Intense fear during meditation, when staying with the I AM

Dealing with deep layers of fear and conditioning

Q: Sometimes when my meditation becomes very deep and I stay with the I Am, there comes a sense of the whole world becoming very dark together with a sense of losing myself into something really bad and dark. My body starts to react strongly as well, and it feels like some kind of primal fear arising.

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.

Q. Why I don’t see Samadhi as a way to Liberation (Moksha) | Advaita Vedanta | Shankara | Ramana Maharshi

Question: Why I don’t see Samadhi as a way to know Aham Brahmasmi [I Am Brahman, ie. Self Knowledge or liberation]. First of all let me discuss what is Samadhi and the types of Samadhi which are possible. Samadhi simply means having your mind concentrated. So Samadhi is of the following types. Savikalpa Samadhi and Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Savikalpa Samadhi means that our mind has become one with the object on which we concentrate. Nirvikalpa Samadhi means that all thoughts are rejected. This means that even Sushupti [deep sleep] is not present in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. What remains is the Pure “I” unassociated with anything. Now both Samadhis do not give the knowledge of Aham Brahmasmi, reason is this. Savikalpa Samadhi mind is merged with object. There is no recognition of “I am the universal”. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi there remains Pure “I” but however the only interpretation possible post coming out of the Nirvikalpa Samadhi is that “I am different from body and mind” this is very much possible. But it does not give the knowledge of Aham Brahmasmi I am the whole, the objects are not merged into the subject. But however the Samadhi is useful in Brahma Vidya, so Gaudapada suggests that as long as your mind works you see the world, if your mind does not think you see no world. Hence the world is Mithya. Hence practice of Samadhi makes the conviction of Vedanta stronger. But Samadhi per se will not give us knowledge of Aham Brahmasmi. Then what gives knowledge of Aham Brahmasmi is the methodology of superimposition of the Shastra and then removal by it. This helps is gain the knowledge of Aham Brahmasmi.

Response from Tom: A key scriptural method for the attainment of Moksha is superimposition and removal – but what does it mean? It is a technical way of saying using a thorn to remove a thorn and then throwing both away. The first thorn is ignorance, ie. that which causes duality and suffering – the scriptures tell us that this same ignorance is also known as Maya. The teaching/scripture is also a thorn, ie. a form of ignorance/maya, which is a form of superimposition. The difference is that it is the one part of Maya that if followed leads out of Maya. The scripture tells us to remove all superimposition by attending to the Self. This total removal of superimposition (ie. all objective phenomena), which also means eventually discarding the scripture/teaching itself, eventually leads to ‘Jnana’ or ‘Knowledge’. This total removal of superimpositions (ie. objects) is also called Nirvikalpa Samadhi. It is also called ‘Silence’.

eg. from the Amritabindu Upanishad: ‘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 [Brahman]. 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.’

eg. from Gaudapada Karika: ‘When the mind…remains unshakable and does not give rise to appearances, it verily becomes Brahman.’

However the thinking mind cannot comprehend how such a ‘void-like’ state such as Nirvikalpa Samadhi can lead to ‘knowledge’, as all it knows is the subject-object knowledge of the thinking mind (ie. ego). ie. all the mind knows is duality, therefore it cannot understand how something like nirvikalpa samadhi can lead to realisation. The mind therefore creates a new version of the teaching that is non-scriptural and states there is no need for samadhi/total removal of objective phenomena from the mind, even though the scriptures clearly state time and time again this is needed. The mind’s new teaching, which doesn’t work, ie. it does not reveal the Self that we are, perhaps makes more sense to the mind but usually is more complex and has many more concepts than the simpler more direct original teaching that actually works.

The scripture/true teaching is like a treasure map. We have to have faith in it and follow it and it will lead us to the treasure. But the mind, if it is not able to see how the map works, creates a new version of the map that makes sense to it (ie. makes sense to the ego-mind), but this version of the map only leads to more Maya, so suffering does not end and liberation is not ‘perceived’. In following the ego-made treasure map, the ego feels more secure, but the treasure of the Self that we already are is not revealed.

From Katha Upanishad: ‘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 [Brahman]’

Shankara writes in his commentary on Katha Upanishad:

‘…One whose intellect has been withdrawn from all objects, gross and subtle, when this takes place, this is known as ‘inactivity of the sense organs’. Though this ‘inactivity of the sense organs’ one sees that glory of the Self. ‘Sees’ means he directly realises the Self as ‘I am the Self’ as thereby becomes free from suffering’

And again from Shankara’s commentary on Katha Upanishad:

‘…the perceiver sees the external objects which are not-Self/not the Atman, such as sound, etc., and not the Self within. Though this is the nature of the world, some (rare) discerning man, like turning back/ reversing the current of a river, sees the Self within…The group of sense organs, beginning with the ear, should be turned away from all sense-objects. Such a one, who is purified thus, sees the indwelling self. For it is not possible for the same person to be engaged in the thought of sense-objects and to have the vision of the Self as well.’

From Amritabindhu Upanishad:
‘As mind emptied of the objective leads to liberation, one desirous of liberation must always try to wipe off the objective from the plane of his mind.’

There are so many other quotes like this, but I hope you get the point. What is needed is faith in the scriptures and then to follow them. Only then, once the teaching is put into practice, is it realised how Nirvikalpa Samadhi can directly lead to Jnana or Realisation. Otherwise we are doing the equivalent just standing on the sidelines talking about playing tennis without ever picking up the racket!

‘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.’
~Sri Ramana Maharshi

‘…the natural and changeless state of Nirvikalpa samadhi is produced by unswerving vigilant concentration on the Self, ceaseless like the unbroken flow of oil. This readily and spontaneously yields that direct, immediate, unobstructed, and Universal perception of Brahman, which is at once knowledge and experience and which transcends time and space. This perception is Self-realisation.’
~Sri Ramana Maharshi

Wishing you well

Namaste
⁠🙏⁠🕉⁠


Samadhi and Meditation: Yoga vs Vedanta

Q. Would you say that samadhi is a mental state? If so would Self Realisation be possible while not in that state after experienced?

Tom: Samadhi is not a mental state. Mental states come and go and are part of maya (illusion). Samadhi is beyond this. Samadhi is abiding as Self.

Q. I’m not clear on this for myself. From my understanding there are many jivas the world considers Self Realized that did not constantly operate out of a state of absorbtion/samadhi but were able to access it at will. I think that if Realisation is confined to samadhi only one could be justified in forgoing the Advaita path and shravana (hearing the teachings) and manana (reflecting upon the teachings) aspects altogether and aspire straight to a more meditative or Raja yoga path.

Tom: Regarding your first point, the Jnani is not the body-mind, but the eternal Self Within. There is only one Jnani – the Self. This Self is also called ‘Samadhi’. It is non-dual. It cannot be understood properly by the mind. This is why the Self can only be attained by Samadhi. The various so-called ‘realised-jivas’ are just illusion, or maya, appearance.

See a quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi here:

A Swami asked: I feel toothache. Is it only a thought?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes.

~Talks 451

Questioner: Now there is the Sino-Japanese war. If it is only in imagination, can or will Sri Bhagavan imagine the contrary and put an end to the war?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Bhagavan of the questioner is as much a thought as the Sino-Japanese war. (Laughter.)

~Talks 451

Now regarding your second point about yoga and meditation vs vedanta and sravana (hearing the teachings) and manana (reflecting upon the teachings):

⁠’Fools, not the learned, speak of Sankhya [the path of knowledge] as being different to Yoga. Anyone who properly resorts to even one of these obtains the results of both’
⁠~Bhagavad Gita 5.4

⁠’The State that is reached by Sankhya is also reached by Yoga. He truly sees who sees that Sankhya and Yoga are one’
⁠~Bhagavad Gita 5.5

Krishna goes on to explain the path of yoga in the rest of chapter 5 and particularly in chapter 6 and how that leads directly to realisation.

⁠So yoga is another way. Have not all the great sages proclaimed this? It seems to be only the modern teachers with an intellectual appraoch who say otherwise. Sri Ramana Maharshi has said this – see the text he wrote called Self-Enquiry (Vichara Sangraham) where he describes how Raja Yoga can lead to liberation. Sri Ramakrishna, who was initiated and was taught Advaita Vedanta in a traditional way, also said the same, as did his disciple Swami Vivekananada. The purpose of Sravana and Manana is just to teach Nididhyasana (meditation). The purpose of all teachings is to come to Silence (mouna). Silence is just another word for Samadhi, or the Self, and is represented by the sacred symbol ‘Om’ above.​

⁠’All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading.’
⁠~Who am I? by Sri Ramana Maharshi

⁠See how much time Sri Ramana spends on Sravana and Manana in his teachings and writings – he always emphasised Nididhyasana, whereas the modern intellectual-type teachers of ‘Advaita Vedanta’ emphasise and spend most of the ri time on Sravana and Manana. Why do you think this is?

⁠As I said above, this point is also explained in the Bhagavad Gita Chapters 5 and 6 where Krishna explains how yoga leads to Moksha.

⁠It is also explained in a traditional text that Sri Ramana Maharshi recommended – Advaita Bodha Deepika – see Chapter 3 where this is also explained.

Please see these above texts if you wish to explore this further.

