The importance of spiritual practice to attain liberation | Sri Ramana Maharshi | Sri Shankara

The following is from a text written by Shankara called Vivekachudamani, as translated by Sri Ramana Maharshi. We will see the following points being made:

  1. Merely stating ‘I am Brahman’ does not in itself lead to liberation. Similarly we can infer that by mere affirmation of other similar spiritual slogans such as saying ‘I am free’ or ‘I am already the Self’ or ‘there is no ego/self’ or ‘all is already one’, etc, mere affirmation of these does not lead to liberation.
  2. In order to attain liberation, ignorance must be removed and the Self must directly be experienced.
  3. Similarly, merely by hearing the truth ‘I am Brahman’ , liberation is not (usually) attained
  4. One must first hear the truth from someone who has experienced the truth first-hand (for only they will be able to tell you the way to truth)
  5. Then one must meditate upon the truth heard and experience the truth directly though constant meditation.
  6. Unless this practice is carried out, maya (aka ignorance) will not be removed and liberation will not be attained.
  7. Every effort must be made to root out ignorance for liberation to result

‘Just as a person’s sickness is not removed without taking medicine, so too his state of bondage is not removed by scriptural texts such as “I am Brahman” without his own direct experience of the Self. One does not become a king by merely saying, “I am a king”, without destroying one’s enemies and obtaining the reality of power.

Similarly, one does not obtain liberation as Brahman Itself by merely repeating the scriptural text “I am Brahman”, without destroying the duality caused by ignorance and directly experiencing the Self.

‘A treasure trove hidden under the ground is not obtained by merely hearing about it, but only by being told by a friend who knows it, and then digging and removing the slab that hides it and taking it out from below the ground.

Similarly, one must hear about one’s true state from a Guru who knows Brahman, and then meditate upon It and experience It directly through constant meditation.

‘Without this, the true form of one’s own Self, that is hidden by maya [“that which is not”], cannot be realised through mere argumentation. Therefore, those who are wise themselves make every effort to remove the bondage of individual existence and obtain liberation, just as they would to get rid of some disease.’

Also see: Sri Ramana Maharshi: the necessity of Meditation

Q. Tom, what do you think of neo-advaita?

Questioner: Tom, what is your view on some of the Neo-Advaitists who do not seem to agree that there is a Self? All I hear from them is ‘there is only what is; there is no self’?

Tom: If you find these types of teaching helpful, meaning if they provide you with some kind of ease/happiness/peace/fulfilment/a sense of freedom, then that is good, and in that case I encourage you to engage with them as there is likely to be something of value there for you.

However my sense is that for the most part they are not truly liberating teachings but are predominantly spoken of from the mental/intellectual level. But what do I know! It is for you to decide what is right for you. What do you think?

Questioner: I’ll be totally honest with you. I can find some peace of mind with many ‘spiritual’ teachings. For instance I sometimes envy my Christian friends who seem so sure they will be spending eternity in heaven, but I left Catholicism and I can never believe that again. With Buddhism and nonduality I see different views within each, some saying there is a self, others denying self.

For me I can navigate life somewhat with some peace and happiness, but there always seems to be the ultimate fear of death no matter what. The neo-Advaitists say they have conquered death because they’ve died already, so to speak. But isn’t that throwing the baby out with the bathwater? So many contradictions.

In Buddhism some say the ‘self’ reincarnates, some, like Zen say there is no such thing. For Ramana is the Self immortal? What Self is there after death? Is it just silent and empty? You say it is found in deep sleep. But deep sleep is still ‘on this side’, in life. It is not the same as death. How can one know death while alive? How is one certain I AM is not also impermanent? Isn’t Ramana’s Self also an objectification? Like I doubt the truth of my Christian friends’ heaven, I always doubt that Self.

Tom: Yes, I had all these same doubts as you. My idea was to keep on searching until I found something that gave me all the answers I was looking for. The problem is that you will not find such a thing! There are always unanswered questions and problems with all spiritual systems and teachings on the conceptual level if you are intellectually probing/questioning enough.

