05 January 2010

For some times I have watched many Facebook people trading “verbal” pointers with each other and receiving applauding comments from readers. The quotes and comments are usually about thoughts vis-a-vis appearances of the world, experience as the desiderata of truth, identification with thinking or the body, the impermanence of thought, the deconstruction of the mind, and also about the cognizing and existence.

But all of this is on a superficial level of concepts about mind and reality. It is mind speaking to mind, engaging intellectual analysis of concepts and phenomena.

In fact, no deep understanding or attainment can come from this, because the mind itself is false and consciousness is not real in any ultimate sense.

All the great teachers, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and Robert Adams place extraordinary emphasis on self-inquiry, which also seems often confused with the repetitious use of the query, “Who am I?,” repeated endlessly with respect to thoughts and emotions and percepts.

However, this is not self-inquiry. Self inquiry means isolating the sense of I Am, the sense that we exist, the sense of amness, or the sense of I, focus on it, probe it with the mind, and learn every aspect of its nature. By such familiarity we gain an understanding of the experience of I Am, which gradually has to be teased away from the experience of the body and world, which is a false appearance. We must experience I Am, the first person, as ourself, completely without the distortion of the world and body presence, the projected waking world. That is how the personal mind is dissolved, by seeing through the falseness of the world consciousness, the waking mind, the body and dreamworld, not by intellectual analysis of the relation between thoughts and objects, neither of which have “real” existence.

This inward investigation and abiding in the sense of I Am leads to an automatic relinquishing of the world, and an automatic, downwards spiraling into one’s true self nature. The deeper you go, the happier you become, making it easier it is to go deeper because of the increasing happiness and love felt. There is a growing love to abide silently in one’s self and not turn outside.  You become increasingly happy doing nothing but attending to your own subjectivity. This takes the mind deeper and makes it more subtle, seeing distinctions missing before.

But absolutely nothing is to be gained by observing thoughts, except the I thought, or understanding intellectually how thoughts create the false world we observe. This is only philosophizing. Western philosophy dealt with these topics for hundreds of years as do Eastern philosophers still, with no freedom found in such mental gymnastics.

When you go deep into the experience of I Am, at some point the illusion of the world—waking consciousness AND dream mind becomes crystal clear. They are both seen strictly as imagination, and the desire arises to know the real. No analysis is needed or helpful in finding the real, only plunging deeper within.

Therefore the emphasis should be on doing self inquiry in the proper way and sharing with others one’s experience while going deeper into the contents of consciousness. You have to go deep into the mind, to the root of you beingness in order to transcend it, and that is done by following, attending to, or abiding in that sense of I Am.

Self inquiry allows the mind to gradually become sharper and more subtle, so that it can tease out reality from unreality, appearance from the self.

I have universally recommended several texts for this: The meditation manual, “The Nisargadatta Gita” by Apte, and The Path of Sri Ramana, Part I, chapters 7 and 8 by Sadhu Om and Michael James. Then again, all of Robert’s talks, the 146 available now of http://itisnotreal.com, all emphasize self inquiry. Robert talks about the various methods of self-inquiry in many different ways in his talks. He never advised doing nothing. Except perhaps being near him.

Michael James wrote a huge 672 page book covering all aspects of Ramana’s teachings entitled “Happiness and the Art of Being” which goes deeply into Ramana’s teachings and the practice of self-inquiry. It is important to read this message on reaility (Chapter 4) and Practice, Chapter 10.

I really don’t understand the function of throwing “pointer” quotes at each rather than talking about your own experiences in self-inquiry. That would do far more to help others than quotes from someone who deconstructs the mind, or analyzes percepts and thoughts.

Michael James: Happiness and the Art of Being: http://www.happinessofbeing.com/happiness_art_being.html#ebook

I would also point out that Michael Langford’s book, follows in this same tradition of emphasizing constant self-attention, although the practice described is slightly different from the methods espoused in the books above.

Until you know first hand that which lies beyond waking and dream world consciousness, you cannot be sure that your existence is constant, and that YOU are beyond heaven and earth, and life and death.

Then when you see thus deeply into yourself, you will feel the deepest happiness and love imaginable.

