Non-duality, Self-Realisation and the appearance of the world | Sri Sadhu Om

The following is taken from the wonderful text Sadhanai Saram written by Sri Sadhu Om. My comments are in italiscised red:

Duality only appears due to a lack of self-enquiry:

  1. Know that the world, soul and God have all seemingly come into existence only because of our pramada or slackness in Self-attention.

It is the unreal and illusory ego that sees the (illusory and unreal) world:

  1. The entire universe composed of the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space, appears only due to our error of mistaking as ‘I’ the ego that rises from Self like a spark rising from fire, and which appears as different from Self whose nature is Being, and as identical with the mind, whose nature is rising.

Self-enquiry ends the ego illusion and duality:

  1. The entire appearance of this world that is seen, including we (the individual or jiva) who see it, is a mere false appearance like a dream. If we keenly scrutinize the source (the real ‘I am’) from which the seeing ego rises, and thereby enter the heart and firmly abide there, the reality will shine forth (and the appearance of the triad – the seer, seeing and object seen – will disappear).

There is no desire or fear in the Self (or in Self-realisation), both of these being due to ignorance/ego or illusion:

  1. If we attain the otherness-free knowledge (ananya jnana), that this world is nothing but our own Self, seen wrongly in our self by our self through our power of imagination, then the delusion of desire for or fear of the world (the objects we see in front of us), will never rise again; and we will merge in and become one with Self. This alone is our natural state.

The formless Self alone exists:

  1. Self alone exists. Except oneself, nothing exists. But if one takes this pure consciousness, which exists and shines as ‘I’ to be the body, every thing will assume a form and appear to exist. If one inquires, “Is this ‘I’ only the body, or is it something else?” and thereby sees the true nature of “I,” every thing will cease to exist. See thus.

A summary and reiteration of what has been stated above:

  1. If you ask, “For what reason is it said, that if one inquires and knows oneself, this entire world would disappear?” The reason is that the result at tained by the inquiry “Who am I?” is the destruction of the unreal individual (jiva), the ego, who is immersed in activity due to his taking the body to be himself. (That is, since the entire world-appearance depends for its seeming existence upon the ego who sees it, and since the ego itself has no real existence of its own, when the real ‘I’ is known, the ego will be found to be truly non-existent; where upon, the world-appearance will vanish, having no one to see it and thereby to give it a seeming exis tence).

The false ‘I’ is the ego, also known as maya. Enquire into the ‘I’, that is, do self-enquiry, and this illusion will vanish, along with the body, the mind and the world. Compare to Revelation Verse 31.

  1. The ‘I’ which cannot shine without being joined with a body-form, is alone the ghost-like ego ‘I’, the great illusion (maya). If one courageously and without fear inquires, “Who is this I?” it will become non-existent, and along with it everything else will cease to exist.

  1. If this ‘I’ the self-rising ego-appearance, is destroyed by the inquiry “Who am I?”, then everything else, which till then appeared only in him (in the mind) but which was seen as if existing outside of him, will cease to exist. The ever-existing Whole or purna, which then shines forth as ‘I-I’ the blissful existence which neither appears nor disappears, is the real Self, the true import of the word ‘I’.

The true Self does not come and go, unlike the body and mind and world:

  1. The ‘I’ which is the Whole, which is the true import of ‘I’, which shines by its own light without appearing due to the functioning of the five sense-knowledges (and disappearing when they cease to function); which is the exalted and ever unleaving experience of Self, and which is the true nature of everyone, alone is the one non-dual reality; it alone is true knowledge.

The true nature of Jnana (knowledge) is simply the Self. The Self is itself the nature of Knowledge.

  1. This true knowledge is not anything other than oneself; it is our own existence-consciousness ‘I am’. Why should we suffer by imagining and seeing the soul [Jiva or ego], world and God in this knowledge? Abiding firmly as mere Being, experience this knowledge correctly; then what thing other than oneself will appear there?

True destruction of maya/duality occurs with destruction of the ego:

  1. The destruction of the entire universe together with the space and other elements that constitute it is not the state of absolute destruction (pralaya). The state in which the wicked ego, which rises in the form of the feeling “This body of flesh is I” (abhimana), drowns in Self and is destroyed entirely, is alone the glorious state of absolute destruction (maha-pralaya).

