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’. Give the first part of the verse which says not to be attentive to anything, this implies that through not being attentive to any particular thing and remaining still, but by remaining aware, that is ‘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 focussed 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 alredy 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 throught 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 ourwardly 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.

Advertisements

Poetry: Unplug Yourself

unplug.jpg
Unplug yourself:
For the one caught,
Hard and fast,
In the snare of society,
A period of sustained abstinence is necessary.

Unplug yourself:
From the media
From television
The radio.

Unplug yourself:
From naratives
In films
In books
In magazines.

Unplug yourself:
From idle chatter
From gossip
From social status.

Don’t believe the Hype.
Don’t believe the promise of a future happiness,
That lies outside of yourself,
Just around the corner,
In that Ferari,
In that person,
In that experience,
In that object.

Let go,
Let go of egoic desire,
Let go of that future promise of pleasure,
Let go of the pull of sensual desire,
Do not be afraid to feel that pain.

Be open,
Be open to your feelings,
Do not be afraid to think your thoughts,
Do not be afraid of what is.

Unplug yourself:
For the one caught,
Hard and fast,
In the snare of society,
A period of sustained abstinence is necessary.

Unplug yourself:
from your thoughts and mind.
This is the real unplugging:
Being unplugged from thoughts and mind.

I repeat:
This is the real unplugging:
Being unplugged from thoughts and mind.

Immerse yourself in Pure Consciousness,
Devoid of Mind, Body and World,
Ever-Free,
Joyous,
Full of love and light.

Remain here,
Until what has to be done,
Is done.

Remain here,
in Lovingness and Light,
Until what has to be done,
Is done.

The ugly duckling didn’t need to become a swan. It was already a swan.

swan reflection

The ugly duckling didn’t need to become a swan. It was already a swan.

Contemplate the following points:

  • Freedom is here already. Totally here. (You don’t need to achieve it)
  • No separate doer-entity is already the case. (You don’t need to remove anything)
  • Awareness already accepts everything that happens within it and is already unattached from objects/untouched by objects. (You do not need to let go)
  • Awareness, in our direct experience, is ever-present and constant. It is the essence of who we are (experientially speaking). (This is the basis of emotional security: all emotions come and go but our essence remains untouched).
  • Reliance upon (limited) objects to give lasting happiness results in inevitable suffering. (There is no need to compulsively chase subtle or gross objects)

Look, investigate, and see things as they are.

Various teachings can help you along the way, but in essence, what more needs to be done?

Note, it can take time for all this to be seen, and thankfully for the seeker, there are a set of teachings that can guide one through this process. I call these ‘the structured teachings’, and it forms the basis of the way I share this message. Please see tomdas.com/events for further information or the video below for an introduction.

Q. I find I am unable to practice genuine acceptance in my life. Lots of resistance keeps on coming up. Can you help?

Tom: Practicing acceptance is a powerful teaching, but ultimately if you think this is about accepting or not-resisting, then you are identified with the body-mind entity, as it is the mind that accepts or resists.

See this: acceptance and resistance are both objects that appear spontaneously to you. There is no need to change anything, no need to accept or reject, no need to imagine there is a separate doer-self there.

What is, is. Simple.

Q. Does the ego really disappear with Self-Realisation?

Usually in eastern traditions the word ego is a translation of the Sanskrit word Ahamkara*, which refers solely to the (false) belief in doership and not the personality or decision-making apparatus in the mind.

It is the belief in doership that goes with enlightenment or self-realisation, not the personality or decision-making apparatus.

Hence it is perfectly right to say the ego is no longer present in one who has realised.

(*Aham = I, kara = do)

​POETRY: TAKE A REST, MY FRIEND

crimea-998539_1920

Turn away from thought.

Turn away from that web of chatter,
from that activity of apparent separation and all the existential pain it brings.

Turn away from all that self-imposed suffering.

Rest a while, my friend:
You deserve it, you deserve that much.

Take a rest…
…be that space in which all things appear but on which nothing leaves a mark.
know yourself as that.

(you are already that)

Shankara’s way to Enlightenment, with verses from Atma Bodha

Atma Bodha is a short text attributed to Shakara and was written approximately 1400 years ago. It literally means ‘Self Knowledge’ (atma = self, bodha = understanding or knowledge) and it outlines a methodology to lead a seeker from suffering to liberation. Incidentally, bodha is the same root word that forms the word Buddha, which means ‘the one who knows or understands’.