The point is avoid talking about thought, concepts, reality, witness, observer, real, unreal, etc., and look within for your source as I Amness, and abide there. This is your sense of existence, or presence. Watch it, play with it, recede into it, abide in it. Then everything will be revealed.

From Michael James book, my own “pointers” quote:

If we are really intent upon experiencing the true goal of yoga, which is perfectly clear self-knowledge, we will not feel inclined to read vast quantities of sacred texts or other philosophical books, because we will be eager to put into practice what we have learnt from a few really pertinent books which explain that simple self- attentive being is the only means by which we can experience that goal. If instead we feel enthusiasm only to study an endless number of books, we will merely succeed in filling our mind with countless thoughts, which will draw our attention away from our essential consciousness of our own being. Thus filling our mind with knowledge gathered from many books will be a great obstacle to our practice of self-attentive being.
Excessive study will not only fill our mind with innumerable thoughts, which will cloud our natural inner clarity of self- consciousness, but will also fill it with the pride of learning, which will prompt us to display our vast knowledge to other people, and to expect them to appreciate and praise it. Therefore in verse 36 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Sri Ramana says:
Rather than people who though learned, have not subsided [surrendered or become humble or still], the unlearned are saved. They are saved from the ghost of pride that possesses the learned. They are saved from the disease of many whirling thoughts. They are saved from running in search of fame [repute, respect, esteem or glory]. Know that what they are saved from is not just one evil.
Of all the obstacles that can arise in our path when we are seeking true self-knowledge, the desire for praise, appreciation, respect, high regard, renown or fame is one of the most delusive and therefore dangerous, and it is one to which the learned are particularly susceptible. Therefore in verse 37 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Sri Ramana says:
Though all the worlds are [regarded by them as] straw, and though all the sacred texts are within [their] hand, [for] people who come under the sway of the wicked whore who is puhazhchi [praise, applause, appreciation, respect, high regard, renown or fame], escaping [their] slavery [to her], is rare.
The first clause of this verse, ‘though all the worlds are straw’, implies that those of us who have studied vast amounts of philosophy may look down upon the normal mundane pleasures of this world, heaven and all other worlds as being a mere trifle, and may therefore imagine that we have renounced all desire for them. The second clause, ‘though all the sacred texts are within hand’, implies that we may have mastered a vast range of scholastic knowledge about various systems of philosophy, religious belief and other such subjects. However, in spite of all our vast learning and our seeming renunciation, if we fall prey to desire for the extremely delusive pleasure of being an object of praise, appreciation, admiration, respect, high regard, acclaim or fame, to free ourself of such desire is very difficult indeed.
The desire for appreciation and respect is very subtle and therefore powerful in its ability to delude us, and it is a desire to which even otherwise perfectly good people can easily fall a prey, particularly if they engage themselves in any activity that seems to benefit other people, such as teaching the principles of religion, philosophy or moral conduct through either speech or writing. This desire is particularly dangerous for a spiritual aspirant, because the pleasure we feel in being appreciated and respected derives from our attachment to our ego or individual personality – our delusive sense that we are the person who is appreciated and respected.


  1. It's just sort of funny to me that if you throw a rock in downtown L.A., you'll hit an advaita teacher maybe one out of every twenty times . . . and you'll hit the therapist or divorce lawyer of an advaita teacher about twice as often.

  2. I found this as an example of awakening from John Wheeler, one of the new advaita teachers.

    If either John or this student thought this is what Nisargadatta and Ramana were talking about, both are out to lunch.

    After a few minutes John's attention moved to me and he asked me why I'd come. So I framed my question for him pretty much as I have here, and he replied by telling me what Bob Adamson had told him (actually, asked him). Bob asked him if he knew what Nisargadatta was talking about, what Ramana was talking about, and John, after 15 years of studying the stuff, had to admit that the answer was no, not really. As John was telling me about it I had to make the same admission to him. Then Bob had asked him, and John asked me, "Do you exist?" I had to agree; it seemed like the only thing I knew for sure. Then Bob/John asked, "Do you have awareness?", and I was immediately conscious of spacetime, of the room, of my body, of my consciousness, and I had to say that yes, I have awareness, and I’m aware of it. "That’s it!" Bob/John declared, "That’s what they’re talking about." I was enlightened by this.

