Poetry: Know thyself

swan reflection

Not that which comes and goes,
But that which knows both comings and goings;

Not that which is confused or clear,
But that which sees both confusion and clarity;

Not that which is happy or depressed,
But that which knows both happiness and depression;

Not that which swells with pride, or is deflated by humiliation,
But that which sees both pride and humiliation, and their effects;

Not that which is damaged by disease or benefited by medicine,
But that which knows both disease and health;

Not that which has desires and fears,
But that which sees both attraction and aversion;

Not that which judges or is open-minded,
But that which knows judgement and open-mindedness.

Not that which thinks or acts,
But that to which both thoughts and actions appear;

Not the ear, tongue, skin, eyes or nose,
But that to which smell, taste, sensation, vision and sound appear;

That which, in our experience,
never changes,
is always present,
ever-aware,
and unblemished by experiences;

That which
looks with constancy,
is ever-patient,
unmoving,
always seeing things as they are;

That which
cannot be lost or removed,
is effortlessly present,
totally secure,
and is the innermost essence of your experience;

Know yourself to be 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

Integrating knowledge, spontaneous action

This post is continued from Discarding Knowledge as Ignorance

Do you go around repeatedly saying your name so that you remember it? Do you have to walk around saying “I am Tom, I am Tom, I am Tom?” (obviously substitute in your name).

Or do you spend most of your life not even thinking about your name, but when someone calls out your name, the understanding ‘My name is Tom’ automatically acts: you turn your head and respond?

It’s the same with understanding there is no doer: initially you may need to think about it, go through the reasoning, and realise there is no evidence for a doer. It is a conscious process. Because we have been conditioned to think of ourselves as being a doer, there is often a process of deconditioning.

It may also take time for all the suffering based on the ‘I am the doer’ notion to fall away. Other notions such as ‘I am to blame’ or ‘I could/should have done it differently’ or ‘I am not worthy’ may still all be at play. All these depend on the root belief ‘I am a separate doer-entity’. Again, there may be a conscious process of applying this understanding in order to deal with suffering as it arises and uprooting the associated beliefs upon which suffering depends.

But once this has been done, then we don’t need to think about it. The knowledge of ‘there is no doer’ has been ingrained into us. We do not need to think about it, we no longer need to repeat the process of understanding.

But just as when someone asks your name, you can spontaneously respond ‘My name is ____’, when someone asks you ‘Are you a doer?’, you can instantly reply ‘there is no doer’.

This post is continued here: Am I the body? Am I not the body?

Jiddu Krishnamurti: We are talking of something entirely different

‘We are talking of something entirely different, not of self-improvement, but of the cessation of the self’
Jiddu Krishnamurti

Tom’s Comments:

Seeing there is no self (ie. no doer, no independent entity that is the author of thoughts and actions) is ‘cessation of the self’.

It is not something you have to do – that would be more self-improvement.

With this insight suffering falls away by itself, as a side-effect. Not that it matters, for there is no choice, just spontaneous happening.

Roadmap to enlightenment: a (fairly) comprehensive guide to spiritual practices

This is one of the most important posts I have written – it condenses years of spiritual seeking which has involved exploring dozens of spiritual teachings, reading hundreds of books and texts from spiritual teachers and spiritual traditions across the world, undergoing all sorts of spiritual practices and meditations over the years, entering samadhi’s and experiencing visions of infinite oneness, and a genuine realisation of the Freedom-that-already-is.

The aim of the post is to guide you to a Freedom beyond words, but also stay concise. For all those people who have asked me: ‘That’s all very well but how do I actually become enlightened? How can we free ourselves from suffering? What do we do?’, this is for you, and others like you.

Continue reading

It’s too ordinary to notice

tea leaf

It’s too ordinary for you to notice.

Whenever you’re seeking,
Whatever you’re seeking,
You’re seeking something else,
A mental projection,
A fantasy.

The self that causes all the mischief,
All the suffering,
Is an imagined entity.
It is seeking its own end
– how absurd!

No-self is already here.
To notice this,
There is nothing that you need to notice,
(Nothing you need to do)
As it is always being noticed.
It is simply the totality of whatever is already being perceived,
And in that totality there has never actually ever been a perceiver,
The perceiver being an imagined entity.

Ask yourself “Who am I?”,
“What is the I”,
And you will find no “I” there,
“I” being just an empty thought.

Reality is simply that which remains
When no actual “I” is seen,
When things are seen as they are,
Which is always the case.

There is nothing you need to do,
Nothing to realise,
Only cease adding the notion of “I”,
Only cease to believe in that “I” for which there is no evidence.

Then the notion of “I” can still appear,
The “I” can still come and go as it pleases,
(for this “I” is just a thought,
and like all phenomena,
its appearance cannot be controlled,
spontaneously appearing and disappearing by itself)
But it is no longer believed in.

The “I” being seen through,
Reality shines by itself,
As it has always done.

This is nothing new,
I hesitate to say nothing special,
As it is also truly wonderful.

Reality being everywhere and ever-present
– what is more ordinary and commonplace than that?

Insight

Insight is not personal insight.

With personal insight, you have an insight,
You realise this or that,
You realise x, y or z.

All personal insight is based on concepts or thought,
– they are all subject to change,
– they are all subject to doubt.

With Insight it is the person that is seen through;
Insight is there without a person having an insight:
Everything is just Insight,
There is only Insight.

Like realising the lake is a mirage:
Your personal insights and doubts were just ripples on its surface;

Then the whole of spirituality is done for,
No need for any of it anymore,
What else is there to do?
What can be done when there is no doer?