Q. Don’t these traditional Vedanta teachings create an artificial duality where there actually is none? Why turn away from the world towards an apparent ‘True Self’? Why create this duality in the first place? All is already one!
Tom: For most, the ego-mind keeps on habitually coming back, causing suffering and perpetuating the illusion of duality until one finally turns to Self-Enquiry and Abides as the Self. You can say ‘all is one’, or ‘this is it already’, or ‘there is no duality’, but usually it is just the ego-mind saying that (ie. it is only on the level of concepts and belief) and so suffering and the illusion of duality continue. The infinite-love-bliss of the Self is not ‘experienced’ or ‘known’.
How to remove the illusion of separation, so it, and the resultant suffering never returns? The only way I know is to abide as the pure consciousness within. This is the teaching of the Vedanta scriptures and of all effective and true spiritual teachings that I have come across.
For most, unless this is done, suffering and peace alternate, which is itself suffering.
The purpose of Satsang/teachers/teachings is only for you to turn within and Be what You already Are. Other than that, no teacher or teaching is required.
‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’
Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 219
The symbol Om represents the Self, the eternal Truth Within
‘Do not reject this teaching saying – ‘all is already one’, or ‘what is needed to be yourself?’ or ‘This is It, already – what practice is required and for who?’ or ‘There is no ego already’. This is the ego’s way of avoiding its own destruction.’
Some people, when they hear of the true teachings of Self-Enquiry, they attend to it straight away and realise the Self, the eternal happiness and bliss that is devoid of misery and suffering, the Kingdom of Heaven that is found within.
Others spend time roaming and suffering in the arid desert of other ways (or ‘non-ways’) and teachings first, teachings that pertain to gross and subtle objects (ie body, mind and world, thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, etc). Only later do they realise that despite all their knowledge and insights and experiences, despite their proclamations of oneness, etc, their suffering still continues, and maybe they then find the motivation to try something else and turn within.
OBJECTION: WHY TURN WITHIN? ISN’T THAT DUALISTIC?
Q .But if all is one or non-dual, why turn within at all? Is this not creating an artificial duality between the inner and the outer, and do not all practices strengthen the ego?
A. Because only then is suffering removed and the bliss of the self realised. Without this practice of turning within, suffering continues. See this for yourself in your own experience – has your suffering ended? If not, turn within and abide as the Self. Suffering is the hallmark of ego/ignorance.
WHY IS THIS THE CASE?
Q.Why is it so?
A. Because without this specific practice, objects are continually attended to, and this nurtures the notion ‘I am a body-mind entity living in a world’. Or rather it doesn’t attack or destroy this ignorance, which is deep rooted, habitual and strong (seemingly). The habitual ignorance ‘I am the separate body-mind entity’ continues to intermittently rise and cause suffering. Out of habit, ignorance continues, and with it suffering too.
‘The ego-thief pretends to be the policeman who catches the thief’.
Without this practice of attending to the Self or pure consciousness within, ignorance and suffering both continue, in spite of superficial proclamations such as ‘all is one’ or ‘nothing needs to change’. Similarly, other practices which involve attending to gross or subtle objects also do not sever this ignorance, although they may weaken it (or strengthen it).
OBJECTION: DOES THIS PRACTICE NOT STRENGTHEN THE EGO?
A. This is the only practice that does not strengthen the ego. All practices, except Self-Enquiry or Self-Attention, need the identity ‘I am the body-mind’, ie. the ego, to practice them. In Self-Enquiry it is not accepted that you are the body-mind from the outset.
The mind, when attending to gross and subtle objects, is called the mind. When this same mind attends to the Subject, itself, it is no longer the mind but is simply Consciousness or Awareness Being Consciousness or Awareness, ie. Self Being Self. (Ramana Maharshi states In Day by Day with Bhagavan: ‘The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world’. The traditional Advaita text Yoga Vasishta states: ‘Consciousness, which is undivided, imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.’ )
This practice, unlike all others, is not a doing (ie. not an act by the body-mind entity), but BEING SELF.
It is only through BEING SELF and not through attending to various gross and subtle objects that the egoic vasanas/ignorance can be rooted out and suffering ended at its source. See for yourself how suffering continues otherwise, how without this practice the ego continues itself.
A TRUE TEACHING
This is why Sri Ramana Maharshi taught this teaching. This is why Shankara taught this teaching. This is why Buddha taught this teaching. This is why Krishna and Vasishta taught this teaching. This is why Shiva taught this teaching. Why else has this teaching been taught for millennia?
Hence this is the true teaching of Vedanta that has been handed down, generation to generation, for millennia, and it is the true teaching of all genuine and effective spiritual paths.
My gratitude to Sri Ramana Maharshi for revitalising this ancient teaching, purifying it of all dross and superstition and making it easily accessible for all.
DO NOT ALLOW THOUGHT/THE EGO TO PHILOSOPHISE THIS TEACHING AWAY
Discover this yourself, not with intellectualising or philosophising, but by trying and seeing for yourself. Do not reject this teaching saying – ‘all is already one’, or ‘what is needed to be yourself?’ or ‘This is It, already – what practice is required and for who?’ or ‘There is no ego already’. This is the ego’s way of avoiding its own destruction. You will know this is the case as suffering is the sign of the ego. Are you still suffering? If so, attend to the Self, the pure consciousness, the subject, within. If you do not, suffering will continue until you do.
Sri Ramana Maharshi states:
‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’ (Talks 219)
JUST A LITTLE PRACTICE MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Whilst practice gradually increases over time an infiltrates into your entire being and all of the three states (waking, dreaming, deep sleep), even a small amount of practice, even when NOT performed with great skill, leads to immense reduction in suffering and egotism. What may take years through mental philosophising is cut through quickly with devoted practice. This will build your faith in the teachings and take you home.
So start small and allow the momentum to gradually build, like a snowflake becoming an avalanche.
Another quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi, this time from the Sri Ramana Gita, a small text that outlines the entire teaching of Ramana in concise form:
Q. What in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime inner vision?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective [ie. subjective] enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone bring about the sublime inner vision.
Sri Ramana Gita, Chapter 3, verses 4-6
Here are some other quotes for you:
🕉Om Guru Ramana 🕉
Tom: When I was a teenager, I had my first conscious ‘awakening experience’ whilst reading ‘The Only Revolution’ by Jiddu Krishnamurti (Click here to download the full text as a PDF file; I was actually reading the second Krishnamurti Reader, of which the Only Revolution comprises the first section).
After this initial awakening experience, I spent many years trying to chase this experience and recreate it, and in doing so read almost every single thing written by J Krishnamurti over the next few years. For some reason, I was not able to see what he was pointing at!
I still think The Only Revolution is one of the best of his works – here are some excerpts taken from the first few chapters, with bold type added by myself for emphasis:
Truth is never in the past. The truth of the past is the ashes of memory; memory is of time, and in the dead ashes of yesterday there is no truth. Truth is a living thing, not within the field of time.
When man is free, without any motive of fear, of envy or of sorrow, then only is the mind naturally peaceful and still. Then it can see not only the truth in daily life from moment to moment but also go beyond all perception; and therefore there is the ending of the observer and the observed, and duality ceases.
But beyond all this, and not related to this struggle, this vanity and despair, there is – and this is not a theory – a stream that has no beginning and no end; a measureless movement that the mind can never capture.
When you hear this, sir, obviously you are going to make a theory of it, and if you like this new theory you will propagate it. But what you propagate is not the truth. The truth is only when you are free from the ache, anxiety and aggression which now fill your heart and mind. When you see all this and when you come upon that benediction called love, then you will know the truth of what is being said.
Why do you want a theory at all, and why do you postulate any belief? This constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear – fear of everyday life, fear of sorrow, fear of death and of the utter meaninglessness of life. Seeing all this you invent a theory and the more cunning and erudite the theory the more weight it has. And after two thousand or ten thousand years of propaganda that theory invariably and foolishly becomes “the truth”.