    John continued on talking to me after that about something or other, but what else is there really to say. I’m enlightened. I don’t need advaita chitchat any more. After a few more minutes another fellow entered and was introduced; I took it as my opportunity to try to gracefully exit, though it surprised them nonetheless. I heard them laughing as I went out. "That must be a record!" one said. Later on I found this in Sarlo’s review of Bob Adamson, "Nisargadatta told him the greatest help that can be given to anyone is to take them beyond the need for further help." Thanks John, for the greatest help. Bob should be very proud of you.

  3. Hi Ed,

    I have read the dialogues between you and Rajiv. I am been touched. It is the best scripture I have read in this lifetime. Also it is the writing which allows to know you better. It will be the first post translated into Italian on itisnotreal.it.

    All what you say about spiritually sounds immediately within me as true, as my way, as I had thought it, even when I have not experience and understanding about the matter.

    Well, I think I was lucky to meet you. Thank you my aspiration to liberation can be realized. You offer a very rare opportunity in this world.

  4. Anonymous #2(in referrence to the "apparent" Enlightenment of John Wheeler's student)..........

    Indeed out to lunch! Nisargadatta stated that Enlightenment is most certainly NOT an experience. The student in question here no doubt had what would seem to be a real glimpse of Pure Awareness.
    If lucky, once THAT disappeared(since it's transient anyway)he would see just that, it was a temporary state, nothing more, nothing less.

  5. Hi Ed. I ran across Swami Sivananda's "Barometer of Spiritual Progress" the other day. Maybe you have seen it before. Here it is:

    "Here is an infallible barometer to find out the degree of your spiritual progress. How would you feel, if:

    Your clean hands or best clothes are stained.
    You stumbled down or commit a blunder and are laughed at.
    You are hurt accidentally or stung by an insect or scorpion.
    You suffer from illness or pain.
    You do not succeed in your efforts.
    You do not get a thing that you want, or find that some thing you possess is missing.
    You are kept waiting for a long time by some other person.
    You are insulted or abused for no reason.
    Others fail in their duties towards you.
    You suffer a loss or bereavement.
    If none of these can disturb your peace of mind and you are indifferent to them, you have won the struggle and achieved 50% self control. God sends trials and troubles to strengthen your character: Greet them and test yourself."

    Swami Sivananda

    While it is perhaps subject to the criticism of being overly simplistic, it does get to the heart of what Self-realization is about: being in a continual state of bliss that is untouched by the world. As you know, it is possible to meditate very deeply, even going into nirvakalpa samadhi, only to return to ordinary consciousness and fall prey to all the samskaras and human vulnerabilities that were temporarily held in abeyance. And of course, having a perfect intellectual understanding of nondual teachings, by itself, is completely worthless without possessing experience of the Self.

    Both meditation and study of nondual teachings can be extremely helpful, particularly if practiced with an attitude of humility and surrender. The trap that many fall into -- that I fell into -- is that practice can be viewed as a personal effort rather, rather than an expression of Divine grace (the Self) spontaneously unfolding within oneself. When the effort and the fruits of one's effort are seen through the lens of individuality, this can be counterproductive, deepening the hold of the ego. It wasn't until my outward life started to really crumble that I was able to let go of the notion that I, in an egoic sense, had anything to do with anything. Then, in place of intermittent spiritual experiences, came peace.

    I wonder how those giving public satsang today would score on Swami Sivananda's Barometer. It's easy to appear calm and composed when you're sitting in a comfortable home in suburban Los Angeles, with a large group of followers fawning for your attention. But after everyone goes out the door, and sickness, loss and all sorts of hell come to the door, I wonder how all the California gurus would react. I don't know of any Robert or Ramana on the satsang circuit today whom I am convinced would consistently meet life's vicissitudes and trials with perfect equanimity. This isn't to say that anyone is in the wrong place or is incapable of helping others. Even the blind can lead the blind a short distance, provided they're somewhat familiar with the territory, have a cane, and have some degree of sincerity.

    In the absence of enlightenment, honesty, humility, practice, perseverance and patience -- in both students and teachers -- can go a long way. In other words, not this: http://groups.google.com/group/alt.meditation/browse_thread/thread/2b4f2ab871e7e747/d3ec794f1e7a198f?hl=en&q.

    Thanks for being real, Ed.

    Love and Blessings,