Q. I’ve been reading Ramana Maharshi recently and he keeps on saying ‘I’m not the body’.
Tom: Yes, that’s right.
Q: But I don’t really hear you talk about not being the body.
Tom: Yes, that’s because it’s a ‘thorn’. Remember the phrase I’ve mentioned: ‘Use a thorn to remove and thorn and throw them both away’?
Q: Yes, I’ve heard you say that. Please can you explain it again?
Tom: Sure. The first thorn represents a wrong concept that is active in your mind and causes suffering, just as a thorn in your foot causes suffering. You then take a second thorn and use it as a tool to remove the first thorn, but then you throw them both away. If you don’t throw away the second thorn, then you now have a new thorn (concept) that will cause you to suffer.
Ramana often talks about rooting out the ‘I-am-the-body’ concept, and the concept ‘I-am-not-the-body’ is just to negate the initial thorn. But then you throw it away too.
Q: So I am not the body is not true either?
Tom: Exactly. Or, lets put it like this: for a moment just forget what Ramana says, forget what I say – for all you know we could both be talking a load of rubbish! Afterall, lots of intelligent people believe strange and silly things, and we could be no different, right? So forget what we say.
So let me ask you a question: do you know for sure that you are a body?
Q: Well it often seems like I am a body…
Tom: But do you know for sure?
Q: No, not for sure.
Tom: Good. Now, do you know for sure that you are not the body?
Q: No, not for sure.
Tom: Good. That’s our basic experience. We don’t know either way. The body appears and follows us around, as it were, but we don’t know exactly what it means. Is the body me? Is it not me? The truth is I don’t know. That’s it. That’s the truth. We don’t know. Isn’t that right?
Q: But when I say to myself ‘I am not the body’, it feels so good, it just feels really nice.
Tom: Yes, of course, because you are negating the concept (I-am-the-body) that causes so much suffering. It’s a good thing to practice, it’s a great practice in fact. If it works for you I recommend you practice it.
Q: Oh, I see, so it’s a practice.
Tom: Exactly. We are not saying don’t practice. We may need the second thorn, that’s why it is there, that’s why it is taught. So use that thorn, use that tool, practice ‘I am not the body’. When it has done its work, when it has weeded out the ‘I am the body’ concept, then you won’t need it any more and you can throw it away too.
Q: OK, I got it now. Wow, there are so many thorns, aren’t there?
Q: I often get confused about whether or not the world is a dream or illusion or not, but that’s just another thorn too, right?
Tom: Exactly. ‘The world is an illusion’ – it’s a very powerful thorn, one that benefited me a lot whilst I was seeking. But again, do you know for sure if the world is an illusion?
Q: No, not for sure…I know what you’re going to ask next…
Tom: …And do you know for sure that the world is not an illusion?
Q: No, not for sure . I knew you’d say that.
Tom: (laughing) That’s it! We don’t know either way! It’s so simple – Got it?
Q: (laughing) Got it.
Tom: so you can practice these, all these thorns. All these thorns are concepts. Use them – they are most definately useful – use them if you need them. The concepts are used to weed out the beliefs. You may need to practice them for weeks or months, but when their work is done, and the suffering has dissipated, throw them away.
Also see Ranjit Maharaj talk about this.
Annamalai Swami: Bhagavan watched me very closely in the years that I served him in the ashram. One time I went to the Mother’s temple where many people were talking about worldly matters.
Bhagavan called me back, saying, ‘Why should you go to that crowd? Don’t go to crowded places. If you move with the crowd, their vasanas will infect you.’
Bhagavan always encouraged me to live a solitary life and not mix with other people. That was the path he picked for me. Other people got different advice that was equally good for them.
But while he actively discouraged me from socialising, he also discouraged me from sitting quietly and meditating during the years that I was working in the ashram. In this period of my life, if Bhagavan saw me sitting with my eyes closed he would call out to me and give me some work to do.
On one of these occasions he told me,
‘Don’t sit and meditate. It will be enough if you don’t forget that you are the Self. Keep this in your mind all the time while you are working. This sadhana will be enough for you. The real sadhana is not to forget the Self. It is not sitting quietly with one’s eyes closed. You are always the Self. Just don’t forget it.’
Bhagavan’s way does not create a war between the mind and the body. He does not make people sit down and fight the mind with closed eyes. Usually, when you sit in meditation, you are struggling to achieve something, fighting to gain control over the mind. Bhagavan did not advise us to engage in this kind of fight. He told us that there is no need to engage in a war against the mind, because mind does not have any real, fundamental existence. This mind, he said, is nothing but a shadow. He advised me to be continuously aware of the Self while I did the ordinary things of everyday life, and in my case, this was enough.
The above is an excerpt taken from Final Talks by Annamalai Swami, p. 67
God is already here,
wholeness is ever-present.
Call it what you want,
(At this level, even self-inquiry is a joke)
Questioner: There are times when persons and things take a vague, almost transparent form, as in a dream. One ceases to observe them as outside, but passively conscious of their existence, while not actively conscious of any kind of selfhood. There is a deep quietness in the mind.
Is it at such times that one is ready to dive into the Self? Or is this condition unhealthy, the result of self hypnotism? Should it be encouraged as yielding temporary peace?
Ramana Maharshi: There is Consciousness along with quietness in the mind. This is exactly to be aimed at. The fact that the question has formed on this point, without realizing that it is the Self, shows that the state is not steady but casual.
The word ‘diving’ is appropriate when there are outgoing tendencies, and when, therefore, the mind has to be directed and turned within, there is a dip below the surface of externalities. But when quietness prevails without obstructing the Consciousness, where is the need to dive?
Taken from Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Talk 348
The sadhana (spiritual practice) that Bhagawan recommends above is to simply remain quiet (in mind and thought) and also to remain aware.
This is self-knowledge. This is the Self.
When thoughts can come and go without disturbing this essential quality of mind, there is no need to ‘dive’ using the tools of Self Inquiry (ie. the question ‘Who am I?’). With time it may be seen that nothing ever disturbs this ‘peace that passeth all understanding’, and that nothing ever did.
It was always here, fully manifest, right under our noses.
Here is the gateway to Self-knowledge or liberation.
‘Once you realise the Self, it becomes your direct and immediate experience. It is never lost.’
Time and time again I hear from spiritual seekers that they glimpsed the Self, they experienced that ecstasy, but it slipped through their fingers and fell away. Their question to me is how to get it back again. This is the wrong question, this is the wrong way, as it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the path.
Everything that comes can also go. Everything that comes, all experiences that have been attained, are not the Self.
The Self is no particular experience. It is always here, fully manifest, fully evident. Everything that is perceived is It. It is not different from whatever is being perceived to be happening.
Realising that ‘this is It’ is Self-realisation. It is simply seeing what already is the case. When it is seen, there is no desire to reach a new experience, and a seeing that everything happens spontaneously without the presence of a separate doer-entity. Here suffering falls away as the simple truth of no-doer is seen.
Actions, thoughts and desires continue to manifest themselves, spontaneously, but there is nobody doing it, just like the wind blowing or digestion happening. Things happen, no doer.
As long are you are alive, you always are, you always exist. No matter what happens, you are. This knowledge of (your) being is Self-knowledge. It is not something to attain, just something to be ‘acknowledged’. It is not separate from whatever is perceived to be happening. How can this ‘knowledge’ be lost?
To remain as you are, without question or doubt, is your natural state
This is still an instruction for the spiritual seeker: ‘to remain as you are’.
With liberation, questions and doubts are irrelevant, as the natural state is simply whatever is. Nothing can obstruct it. It is always here and manifests as whatever is arising. It can never be obstructed and is always in plain sight.
However for the seeker, ie. the person that takes themselves to be the author of their thoughts and actions, the instruction to remain as you are and not worry about or get entangled with thoughts, questions and doubts, is one of the highest and most refined spiritual teachings available.
Be still, forget all concept of who you are, notice things as they happen. Regardless of what is happening, you know that you are, never what you are, only that you are.
When the mind and its concepts are no longer being believed, what use is there to talk of separation or no separation, self or no-self?
The realized person weeps with the weeping,
laughs with the laughing,
plays with the playful,
sings with those who sing,
keeping time to the song.
What does he lose?
Many truth seekers suppose that the ‘fully self-realised guru’ would act in a certain way:
speak, walk, dress in certain ways,
never angry, always kind,
never unhappy, ever-blissful
pure and faultless
What a prison!
Freedom does not care for that!
In Freedom our humanity naturally shines
Also see All exist in me
Be what you are…All that is needful is to lose the ego, That what is, is always there. Even now you are That…
…The thought ‘I have not seen’, the expectation to see and the desire of getting something, are all the working of the ego.
You have fallen into the snares of the ego. The ego says all these and not you. Be yourself and nothing more!
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
In my recent interview on Buddha at the Gas Pump, Rick asked me about Turiya, the 4th state of consciousness.
According to Vedanta, Turiya is that state of consciousness which lies beyond the 3 states of consciousness that we all ordinarily experience, namely the waking state, the dream state and the deep sleep state. In experiencing Turiya directly there is the possibility of liberation.
You can listen to our exchange on the video below. After the interview I decided to see what Ramana Maharshi had said about Turiya and was relieved to find that he agreed with me 🙂 😛 (at least on this occasion – he probably agrees with Rick on other occasions!)
Here is what Ramana had to say about Turiya:
From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 353:
Questioner: What is turiya?
Ramana Maharshi: There are three states only, the waking, dream and sleep. Turiya is not a fourth one; it is what underlies these three. But people do not readily understand it. Therefore it is said that this is the fourth state and the only Reality. In fact it is not apart from anything, for it forms the substratum of all happenings; it is the only Truth; it is your very Being. The three states appear as fleeting phenomena on it and then sink into it alone. Therefore they are unreal.
This view is also the traditional view of Turiya in vendanta as expounded by Gaupada in his Mandukya Karika.
So does this mean that Rick’s view is wrong? I don’t think so. His view is also a useful view, but in a slightly different way. Thinking of Turiya as a 4th state distinct from the others can also be a beneficial teaching when used in the teachings of a skilled teacher with a genuine realisation. Rick’s notion of entering a (nirvikalpa) samadhi and this having a purifying effect on the waking state is also a valid way of approaching this realisation/freedom.
It’s important to note that these teachings are ways of describing our experience. They are concepts, and form conceptual ways of carving up our experience with the intended effect of leading the seeker to liberation. They are not intended to be based in physiology or ‘science’ in my view.
The point of these specific teachings/concepts is to point out the awareness-consciousness that does not come and go, regardless of what is happening. Whether or not they are successful in achieving that end is the test of how good the teaching is, not how well it is based in human physiology or scientific observations. It is therefore impossible to say one teaching is better than the other – the teaching that works is the ‘best’ teaching for that situation (this is the notion of expedient means in Buddhism)
Eventually, when you realise that consciousness is the essence of you, and remain as that, unidentified as body or mind, the illusory sense of doership is eventually destroyed. With it, the dualistic notion of a consciousness that is in some way distinct, underlying and permanent is also destroyed. What you are left with is what is already here: this, nameless, beyond words (and inclusive of words).
For a more detailed discussion of Turiya please see here: