Satsang number five--method-2
Before I discourse on method, and this would be the second Satsang devoted to the method of self inquiry, there are two items that need to be discussed concerning happenings in our own Satsang group.
Rajiv and I noticed that many of you are asking each of us separately the same questions and seeking answers to these questions separately.
This is not a good idea for two reasons.
During a previous Satsang, I mentioned a preconception that many people have, is that all Jnanis are speaking from the same playbook, so to speak. That is, many of you believe that we have identical knowledge, and the answers to any question from two separate Jnanis will not be inconsistent, and fact may be identical.
Generally our answers will not be identical and may even be inconsistent. Rajiv and I have very different spiritual backgrounds and awakening experiences. You are likely to get different answers to the same question about almost anything from us, meaning you'll either be confused, or you'll choose the answer you like and ignore the one you don't like. This is not unlike a child going to each parent separately and asking that parent a question, or asking for permission, and getting a different answer from each parent, and thereby using one parent against the other. That is, if you don't like the answer from Rajiv, you can use my answer, and vice versa.
It is best to pick one source for your spiritual answers, otherwise you can grow quite confused. Even the answers you get from me over period of time will be inconsistent. This is the nature of words and the mind, and time and place. What was true one day, may not be true two months later because the situation is different, you are different, and I am different.
I think it was Emerson who said, "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Yet, spiritual students often try to make every statement of every spiritual teacher throughout history consistent, and get confused if they're not. Context is everything; the specific phrasing is almost irrelevant.
Many people ask me what Robert meant when he said so-and-so. You have to understand that each teacher has a different message from a slightly different viewpoint. Robert’s experiences were different from my own, and although I listened to him for seven or eight years consistently, after 1997 I went my own way and developed my own teaching paradigm and style. When you ask me to explain what Robert meant, I have to leave the paradigm I'm teaching from, and shift however slightly to Robert’s paradigm, however well I may remember it, and explain a phrase from that paradigm in terms of my words here and now. This is not fair to me or to Robert, because my best teaching comes from my own paradigm not Robert’s, and his best teaching came from his own paradigm not mine.
I tend to be far more analytical and emotional than Robert. Therefore I would explain a phrase of his differently than would he, if he were to elaborate on what he meant. It would be far better for you to try to understand Robert’s concepts within the context of the Satsang that phrase occurred in, rather than to ask me 20 years after he said it, what that phrase meant to Robert when he said it in that context. I won't be able to a very good job of explaining Robert compared with the job Robert did of explaining Robert, at that time, in that Satsang, in the context of that Satsang and the Satsangs immediately before and after.
The same holds true of someone asking Rajiv what Edji meant when he said "so-and-so," or when asking questions about the mind or practice.
We tend to have different teaching styles. Rajiv likes to talk in terms of stages or steps. I don’t. In my teachings there are no steps, no levels, no progressions. Rajiv talks about dissolving in the heart. I don’t. To me the “heart” center does not exist. Rajiv talks more about love while I talk about knowledge. He talks about beingness while I talk about the I and the I-sense which points within. These are quite different approaches.
You also have to understand words are almost useless when it comes to conveying spiritual knowledge. True spiritual knowledge comes from looking within and understanding yourself within your own time, place and context. You have to become the parent, rather than asking a parent what your experience means. You have to find your own meaning. You have to do the exploring, and it is best not to ask anyone else what your experience means, because your experience is your experience, not mine or Rajiv's.
This is important. If you ask us to comment on your experience, you might get the wrong advice for where you are here and now, because neither of us may have had your particular experience, or we have had similar experiences, and when we try to elucidate yours from our perspective, we may make a mistake, and lead you astray.
When it comes to spirituality, words and concepts are best avoided altogether. One should just look within and greet whatever you experience with open arms of love and acceptance, and with that stance, everything will be revealed. Too much external curiosity, too much questioning, means you will continue living in your mind and never escape it at all. The way to escape the mind is to turn it off and just watch your sense of I.
The beginning and end of spirituality for those who practice self inquiry, is to find the sense of I, the feeling that arises when you use the word I. Just say the word I, and the feeling of I should arise momentarily. Find that sense of I, get into it and stay there. Follow that I wherever it goes. This is called abiding in the I. I'll talk about this in a minute.
The second reason not to go back and forth between the two of us, is that is doubles our work and the things we have to do. Already Rajiv business is suffering, because, unlike me, he has not yet learned to say no to requests on his time.
I hope this is clear. Please just choose one of us to ask questions about your own spiritual practice and what to do. It is okay to attend separate Satsangs, but choose one of us as your primary source of questions and answers about you, rather than going back and forth. Already many of you are too distracted by non-spiritual things, and will really suffer by creating further distractions because of different teachings.
Topic number two.
I have posted recently on the blog that too many New Age spiritual people spend altogether too much time worrying about the health of their bodies or minds. The more time you spend worrying about your bodies or your minds, the less time you are exploring yourself, which has nothing to do with your body or your mind. And as long as you are worried about your body and mind, that sense of I will always be rather trivial and secondary. If you are to awaken, you must make that sense of I your primary point of investigation every moment of every day, until the sense of I, the subject, pervades all of your mind, and you are abiding in yourself always.
