Questioner: Tom, what is your view on some of the Neo-Advaitists who do not seem to agree that there is a Self? All I hear from them is ‘there is only what is; there is no self’?
Tom: If you find these types of teaching helpful, meaning if they provide you with some kind of ease/happiness/peace/fulfilment/a sense of freedom, then that is good, and in that case I encourage you to engage with them as there is likely to be something of value there for you.
However my sense is that for the most part they are not truly liberating teachings but are predominantly spoken of from the mental/intellectual level. But what do I know! It is for you to decide what is right for you. What do you think?
Questioner: I’ll be totally honest with you. I can find some peace of mind with many ‘spiritual’ teachings. For instance I sometimes envy my Christian friends who seem so sure they will be spending eternity in heaven, but I left Catholicism and I can never believe that again. With Buddhism and nonduality I see different views within each, some saying there is a self, others denying self.
For me I can navigate life somewhat with some peace and happiness, but there always seems to be the ultimate fear of death no matter what. The neo-Advaitists say they have conquered death because they’ve died already, so to speak. But isn’t that throwing the baby out with the bathwater? So many contradictions.
In Buddhism some say the ‘self’ reincarnates, some, like Zen say there is no such thing. For Ramana is the Self immortal? What Self is there after death? Is it just silent and empty? You say it is found in deep sleep. But deep sleep is still ‘on this side’, in life. It is not the same as death. How can one know death while alive? How is one certain I AM is not also impermanent? Isn’t Ramana’s Self also an objectification? Like I doubt the truth of my Christian friends’ heaven, I always doubt that Self.
Tom: Yes, I had all these same doubts as you. My idea was to keep on searching until I found something that gave me all the answers I was looking for. The problem is that you will not find such a thing! There are always unanswered questions and problems with all spiritual systems and teachings on the conceptual level if you are intellectually probing/questioning enough.
However for me what then happened is that I unexpectedly fell in love with Sri Ramana Maharshi, and started to develop faith in his teachings (even though I perceived many ‘flaws’ and problems with his teachings). However, it was following his teachings with faith and love and devotion, despite the apparent problems with the teachings, that allowed all my doubts and questions to be answered and resolved so that now none remain. So this is what I share now.