The nature of Self-knolwedge
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.
This knowledge is already fully within you
All the Spiritual Knowledge you ever need is already within you (it actually is you). What is this Spiritual Knowledge? It is knowledge of what you truly are, namely Pure Ever-Blissful Ever-Full Eternal Formless Spirit.
You already fully know this
You already know this. You have always eternally known this. This knowledge has always been within you, intuitively, meaning non-verbally ie. NOT knowledge in the mind and NOT knowledge known by a person. It is innate inborn knowledge that cannot be lost, ever, and does not need to be gained ever.
If you look within, take the time to really feel, then perhaps you will intuit that you have always known that you are infinite, formless and divine, beyond time and space.
Intuitively you have always known that you are not merely flesh and bone, you are not this mere body and mind.
You do not need any new knowledge or understanding in the mind for this path.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, in truth there is no problem, and there never has been, and never will be (no problems are real, and time such as past and future are also not actually real)…and you already intuitively and deeply know that there is no problem…but…
…But so long as you believe the limiting ideas thrown out by the mind – and all the mind’s ideas are limiting – then you will consider yourself to be limited. You will consider yourself to have name and form, you will consider yourself to be flesh and blood, and to be subject to birth, disease, suffering and death. You will consider the world to be real and you will consider problems to be real.
In Truth you are Spirit Divine, Eternal, Lumonious, Blissfull, devoid of time, space, individuality, devoid of one iota of suffering, devoid of one iota of multiplicity or duality, ever whole, pure, pristine Beauty and Love.
This ‘knowledge’ is not in the mind – no body or mind is required for this ‘knowledge
As I said, you know this already – ‘in your heart’ – meaning intuitively this is known, ie. this is not known and can never be known with the mind or with concepts/thoughts, but it is always known in your Heart or Being.
Your True Nature always knows itself to be Divine, fully. This knowledge does not require and body or mind, both of which, together with the world, are non-existent and unreal.
In truth there is no you and me. There is only ONE, THAT. And ‘we’ are THAT ONE.
The only ‘issue’ (not that there really is any issue) is that we take on wrong concepts, believing ourselves to be a body-mind entity living in a world when actually these are all false and non-existent In Truth.
All ‘we have to do’ to realise this is lose the wrong concepts, lose the wrong beliefs, which means to stop attending to them, to stop paying attention to the body + mind + world, especially our thoughts and concepts. All we have to do is have faith in our own innate unborn non-mental non-conceptual knowledge of what we are, and attend to and nurture that intuitive-faith-knowingness-self.
Then, as ignorance slips away, all will eventually be seen to be One and Yourself, Shining as Pure Consciousness, initially with Objects Present (Savikalpa, with forms or with objects) and then in its pure Divine Form devoid of objective phenomena (Nirvikalpa, without form or without objects).
This is Self-Knowledge devoid of a shred ignorance, this is what already IS, this is what you already are, this is what is already and eternally intuitively known ‘in the heart’, meaning never with the mind.
The Self always fully knows itself to be Divine and Full, without words, without a body and without a mind – ignorance never really ever was.
If anything is needed, all we have to do is to nurture and attend to this intuitive self-knowledge. It is the guru, it will teach us, it will reveal itself to us.
Therefore the teaching is simply: KNOW THYSELF or BE THYSELF or ATTEND TO THYSELF or HAVE FAITH IN AND NURTURE YOUR OWN INNATE INTUITIVE KNOWING/KNOWLEDGE
Ignore body/mind/world and see/intuit only consciousness-beingness-love-bliss. Attend to your beingness-knowingness, which is Self-Knowledge. Nurture, stoke and tend to this intuitive knowing – it will grow and consume everything. This is what you truly are.
And of course, you know all of this already
True Knowledge is Being devoid of knowledge as well as ignorance of objects. Knowledge of objects is not true knowledge.
~ Forty Verses on Reality, Verse 12, written by Sri Ramana Maharishi
In Self-Knowledge, neither the knower, the knowing, or the known remain. If any of these three remain, that is ego, that is duality, that is suffering.
So how can this even be called ‘knowledge’? Know that the word ‘knowledge’ is just used to signify that thoughtless non-dual intuition of Reality that is Self.
It, the Self, is indescribable, so various words and phrases, all insufficient, are used, such as ‘knowledge’, ‘know thyself’, ‘be thyself’, etc, etc. None of these are quite right, but these words and phrases can convey something nonetheless, for you ‘know’ this already. You already fully know yourself, so these words can seemingly awaken you to that which you already know.
To know the Self is just to, having severed the identity with body-mind-name-form-ego, it is just to BE the Self, that which you ARE.
Self-knowledge is an inherent quality of the Self. Self and Self-Knowledge are one and the same. The Self always fully knows itself. You always fully know what you are. Not that the ego or mind knows – that is maya – but the Self, that which you are, always knows itself non-conceptually, without words, without any mediation by the body or mind.
This can never be known by the mind-ego. That is why even brain-damage will not remove self-realisation – because self-realisation is not related to the body-mind! Realisation ‘takes’ one ‘beyond body-mind-world! If it didn’t, it would itself be temporary, and liberation is neither temporary nor is it affected by time!
The Self is Self-Knowledge. But because there is no other that the Self, it cannot be said to be knowledge really, for there is no knower/knowing/known!
People speak of knowing the Self, or Self-Realisation, but knowing the Self is just to Be the Self. To Be the Self is just Pure Being devoid of objective phenomena. In this there is no knowing or realising, just Being.
