You cannot ‘be still’/ how to be still

full-moon

‘Be still’ (ie. Nididhyasana) or natural stillness (ie. Samadhi), and the eternal peace of mind/end of suffering that seemingly emerge from that (ie. Moksha) – these are not something you do or create, or necessarily need to strive to practice. They can be a natural outcome of insight into the experiential truths of ‘no-doer’ (both in ‘yourself’ and in ‘others’) and ‘nothing else needed’ or ‘nothing to get’.

Similarly, insight is not something you have to do or achieve or create. It is a natural outcome of listening to the teachings (ie. Sravana) and contemplating them in a (relatively) clear and quiet mind (ie. Manana).

Therefore listen to the teachings, remember them, relax, and let the mind contemplate them unhurriedly. The teachings need time and space to blossom and bloom. 🌿🌼🌷

Seeking out teachings to listen to, actually listening to them and subsequently contemplating them is not something you do or chose to do or ever did. It is a natural outcome of a desire to end suffering (ie. Mumukshutva) together with having heard the notion or possibility that suffering can end (ie. Hearing about the concept of enlightenment or liberation). These factors naturally and automatically lead to seeking a teaching/teacher.

The desire to end suffering is not something you have created or ever ‘done’. It is the natural consequence of and intelligent response to suffering.

This is all spontaneous action and response. No doer entity or separate entity doing, authoring or creating anything.

Suffering is not something you chose to happen, or something you have created/caused. It is a natural consequence of living life with concepts of ignorance deeply rooted into the body-mind.

Hearing about the notion or possibility that suffering can end is not something you chose to hear. It is a consequence of God’s Grace.

Ignorance was not something you chose. It too was and is God’s Grace.

All this, one could say, is God’s Grace, unfolding beautifully. It is the way it is. What is is what is.

Advertisements

Jivanmukti Viveka – The path to liberation in this life by Swami Vidyaranya

Vidyaranya Swami (1296-1386), author of the wonderful Advaita Vedanta text Panchadasi and Shankaracharya (head monk) of Sringeri Math, wrote another less well known text called Jivanmukti Viveka. In it he, in some considerable detail, outlines the path to Jivanmukti, or liberation in this life.

In Chapter 2 he repeatedly makes the point that liberation or jnana cannot occur without both manonasa (destruction of the mind) and vasana kshaya (destruction of the habitual tendencies).

We shall now address ourselves to the means which lead to Jivanmukti (Liberation in this Life). These are Jnana, manonasa and vasana-kshaya.

He states that these three should be practised simultaneously. Throughout this text he quotes extensively from many authoritative texts to back up his view, this time quoting from the wonderful Yoga Vasishta:

Hence, in the Yoga Vasishta, Vasishta says, while dealing with The Body of the Jivanmukta at the end of the Chapter on Supreme Pacification: ‘Oh best of intellects vasasa-Kshaya, Jnana and Manonasa, attended to simultaneously for sufficient length of time, bear the desired fruit…

Vidyaranya then quotes again from Yoga Vasishta emphasising the need to practice these three for and extended period of time:

‘Until these three are not well attended to with sufficient and repeated trials, the Condition [Jivanmukti] can never be realised,  even at the end of a hundred years.’

Here are some more quotes from Chapter 2 of Jivanmukti Viveka:

vidyaranyajnana28knowledge29tooisimpossibleunlessthemindisentirelyatrest

vidyaranyajnananevercomesaboutwithoutvasanakshaya

vidyaranyathemindshouldbepreventedfromfunctioning

brihadaranyakaupdesirelessisbrahman

Vidyaranya no mind.png

Q: I never get it when you say ‘be still’

Question: Tom, I never get it when you say ‘be still’. In my experience there is a contradiction between ‘Allow things to be as they are: No need to suppress or control.’ and ‘disengaging from thoughts’ because when I cease controlling, my mind just wonders so much. I definitely won’t detach from my thoughts by relaxing or even by any other means.

Tom: Yes, good point. When you set aside time to practice this you will naturally stumble upon that balance between not controlling/allowing and yet not engaging in thoughts. The secret is to practice again and again.

Q: So the technique is to be aware of thoughts but not get engaged? Then when you get caught up in thoughts, just return to watching them?

Tom: Yes. But no need to watch the thoughts… See here for more: How to meditate for spiritual enlightenment

CONSUMED BY LOVE 

   

Relax,
And be still.

No need to force it,
Just let it come naturally.

Be still.

Allow yourself to disengage from thoughts
and simply rest in being.