However for me what then happened is that I unexpectedly fell in love with Sri Ramana Maharshi, and started to develop faith in his teachings (even though I perceived many ‘flaws’ and problems with his teachings). However, it was following his teachings with faith and love and devotion, despite the apparent problems with the teachings, that allowed all my doubts and questions to be answered and resolved so that now none remain. So this is what I share now.

Namaste

How can any enquiry initiated by the ego reveal the ego’s own unreality? Sri Ramana Maharshi

Devotee: How can any enquiry initiated by the ego reveal its own unreality?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ego’s phenomenal existence is transcended when you dive into the Source wherefrom arises the aham-vritti [I-concept].

D: But is not the aham-vritti only one of the three forms in which the ego manifests itself? Yoga Vasishtha and other ancient texts describe the ego as having a threefold form.

M: It is so. The ego is described as having three bodies, the gross, the subtle and the causal, but that is only for the purposes of analytical exposition. If the method of enquiry were to depend on the ego’s form, you may take it that any enquiry would become altogether impossible, because the forms the ego may assume are legion. Therefore, for purposes of jnana vichara, you have to proceed on the basis that the ego has but one form, namely that of aham-vritti.

D: But it may prove inadequate for realizing jnana.

M: Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The master may be at some distant, unknown place, but that does not at all stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master’s scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his build and stature etc, counts. The dog holds on to that scent undistractedly while searching for him, and finally it succeeds in tracing him.

The teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Maharshi’s Gospel. Chapter VI ‘AHAM AND AHAM-VRITTI’

If ‘all is already one’, why is a practice required?

84. Because the true Self is eternally perfect awareness-love-bliss and eternally free of all suffering, some people think there is no need for spiritual practice. Such a notion is an ego preservation strategy. The purpose of practice is not to gain the true Self. The purpose of practice is to remove the illusion of a body, a world, suffering, etc. so that what remains is only the eternal experience of the True Self.

85. In other words, those who have let the ego trick them into thinking there is no need for spiritual practice, because the True Self is eternally free of suffering, etc., are still having the experience of suffering, a body, a world, etc. Thus their experience is not consistent with their concept that the True Self is eternally free of suffering and perfectly blissful. This is an example of intellectual ‘spirituality’. This is an example of people confusing a journey through concepts, ideas, beliefs and opinions with an authentic spiritual journey. Practice leads to the direct experience of Infinite-Eternal-Awareness-Love-Bliss

86. A journey through spiritual concepts, ideas, beliefs, teachings and opinions is a journey through illusions.

87. Practice is what is essential. It must not be a spiritual practice that is creaed by the ego for the purpose of preserving the ego.

88. With the Awareness Watching Awareness Method, the practice is the progress. The habit has been developed of always looking outward towards the seen. The Awareness Watching Awareness Method reverses this. Every time a thought arises, or the tendency to look outward, the attention is taken away from the thought and turned towards the seer.

89. Thus with the Awareness Watching Awareness Method a new habit is developed and the practice is the progress…

The above is an excerpt from the book The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss by Michael Langford. You can download a copy of the entire book here.

There is a beauty in honest & natural expression | Advaita | Neo-Advaita

There is a beauty in honest natural expression. Self-censorship limits your honest expression and creates blocks. You must be honest with yourselves if you want to progress, develop, heal, free, liberate yourselves.

This video was recorded live during an online meeting and put together by volunteers;

For further information visit: https://tomdas.com/events/

Neo-Advaita vs Traditional Advaita – what is the difference?

Q. What is the difference between neo-advaita (or ‘radical non-duality’) and traditional advaita. Or are they just pointing to the same thing in different ways?

Tom: There is an essential difference.

This essential difference is one of SADHANA, or spiritual practice, and SUFFERING.

Neo-Advaita states there is no separate person or jiva that could engage in any sadhana, and that any sadhana perpetuates the illusion of duality. Neo-Advaita also does not claim to end suffering.

(Traditional) Advaita emphasises the importance of sadhana as being absolutely necessary (for most) in order to realise the Self and go beyond and END all suffering and duality.