But if you do not postulate any dogma, then you are face to face with what actually is. The “what is”, is thought, pleasure, sorrow and the fear of death.
When you understand the structure of your daily living – with its competition, greed, ambition and the search for power – then you will see not only the absurdity of theories, saviours and gurus, but you may find an ending to sorrow, an ending to the whole structure which thought has put together.
The penetration into and the understanding of this structure is meditation.
Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end. The mind can never be made innocent through experience.
It is the negation of experience that brings about that positive state of innocency which cannot be cultivated by thought. Thought is never innocent. Meditation is the ending of thought, not by the meditator, for the meditator is the meditation. If there is no meditation, then you are like a blind man in a world of great beauty, light and colour.
Wander by the seashore and let this meditative quality come upon you. If it does, don’t pursue it. What you pursue will be the memory of what it was – and what was is the death of what is. Or when you wander among the hills, let everything tell you the beauty and the pain of life, so that you awaken to your own sorrow and to the ending of it. Meditation is the root, the plant, the flower and the fruit. It is words that divide the fruit, the flower, the plant and the root. In this separation action does not bring about goodness: virtue is the total perception.
You can’t find God; there is no way to it. Man has invented many paths, many religions, many beliefs, saviours and teachers whom he thinks will help him to find the bliss that is not passing. The misery of search is that it leads to some fancy of the mind, to some vision which the mind has projected and measured by things known. The love which he seeks is destroyed by the way of his life. You cannot have a gun in one hand and God in the other.
God is only a symbol, a word, that has really lost its meaning, for the churches and places of worship have destroyed it. Of course, if you don’t believe in God you are like the believer; both suffer and go through the sorrow of a short and vain life; and the bitterness of every day makes life a meaningless thing.
Reality is not at the end of the stream of thought, and the empty heart is filled by the words of thought. We become very clever, inventing new philosophies, and then there is the bitterness of their failure. We have invented theories about how to reach the ultimate, and the devotee goes to the temple and loses himself in the imaginations of his own mind. The monk and the saint do not find that reality for both are part of a tradition, of a culture, that accepts them as being saints and monks.
The dove has flown away, and the beauty of the mountain of cloud is upon the land – and truth is there, where you never look.
Meditation is not the repetition of the word, nor the experiencing of a vision, nor the cultivating of silence. The bead and the word do quieten the chattering mind, but this is a form of self-hypnosis. You might as well take a pill.
Meditation is not wrapping yourself in a pattern of thought, in the enchantment of pleasure. Meditation has no beginning, and therefore it has no end.
If you say: “I will begin today to control my thoughts, to sit quietly in the meditative posture, to breathe regularly” – then you are caught in the tricks with which one deceives oneself. Meditation is not a matter of being absorbed in some grandiose idea or image: that only quietens one for the moment, as a child absorbed by a toy is for the time being quiet. But as soon as the toy ceases to be of interest, the restlessness and the mischief begin again.
Meditation is not the pursuit of an invisible path leading to some imagined bliss. The meditative mind is seeing – watching, listening, without the word, without comment, without opinion – attentive to the movement of life in all its relationships throughout the day. And at night, when the whole organism is at rest, the meditative mind has no dreams for it has been awake all day. It is only the indolent who have dreams; only the half-asleep who need the intimation of their own states. But as the mind watches, listens to the movement of life, the outer and the inner, to such a mind comes a silence that is not put together by thought.
It is not a silence which the observer can experience. If he does experience it and recognise it, it is no longer silence. The silence of the meditative mind is not within the borders of recognition, for this silence has no frontier. There is only silence – in which the space of division ceases.
Meditation is the unfolding of the new. The new is beyond and above the repetitious past – and meditation is the ending of this repetition. The death that meditation brings about is the immortality of the new. The new is not within the area of thought, and meditation is the silence of thought.
Meditation is not an achievement, nor is it the capture of a vision, nor the excitement of sensation. It is like the river, not to be tamed, swiftly running and overflowing its banks. It is the music without sound; it cannot be domesticated and made use of. It is the silence in which the observer has ceased from the very beginning.