Q. If we are not the doer what aspect of us decides to turn within? | Advaita | Self-Enquiry Ramana

Understanding Self-enquiry and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Q. “If we are not the doer and do decide to turn within, what aspect of us is doing that?”

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

See https://tomdas.com/events for further information.

Q. I am feeling deep peace in meditation – how can I go deeper?

What you are is what you are. It can never be known by the mind. The thinking mind can never discover what you are. This is knowledge, supreme knowledge, supreme realisation as opposed to mundane or worldly knowledge. This knowledge is your Being. It is known by being what you are. So when this question is asked, ‘Who am I? What am I?’ The answer is not the words ‘I am’, the answer is what those words signify.

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

See https://tomdas.com/events for further information

Sravana alone can result in Self-Realisation! Sri Ramana Maharshi on Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Tom: Sravana refers to hearing the teaching. Manana refers to reflecting upon and thinking that teaching which has been heard. Nididhyasana refers to prolonged meditation upon the Self, which culminates in Samadhi.

Here is a quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi taken from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 249:

The effects of sravana may be immediate and the disciple realises the truth all at once. This can happen only for the well-advanced disciple.

[Tom: in other places Sri Ramana explains that this means that the advanced/ripe seeker immediately goes into Samadhi, which is the same as abiding as the Self, as soon as the teaching is heard]

Otherwise, the disciple feels that he is unable to realise the truth, even after repeatedly hearing it. What is it due to? Impurities in his mind: ignorance, doubt and wrong identity are the obstacles to be removed.

(a) To remove ignorance completely, he has to hear the truth repeatedly, until his knowledge of the subject-matter becomes perfect

(b) to remove doubts, he must reflect on what he has heard; ultimately his knowledge will be free from doubts of any kind;

(c) to remove the wrong identity of the Self with the non-self (such as the body, the senses, the mind or the intellect) his mind must become one-pointed. All these things accomplished, the obstacles are at an end and samadhi results, that is, Peace reigns.

Some say that one should never cease to engage in hearing, reflection and one-pointedness. These are not fulfilled by reading books, but only by continued practice to keep the mind withdrawn.

The aspirant may be kritopasaka or akritopasaka. The former is fit to realise the Self, even with the slightest stimulus: only some little doubt stands in his way, it is easily removed if he hears the truth once from the Master. Immediately he gains the samadhi state. It is presumed that he had already completed sravana, reflection, etc. in previous births, they are no more necessary for him.

For the other all these aids are necessary; for him doubts crop up even after repeated hearing; therefore he must not give up aids until he gains the samadhi state. Sravana removes the illusion of the Self being one with the body, etc. Reflection makes it clear that Knowledge is Self. One-pointedness reveals the Self as being Infinite and Blissful.

Who is the thinker? Removing illusion and delusion

In silence thoughts lessen.

The attachment to thinking and to desire gradually weaken until they eventually fade and die.

If we relinquish the sense of limitation, that limiting belief “ I am the body” then the ego disappears consumed by silence, stillness, being.

Deeper silence and stillness where nothing is lacking.

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

See https://tomdas.com/events for further information.

What is Vedantic Meditation? How Swami Satchitanandendra Saraswati (SSS) defines Nididhyasana (Vedantic Meditation)

Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji (SSS, 1880-1975), was a vedic scholar who devoted much of his life to studying the works of Shankara (c. 7th century BCE), the great reformer of Advaita Vedanta. SSS came to the conclusion that many of the texts that are ordinarily attributed to Shankara are not genuine works of Shankara, and that the truly genuine works of Shankara are essentially the commentaries he wrote on the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Brahma sutras and a non-commentarial text called Upadesa Sahasri. Whilst this view remains a controversial minority view, and personally I am not convined by the evidence brought forth, many are increasingly subscribing to it.

However, of those who do follow SSS’s teachings, I have noticed some have not actually read his teachings thoroughly, especially on what he says about Nididhyasana, or Vedantic Meditation.

So in this post we will look at how SSS defines Nididhyasana. I have read many of SSS’s books, and if we look at what SSS actually writes, we will see that the method he proposes is essentially the same as the method of Self-Enquiry as proposed by Sri Ramana Maharshi. Let us see:

  1. The first thing to notice is that SSS states that Nididhyasana is the same as Dhyana Yoga as described in Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita, and Mano-nigraha Yoga as described in Gaudapada’s Karika, and is also called Adhyatma Yoga:

Adhyatma Yoga by SSS p. 9:

‘This Adhyatma Yoga is called as ‘Nidhidhyasana’ and in the sixth chapter of the Gita this Nidhidhyasana is described as ‘Dhyana Yoga’. The complete sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita reveals the process of this Dhyana Yoga with its accessories. In this very Bhagavad Gita in the following contexts also this Dhyana Yoga or Adhyatma Yoga is prescribed: 13-24, 18-52. The same Adhyatma Yoga is also called as ‘Manoni-graha Yoga’ by Gaudapada in his Mandukya Karikas from 3.41 to 3.48. So in all these places the practice of Adhyatma Yoga, its accessories, the obstacles during the practice and the removal of the obstacles are described.’