Ramana Maharshi: ‘Those crazy-minded people…’ | The importance of dispassion towards sense-objects

Those crazy-minded people who do not know as real anything other than the objects of the senses, and who are thereby ruined, will term the jnana that flourishes luxuriantly through dispassion towards sense-objects ‘dry Vedanta’

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 148

Tom’s comments:

The way to the Truth Within (ie. jnana, meaning wisdom or knowledge), which, for practical purposes, is within each and everyone of us, has always meant we have to turn away from sense-objects, as well as mind-objects (ie. turn away from both gross and subtle objects).

However, for those tamasic and rajasic ones, who are attached to the sensory world of objects, they would call this type of teaching ‘dry’ or ‘life-opposing’ or ‘life denying’. However it is these so-called ‘life-affirming’ teachings that actually keep one in Maya-Samsara-Suffering, for the ‘life’ that is affirmed is simply ‘Maya’ (illusion) and continued suffering.

They who only know the sense-objects, and they who consider these as being real, they betray their underlying attachment to body-mind. How so? It is this underlying attachment to body-mind, and thinking body-mind to be real, that actually causes the world to also appear to be real, and for the sense-objects to thereafter gain so much importance.

These people are ‘crazy-minded’ and ‘thereby ruined’ according to Sri Ramana, his somewhat harsh tone driving the point home emphatically in a compassionate attempt to reveal the true path to liberation.

Let us take heed, and turn away from body-mind-world and discover the Treasure that lies deep within us. Let us reject the small, temporary life of Maya-suffering and instead let us come upon and merge into Life Eternal Within, wherein we become One with Him, Our Beloved.

Is Papaji’s teaching the same as Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching?

Whilst I am very familiar with the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I am less familiar with the teachings of Papaji. However I have often been struck, whenever I come across excerpts of Papaji’s teachings, that they seem quite different to the teachings of Sri Ramana. Now, is this just because I have only seen excerpts of Papaji’s teachings and these excerpts are out of context? Or is there actually a substantive difference between what they teach? Or perhaps they are pointing to the same thing in a different way?

Before I continue, I just want to be clear that my intent here is not to condemn or criticise anyone. I fully understand that we each have our own unique path and that different teachers and teachings can be a part of that journey. My intent here is to explore the teachings, and I hope this exploration is helpful to you. If it is not, please feel free to ignore this post or give me some constructive feedback!

Well the more I have seen of Papaji’s teachings, the more it seems to me that the teachings are essentially different to that of Sri Ramana’s. Sri Ramana emphasises the need for sadhana, for turning away from the world and towards the Subject-Self, and for the necessity of Self-Enquiry, and Papaji tends to do the opposite – he seems to de-emphasise the need for sadhana, does not advocate turning away from the world and does not state that Self-Enquiry is the sole means to Liberation.

But as I am no expert on Papaji, I would welcome your thoughts. Here is an example of a teaching from Papaji, which seems quite representative of the kind of thing he would normally teach. I saw this posted on Facebook:

There is no sadhana better than just staying as Peace. If you must do any practice, then do Vicar (Self-inquiry).

Joy is also a good sadhana because it destroys mind, so always be happy. Always think of It and be happy: spend the rest of your life knowing you are Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

Some practice is better than getting lost in samsara and is good in that it sometimes fatigues the mind, but typical sadhana is usually important only for the ego.

All sadhana is projected by ego so it is on a sandy foundation. This ego projection is samsara so search only for the seeker.“I” is ego so when this meditates there are no good results. Choice of practice depends on the choice of results.

Brahman has no attributes and is beyond mind so no practice will take you to that: It is self revealing.

Ramana says “Simply keep Quiet for it is Here and Now”This is the nearest practice because Brahman is your very nature.

~ Papaji

Notice that Papaji is stating that some sadhana is good – he says here there are two reasons sadhana is good: firstly that it is ‘better than getting lost in samsara’ and secondly that ‘it sometimes fatigues the mind’. Note that he does not state that sadhana is necessary for liberation in the way that Sri Ramana Maharshi does (see later), nor does he state that Self-Enquiry is the only essential method to liberation, which is what Sri Ramana often stated (see later for examples of this).