Has it ever happened to you, naturally, to find yourself in a state where thought is totally absent? In that state are you conscious of yourself as the thinker, the observer, the experiencer?
Thought is the response of memory, and the bundle of memories is the thinker. When there is no thought is there the “me” at all, about whom we make so much fuss and noise?
We are not talking of a person in amnesia, or of one who is day-dreaming or controlling thought to silence it, but of a mind that is fully awake, fully alert. If there is no thought and no word, isn’t the mind in a different dimension altogether?
There is the silence of the mind which is never touched by any noise, by any thought or by the passing wind of experience. It is this silence that is innocent, and so endless. When there is this silence of the mind action springs from it, and this action does not cause confusion or misery.
The meditation of a mind that is utterly silent is the benediction that man is ever seeking.
Again, sir, you have come back to the question of something that is timeless, which is beyond thought. What is beyond thought is innocence, and thought, do what it will, can never touch it, for thought is always old.
It is innocency, like love, that is deathless, but for that to exist the mind must be free of the thousand yesterdays with their memories. And freedom is a state in which there is no hate, no violence, no brutality. Without putting away all these things how can we ask what immortality is, what love is, what truth is?
If you deliberately take an attitude, a posture, in order to meditate, then it becomes a plaything, a toy of the mind. If you determine to extricate yourself from the confusion and the misery of life, then it becomes an experience of imagination – and this is not meditation. The conscious mind or the unconscious mind must have no part in it; they must not even be aware of the extent and beauty of meditation – if they are, then you might just as well go and buy a romantic novel.
In the total attention of meditation there is no knowing, no recognition, nor the remembrance of something that has happened. Time and thought have entirely come to an end, for they are the centre which limits its own vision.
At the moment of light, thought withers away, and the conscious effort to experience and the remembrance of it, is the word that has been. And the word is never the actual. At that moment – which is not of time – the ultimate is the immediate, but that ultimate has no symbol, is of no person, of no god.
Meditation is not the mere experiencing of something beyond everyday thought and feeling nor is it the pursuit of visions and delights. An immature and squalid little mind can and does have visions of expanding consciousness, and experiences which it recognises according to its own conditioning. This immaturity may be greatly capable of making itself successful in this world and achieving fame and notoriety. The gurus whom it follows are of the same quality and state. Meditation does not belong to such as these. It is not for the seeker, for the seeker finds what he wants, and the comfort he derives from it is the morality of his own fears.
Do what he will, the man of belief and dogma cannot enter into the realm of meditation. To meditate, freedom is necessary. It is not meditation first and freedom afterwards; freedom – the total denial of social morality and values – is the first movement of meditation.
It is not a public affair where many can join in and offer prayers. It stands alone, and is always beyond the borders of social conduct. For truth is not in the things of thought or in what thought has put together and calls truth. The complete negation of this whole structure of thought is the positive of meditation.
Sleep is as important as keeping awake, perhaps more so. If during the day-time the mind is watchful, self-recollected, observing the inward and outward movement of life, then at night meditation comes as a benediction.
The mind wakes up, and out of the depth of silence there is the enchantment of meditation, which no imagination or flight of fancy can ever bring about. It happens without the mind ever inviting it: it comes into being out of the tranquillity of consciousness – not within it but outside of it, not in the periphery of thought but beyond the reaches of thought. So there is no memory of it, for remembrance is always of the past, and meditation is not the resurrection of the past.
It happens out of the fullness of the heart and not out of intellectual brightness and capacity. It may happen night after night, but each time, if you are so blessed, it is new – not new in being different from old, but new without the background of the old, new in its diversity and changeless change.
So sleep becomes a thing of extraordinary importance, not the sleep of exhaustion, not the sleep brought about through drugs and physical satisfaction, but a sleep that is as light and quick as the body is sensitive. And the body is made sensitive through alertness. Sometimes meditation is as light as a breeze that passes by; at other times its depth is beyond all measure. But if the mind holds one or the other as a remembrance to be indulged in, then the ecstasy of meditation comes to an end.
