Who or what does Self-Enquiry? Why still the mind? Isn’t this more mind? More beliefs? Neo-advaita | Radical non-duality vs Traditional teachings and practices

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Question: There’s no one to purify the mind. Believing there’s a practice to attain a purified mind is just more mind…Considering you speak from the position of a teacher, come forward and explain who or what would do the practice you propose, who needs or benefits from a still mind, why does a mind need to be stilled and who or what (in time) initiates or ends the practice? We might find your answers are also beliefs.

Tom: ok, challenge accepted 🙂

First of all what I say cannot be proved by words alone, but it can be known through direct experience. So on the face of it, what I write below could seem to be just an elaborate set of beliefs. Hence I do not usually try to convince people what I say is correct, as most people will not accept what I share unless they themselves have had certain experiences/insights or are otherwise drawn to the teaching. What I say also doesn’t necessarily seem to make sense to the mind, at least not initially, but when it is put into practice, then it starts to make sense as one has a direct insight/seeing into the teachings and how they work.

As one more and more puts the teachings into practice, one starts to see the truth in the teachings for oneself, and so one’s faith in the teachings increases. This encourages the practice with greater zeal which eventually yields results (ie. ending of suffering, also called direct realisation) – suffering falls away and faith is no longer required.

Who or what practices Self-Enquiry?

To answer your questions: basically, the teachings are heard by and put into practice/ initiated by the ego-mind in most cases, although it can happen spontaneously too. This is true of any teaching or practice (or non-teaching) by the way. The ego-mind is actually a fictitious entity, but due to ignorance, it is taken to be ‘me’, and it is this fictitious ego-mind (that is taken to be real) that usually engages with the teaching and practice (or any teaching or practice). More on this below.

Maya

The true Self that you are is ever-realised, ever at peace and needs no teaching, but this is apparently not realised due to Maya. Maya is a mysterious projection of mind-ignorance that creates the illusion of multiplicity and of limitation, usually in the form of the belief ‘I am the body-mind’ and ‘I live in a real separate world that contains other things and other people’. This ignorance-belief or ego-mind creates suffering as the ‘me’ believes it is limited, vulnerable and so subject to birth, death, illness, etc, and that other people such as family and loved ones are also subject to the same. This inevitably causes repeated cycles of stress and suffering.

Suffering and its continuance

For most, as long as attention is directed to objects such as mind, body, world, thoughts, feelings, sensations, this sense of individuality or ‘me’ is perpetuated, and suffering and confusion keep on coming back despite perhaps having had insights into non-duality or other similar insights.

The remedy

The teaching proposes a remedy – in this teaching it is called self-enquiry. This teaching is the only remedy I know of that works, although it may go by other names. All other teachings/non-teachings/etc may give rise to temporary insights (for the mind), but the habitual egotism-ignorance tends to arise again and with it confusion and suffering also arise, leading to further cycles of dissatisfaction and further seeking. The essential teaching I share has remained unchanged for several thousand years, is recorded in the Upanishads and is the essence of all true spiritual teachings that lead to realisation/end of suffering. I think the reason it has stuck around for so long is because it actually works! The teaching may also arise spontaneously, as the entire teaching is actually inscribed upon each of our hearts, so to speak.

So Self Enquiry is usually initiated by the mind, but actually, because the mind turns in on itself during the practice, the mind disappears and what is left is True Self only. Over time, the ego-ignorance-mind is undercut and eventually withers and dies.

Why bother?

You asked why this practice-teaching should be engaged with. The reason this is done is to end suffering – everyone naturally wants to be happy and without suffering, and my experience is that for most people, without this teaching-practice, or something very similar, suffering, confusions and egotism continue. Of course, it follows that if you are not suffering, then you don’t need the remedy, the teaching-practice.

Doesn’t this just perpetuate the mind?

A common objection is that any activity of the ego-mind will simply continue the ego-mind. Whist this is often true, it is not always true, and it is not true in Self-enquiry. Ie. the notion that any activity of the ego/mind will always lead to more ego/mind activity is actually an ideological belief that is not rooted in evidence or direct experience. This is because mind is actually a fiction, so when it is turned to attend to the true self, it disappears. This can be fairly easily experienced for oneself with a little practice and guidance.

A teaching that actually works!

Again, all this above could all just be an elaborate theory, a convoluted belief system, and unless one is genuinely open to the teaching, it may remain just that – another theory amongst other theories. But when put into practice, my contention, and that of many others over several centuries, is that it actually works.

Eventually it is seen that the teaching is also more illusion, as is the idea of a teacher or teaching or seeker, but the teaching is an illusion that leads one out of illusion. How so? A metaphor is given of someone who dreams of a lion, and the roar of the lion wakes him from the dream – the lion (the teacher-teaching-practice) was also a fiction/illusion but it led to ‘waking up’ or realisation. I hope this answers helps you understand what I share.

If you are interested, the path is explained in full here: The Entire Path Explained: the Path of Sri Ramana

It is also explained in brief here: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Shankara: The Self (That Brahman Art Thou)

Here in a series of verses taken from Shankara’s masterpice Vivekachudamani, the Self is described and the basic technique of meditation is given. We can see we are to meditate upon ourselves as being Brahman, which is eternal, ever-present, timeless, beyond all names and forms and devoid of names and forms. It is the Source of all. It is unmoving, like the ocean without any waves. It, being formless, cannot be known by the intellect or sense organs. It is unmoving, unchanging, causeless, non-dual, needs no other support and has no parts or components.

Sri Shankara

254. That which is beyond caste and creed, family and lineage; devoid of name and form, merit and demerit; transcending space, time and sense-object – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

255. That Supreme Brahman which is beyond the range of all speech, but accessible to the eye of pure illumination; which is pure, the Embodiment of Knowledge, the beginningless entity – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

256. That which is untouched by the sixfold wave; meditated upon by the Yogi’s heart, but not grasped by the sense-organs; which the Buddhi [intellect] cannot know; and which is unimpeachable – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

257. That which is the substratum of the universe with its various subdivisions, which are all creations of delusion; which Itself has no other support; which is distinct from the gross and subtle; which has no parts, and has verily no exemplar – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

258. That which is free from birth, growth, development, waste, disease and death; which is indestructible; which is the cause of the projection, maintenance and dissolution of the universe – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

259. That which is free from differentiation; whose essence is never non-existent; which is unmoved like the ocean without waves; the ever-free; of indivisible Form – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

260. That which, though One only, is the cause of the many; which refutes all other causes, but is Itself without cause; distinct from Maya and its effect, the universe; and independent – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

261. That which is free from duality; which is infinite and indestructible; distinct from the universe and Maya, supreme, eternal; which is undying Bliss; taintless – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

262. That Reality which (though One) appears variously owing to delusion, taking on names and forms, attributes and changes, Itself always unchanged, like gold in its modifications – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

263. That beyond which there is nothing; which shines even above Maya, which again is superior to its effect, the universe; the inmost Self of all, free from differentiation; the Real Self, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; infinite and immutable – that Brahman art thou, meditate on this in thy mind.

The above excerpt was taken from the post: Shankara: How to Meditate for Self-Realisation

How to discover the world is an illusion? Discovering the truth of the world.

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Here Sri Ramana not only outlines how we can discover for ourselves the truth of the world, but also he succinctly outlines the path to liberation:

If, on the contrary, you withdraw your mind completely from the world and turn it within and abide thus, that is, if you keep awake always to the Self, which is the substratum of all experience, you will find the world, of which alone you are now aware, just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream.
~Ramana Maharshi, Maharshi’s Gospel

The above was an excerpt taken from the following post: Ramana Maharshi: ‘…unless you give up the idea that the world is real…’

Also see Ashtavakra Gita – all is illusion, I am the Self

The Most Direct Means To Eternal Bliss by Michael Langford

This is a wonderful book that clearly shows the way to liberation and also nicely points out some of the many ways the ego tries to preserve itself. Its tone may not be for everyone, but it is well worth the time to read and put into practice.

The author has made this text freely available online but I encourage you to buy the latest edition of the book yourself in paperback to support the author of this text.

Click on the link below to download the book in PDF format.

The Most Direct Means To Eternal Bliss PDF

There are several other books from the same author, all of which are also worth exploring, including the following titles:

-The Seven Steps To Awakening

-The Importance of Practice and Effort

Nisargadatta Maharaj: the essence of his teachings in four simple quotes

Here are four quotes of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj that conveys the essence of his teachings. They are all taken from the book I Am That. Read them several times, contemplate what he is trying to convey, and put the teachings into practice.

Best wishes!

See Also:

Nisarga Yoga explained (Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings summarised)
How Nisargadatta Maharaj attained self-realisation
How to know God. How to see God
IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Nisargadatta focus on your Self

Nisargadatta all delay is a waste of time

Nisargadatta cling to one thing that matters

Nisargadatta the only way is practice

How to know God. How to see God.

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See also: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Here a seeker asks Sri Ramana Maharshi how to find or ‘see’ God. When Ramana gives his answer, the seeker objects with a very common objection, let us see. The following dialogue has been recorded in the book Conscious Immortality, page 125:

Questioner: How is God to be seen?
Ramana Maharshi: Within. If the mind is turned inwards, God manifests as the inner consciousness.
Questioner: But isn’t God in all the objects we see around us?
Ramana Maharshi: God is in everything and in the seer. Where can God be seen? He cannot be found outside. He should be felt within. To see the objects, mind is necessary, and to conceive God in them is only a mental operation. But that is not real. The consciousness within, purged of the mind, is felt as God.

We can see that Ramana states that to find God, or see God, one must turn within, away from objects and abide as the Consciousness within, the pure Subject, devoid of objects. The seeker responds with a philosophical argument that seems to make sense to the mind. The seeker’s reasoning is as follows: but if God is everywhere and everything, why must I turn within to find Him?

The problem is that while this seem philosophically correct and so makes sense (to the ego-mind!), it doesn’t work. Ramana Maharshi’s teaching is a practical guide. It actually works!

What we see around us is also God, yes, but it is God as Maya, and is therefore unreal and gives rise only to suffering and confusion. Maya/the world may make us feel we are making progress by giving us superficial temporary realisations and insights together with philosophical platitudes, but this is simply ‘Maya’s way’ of ensnaring us and perpetuating the ego and suffering.

It is only when we turn within and attend to what is Real, namely our own very Self, that we then Abide as the Self and the above is seen for oneself and the Vedanta teachings are transformed from mere concepts to firsthand Reality, and suffering finally comes to an end.

We see the same teaching given in Ramana’s text ‘Who Am I?’, and it explains what could be seen as a rather strange answer to a question by Ramana:

Question: Is not everything the work of God?
Ramana Maharshi: Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sun-stone emits fire, the lotus blooms, water evaporates; people perform their various functions and then rest. Just as in the presence of the magnet the needle moves, it is by virtue of the mere presence of God that the souls governed by the three (cosmic) functions or the fivefold divine activity perform their actions and then rest, in accordance with their respective karmas. God has no resolve; no karma attaches itself to Him. That is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of the other four elements not affecting all pervading space.

We can see here that Ramana does not simply write ‘yes, all is God, God does all, all is One’ or something similar, but puts forward a different conception of the Self which will orientate our practice as above. He is stating God or the Self is Still, Whole, Unmoving, Unaffected, Self-Shining and does nothing. It is Pure Consciousness, the Subject, the Source of all, and we are to attend to That only. This is all beautifully explained in The Path of Sri Ramana.

So, how can we know this is the only way? Try other teachings if you want! You will eventually see they don’t work – despite all the concepts, practices and words your suffering will continue! All other teachings are based upon objects, Maya (ie. they are based upon thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, mind, world, etc): they are therefore based upon that which is transient and temporary and so do not serve to be a good foundation for firm Happiness.

Until you turn within, suffering will continue! Whenever you attend to (ie. attach to) objects, you tacitly strengthen the ego-notion, so turn within, abide as the Self! It is what you truly are, it is the only constant!

See also:

IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

and

The Path of Sri Ramana