It comprises a class of scriptures called prakarana granthas. Prakarana means ‘procedure’ or ‘task’ and grantha means ‘text’. Taken together prakarana grantha means ‘instruction manual’. These instruction manuals were written for those who do not have the capacity or time to read the voluminous traditional texts such as the vedas and upanishads or for those who were looking for a synopsis of their vedantic studies, and so give us a summary teaching which we can practically apply to our lives.

Ramana Maharshi thought this text important enough to translate it from Sanskrit to Tamil so that Tamil-speaking locals who could not understand Sanskrit could still benefit from its teachings. In his introduction to his translation, Ramana describes Shankara as the one who brings forth enlightenment. Similarly in the Inchegarei Sampradaya, the lineage to which Nisargadatta Maharaj belonged, Shankara is considered an enlightened sage and his writings are studied as a matter of course.

Below are some selected quotes from Shankara’s Atma Bodha. We will see how in these quotes the basic methodology (after the entry criteria for this teaching are briefly alluded to) is:

1) Firstly viveka, or distinguishing between what is Brahman and what is not. Brahman is identified as the unchanging subject and the world of objects (ie. the body, mind and world) is said to be not-Brahman. This is an artificial duality that is temporarily set up in order to counter and remove the deeply ingrained belief in the doer-entity or ego (ahamkara). We will see how this duality is later resolved into non-duality and furthermore into non-conceptuality.

2) Once the subject-object distinction (viveka) has been properly made then this knowledge or understanding is to be practised. This is done by the practise of identification with the subject, Brahman, and turning away from the phenomena that arise in our awareness.

3) Eventually, after long practice of this, the doer-entity that we once took ourselves to be is seen to be an illusion. This ignorance is removed.

4) Once the doer-entity is seen to be unreal, then the interpretive notions of subject and object can also be done away with. Having completed their purpose, the concepts of subject and object are also seen to be false beliefs and are allowed to fall away.

5) Everything is ‘resolved into Brahman’, not literally, but in the way we label reality. Before, at the first step of viveka,  the unchanging subject was considered Brahman/Atman and the changing world of objects (the mind, body and world) were said to be not-Brahman/Atman. Now ignorance is removed, everything is seen to be Brahman and the duality set up by viveka is removed.

6) Eventually we stop needing to label reality at all. What we are left with is just this, this present experience, devoid of concepts of self or reality or even Brahman. So simple, so direct, how can it be put into words?

Verse 5. The knowledge [I am Brahman], when unceasingly practiced, drives out all ignorance, then itself disappears.

Shankara - the knowledge then itself disappears

37. The mental impression ‘I am Brahman’, created by ceaseless practice, destroys ignorance and the resultant suffering, just as medicine destroys disease.

Shankara - I am Brahman destroys ignorance (1)

41. There are no distinctions such as ‘Knower’, the ‘Knowledge’ and the ‘Object of Knowledge’ in the Supreme Self

Shankara- there are no distinctions in the Supreme Self.

64. All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else

Shankara- All that is perceived is Brahman and nothing else

Am I the body? Am I not the body?

This post is continued from a prior post: Integrating knowledge, spontaneous action

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?

Tom: Yes!

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.

 

Integrating the understanding of no-doer

This post follows on from my previous post: Why seeing/understanding alone may not be enough

This understanding of no doer may initially take time to become embedded, and you may have to ‘practice’ it to start with. It’s just like many other forms of knowledge:

Take the example of a child learning his (or her) name. At first he doesn’t know his name. Upon his parents repeating his name to him multiple times, he finally starts to realise that his name is ‘Tom’. Maybe at first he forgets his name a few times and doesn’t respond when someone calls him. After sometime it becomes ingrained and embedded into his mind and he no longer has to think about it.

Eventually he can’t help but know his name. When someone calls out ‘Tom’, he automatically knows someone is calling him, whether he  like it or not.

It’s the same with the understanding ‘there is no doer’. Initially the understanding may be a bit shaky, but after sometime, after repeated practice, after going through the logic behind it a few times and seeing the truth of it, it becomes more ingrained. Eventually it becomes effortless as knowing your name.

To be continued in my next post: Problems with utilising conceptual tools