It is important never to possess or desire possession of it. The quality of possessiveness must never enter into meditation, for meditation has no root, nor any substance which the mind can hold.
We could say that the ego or ‘me’ is an energetic movement. When the movement stops, the ‘me’ disappears. Just like a wave or whirlpool are both a movement of water, so when the water stops moving, the wave or whirlpool disappear.
When it is said ‘all is full’ or ‘all is whole’,
All that is really meant is nothing is required for liberation.
When it is said ‘nothing is real’,
All that is really meant is nothing is required for liberation.
When it is said ‘nothing is required for liberation’,
What is meant is that there is no separate ‘me’ that could require anything.
Too simple for words!
Defining duality (the dualistic paradigm)
Duality, in the context of the spiritual search, implies the existence of a separate ‘me-entity’, which we could call the seeker. And the seeker, is seeking something, a goal of some kind, which we could call Enlightenment or Liberation. So here are the two principle elements of the dualistic paradigm, a seeker and a goal to be reached.
The seeker (or subject)
The seeker can go by various names, such as the separate self, false self, ego, egotism, the ‘me’, being a ‘person’, the doer, the body-mind entity, being a mortal, and so on, but all these terms refer to the same essential seemingly separate seeker-entity.
The sought (or object/goal)
Similarly the goal being sought goes by various names such as Enlightenment, Liberation, Nirvana, God, Spirit, Brahman, Self, Awakening, and so on. Now of course the the specifics of the imagined/projected goal differs depending on one’s conditioning and experiences, but for the purposes of outlining the principles of duality in the spiritual search, we can leave it at this rather than explore all the various notions of Enlightenment.
The seeking (or path/process/method)
These two basic elements of duality, the seeker and the sought, imply a third entity, namely a path to be traversed, a method or system of spiritual enlightenment. So we now have three basic elements of the dualistic paradigm: the seeker, the method/path of seeking, and the sought.
Dyads and triads
In vedanta, the two basic elements of duality are sometimes known as dyads (ie. subject-object duality), and the three elements are called triads (ie. subject-process-object eg. knower, knowing, known). Sri Ramana Maharshi in his short text ‘Reality in Forty Verses’ (Ulladu Narpadu in Tamil) wrote in verse 9 ‘Dyads and triads depend upon one thing: the ego…’)
What about non-duality?
What about non-duality? Well non-dual expressions or teachings point out that these dyads and triads are all in fact fictions. There is no seeker or sought, or you could say there is only the seeker (eg. ‘all this is Self’, Self essentially meaning ‘me’, or ‘You are That’), or there is only the sought (eg. there is only Liberation, Liberation being the goal being sought), or you could equate the seeker with the sought (eg. I am Brahman, My nature is the Buddha nature). In all the above cases, the idea is that the dualistic paradigm, as outlined above, is a total fiction.
Deconstructing the (false) dualistic-paradigm
Now, if you look at the above paragraph, you can see several related methodologies emerging, all of which work slightly differently to produce the same end results of deconstructing the (false) dualistic conceptual paradigm:
1) Denial of the seeker/sought or subject/object duality
2) Resolving/merging all into the seeker/subject
3) Resolving/merging all into that which is sought/the goal. This is another way of stating that the goal one is seeking is already fully here and already one with everything.
4) Equating the seeker/subject with the sought/goal
In the methodological path of Vedanta, we can see all these methods in operation. Here are some examples:
1) ‘There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.’ We find this verse repeated in the Upanishads (Amritabindu Upanishad 10 and Atma Upanishad 2.31) and it is also repeated by Gaudapada (Mandukya Karika 2.32) and Shankara (Vivekachudamani verse 574) in their writings.
2) In Vivekachudamani, verse 356, Shankara writes: Those alone are free from the bondage of transmigration who, attaining Samadhi, have merged the objective world, the sense-organs, the mind, nay, the very ego, in the Atman [the self, ie. merged everything into the subject], the Knowledge Absolute – and none else, who but dabble in second-hand talks.
3) ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’ is a vedic mahavakya (great saying) taken from the Chandogya Upanishad (verse 3.14.1) which means ‘All of this is Brahman’, Brahman being the goal being sought.
4) ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ is another mahavakya, this time from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (verse 1.14.10) which means ‘I (the subject) am Brahman (the goal sought)’.
In other teachings, we see one or more of these methods of deconstruction of the dualistic paradigm, but we can also see that some teachings focus in on only one of the 4 above methods. eg. some teachings focus on stating there is no limited entity (1) or all this is already perfectly liberated and nothing needs to be done (3). You see, any single method, taken all the way to its logical end, reaches the same goal, and the teachings themselves self-deconstruct. Only the words used differ.
Why do and must the teachings eventually self-deconstruct? Because they too are part of the dualistic paradigm, the paradigm that presupposes a seeker-seeking-sought triad or seeker-sought dyad.
Doctrines and dogma
However, if the teachings are not taken to their final end, in which they eventually self-deconstruct, then the seeker may be left with a belief such as ‘there is no seeker’. We can term these beliefs dogma or doctrines. They are concepts mimicking a genuine ‘direct realisation of non-duality’. One person may believe ‘I am everything’ while another person believes ‘there is nobody here’. One person may believe there is no path, no seeker, no enlightenment, while another may state the only way is to merge all phenomenal objects into the Self-Subject. Now, armed with merely superficial concepts, we can argue about which of these doctrines or dogmas is true. Now we have a group of various false selves, all caught up within the (fictional) dualistic paradigm.
Such are the various traps of conceptual teachings when the teaching itself is not realised to be within the dualistic paradigm. Clinging to the words without the genuine realisation they point to means that the menu becomes more important than the meal.
A truly non-dual teaching?
So we can see that ALL teachings are dualistic, even the so-called non-teachings, and ALL teachings utilize fictions, at least initially, and your favourite non-dual teaching is no exception!
It’s just a matter of degree: some teachings are far less dualistic than others and point the way out directly and efficiently, which doesn’t necessarily mean they are better teachings, whereas others take a different route, which actually may be more helpful than the more direct teachings at certain points on the journey.
-Pointing out teachings or descriptions of what-is and teaching of any kind all imply duality. What is being pointed out (subject), and to whom (object)? Non-duality doesn’t need a teaching.
-To compare different teachings to each other is dualistic.
-To call one teaching truly non-dual and another dualistic is itself dualistic and relativistic, obviously.
Not that there is anything wrong with apparent duality!
So either ALL teachings/expressions/non-teachings are dualistic….or alternatively one could say that ALL teachings are essentially non-dualistic, as non-duality is all there ‘is’!
To have it any other way would be dualistic, and duality is a fiction!
Another way of putting is that there are not really lots of different teachers and teachings at all – although that is how it may appear from within the fictional dualistic paradigm – there is only Oneness Being ❤
Many claim that to advise any kind of practice is to reinforce the ego and duality, and is therefore a dualistic expression. Now there is much truth in this. However to use the same logic against itself, isn’t this in itself a duality, distinguishing between dualistic and nondualistic expressions?
Ask yourself, what is more important to you: concepts of duality/nonduality or the cessation of suffering?
Ultimately the ‘truth’, so to speak, is not to be found in concepts of any kind, and is not really truth at all but simply the end of suffering.
Many expressions can help towards this end, both so-called dualistic and nondualistic expressions. To think otherwise is to artificially restrict yourself and close yourself to the endless variety of ways life teaches and guides us home – the home we never really left – you could even say the home we always already ARE.
While there is nothing wrong with discussing teachings (it can appear to be very helpful depending on where the seeker is – although a duality is also implied in the very discussion) – to argue endlessly about conceptual teachings often implies an egotism that is attached to certain expressions (ie. teachings), and this too can be an unhealthy source of egotism and suffering.
So if you find yourself tangled up in teachings and seeking, a suggestion is to simply relax and be as you are, free from worry, free to worry.