Here are some verses from Sr Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram (30 verses on the Essence of Spiritual Instruction):
25. Seeing oneself free of all attributes [objects]
Is to see the Lord,
For He shines ever as the pure Self.
26. To know the Self is but to be the Self,
For it is non-dual.
In such knowledge
One abides as that.
27. That is true knowledge which transcends
Both knowledge and ignorance,
For in pure knowledge
Is no object to be known.
28. Having known one’s nature one abides
As being with no beginning and no end
In unbroken consciousness and bliss.
See here for the full 30 verses of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram which summarises the entire teaching
A definition of Jnana by Shankara
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, verse 4.4.20, states the following:
20. It [Brahman] should be realised in one form only, (for) It is unknowable and eternal. The Self is taintless, beyond the (subtle) ether, birthless, infinite and constant.
Here we can see that the Upanishad is stating that Brahman is unknowable. So what of Self-Knowledge or knowledge of Brahman that is so often spoken about? Shankara explains this contradiction in his commentary on this verse:
The knowledge of Brahman too means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (such as the body). The relation of identity with It [Brahman] has not to be directly established, for it is already there. Everybody always has that identity with It, but it appears to be related to something else. Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with Brahman should be established, but that the false identification with things other than That should stop. When the identification with other things is gone, that identity with one’s own Self which is natural, becomes isolated; this is expressed by the statement that the Self is known. In Itself It is unknowable – not comprehended through any means. Hence both statements are consistent.
We can see that Shankara is stating that Brahman is indeed unknowable, and that Jnana, or knowledge, only signifies the cessation of identification with extraneous things, ie. loss of identification with objects, specifically the body-mind. Jnana is not of the mind and is not for the jiva or individual.
We do not need to affirm our identity as Brahman, as we already are and always have been and always will be Brahman. Any affirmation of Brahman would simply be on the level of thought or concepts, and so it would be Maya, or more ignorance. But once the false identification has been removed, then the Self naturally shines as itself, and this lack of wrong-knowledge, or lack of wrongly identifying as the body-mind, is what is called ‘Jnana’ or ‘knowledge’.
In Ulladu Narpadu verse 12, Sri Ramana Maharshi writes:
True Knowledge is being devoid of knowledge as well as ignorance of objects. Knowledge of objects is not true knowledge. Since the Self shines self-luminous, with nothing else for It to know, with nothing else to know It, the Self is Knowledge. Nescience It is not.
In Upadesa Saram verse 27, Sri Ramana Maharshi writes:
That is true knowledge which transcends
Both knowledge and ignorance,
For in pure knowledge
Is no object to be known.
The above is an excerpt from the following post which further explores this topic: What exactly is Jnana (knowledge) according to Shankara and Gaudapada and the scriptures?
To the jiva, the individual, a pointer to It is the word ‘I’. It’s like this – if you go into the woods and you take a ball of wool with you, as you walk through the woods, you unwind the wool to leave a trail so you know the way out again so you don’t get lost. The ‘I am’, the ‘I’, is like the ball of wool that you follow to lead you out of the dark forest of ignorance.
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.
Question: Are yogic exercises helpful in any way to human beings?
Jiddu Krishnamurti: I think one must go into this question fairly deeply. Apparently in Europe, as well as in India, there is this idea that by doing yogic exercises, practising virtue, being good, participating in social work, reading sacred books, following a teacher – that by doing something of this kind, you are going to achieve salvation or enlightenment. I am afraid you are not. On the contrary, you are going to be caught in the things you are practising, and therefore you will always be held a prisoner and your vision will be everlastingly limited.
Yogic exercises are all right, probably, for the body. Any kind of exercise – walking, jumping, climbing mountains, swimming, or whatever you do – is on the same level. But to suppose that certain exercises will lead you to salvation, to understanding, to God, truth, wisdom – this I think is sheer nonsense, even though all the yogis in India say otherwise. If once you see that anything that you practise, that you accept, that you develop, always has behind it the element of greed – wanting to get something, wanting to reach something, wanting to break a record – , then you will leave it alone. A mind that is merely concerned with the `how’, with doing yogic exercises, this or that, will only develop a sense of achievement through time, and such a mind can never comprehend that which is timeless.
After all, you practise yogic exercises in the hope of reaching something, gaining something; you hope to achieve happiness, bliss, or whatever is offered. Do you think bliss is so easily realized? Do you think it is something to be gained by doing certain exercises, or developing concentration? Must not the mind be altogether free of this self-centred activity? Surely a man who practises yoga in order to reach enlightenment, is concerned about himself, about his own growth; he is full of his own importance. So it is a tremendous art – an art which can be approached only through self-knowledge, not through any practice – to understand this whole process of self-centred activity in the name of God, in the name of truth, in the name of peace, or whatever it be – to understand and be free of it.
Now, to be free does not demand time, and I think this is our difficulty. We say “I am envious, and to get rid of envy I must control, I must suppress, I must sacrifice, I must do penance, I must practise yoga”, and all the rest of it – all of which indicates the continuance of self-centred activity, only transferred to a different level. If one sees this, if one really understands it, then one no longer thinks in terms of getting rid of envy in a certain period of time. Then the problem is, can one get rid of envy immediately? It is like a hungry man – he does not want a promise of food tomorrow, he wants to be fed now, and in that sense he is free of time. But we are indolent, and what we want is a method to lead us to something which will ultimately give us pleasure.
Hamburg, Germany 4th Public Talk 14th September 1956