  1. After being destroyed in the ordinary destruction at the end of an eon (yuga-pralaya), the heaven and earth will appear again at the proper time. The state in which the Fire of Knowledge (Jnanagni), which blazes forth on being ignited as the churning process of investigation “Who am I?” pervades and shines everywhere, having destroyed the feeling, “I am this body” (dehatma-buddhi), is alone the absolute destruction (maha-pralaya); be cause the ego, which is thus destroyed by the Fire of Knowledge (Jnana) will never appear again.

  1. The “I,” which continues to live even after the mind has died (as a result of the above said inquiry “Who am I?”) is indeed the Supreme Reality (Brahman), which alone exists after the universal destruction (pralaya). The mind expanding as everything, having risen from the heart (that is, the mind slipping down from the true state of Brahman due to inadvertence or lack of Self-attention (pramada), and thereby becoming the cause for the creation and sustenance of the false appearance of this en tire universe), is not the state of true power; the mind merging and abiding firmly in Self is alone the true state of supreme power.

Note by Sri Sadhu Om: The supreme and truly divine power is not the power of the mind (maya), which creates and sustains the false appearance of the universe, but is only the power of Self-abidance, which reveals the truth that illusion (maya) is ever non-existent.

The cause of duality and of liberation:

  1. Your appearance as an ego, an individual soul who rises in the form “I am this body,” alone is the root-cause for the appearance of this unreal world. If this root-appearance, the rising of yourself as an individual soul, does not rise even in the least, that state will be the state of liberation, which is completely devoid of the imaginary appearances of the world and God.

  1. If one has the ability to deny oneself and thereby to destroy the rising of the ego in its very source, what other tapas need one perform? The real Self, the source in which the ego thus subsides and dies, alone is the state which is worth to purchase and attain by selling (or renouncing) all the three worlds.

Grace & Liberation | How the ego can use ‘Grace’ as an ego-preservation strategy

For other articles I have written on the role of Grace in liberation please see here.

I have seen that the idea that Liberation is all down to grace is often an ego-preservation strategy and excuse for the mind not to engage with the actual liberating teaching and practice.

Great sages like Sri Ramana always emphasised the need to listen to the Guru’s teaching and do the practice suggested as it is this which leads to liberation. Otherwise suffering continues indefinitely.

Teachings such as ‘no need to practice as all is already one’ and ‘no need to do anything as there is no-one to do anything’ just allow the present ignorance and suffering to continue unabated. These types of teachings give temporary relief at best, with the sense of individuality & suffering reasserting itself as the root ignorance has not been fully destroyed.

Grace is always here. Grace simply means the ever-present unchanging Self. We (the jiva or ego) must turn towards the Self to ‘activate’ Grace. The Self or Grace then does the last part by finally destroying the ego (the illusory sense of individuality), hence it is said ‘Liberation arises through Grace’, but we must turn within towards the Self first.

This is what Bhagavan Sri Ramana said again and again.

Otherwise it is just the ego-mind saying ‘all is one’, etc, etc, whilst the suffering and the sense of duality continues.

The perfect awakening into Self-knowledge happens in just a split second | Ramana Maharshi

The following is taken from Sadhana Saram, a wonderful text that explains the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi written by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Sri Ramana’s:

48. The Manner of the Dawn of Knowledge (Janodaya Vidham)

268. Death happens in a split second. Awakening from sleep happens in a split second. Similarly, the destruction of the delusion of individuality happens in just a split second. True knowledge is not something that can be gained and then lost. If a person feels that true knowledge is coming and going, he is still only in the state of practice (or abhyasa). It cannot be said that such a person has attained true Self-knowledge.

The perfect awakening into the state of Self-knowledge happens in just a split second. That state is not attained gradually over a long period of time. All the sadhanas that are practiced over a period of many years are meant only for attaining blemishless maturity.

