Self inquiry the beginners way versus a far more advanced method.
Self-inquiry, the beginners way, is the way both Ramana and Robert Adams taught, which is to ask the question “who am I?” And silently wait for an answer. Or, if your mind gets distracted by thoughts or anything else, the method requires that you ask who is it that got distracted, or better, who is it that is witnessing these thoughts?
This method turns your attention, your awareness, away from things in the external world, and even away from things in your “external” mind, and focuses it deeper toward your subjective witness, towards the watcher, feeler, and listener, and takes you ever backwards into emptiness.
However, it is quite easy to get lost in that emptiness, into that empty space of internal lighted consciousness, and dwell there for long periods of time, into that blank emptiness.
Therefore, in the past I have urged people to instead of looking for who I am inside, to instead “feel” inside for your own source, the ultimate witness. But by feeling, something very different happens than by looking. By feeling, by being carefully attentive towards the “human” essence within, one's “felt sense of being,, one begins to feel internal energies, which if pursued, develops into a sense of presence. By sense of presence, I mean within yourself you find your energy body, your energy being, prana, Shakti within you, within and around your body. And at some point this explodes within you as something miraculous, stupendous, totally remarkable, and seemingly as the divine within you, as God. One might call this the felt sense of your being as opposed to the witness, this Atman, the incarnated, localized, God within you and it each of us.
I was very surprised yesterday while reading I am that by Nisargadatta Maharaj, page 254 the following incredible speaking:
Maharaj: Coming back to the idea of having been born. You are stuck with what your parents told you: all about conception, pregnancy and birth, infant, child, youngster, teenager, and so on. Now, divest yourself of the idea that you are the body with the help of the contrary idea that you are not the body. This too is also an idea, no doubt; treat it like something to be abandoned when it’s work is done. The idea that I am not the body gives reality to the body, when in fact, there is no such thing as a body; it is but a state of mind. You can have as many bodies and as diverse as you like; just remember steadily what you want and reject the incompatible’s.
If you have a body, you must have a soul. But here now, through all of your bodies and souls shines awareness, the pure light of chit. Hold onto it unswervingly. Without awareness, the body would not last a second. There is in the body a current of energy, affection and intelligence, which guides, maintains and energizes the body. Discover that current and stay with it.
(Comment: is this not what Robert Adams called “the power that knows the way?”)
Of course, all these are manners of speaking. Words are as much a barrier, as a bridge. Find that spark of life that weaves the tissues of your body and be with it. It is the only reality the body hats.
Q: what happens to that spark of life after death?
Maharaj: it is beyond time. Birth and death are but points in time. Life weaves eternally its many webs. The weaving is in time, but life itself is timeless. Whatever name and shape you give to its expressions, it is like the ocean—never changing, ever changing.
(Comment: this is similar an idea that he expresses later frequently in the books edited by Robert Powell about Maharaj’s talks. In these books, he refers to that unchanging/changing ocean of consciousness, of sentient-life, as the universal consciousness, of which every individual sentient being is a part, participates in universal consciousness.)
Q: what you say sounds beautifully convincing, yet my feeling of being just a person in a world strange and alien, often amicable and dangerous, does not cease. Being a person, limited in space and time, how can I possibly realize myself as the opposite; a depersonalized, universalized awareness of nothing in particular?
Maharaj: you assert yourself to be what you are not and deny yourself to be what you are. You omit the elements of pure cognition, of awareness free from all personal distortions. Unless you admit to the reality of chit, you will never know yourself.
Q: what am I to do? I do not see myself as you see me. Maybe you are right and I am wrong, but how can I cease to be what I feel I am?
Maharaj: a prince who believes himself to be a beggar can be convinced conclusively in one way only: he must behave as a prince and see what happens. Behave as if what I say is true and judge by what actually happens. All I ask is the little faith needed for making the first step. With experience will come confidence that you will not need me anymore. I know what you are and I am telling you. Trust me for a while.
The body and mind are only symptoms of ignorance, of misapprehension. Behave as if you were pure awareness, bodiless and mindless, spaceless and timeless, beyond where and when and how. Dwell on, think of it, learn to accept its reality. Do not oppose it and deny it all the time. Keep an open mind at least. Make your mind and body express the real which is all and beyond all. By doing that you will succeed, not by arguing.