Objection: The assumption that thought is an actual thing and that thought has a source, arises only in the realm of imaginary separation. There is, by definition, no way to determining the imaginary source of an imaginary thing.
Tom: Whilst it is true that thought is ultimately an illusion, and trying to get rid of thought is also more of the same illusion, there is a logical flaw in this objection, as follows: thoughts may be imaginary, but that does not mean their source is imaginary. Fiction or imagination can have a real source. The teaching is to locate that Source (the Self) and abide there in Pure Being, which is devoid of thought, until the tendency to imagine duality (ie. thought) ceases.
Here are two quotes to illustrate the above points, one from Sri Shankara, and one from Sri Ramana:
‘The binding, and the getting rid of bondage, are both mirages. The belief that bondage of the Real, is, and the belief that it has ceased, are both mere things of thought‘
~Sri Shankara, Vivekachudamani verses 571 and 572
‘All doubts will cease only when the doubter and his source have been found. There is no use removing doubts. If we clear one doubt, another doubt will arise and there will be no end of doubts.‘
(Here a questioner asks are there not many jivas? Sri Ramana informs the questioner there is only one jiva)
A question was asked why it was wrong to say that there is a multiplicity of jivas. Jivas are certainly many. For a jiva is only the ego and forms the reflected light of the Self. Multiplicity of selves may be wrong but not of jivas.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Jiva is called so because he sees the world. A dreamer sees many jivas in a dream but all of them are not real. The dreamer alone exists and he sees all. So it is with the individual and the world.
There is the creed of only one Self which is also called the creed of only one jiva*. It says that the jiva is only one who sees the whole world and the jivas therein.
*Tom: This is called the doctrine of eka jiva vada (the view there is only a single jiva/ego/person). Our own body-mind, and the body-mind of apparent others are all projections of the Self. Like a dream, it appears we are many, but actually this entire dream world is an illusion, and there is only the Dreamer, the Self, the Consciousness from which all is projected. Tat Tvam Asi, You are That.
The above is an excerpt taken from this longer post that further explores this theme:
Guru Ramana Vachana Mala is a small but wonderful text that concisely and accurately summarises the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. It also clarifies areas of the teaching that may not be otherwise clear for the seeker. It also summarises the essential Vedanta teachings, as per verse 3 of the text.
The text consists of 349 selected verses compiled together by Sri K. Lakshmana Sarma (who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Who?’), who was not only intimate with Sri Ramana’s teachings, but also a scholar in Vedantic studies and also fluent in the Tamil, Sanskrit and English languages. The verses are helpfully organised by topic and about 300 of these verses are taken from the text Guru Vachaka Kovai which is widely thought of as being an authoritative text on Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings.
Whilst the verses in Guru Ramana Vachana Mala do not go into great detail on the method of Self-Enquiry compared to other recommended texts, they are very illuminating nonetheless and give great clarity on areas of the teaching that may otherwise not be clear for the seeker. I therefore highly recommend this book, but I also recommend that you read this together another of the recommended texts pertaining to Sri Ramana, such as The Path of Sri Ramana which explains the process of Self-Enquiry in greater detail.
Sri Lakshmana Sarma was in close contact with Sri Ramana Maharshi for over 20 years and was also good friends with Sri Muruganar (who wrote Guru Vachaka Kovai). He was also one of only two people who received private tuition by Sri Ramana Maharshi on the teachings (the other person was Muruganar) and he was known for constantly checking his understanding of the teachings with Sri Ramana to ensure that his understanding was accurate.
These above factors, together with the fact that this text was first published during Sri Ramana’s lifetime means we can be confident that the teachings presented here are true to Sri Ramana’s vision.
‘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.
Tom: Some people say that with liberation there is no difference, no actual change that happens, that there is no difference between ‘someone’ who is liberated and ‘someone’ who isn’t. (I have put ‘someone’ in quotes as with liberation the very notion of a separate ‘someone’ who can attain liberation is itself dissolved, as we shall see below)
Here is an examples of something I recently saw on Facebook. It was a post from someone who I presume is a a non-duality teacher, followed by someone elses reflections on that post. I then gave my 2 cents on the end, which I hope provide some clarity. What do you think?
Question: So, there’s no difference between someone who’s heard about non-duality and someone who has not?
Response from the non-duality teacher: There’s no difference. Every human, every animal, every tree is the same aliveness. Not one is more than another. Not one knows something more than another. There’s an appearance of knowing something, like how computers work or science is. This, is the freedom from needing to know what freedom is. Sitting here saying that it’s all freedom is not knowledge; it’s not something in the brain that knows that it’s knowledge, it’s obvious. It’s what is happening. When you see water, you don’t have to know that its water, it’s obvious. It’s not coming out of a stream of time. Because you can’t find where it appears from.
Someone else then wrote their reflection on the above as follows:
The idea that people who speak about nonduality possess some rare understanding unknown to the average person is a great myth. This message is not about someone who gains some special insight, knowledge, or awareness. It is not about some heretofore hidden sense or perception that becomes switched on to reveal a penetrating understanding of reality that others seek their whole lives to find.Rather, this is simply, as X says, “the freedom from needing to know what freedom is.” This aliveness is no more alive in any appearance; nothing is higher or lower, more or less evolved, for nothing is separate. The wondrous impossibility of understanding replaces the quest for answers, and yet even seeking is simply this, only life happening just as it appears, any way at all.
I (Tom) then made some comments on the above as follows:
1) Isn’t the difference that in freedom there is a falling away of the ingrained belief that ‘I am a separate limited person’? So there is a change, and that change is the falling away/dissolving of a false-limited belief that causes suffering? If so, then there is a difference! It’s just that this difference is not new knowledge or something new to obtain, but the removal of false knowledge/false beliefs and illusions (ie. removal of ignorance).
2) Note, contrary to the above, many people already do not care to know what freedom is, so they are ‘free from needing to know what freedom is’ already! But that is not liberation per se. Because ‘they’ have the (false & suffering-causing) belief ‘I am a limited body-mind entity’, they suffer accordingly.
So, that’s my view. What do you think? Have I got it right, or is there more to it?
Here is what could be a very useful video – it explains why some teachings work, meaning it explains why some teachings are more effective at bringing about a lasting realisation, and why some don’t:
Here Sri Ramana not only outlines how we can discover for ourselves the truth of the world, but also he succinctly outlines the path to liberation:
If, on the contrary, you withdraw your mind completely from the world and turn it within and abide thus, that is, if you keep awake always to the Self, which is the substratum of all experience, you will find the world, of which alone you are now aware, just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream.