Manifesting awakening in everyday life: purification and insight

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Question: In my experience, waking up is a preliminary step. The real work happens in manifesting that awakening in everyday life, and that is the most difficult part. Otherwise, there is a disconnect between the awakened state and everyday experience. What do you think?

Tom: In my experience it depends on the way awakening happens. I think what you call awakening, I call insight. What you call manifesting in everyday life, I call purification post-insight. Insight refers to seeing through the illusion of separation and doership and no longer believing happiness lies in gross or subtle objects. Purification refers to a process in which the habitual tendencies that are based on ignorance (ie. a lack of insight or belief in separation and seeking to derive happiness from objects) are let go of and removed.

The essential insight(s), once realised, doesn’t change, but the habitual thought patterns, behaviours and felt levels of suffering do change, and they change gradually over time for most people. Insight is like seeing something that is already here but was overlooked. It can occur like a flash, and when seen, it is realised that things were always this way but it just wasn’t acknowledged or understood to be so.

Purification is different. It is a process, one that takes time as the body-mind catches up with the insight. Purification can occur both prior to and after insight, but is generally only able to be complete once insight has occurred. In Vedanta this process is what is usually meant by the Sanskrit term nididhyansana.

However, purification is not necessarily the most difficult part – that varies from individual to individual, depending on how purified their minds were prior to insight occurring and the context of the awakening. For some it can be a very natural unfolding of the insight that occurs by itself and without prompting. For others it can be quite a difficult process in which a more formalised sadhana has to be continued in order to weed out the vasanas/habitual tendencies that are based on the root ignorance of separation and looking for happiness is objects.

This purification can also be seen as a process by which morality is instilled into the body-mind and through which ethical behaviour manifests. When the egoic I-centred tendencies fall away or are rooted out by post-insight sadhana, then what results is a naturally more ethical body-mind entity.

Either way, I do acknowledge this post-insight process is an important part of the spiritual path, and without it, in my view, the awakening/enlightenment is not complete.

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

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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.

Poetry: Unplug Yourself

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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

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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