Listen to an apt illustration. After people have placed gunpowder in the iron barrel of a temple-cannon, after they have added broken pieces of brick, after they have packed it tight with a ramrod, after they have placed a wick in contact with the powder, and after they have plastered the open end of the barrel with clay, as soon as the charge is ignited it will explode in a split second with a blast that sounds like thunder.

Similarly, after one has learnt the truth about the real Self through hearing and reading, after one has practiced sadhana for a long time, after one has wept and prayed with heart-melting devotion, and after one has thereby attained purity of mind, the knowledge of the reality will instantaneously shine forth in a split second as “I am I”. As soon as the dawn of Self-knowledge thus takes place, due to the clear shining of the reality of this state, which is an empty space devoid of objective knowledge, will be spontaneously realized to be the state of true knowledge, which is our beginningless real nature.

Should I get married & have kids or renounce the world and concentrate on Liberation? Self-Realisation

In this video Tom responds to a question whether to get married and have kids or stay single and concentrate on attaining liberation. Tom warns us to beware of the mind racing towards liberation, which can be egoic.

This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das and put together by volunteers.

To attend satsang, see here: https://tomdas.com/events/

For ‘guided meditation’ playlist see here: https://www.youtube.com/c/TomDasNonduality/playlist/

For recommended reading for liberation see here: https://tomdas.com/2020/10/19/recommended-reading-books-for-enlightenment-liberation-and-self-realisation/

To book a 1 to 1 session with Tom see here: https://tomdas.com/nondual-spiritual-counsellor/

Q. What is ego?

Q. What is ego?

Tom: if there is any sense of individuality whatsoever, then that is ego; if there is any sense or something apart or outside of you, then that is ego; if there is any sense of multiplicity, that is ego; if there is any notion ‘I am the body-mind’, then that is ego. The ego, no matter how refined, is suffering. The ego is the body-mind-world appearance.

In Reality, there has never been any ego, there has never been any duality or multiplicity, there has never been any suffering whatsoever. Reality is only Infinite Love & Bliss, Infinite Being-Consciousness, Formless-Spirit-Bliss.

To realise this one must turn within.

Furthermore:

To say ‘there is no ego’ without turning within and dissolving into Reality – that is merely the ego-mind saying ‘there is no ego’.

To say ‘all is One’ without venturing inwards and discovering the Self (by Being That) – that is merely the ego-mind saying ‘all is One’.

In this way (through not turning within, through not inquiring into the Subject-Self) ego-mind-suffering-duality continue.

Hence the instruction to turn within.

Furthermore:

The true teachings always emphasise the Subject (Reality or Self) and to turn towards and discover That, whereas false teachings emphasise objects, stating things like ‘all these objects are already That so no need to turn within’ and ‘there already is no ego so no need to turn within for what entity could even turn within?’. So egotism, duality and suffering are perpetuated.

Therefore turn within and discover what you truly are

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Advaita Vedanta – all thoughts must go! The need to still the mind and end all thinking according to the Upanishads and Shankara’s commentaries | Nirvikalpa Samadhi

There are so many verses both in the Upanishads and in Shankara’s commentaries which state that all thoughts must be extinguished for liberation to occur. Here are some of these verses (and there are many many more!):

(Note I have not included the numerous verses from Shankara’s text called Vivekachudamani which repeatedly advocates the thoughtless state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi which can be found in a separate post here)

When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the Supreme State [Brahma-Vidya or Self Knowledge]
~Katha Upanishad 2.3.10

Shankara’s commentary on this above verse (Katha Upanishad, verse 2.3.10) states the following:

‘At the time when the five senses…, together with the mind…, which is now no longer functioning and thinking, are at rest in the Self alone, after turning away from objects, and with the intellect…no longer engaging with its functioning, that they call the highest state [Brahma-Vidya or Self-Knowledge].’

