art That”, with Absolute Reality, Brahman understood to be “That.”
In “Thou Art the 10th !” the actual number 10 has no particular significance other than in helping recall of the Parable. What matters is that each essentially makes the same mistake when failing to count himself, or more to the point, take himself into account. The remedy is to Inquire “who am I” in order to know oneself. Self-Knowledge, the direct result of Self-Inquiry, is also known as Self-Realization, Enlightenment, Liberation, & in the original languages: Moksha, Nirvana, Mukti, & so on. This is the ineffable Reality itself, ever inexplicable & beyond words.
[Robert Heinlein’s hero in Stranger in a Strange Land drew from the same scriptures, without direct reference, when his planet-colony “visitor” was asked about the that colony’s understanding of “God”. Confused at first, that character, Michael Valentine, hesitated, pondered, & then realized what was being asked. Shaking his head in denial of the basic premise of the question, one about some separate super-being, the extra-terrestrial visitor responded: “Thou art God !” (Of course the “thou art” would not have been used unless the Mahavakya was being referenced. Written in the late 1950’s & then published in ’61, thus was pretty “far out” for an American sci–fi author.]
[her follows a to–be–continuing series of selections from the seemingly impossible to “find online” classic by Shankara’s disciple Suresvara, on somewhat based on Shankara’s Upadesha Sahasri “1000 Teachings”, this one by the name Naiskarmya Siddhi (translated by A. J. Alston as “The Realization Of Absolute”)]
Here is a clear statement of the true nature of the inner Reality whose sole function is to exist as the Witness & support of All. The existence & manifestation of all this World depends on its existence. If It did not exist, nothing would. [verse 4]
Failure to realize that one’s own Self (atman) is the sole Reality is called Ignorance (avidya). … Its destruction constitutes the Liberation of the soul. [verse 7]
The fire of right Knowledge arising from the Great Proclamations (mahavakyas) of the Upanishads burns up utterly the Delusion (moha) of the soul. [verse 8]
Since Liberation arises only from the destruction of Ignorance, action is not the means to it. Action cannot remove Ignorance any more than darkness arising from darkness (can remove darkness). [verse 24]
The Veda (shastra) is like the Sun, illumining the means to acquiring & avoiding for the benefit of those who from sheer ignorance desire the pleasant & shun the unpleasant. [verse 29]
Thus it has been shown on the authority of perception, inference & revelation that the Self is never separate from “the pleasant” in the form of supreme bliss, & that “the unpleasant” enters into no relation with it at all, & is like something non-existent. And from this it follows that all action whatever is prompted by false knowledge (mithya–jnana) of the form “may I have the pleasant, may I not have the unpleasant” arising from bare natural unawareness of the Self (svabhavya-atma anavabodha-matra), like the notion of Mirage & Silver which arise from unawareness of the Desert & of the Mother-of-pearl.
It is through Ignorance that one desires what one already has, such as a golden Necklace hanging (forgotten) on one’s neck; again, it is through ignorance that, afflicted with delusion, one fears & tries to remove a ghost which seems to be in one’s Shadow but which does not really exist. [verse 31]
In regard to things that one already has (but, being unaware of the fact, also wants to have) or has not (but supposes oneself to have & wishes to be rid of) “getting” & “avoiding” do not come through Action. Since it is Ignorance alone that is the obstacle (to realizing that one already has or has not got them), the “getting” or “avoiding” of them is to be achieved by knowledge. [verse 34]
Action itself arises from Ignorance, hence it can not destroy it. But right Knowledge can destroy Ignorance for it is the opposite of it, as the Sun is the opposite of darkness. [verse 35]
Self-knowledge is based on the self-revealed Reality alone, & its nature is to destroy Ignorance & the whole complex of factors of Action (karma) that arise from it as effects. It depends on the Vedic texts, etc., only for its rise. Once risen, it does not depend on them for destroying Ignorance. Knowledge of the Self guarantees the realization of the highest end of man through its mere rise, without needing to assume any new form or to depend on any external factor (e. g. Action).