Allow things to be as they are:
No need to suppress or control.

Be still.

Allow yourself to naturally detach from thoughts,
So they don’t stick to you.
Your breathing becomes easy:
This is the natural state.

Allow happiness-love to arise,
Sometimes gently,
Sometimes with force.

Be still. Allow love.

This happiness-love is what you truly are.
This loving-aware-presence is you.

In stillness, be this, be love.

It is not that you are feeling love-happiness:
You are love-happiness,
That is you,
And all arises in you,
as you.

All arises in Love,
as Love.

Be love, be love.

Allow the false identity to slip away:
It is just a bundle of thought-energy,
An energetic wisp.

Seen for what it is,
the little ‘me’ is subsumed into Love,
Consumed by Love

Consumed by Love,
Where is the room for ‘you’ and ‘me’?
Where is the room for ‘here’ and ‘there’?

And as you dissolve in Love,
Love, in its own way and time, takes you beyond itself,
And yet all there is is Love.

   

Zen: an especially excellent teaching and a most essential shortcut

Branch light

The following is a letter written by the Chinese Master Yuanwu (1063-1135), It can be found in the excellent collection ‘Zen Letters’ translated by Thomas Cleary where it is entitled ‘Bringing Out the Family Treasure’.

I hope you don’t mind that I have interspersed my comments in red italics:

If you want to attain Intimacy, the first thing is, don’t seek it. If you attain through seeking, you have already fallen into interpretive understanding.

Yuanwu gets straight into it here, directly pointing out that the desire for Intimacy, or Enlightenment, itself is a barrier to it. Seeking will only yield a conceptual understanding. It is implied here that conceptual understanding is clearly not what is being aimed at.

This is especially true because this great treasury extends through all times, clearly evident, empty and bright.  Since time without beginning it has been your own basic root: you depend on its power entirely in all your actions.

What you are looking for has always been here (‘extends through all times’), is already shining (‘bright’), and is of no enduring substance (’empty’). It is the essence of you and is the power that manifests both you and your life.

You will only pass through to freedom when you cease and desist to the point that not even a single thought is born.  Then you penetrate through without falling into sense and matter and without dwelling in conceptualizations and mental images.

Yuanwu is stating we should be still. Not as something to do, but as something to stop doing (‘cease and desist’) until thoughts no longer occur. Using this method we do not fall into the traps of attachment to form, belief and dogma. What will this method eventually yield? Let us find out:

When you absolutely transcend these, then the whole world does not hide it.  Everywhere everything becomes its Great Function, and every single thing flows forth from your own breast.  The ancients called this bringing out the family treasure. Once this is attained, it is attained forever.  How could it ever be used up?

Here the fundamental insight has been recognised. Through being still, the bottom of the bucket has fallen out, and the Fundamental Essence has been recognised as being one with everything everywhere, and non-different to yourself.

Just be wary that your investigation does not rest on a firm footing, and that you will not be able to penetrate through to realization.  You must bravely cut off all entanglements, so there is not the slightest dependence or reliance. Relinquish your body and give up your life and directly accept the suchness that faces you; there is no other.

This is a warning to ensure that there is not the slightest trace of dogma, belief or attachment to conceptual views. Even after the fundamental insight has been attained, all entanglements or addictive desires are to be relinquished. We are to surrender totally, giving up our life’s dreams and ego-based desires in the process.

Then even if a thousand sages came forth it wouldn’t change you at all. Leaving it to the flow at all times, eating food and wearing clothes, you nurture the embryo of sagehood to maturity, not keeping to intellectual understanding.

Let go, let things be, let things come as they come, let things go as they go. Importantly Yuanwu hints that with the fundamental realisation already attained, it is merely the ’embryo’ of wisdom that has been obtained. It then takes time for this realisation to ripen to ‘maturity’, as the habitual tendencies to identify with the body and thoughts are gradually uprooted. This is explained in further detail in Yuanwu’s other letters, see here for example.

Isn’t this an especially excellent teaching and a most essential shortcut?

Isn’t it just!

Spend less time on Facebook. Be still.

facebooknotificationta

This post was originally posted on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tomdas.nd)

Spend less time on Facebook. More time in Stillness. Stillness means absense of the ego, or absense of the ‘I thought’. So be still.

Use the question ‘Who am I’ to induce recognition that there is no ‘I’ or ‘me’, and then rest there, inStillness. Be Still.

Everything you do that is not Being Still is reinforcing the ego. Everything. So Be Still.