This is reminiscent of the Amritabindu Upanishad and also of the Adhyatma Upanishad, both of which are considered to be traditional Upanishads in the Advaita Vedanta/ Jnana tradition:

The mind severed from all connection with sensual objects, and prevented from functioning out, awakes into the light of the heart, and finds the highest condition. The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth.
~ Amritabindu Upanishad

The knot of the ignorance in the heart is broken completely only when one sees his Self as secondless through Nirvikalpa Samadhi
~Adhyatama Upanishad 1.17

Gaudapada writes in verse 3.38 of his Mandukya Karika:

There can be no acceptance or rejection where all mentation stops. Then knowledge is established in the Self and is unborn, and it becomes homogenous

Shankara’s commentary on this verse 3.38 is as follows:

…therefore there is no rejection or acceptance in It, where thought does not exist. That is to say, how can there be rejection or acceptance where no mentation is possible in the absence of the mind? As soon as there comes the realisation of the Truth that is the Self, then, in the absence of any object, knowledge (Jnanam) is established in the Self, like the heat of fire in fire. It is then birthless (ajati) and becomes homogenous.

‘…when the mind becomes quiescent and does not give rise to appearances, it verily becomes Brahman
~ Gaudapada, Mandukya Upanishad Karika 3.46

Shankara clarifies this further in his commentary on Mandukya Karika 3.46:

‘When the mind brought under discipline by the above-mentioned methods, does not fall into the oblivion of deep sleep, nor is distracted by external objects, that is to say, when the mind becomes quiescent like the flame of a light kept in a windless place; or when the mind does not appear in the form of an object – when the mind is endowed with these characteristics, it verily becomes one with Brahman.’

Anandagiri, a 13th century commentator on Shankara’s works, confirms this in his comments on Karika 3.46:
‘The external objects are nothing but the activities of the mind itself.’

So we can see that mind activity and external objects are one and the same, and that samadhi is devoid of both

The knowers of Brahman say that absolute Jnanam, knowledge, which is akalpakam [devoid of thoughts], and is therefore ajam, birthless…
~ Shankara’s commentary on Gaudapada Karika 3.33

This duality as a whole, that is mano-drsyam, perceived by the mind; is nothing but the mind, which is itself imagined – this is the proposition [Tom: ie. meaning of the verse]. For duality endures so long as the mind does, and disappears with the disappearance of the mind.
~ Shankara’s commentary on Gaudapada Karika 3.31

It has been said that when the mind is divested of ideation by virtue of the realisation of Truth that is Brahman, and when there is an absence of external objects (of perception), it becomes tranquil, controlled, and withdrawn, like fire that has no fuel. And it has further been said that when the mind thus ceases to be mind, duality also disappears.
~ Shankara’s commentary on Gaudapada Karika 3.33

‘The controlled mind is verily the fearless Brahman
~Gaudapada Karika 3.35

On p.149 of The Method of Vedanta by SSS, SSS quotes from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita to explain in more detail the method of Nididhyasana, as follows:

‘That yoga should certainly be practised with resolute mind. Giving up without exception all desires that come from individual, will, restraining the sense-organs on every side through the mind, one should gradually withdraw from all activity, with will and intellect firmly controlled; keeping the mind fixed on the Self, one should not think of anything. Wherever the fickle mind wanders, one should bring it back and fix it on the Self alone, under firm control. Supreme joy comes to such a yogi, whose mind is at perfect peace, whose lusts have subsided, who is sinless and who has become the Absolute.’

I thought I would end with Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s view of the scriptures and their purpose:

All the jnana scriptures that teach the way to redemption proclaim in unison that restraining and stilling the mind is the best means for liberation. This is also emphasised by jnanis. If, after a certain amount of study, one knows this to be the inner purport of the scriptures, one should then direct ones whole effort towards that [practice]. What is the use of continuously studying more and more scriptures without doing this?
~Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 141

Also see:

How can the Jnani (sage) function with NO THOUGHTS? Sri Ramana Maharshi

Does stillness of mind lead to liberation?

The ‘ultimate means’ to liberation

A very useful teaching: Structural and Dynamic (or functional) aspects of the ego | Liberation

This is a very useful teaching for those seeking spiritual liberation. I also have written about this here in this article: Essential teachings for liberation: we need a ‘double teaching’ as we suffer from ‘double ignorance’| The ‘two wings’ of the teaching | Buddhism | Vedanta

A joyful spiritual practice for liberation: ‘Genuine Spiritual Feeling’

Just to have and allow ‘genuine spiritual feeling’, just this is enough. If attended to and nurtured, if allowed to naturally deepen of its own accord, it will, in its own time and own way, overcome you with Love, destroying you, revealing All to be Divine Oneness-Love-Happiness-Bliss, your Own True Nature.