  1. The second thing to notice is that according to SSS this Nididhyasana (or Adhyatma Yoga) is a means to Self-Realisation.

The Theory of Vedanta by SSS, p. 153:

‘In addition to Karma and Upasana, there is a kind of concentrated contemplation called the Adhyatma-Yoga which leads to immediate intuition [of Brahman, ie. Self Realisation].’

This is further clarified in the introduction to the text Adhyatma Yoga. In this context the term ‘Vastu Tantra’ means Nididhysana is a means to Self-Realisation or Truth-Realisation. (‘Vastu Tantra’ means ‘a path to the truth’, which is independent of the person who is looking, so to speak, much like science – eg. the same independent scientific truth such as the speed of light or the gravitational constant can be discovered by various people from different places – this truth is independent of the person looking. Vastu Tantra means that this is the method that leads to the supreme truth, ie. liberation or Knowlege of Brahman/Atman. This is opposed to ‘Kartru Tantra’, also known as ‘Purusha Tantra’, which refers to ‘the path of an individual’ – eg. lifting weights to build up your muscles or meditating to gain specific special powers – it is a path that leads to specific results for an individual – eg. bigger muscles or specific powers – but it does not lead to discovery of an ‘objective’ non-personal universal truth). The following is from the introduction to the text Adhyatma yoga:

‘The subject dealt with here viz. Adhyatma Yoga, also known as Dhyana Yoga, Mano-nigraha Yoga, Samadhi Yoga and Nidhidhyasana, is treated these days as a Kartru Tantra Sadana. But in the Shankara Bhashya throughout, this Adhyatma Yogi or Dhyana Yoga is treated as a Vastu Tantra Sadhana.’

  1. The third thing to notice is that the technique of Nididhyasana is to turn one’s attention away from objective phenomena and turn towards the Self until one ‘intuits’ the Self directly.

Here is a quote from The Method of Vedanta by SSS, p. 147, that summarises much of the above and also describes in brief the method of nididhyasana. Upasana is defined here as meditation upon objects, and nididhyasana is to turn away from objects (note that in some scriptures the word ‘upasana’ is used synonymously with ‘nididhyasana’ but here SSS is using the words in this particular way):

‘The aim of the one practising sustained meditation (nididhyasana) is different [to Upasana, defined here as meditation on forms/objects]. He tries to attain direct vision of reality (here in this very world) by turning his mind away from all else [ie. all objects]. And there is the difference — as against upasana — that after the rise of knowledge nothing further remains to be done. It is this sustained meditation that is referred to at Kathha Upanishad I.ii.12 by the name ‘Adhyatma Yoga’. In the Gita it is sometimes called ’Dhyana Yoga’ (e.g. XVI11.52). In the Mandukya Karikas it is called ’restraint of the mind’ (G.K.III.41, etc.). Its nature is described there in that latter work. Everywhere its result is described in the same way as right metaphysical knowledge, and from this comes immediate liberation (sadyo-mukti).’

SSS then quotes from the Katha Upanishad and Shankara’s commentary on it to make is point clear:

‘The wise man comes to know God through mastering Adhyatma Yoga, and gives up joy and sorrow. (Kathha I.ii.12)

[Tom: ie. through Adhyatma Yoga the Self is realised; SSS then goes on to quote Shankara’s commentary:]

Sankara’s Commentary: Mastering Adhyatma Yoga: Adhyatma Yoga means withdrawing the mind from objects and concentrating it on the Self. Having meditated on the deity, the Self, through attainment of Adhyatma Yoga, the wise man gives up joy and sorrow because there are no gradations of value in the Self.’

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 hope the above is useful and helpful to you

Namaste

Tom

Here are some other articles that speak on this topic:

Do we need to turn away from the world of objects to realise the Self? | Advaita Vedanta | Sri Ramana Maharshi | Upanishads | Shankara

Remove Nama-Rupa (Name & Form) to reveal Sat-Chit-Ananda (the Self)

Advaita Vedanta: Is samadhi required for Self-Realisation according to Shankara and the Upanishads?

What exactly is Jnana (knowledge) according to Shankara and Gaudapada and the scriptures?

Neti-Neti is not Self-Enquiry | Ramana Maharshi – The 5 Sheaths (Pancha-Koshas)

I have also tried to explain how the teaching works here in this video which is well worth taking the time to watch: