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’.
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.
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 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) or temporary feeling states (for the body-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.
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.’
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.
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?’. 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.