However, in our own Satsang we have a related problem, and this is an emphasis on energies, healing energies, dark energies, light energies, etc. Focusing on these energies again takes you away from yourself. These energies occur in this world which we are trying to take you beyond.
You are beyond all of these energies just as you are beyond the world, but the more you fool around with these energies, concentrate on these energies, develop these energies, and use these energies, the more you are moving away from your true self and just re-involving yourself in another aspect of this world some of you consider spiritual, but is still of this world.
Really, don't worry about these energies so much. If you want to use them to heal your body, or someone else's body, realize this is a worldly activity, and is going to keep you pinned in this world unless the healing is done from 100% compassion for another’s pain rather than as an exercise of your talent.
Rajiv and I are trying to take you entirely beyond this world, beyond the relative, beyond the mind, to the absolute, and you can't find the absolute if you're hanging onto light and dark energies, healing energies, and other dimensions of energetic projections. Leave this stuff alone unless you're forced to involve yourself in it, or you do it with a total selflessness; then it is o.k. if not done too much. I want to take you entirely beyond both your normal everyday world as well as beyond these energies.
I would say this about any interest of yours, such as your job, your family, or some talent you have. They should no longer be your priority interest. Investigating your own self must take priority if you want to go free. Of course, if you are merely curious, you can do anything you want.
I became very involved with various energies and states during the first three or four years of my sadhana. I could feel the energies everywhere, emanating from trees, from the moon, from electric wires buried in the walls, from the magnetic currents of the earth. I was incredibly sensitive to all these energies, but thank God when I went to mount Baldy and learned correct meditation from Zen master Sasaki, all of these energies disappeared, leaving me in Samadhi. Those energy sensitivities never came back, and no longer diverted my attention from the most important aspect of my sadhana, namely me, as the subject, as the source.
Lastly, I wanted to talk once again about method, namely self inquiry as set forth in the Path of Sri Ramana, Part One, written by Sadhu Om.
The essence of this self inquiry practice, is to raise the sense of I, namely the feeling that accompanies the word I, and cultivate it, and continually rest in it until it pervades your universe. I-I-I-I.
Staying in that I, and looking for the source of that I feeling, will open up one’s inner world revealing the empty space that contains everything, internal and external. That open empty space gradually is revealed to be oneness. There is no difference between the void emptiness within and the empty space without. Then the I will disappear and you become everything—and nothing. You become everything by becoming nothing.
Many people ask me about their experience and whether they are experiencing the I. It's as if many people cannot find an I to experience. I can only believe this is true because they are looking for something exotic, blissful, or expect that seeing the “I” is an end stage experience not easily available without practice.
But everyone experiences this I. For example, if somebody asks you how you're feeling, you respond “I feel so and so.” Immediately, as soon as you use the word I, there arises that first person sense of being the subject, I.
The I is nothing extraordinary, it is just that feeling of I that arises at the moment that you say I. Don’t look for some mysterious transcendental I. Just look for that feeling that you are, I Am, I. All the mysteries lie in unraveling that very ordinary I-feeling. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the end. Just stay with the I, or alternatively, look for the source where the I arises and disappears, which is emptiness, nothingness, the Void.
There is an apparent difference in self-inquiry as outlined by Nisargadatta, who states you have to find the I, or the I Am experience, and just stay there, and Ramana Maharshi, who advises you to find the I thought, or the sense of personal I, and seek the source of the I-sense and the I thought, which is the Void.
This is partly due to their belief systems and how they use the “I.”
Nisargadatta considers that I sense in the same way that the self psychologsists do, as a sense of presence associated with conscious and unconscious images and memories, as well as the I-thought. For Maharaj, the correct practice is to sink into that sense of presence, or I-ness, and by staying there, learn all about the falseness of this I, which at some point disappears leaving emptiness, and the knowledge or knower of emptiness, as the true self.
Ramana on the other hand, regarded the I sense and I-thought as sort of street signs showing you the way to the deepest levels of the self, the Atman, and eventually, to the absolute, or Brahman, which again is emptiness, but even beyond that, you as the knower or knowledge of emptiness. You are pure knowledge and nothing more.
Therefore, their self-inquiry methods are somewhat different.
Ramana recommended that you ask yourself the question, "Who am I?" Being dumber than the average person, I took that to mean that one mucked around inside of oneself searching for an I, whether looking for some entity in the inner void, looking for where the thought I came out of that void, or generally just searching throughout all of my inner experience for an entity that was me.
This is exactly what one should do. Be dumb, and just look without checking and thinking. Go deep inside. Find the I and find out where it points towards, the I-source, where it arises and disappears.
I will again recommend reading chapters seven and eight of the Path of Sri Ramana, Part One by Sadhu Om. This explains everything you need to know about Ramana’s form of self-inquiry.
In this form of self inquiry, you raise the feeling of I, as the first person, as the subject, as the core center of yourself to which everything happens. This is the ego, the I-thought along with the sense of presence, which is like a cloud of knowingness that interpenetrates everything, and then you look for the source of this all.
You ask yourself, “Who experiences such and such?” Turn you attention around and look for the I, the subject. The phrase “Who am I?" Automatically turns your attention inward, towards an apparent source somewhere inside an inner nothingness. You must become very familiar with that feeling of I, or I am, as well as the act of turning the attention around from outside of the skin, to inside the skin, into the imaginary space where all thoughts and subjective images reside. That imaginary space inside has to become as clear and translucent as the external space that contains all the world, until they are one.
Turning the attention inward, looking for the I, the feeling I am, the sense of presence, and looking for the source of this, gradually opens and expands the inner world until it contains everything, inside and out.
One does not simply repeat, “Who am I?, over and over like a mantra, but ask the question with a deeply inquiring mind once, and then just follow the attention inwards, towards the apparent source of I-ness.
As an adjunct to this practice, when you go to bed, gently probe inside yourself for that sense of I and where it comes from. Just stay there, resting in this emptiness, and watch one's sense of existence, and watch to where it disappears when sleep comes and destroys consciousness. Watch the I slip away.
As often as possible during the day, while sitting or laying down, look for the sense of I, a sense of I am, sense of presence, I just watch it, watch where the I thought arises, and where it passes away. You'll find it arises from emptiness, and passes away into emptiness.
Then in the evening when you're going to sleep, watch the coming and going of the mind and consciousness itself. Watch as the mind and consciousness disappear, and you pass from full consciousness to sleep. Make this a habit. All during the day search for the coming and going of the sense of I, the I thought, consciousness.
All of it slips away out of the brain and down into the body and the mind disappears and the lights go out and you sleep. Gradually will recognize that the only thing that seems stable in all of your experience, both waking and sleeping is a sense of emptiness, the void. Yet even that is not you. You are that which is beyond all which has the knowledge of the void. You are the looker, so to speak, who is watching the coming and going of the I, the I thought, the sense of presence, consciousness, and sleep.
Gradually your identification will change from that of being some sort of subjective entity embedded within your brain and flash, until you identify with the totality of consciousness, which is pervaded by emptiness as a constant, and that consciousness is much larger than your body, and in fact contains all of your experience of the external world, your body, dreams, and sleep.
This is the Ramana Maharishi way.
The way of Nisargadatta is slightly different. With him rather than find the source of the I, which Ramana calls abiding in the real I, emptiness, instead you find the sense of presence, the I, and stay there, abiding in the very primitive sense of the personal I, the very rudimentary sense of I that arises when a person starts using the words I and me and identifies as a separate and discrete entity.
Then, over a long period of time of dwelling in that I sense, it disappears, again revealing the void, sometimes the background sense of presence, sometimes a second void, the void of voids that Bernadette Roberts talks about, the absolute emptiness of the eternal God.
Then again, eventually comes the recognition that you are not the void either, that the knowledge of the void is entirely separate from the void and you are it, pure knowledge, without form or existence, entirely beyond the world and time.
Let us try this now; let us try to find the I.
Relax. Sit back in your chair.
Ask yourself, "who am I?"
Turn your attention around and look inward. Look deep within the darkness of your inner space to see what you can see. Merely asking the question, "Who am I?" causes the attention to look inward towards the source of the I.
What do you see? Just stay there. Experience the emptiness. Here nothing exists, only silence and only emptiness. If thoughts arise, watch from where they arise. When a thought arises, attend to it for a second, and then drop it, and watch where it passes away. Go deeper, much deeper into yourself.
That is the whole practice, raising the sense of I, the sense of being the subject, the first-person, you, and just abide there, resting there, making this your total state pervading everything else. Just hold on to that state.
From this steady-state experience, you begin to watch the mind come and go, the world come and go, consciousness come and go, just staying in that sense of emptiness, watch everything come and go.
One just learns to abide in that sense of I, feeling that sense of I all the time, and from that sense of first-person, of me, to watch everything come and go, to watch the mind and ego slip away into nothingness, leaving oneself in empty minded consciousness. It is within the passages between the various psychological and spiritual states that the truth of the teachings lie.
One learns of a more fundamental core state of self that remains untouched by the transition between sleep, dream, waking mind, and Samadhis. This is a usually a sudden revelation, but not necessarily. You notice sleep has come and gone, but you were untouched by the change. That is, you did not come and go, the states did.
If the states of beingness and non-beingness come and go, but do not touch you and are not you, that means you are there always, whether you are conscious of that core level of sentience in you or not. You are beyond both beingness and non-existence.
The teachings come to you either suddenly with a specific awakening experience, or gradually, cumulatively, as hundreds or thousands of witnessed transitions without one's sense of self changing at all, until you recognize your immortality and separateness from all of these experienced states. You are beyond space and time and existence altogether.
Let us go there now, deep into your beingness.
First, I will ask, “Who are you?”
Instead of formulating a verbal answer, turn your attention around and look within.
What do you see? Emptiness? A solid darkness? Points of light in the Third Eye area?
Now I’ll ask, “Where are you?”
Turn you attention towards the listener, the hearer. When you find the direction to look or hear in, just focus toward that target and hold your attention still.
Who are you?
Where are you?
Who hears me?