Papaji then goes on to state that ‘all sadhana is projected by the ego so it is on a sandy foundation’. This is sounding less like Sri Ramana or traditional Advaita Vedanta and more like what is often called neo-advaita, something that Sri Ramana criticised. Neo-advaita often propagates the notion that practice/sadhana is done by the separate ego-I and so it necessarily perpetuates the ego-I.

Note that whilst this seems logical and rational enough, it is actually a belief based on inductive logic rather than a truth. Whilst it is true that this certainly can happen – ie. sadhana can certainly lead to perpetuating the ego-I, this is not necessarily the case and there are exceptions. I explain this in these videos:

Papaji then goes on to state his essential view, that ‘no practice will take you to that [Brahman]’. He then concludes his teaching by stating ‘simply keep quiet for it is here and now’ stating this is what Sri Ramana also said.

Now it is true that Sri Ramana often said that we should ‘be still’ and that this is the practice, but what did he mean by ‘be still’? If we read and examine Sri Ramana’s written work ‘Who Am I?’, we will see what Sri Ramana means when he says ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’. Note that we can trust the teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ as an authentic rendition of Sri Ramana’s teachings as they were written by Sri Ramana himself. Let us see: the first time we come across the notion of quieting the mind in ‘Who Am I?’ is as follows:

‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.’

Now on the face of it this is quite a strange statement for Sri Ramana to make: that the world will disappear when the mind is still. Clearly, when Sri Ramana states that the mind is to be quiet, he is perhaps using these words in a different way to how they are normally used. How can it be that when the mind becomes quiet the world disappears?

Well earlier in ‘Who Am I?’ Sri Ramana explains that it is the mind is a power that creates or projects the entire body, mind and world, so to ‘be quiet’ means not just to still the ordinary thinking mind, but to still this world-projecting power, ie. to remove all of Maya. Ramana repeats this, see here, also from ‘Who Am I?’:

Question: When will the realization of the Self be gained?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer

Question: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.

I have a video here which explains the importance of this teaching. It fundamentally explains why some teachings are liberating and others are not:

Again, I hope it is clear that this teaching of Sri Ramana’s, or at least the emphasis, is quite different to what Papaji is proposing. Papaji is telling us to rest in happiness and joy and ‘keep quiet’ for the Self is ‘here and now’ whereas Sri Ramana is emphasising removing the entire body-mind-world from our consciousness. We can see that Sri Ramana’s teaching is far more extreme – it is this extreme teaching that is needed to remove ignorance and realise the Self.

Papaji is stating that all sadhana is projected by the ego and will never lead us to the Self/Brahman, whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as the only sadhana that will lead us to Liberation. Again, Sri Ramana’s teaching is more narrow and prescriptive in this way, as he maintains that Self-Enquiry is the only way. Let us see what else Sri Ramana writes in ‘Who Am I?’:

Question: Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Other than inquiry [Vichara; Self-Enquiry], there are no adequate means.

We can see that Sri Ramana is stating that sadhana or self-enquiry is essential to make the mind quiet, so that when Sri Ramana is asking us to ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’, he is actually asking us to do Self-Enquiry.

Now on the same Facebook post which posted the Papaji teachings above, I saw the following Sri Ramana Maharshi quote, which seems to state something quite different to what Papaji is saying. It states that meditation (Upanasa) is definitely required for liberation – Sri Ramana clearly states ‘this is definite’, in direct contrast to Papaji who states the opposite. This following quote is taken from Sri Ramana Gita, an early text of Sri Ramana’s teachings that was comfirmed by Sri Ramana as being an accurate representation of his teachings:

Now this above quote is taken from Chapter 1 of Sri Ramana Gita. It is worth noting that the title of this chapter is ‘The Importance of Upasana [meditation]’. The next two lines in the same chapter reads as follows:

1.14 When discarding sense-objects, one abides in one’s own true nature as a flame of Jnana, this state of being is termed sahaja sthiti [the natural state].

1.15 In the firm, natural state, through that Supreme Silence free from all vasanas, the jnani knows himself as such without any doubt.

Again, we can see the emphasis on needing to turn away from sense-objects, what Sri Ramana calls ‘removal of the world’ in Who Am I?, and on ending the vasanas, or egoic habitual tendencies to identify as a body-mind.

But how are we to practically do this? How are we to practically turn away from the world and be free from all Vasanas. Well the practical method is to do Self-Enquiry. In Chapter 3 of Sri Ramana Gita we can see the essential method Sri Ramana is advocating:

Question: what in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime innervision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense-objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone brings about the sublime inner vision.

We can see that the emphasis is on continuing to perform the sadhana, as it is this sadhana that leads to the mind ‘becoming quiet’. When Sri Ramana says the mind should be quiet or that thoughts should stop, he means that the entire world projection should cease and all vasanas are to be ended. How to do this? We should ‘strenuously withdraw all thoughts from sense-objects’ and remain fixed in Self-Abidance, ie. we should do Self-Enquiry.

Ramana also states in the above quotes that ‘this effort alone’ leads to liberation, meaning that this is the only essential method which all other methods ultimately bring us to.

But how long should we continue this sadhana for? Sri Ramana tells us in Who Am I?

Question: How long should inquiry be practised?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry “Who am I?” isrequired. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry.

So as far as I can see, Ramana is constantly emphasising sadhana and turning away from the world, and that this should be relentlessly pursued until realisation is attained, whereas Papaji de-emphasises sadhana, and in so doing de-emphasises turning away from the world.

Papaji and Sri Ramana both talk of silence, but Sri Ramana speaks of a deep silence in which there is only abidance as Self devoid of all objective phenomena, whereas Papaji’s ‘silence’ seems much more superficial stilling of the mind without removing all objective phenomena or removing the vasanas.

Papaji also de-emphases sadhana, or at least does not emphasise Self-Enquiry whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as being the sole means to liberation.

What do you think? Have I got this right? Or are there other aspects of Papaji’s teachings I am unaware of or something else I am missing? In the meantime here is a video of quotes from Sri Ramana instructing us on the essential method:

And here is a video explaining the technique of Self-Enquiry in brief:

If you want to know how to put the teachings of Sri Ramana into practice, I highly recommend you read The Path of Sri Ramana which can be downloaded for free here or see a list of books that I recommend here.

Again, as always, the intent of this article is not to criticise or denegrate anyone, but only to explore the teachings and clarify The Way. In this spirit, I hope this article is of help to you.

Namaste

Tom

Does anything really change with liberation?

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:

Neo-advaita and the highest ‘teachings’ of Advaita Vedanta (ajata vada) – are they the same?

In Advaita Vedanta it is said that the Ultimate Truth is that Maya never existed, and that there never was a world (Jagat), individual person (Jiva), or a God (Isvara). This is known as Ajata Vada – see here for an example of this teaching. Here in Guru Vachaka Kovai we have Sri Muruganar stating the same:

‘…I have known that in truth there is never in the least any attainment of bondage, liberation, and so on, which are fabricated when one imagines one is separate from reality’ Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 1241

Someone recently made a comment to me that this sounds remarkably like Neo-Advaita, to which my response was as follows:

They sound remarkably similar because on the verbal level both traditional and neo-Advaita talk about Ajata Vada (the view that there is no maya, no objects truly exist, and therefore no true meaning, no seeker, no teaching, no teacher, etc) as being the ultimate truth, but traditional advaita also talks about teachings from vivarta vada (world is a projected illusion) and shristi dristi vada (world is real) viewpoints and prescribes self-enquiry as a (paradoxically) valid method for this to be realised on these latter 2 levels for those who cannot fathom ajata vada. Upon this realisation it is ‘realised’ there was never a seeker and no real realisation either. Sri Ramana Maharshi explains it more fully here if you are interested.

Also see:

Advaita Vedanta: Gaudapada’s Method (Mandukya Upanishad Karika)

Ramana Maharshi – three theories of reality of the world (shristi-dristi vada, dristi-shristi vada/vivarta vada, ajata vada)

The Ultimate or Highest Truth according to the Upanishads