Focus on your own sadhana (practice). No need to argue with others. No need to save others. Don’t post-pone your own realisation. Be with yourSelf. Be Still.

Let go of the ‘I thought’. Gently, and persistently, allow it to dissolve in You, Stillness. It is through stillness that genuine insights occur, not through clever words or poetry. And even these insights are to be let go of, for insights are just more illusion, more ego. So be Still.

Everything you see/feel/touch/think/sense – this is all part of the dream, the ignorance, the ego. It’s all the ego. How to realise this? Be Still.

Every moment you are not being still, you are perpetuating the ego. The ego is always evil. Even nice egos are evil – it’s just a matter of degree – even nice egos contain the seeds of partiality, distortion, destruction and suffering. So let go, allow the ego to dissolve, in Stillness. Be Still.

Being Still is not something you do or try to do. That is just more Ego. Being Still is not-trying, not-doing, no ‘I thought’. It is a letting go, a release and thus a return to peace, to Stillness.

The ego will often try to find a way, a reason, an excuse, not to be Still. It will favour teachings that prevent stillness, that say stillness is not necessary. Notice this, see how canny the devil is, and be with God. Be Still.

If the ego is already an illusion, then why the need to be still? Because, through the force of habit, ignorance/the ego constantly rises up, creating the world and attachment to it, and lasting peace does not dawn. Ignorance continues and the teachings remain largely mental/intellectual. The mischief (and suffering) continues.

How to remedy this?

Be Still

READ THIS AGAIN SLOWLY SEVERAL TIMES, ENSURING THE MESSAGE OF EACH PARAGRAPH IS PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD

False enlightenment

 

diamond

The mere understanding that ‘there is no person’ is not by itself enough. The mere understanding/seeing or knowledge ‘there is no separation’, ‘there is no doer’, ‘there is no separate self’ is by itself not enough.

For suffering to end, the self-referential habitual tendencies (vasanas) which originally arose from the belief in separation, these vasanas must also end. These vasanas are those addictive tendencies which aim to seek fulfillment in experiences and things (ie. in objects).

Seeing ‘there’s nobody here’ is seeing through the illusion of separation. However the functioning of self-referential addictive vasanas may continue due to the deeply established force of habit, and so the suffering resulting from these on the phenomenal level continues.

Once the illusion of (separate) self is seen as an illusion*, one must still remove the vasanas**. How? We are advised simply to ‘be still’.

…one must still remove the vasanas. How? We are advised simple to ‘be still’.

There is an apparent contradiction here, for if the separate self is seen through and seen to be false, then who or what is being still? Well, when the vasanas arise, it is really the sense of/belief in separate self that arises, out of habit, which means that although the individual person has intellectually been seen to be non-existent, it is actually the person who knows this. The person is the ignorance, which means that the ignorance has not been fully rooted out. ie. ignorance is still present.

So, insight (into no-self) having been attained (in the mind), now we are advised to be still in order to purify our minds of the vasanas. Shankara famously wrote: vasana kshaya moksham, which means ‘destruction of the vasanas is Moksha (liberation).’

Ask yourself:

-Can the ego make the ego still?
-Can thought still thought?
-Can we become effortless through effort?

The answer is no. Knowing this, be still.

Allow what comes to come, allow what goes to go. See there is nobody here. As the vasanas/ego/sense of ‘me’ arise, allow them to fall again.

Be still.

Note that being still is not doing something. It is not trying hard to be still – that is just more effort. Rather ‘be still’ means not adding to this, or rather to stop seeking and grasping, letting things be as they are, no longer looking for fulfillment in objects.

Being still is not doing something

The above reasoning and this last sadhana (spiritual practice) of stillness is beautifully expressed in the classic Advaita text Advaita Bodha Deepika, which was recommended by Ramana Maharshi as a manual for Advaita. The text takes the seeker through all aspects of the path. see here for a short excerpt:

The Ultimate means to liberation

Similarly in Buddhism and Zen we see the same teachings. See here for an example:

Zen: The sure way to enlightenment

*traditionally the Vedanta path is threefold. Firstly the teachings are heard (sravana), then they are comtemplated upon (manana) and their truth is realised/ignorance is removed. Then lastly the vasanas or habitual tendencies which originally arose due to ignorance are purified (nididhyasana).

**Many people stop after manana, once the truth has been understood and realised (in the intellect). The scriptures warn us that whilst this realisation can bring great peace and relief, and can be mistaken for full realisation/enlightenment, this is not the end of the journey, for the belief in a jiva/limited entity is still intact. Even without trusting the scriptures, by simply being aware of and open to what is happening, it can be seen that unless the addictive self-referential vasanas are allowed to arise in stillness, then without being taken up and acted on, allowed to then dissolve and die, the self-created suffering and self-centred (potentially destructive) behaviours on the phenomenal experiential level continue. Being still is simply a natural way of allowing the ignorance-based conditioning to naturally arise and fall away of its own accord.

 

 

Ramana Maharshi: Self-abidance, the ‘vision of God’ and the end of suffering

 ramana umbrella

If you remain still, without paying attention to this, without paying attention to that, and without paying attention to anything at all, you will, simply through your powerful attention to being, become the reality, the vast eye, the unbounded space of consciousness.

Ramana Maharshi
Guru Vachaka Kovai
Verse 647

Tom’s comments:

Guru Vachaka Kovai is argueably the most authoritative text on Ramana Maharshi’s verbal teachings. The instruction here is simply to be still. Not to be attentive to anything at all – just to be.

Ramana then uses the wording ‘through your powerful attention to being’. Given the first part of the verse which says not to be attentive to anything, this implies that not being attentive to any particular thing and remaining still and aware is synonymous with ‘attention to being’. This means that being is not something to be attentive of, ie. being is not an object of attention, but ‘attention to being’ is simply the state of being aware but not have your awareness focused on any particular thing.

What is the reward? The reward is that we ‘become the reality’. As Ramana has stated many times, there is actually no ‘becoming’ the reality. Reality is always already here, pure and whole, but realising this could be called ‘becoming the reality’:

There is no reaching the Self. If the Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not now and here, but that it should be got anew. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So, I say, the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already That.

Ramana Maharshi, Talk with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 251

Here are 2 other verses, also from Guru Vachaka Kovai that say essentially the same thing but using different language:

348. Having become free from concepts, which are afflicting thoughts, and with the ‘I am the body’ idea completely extinguished, one ends up as the mere eye of grace, the non-dual expanse of consciousness. This is the supremely fulfilling vision of God

349. Having restrained the deceitful senses, and having abandoned mental concepts, you should stand aloof in your real nature. In that state of Self-Abidance in which you remain firmly established in the consciousness of the Heart, Sivam will reveal itself.

In verse 348 we can see how here the emphasis is on freedom from concepts and thoughts. When the ‘I am the body’ idea has been completely extinguished, then ignorance, the cause of suffering, has been rooted out, and all that remains is Reality, which in this verse Ramana calls ‘the non-dual expanse of consciousness’ or ‘God’.

It is worth noting that this is not simply an insight teaching, but also a purification teaching in which, over time, through the repeated practice of ‘self-abidance’, the ignorance ‘I am the body’ is uprooted. Only when this is done is the vision of God fully realised.

Again, in verse 349, a similar concept is explored in a slightly different way. The senses here are termed ‘deceitful’ meaning that they promise pleasure and fulfillment when really pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment through the senses actually leads only to the perpetuation of the cycle of suffering. Therefore we turn away from objects as sources of fulfillment and also we ‘abandon mental concepts’. Once we have done this, we are already standing ‘aloof in our real nature’. Standing in our real nature is not something we have to do, but it naturally arises once we stop attending to objects and thoughts (which are subtle objects).

The latter part of verse 349 says we should ‘remain firmly established’ in this stillness. Here, this state is also called ‘the Heart’. The ‘remain firmly’ implies the importance of practice, ie. remaining in this state for sometime. Only then will it have it effect of God-realisation or ‘Sivam revealing itself’, which is when the ignorance of the false ‘I’ has been rooted out through repeated practice.

Again, it is worth noting that unlike insight teachings which simply point out the presence of awareness/consciousness, this teaching goes further and asks us to ‘remain in that awareness’ in order for ignorance to be uprooted. In this context, remain in awareness is just a phrase to mean that we don’t seek outwardly through objects such as sense objects (gross objects) or thoughts and concepts (ie. subtle objects).

This is the path to ending suffering, as the next verse, also taken from Guru Vachaka Kovai, states. The word mauna refers to the state of silence or stillness beyond words and the word jiva refers to the apparent individual:

350. The true vision of reality that is free from veiling ignorance is the state in which one shines in the Heart as the ocean of bliss, the inundation of grace. In the mauna experience that surges there as wholly Self, and which is impossible to think about, not a trace of grief or discontent exists for the jiva.

OM NAMO

BHAGAVATE

SRI RAMANAYA

OM