Q. Hello Tom , Thank you for your efforts in helping us. I have a doubt: Sri Nisargadatta Mahraj says that YOU ARE BEYOND THE EXPERIENCER – I understand that experiences changes but the experiencer is constant, but what can be beyond the experiencer, and does that mean we avoid experiences of our lives and even spirtiual realisation is a sort of experience, as we feel more peaceful and joyful, please explain this to me.
Great question. The ego is both the experiencer AND the doer. These are both Maya (ie. illusion or fiction) or part of the waking dream. What you are, the Self, is beyond this Maya or waking dream.
Sometimes the Self is said to be the Witness, but this is not actually true, for it is the (fictional) ego that witnesses things/objects, it is also the ego that thinks, that emotes, etc.
The Self is devoid of all phenomena.
This can only really be understood fully by doing Self-Enquiry, eg. as per Sri Ramana’s instructions in the text Who Am I?
eg. See here verse 7 from the Mandukya Upanishad which explains that the Self is not the witness/observer of objects and also the Self is devoid of phenomena (note Turiya is another name for the Self (Atman means Self), as is also explained in the verse):
‘Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self in the three states, It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss and non—dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman and this has to be realised.’
~Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 7
For more see here in this post and also follow the links cited in the post:
Partial non-duality, also known as Vishishtadvaita (often translated as ‘qualified non-duality’), is actually another form of duality. What is it? Why is it important to know about it?
Is the point of the teachings is to remove all thinking, all thought, all concepts? Is that what is meant by stilling the mind? Tom describes how we can use objects such as the breath or a picture to help us to still the mind initially or we can attend directly to the I AM, the subject, which is Self-enquiry.
This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das and put together by volunteers.
To attend satsang, see here: https://tomdas.com/events.
For guided meditations see the ‘guided meditation’ playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/c/TomDasNonduality/playlist
For recommended reading for liberation see here: https://tomdas.com/2020/10/19/recommended-reading-books-for-enlightenment-liberation-and-self-realisation/
To book a 1 to 1 session with Tom see here: https://tomdas.com/nondual-spiritual-counsellor/
Q. According to Buddhism is it better to be a Bodhisattva or an Arahant? I’ve heard quite a few conflicting things about this so would be good to get some clarity.
Tom: According to the Pali Suttas, the earliest records of Buddha’s teachings, true enlightenment/liberation is to be an Arahant, a Boddhisattva being anyone who desires liberation. By this definition, a Bodhisattva is unenlightened and still stuck in suffering/samsara, and an Arahant is an enlightened sage.
In later Buddhist schools/thought, a Bodhisattva became someone who foregoes enlightenment in order to help all sentient beings attain liberation. The idea here is that an Arahant, whilst liberated, is somehow ‘cold’ and ‘self-centred’ (I don’t agree with this by the way), placing their enlightenment above others, and so the ‘compassionate’ Bodhisattva rejects full liberation in place of compassion towards others. The problem with this, as has been oft pointed out, is that only a ‘liberated being’ can lead another to full liberation, and that with Nirvana, duality and the sense of ‘another’ outside of yourself, ceases (please excuse my dualistic language – see these quotes from Diamond sutra if you are unsure what I am talking about here when I say ‘dualistic language’)
Later still, a Bodhisattva was defined loosely as a compassionate enlightened being who helps all others attain liberation. By this definition, a Bodhisattva is a desirable outcome!
So take your pick!
There is more complexity and nuance in this topic if you want to delve into it, but the above is a broad outline. Hope that helps 🙏
Q. I have a question. If mind guides us while we are awake and in dream, and in sleep we are not conscious (because mind is switched off), doesn’t that imply mind is what we mistake for ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’?
Tom: Yes, that is correct. We consider ourselves to be awake/conscious in both the waking state and the dream (whilst we are dreaming) and asleep/unconscious in deep sleep.
Actually it is just the mind, ie. ignorance/duality, that is awake in ‘waking’ and dream and we are actually fully conscious in deep sleep – it is just the mind that is ‘asleep’.
This is why the in the Bhagavad Gita verse 2:69 it states: ‘What all [ignorant] beings consider as day is the night of ignorance for the wise, and what all [ignorant] creatures see as night is the day for the introspective sage.’
Question: Ramana Maharshi said that to do the Self Enquiry, one already must have a clear, calm mind. Otherwise he said to follow other paths first – am I right? Like Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga. But I think the Work of Byron Katie also helps to see through the beliefs we ended up with after trauma. Do you know if it’s true that, even if you inquire into the beliefs, there will always be, for example, fear stored in your subconciuousness or store consciousness? So even If you keep inquiring into the beliefs after trauma there will always be pain stored in the body and that this can only be dealt with by energetic bodywork or Eye Movement Desenzatition and Reprocessing (EMDR)? And keep on doing Self Enquiry of course.
Tom: the key trauma is the ego, ie. the idea ‘I am a limited entitiy (ie. the body-mind)’. This only goes with self-enquiry. Self-enquiry cuts the trunk of the tree of suffering. Other remedies attack the leaves and branches. Both are valid: one alleviates suffering, the other cures it once and for all. Theoretically, one can go straight for self-enquiry, but for many I come across, it seems that trimming the leaves and branches need to be done first (I often help people with this too) to quieten, de-traumatise and purify the mind. This is not actually the case, but it seems that way due to the distorting effect of the ego.
‘The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from its restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind’
~Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 26
Objection: I have a slightly different view then Ramana perhaps did on ignoring the external world. It seems to me that the external world is the reflection of the inner. Becoming conscious of the beauty in nature resonates with the inner. This is perhaps a more indigenous view and is much older then even Vedanta and goes back even to the time when humans were Neanderthals as well as Homo sapiens when everything in nature was animating in presence.
Tom: Yes, being with nature is one of many things that can bring us in tune with the Self and bring us genuine peace and genuine insight, but ultimately for realisation to occur (and thus for suffering to end) one must turn within and all thoughts must cease. Otherwise the illusion of time and space are not seen through and suffering (and duality) continue, even if in a subtle way.
This is why Sri Ramana Maharshi writes in Who Am I?:
Q. When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Sri Ramana: When the world which is what-is-seen [ie. objects] has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.
Q. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?
Sri Ramana: There will not be.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Tom: What we call the world (ie. space and time and people) is actually a projection of mind/thought. Put simply, the world, space and time are simply thoughts. Again, this cannot be known unless we turn within, away from the world, towards the Self, and thoughts competely cease. From Sri Ramana Maharshi:
‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear…All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent.’
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Tom: When thoughts completely cease, time and space disappear. If time and space are still appearing, it is because thought (namely the ‘I-thought’, which is the notion or thought or belief that ‘I am a body-mind’) still persists.
Therefore, when the world appears, the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears the world does not appear.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Tom: Yes, ego-mind-thought must die for realisation to occur. Those who are still attached to the body-mind-world and still take themselves to be the body say otherwise.
Ego is ignorance. Ego is duality. It is the ego that creates/projects the body-mind and world, like in a dream. When ego goes, everything goes, and all that remains is the Self. It cannot be put into words or understood by the mind. In truth ego never existed at all.
Objections to this such as ‘how does the sage function without ego’ only occur in ignorance of taking the sage to be the body and in the presense of ego-ignorance seeing body-mind-world.
The paradox of this cannot be explained in words, but when the mind becomes so completely and utterly still so that time and space and personhood all cease to exist, this ‘Self’ is somehow ‘known without knowing’.