Like a tiny mustard seed that grows to overcome great city walls, simply by nuturing this ‘spiritual feeling’ or ‘connection with the Divine’, the vast ocean of duality is transcended, in time, effortlessly and with joy, without one even caring for concepts such as Spiritual Practice, Spritual Progress, Liberation or Non-duality.

Beware to those who are stuck in the prison-house of concepts: those who cling to concepts of duality and non-duality, concepts doing and non-doing, concepts oneness and many – these people remain trapped in a prison of their own making, endlessly chattering to themselves, ignoring the Vast Open Fertile Pastures of Love that lie in their very midst.

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That which perceives the limited body-mind is itself the Unlimited. Growing more and more still, feeling more and more Love, following your Heart within, Infinite Truth-Reality-Oneness-Bliss is gently revealed as your Own Being

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To simply have ‘spritual feeling’ moment by moment, to have this ‘spiritual connection’ of joy and love every day, whenever we remember, and to allow it to deepen of its own accord – this is a wonderful, intuitive & joyful way of effacing the ego and allowing the Divine Within that is All-Emcompassing Love and our Own True Nature to blossom, flower and bloom.

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Those overly reliant on intellectual arguments, scriptures and concepts will never connect to the true Spiritual Way which shines from Within* with Wholeness, Oneness and Love.

We must leave behind the barren field of words to discover the fertile pastures of the Divine that is All-Embracing Love.

(*’Within’ here just means you don’t have to go anywhere ‘outside’ to find it and that it is not dependent on any particular object of perception that arises or falls)

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What is ‘Spiritual Feeling’? It is simply to feel good, wholesome, happy, connected. It is to connect with Presence. It is an Openness and Gentle Surrender to Life and Love and God and Self.

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Question: But I thought the practice of Self-Enquiry is that of Self-Attention or Awareness Watching Awareness and for that we need to turn away from objects towards the Subject-Self. How does this fit in?

Tom: This simple practice of allowing Natural Spiritual Feeling to arise by itself will take you everywhere you need to go. It is the path of Love, the path of Surrender, the path of Bhakti. It will calm and purify the mind, filling it with joy and love, removing it of negative (tamasic) qualities. It will then quieten the mind, removing the passionate and anxious aspects of mind (Rajas). Thus far the practice has not turned away from the world – it is a Saguna or Savikalpa practice (ie. practice with objects being present). Then the practice, when it is ready, will naturally turn Nirvikalpa or Nirguna, ie. there will be a natural turning towards Source or Self, also known as God or Sri Ramana (the Guru Within). All will happen in good time. It may well happen quicker than you think!

For this to happen it is useful to have read and been aware of Bhagavan Ramana’s teachings, eg. as set out in The Path of Sri Ramana, and it can also be useful to adopt Vivarta Vada, which is the view that everything perceived (ie. mind, body and world) is actually an illusory projection of ignorance/ego/maya. Often if Bhagavan’s Teachings are not known, the mind will continue to cling to objects, taking them to be real and thinking objects will lead us to our goal.

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Question. What is our Goal?

Tom: Our goal is One. It is simply to be Happy and Free, without any misery, as Sri Bhagavan states in the opening paragraph of Nan Yar? (Who am I?). We just want to feel good. There is nothing wrong with this. This desire for Happiness is an innocent desire and is the greatest of our desires. It is actually the Desire for Liberation, the Desire to Know and Be What We Truly Are. For this the only way is Self-Enquiry. The Path of Bhakti naturally and joyfully takes us to Self-Enquiry.

The only danger on this path is that we remain caught up in objects. Eventually we must ‘go Nirvikalpa’. But all in good time. Bhakti will turn us within when the time is right without us (the ego) having to worry about such things – practically speaking all we have to do is connect with ‘spiritual feeling’, have faith in it, and let this feeling grow and guide us.