Therefore right-knowledge (samyag-jnana) is the proper & sufficient means to get rid of Ignorance,
which is the cause of the whole Ocean of Sorrow. If you say, “Action is the right means”, we say, “No.” [verse 37]
[Note that the Karma-producing Action here debated was a major doctrinal issue at the time, & can usefully more apply to our own practice when realizing that no “mental action” can yield Realization, but only deeper Knowledge, beyond the Mind, at the depth of one’s certainty that: “I exist.” Note also that “India’s English” often prefers to say “I am” but “I exist” may better fit the Anglo-American usage of the verb “to be”. ]
Master Nome selections:
” … Consciousness is one and indivisible. It can neither separate from itself so as to become a plurality, nor undergo modification, nor bring forth out itself something other than itself. The perception of multiplicity is the result of the activities of one’s senses. The great variety of sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and tactile sensations which constitute one’s perception of the world are all, without exception, the result of sensory functions. So much is this so that the world cannot be said to be perceived apart from the senses. The sensory impressions constitute ‘the world.'” – Master Nome (Commentary on Siva Samhita, Reflections, 3.3.9, SAT 1991)
Desire is the urge to be happy. When faced outwardly it is foolish; inwardly, it yields Wisdom. Happiness is within. The sense of happiness in any experience does not come from the thing experienced. All experience is of the nature of the experiencer. The sense of reality in every experience does not come from the things experienced. The Self is the source.
Ego, manifestation, form and ignorance: these are like an optical illusion, a mirage, a dream without substance, the life-history of a fictional character, a rabbit with horns, and a person with a tail. Regard all thought as an empty echo and the world as a dream. Regard all manifestation as an hallucination or as a daydream lasting but a moment. Know the world to be unreal and yourself as not a character in it, and the dream is over. Consider the world to be a dream, and discover the absence of the dreamer. To expect the perception of forms – the world, body, senses, and thought – to disappear at its own level to transcend them is like expecting the dream character in one’s dream to see the dream forms – dream world, dream body, dream senses, and dream thoughts – disappear within the dream, before waking up. When the forms – the world, body, senses, and thought – vanish, the Reality of pure, transcendent Being alone remains. Even when thought of as appearing, the Reality of pure, transcendent Being alone remains.
An unreal body performs unreal actions in an unreal world. Do not be afraid to let go of a world that does not really exist. Any object of experience has no more existence separate from the Self than printed letters from a page of paper, or waves from water. It is you who say that anything is real. The object does not declare its own reality. To known the Reality, know yourself. It is better to say the world in you than you are in the world. There is no world or any objective thing, and there is no one to experience or know it. The world is unreal. There has never been a single objective thing. All that is objective is illusion. Illusion is that which is not. All things change. That which is not a thing is unchanging.
The Self is neither the body nor thought. It is spaceless and timeless. As space is endless, clear, formless, embracing all, bound by none, all-pervading, ungraspable, and has no within or without, so it is with the Self. The conception of space requires mis-identification with the body. The conception of time requires misidentification with thought. Now is not a time. Here is not a location. Here and now is formless, real Being. The past and future have no reality. The fleeting present moment is also an illusion. Timeless Consciousness is conceived as time and all that time measures. When does time begin? When there was no time. But if there was no time, not then or now, did it begin at all? The cause is always seen in the effect, The effect is just the cause appearing as such. In Truth, there is only one cause. The ultimate cause of all, the Absolute is itself uncaused. The Absolute, the Self is neither caused by anything else nor does it cause anything else. Infinite, there is nothing beyond it produced by it. There is no cause for illusion; for illusion is unreal, and for an unreal effect there cannot be a real cause. Causality is itself illusory.
[The above themes & 1600 pages more are freely available as perused or downloaded PDF’s, the sole occupants of a Public Microsoft Skydrive “Public Folder” accessible through www.jpstiga.com ]