I love to read the words of Robert Adams. They fill me with warmth and truth. Here I have compiled what he has said on the topic of chanting. He, in his wonderful style, teaches in accordance with traditional Advaita Vedanta, in line with the teachings of Shankara and Ramana Maharshi, namely that chanting is a useful practice to quieten the mind and allow for self-inquiry to take place. But we find many nuances in his teaching, and so I humbly offer you this compilation. Best wishes and blessings to you, namaste, Tom ❤
The following are words of Robert Adams:
Good evening. I welcome you with all my heart.
Chanting has been known to calm the mind, to calm the nerves, and to calm the soul. It makes your mind one-pointed. When your mind becomes one-pointed, you can practice atma-vichara or self-inquiry. And the path of Jnana becomes easier. So let’s all join into the chant.
Chanting…makes your mind one-pointed. When your mind becomes one-pointed, you can practice atma-vichara or self-inquiry. And the path of Jnana becomes easier.
Good afternoon. Welcome. I know some of you aspiring Jnanis do not enjoy chanting too much. (laughter) You’re making a big mistake. In all of the traditions of the world there has been chanting. The Catholics, the Jews, the Protestants, the Baptists, the Hindus, the Islams.
Why? If it weren’t significant, why would they have it? Well, when you come in here, the world has had you for a week, influencing your behavior. The chanting sort of goes deep into the subjective, calms you down, prepares you for something higher. Even changes your consciousness lifts you up. Chanting is very good.
I know some of you aspiring Jnanis do not enjoy chanting too much. (laughter) You’re making a big mistake.
At Ramana ashram they always had two hours of chanting prior to anything else, in the morning and the evening. The same with Ramakrishna ashram. Everywhere.
So, aspiring Jnanis believe only in the word. The word is insignificant. Many of you just come to hear me talk. How do you know I know what I’m talking about? Words are words. Chanting is thousands of years old and has it’s value.
If you’re that far enmeshed in this world, again self-inquiry will be difficult for you to do. That’s when you sing bhajans and you have mantras, you chant, you practice pranayama. You do all these things to make your body pure enough so that you can practice self-inquiry.
You do all these things to make your body pure enough so that you can practice self-inquiry.
Before you can practice self inquiry the best thing you can do is think of God. As an example; If someone does something to make you angry, instead of reacting like you always do, start chanting “I-am,” to yourself with your respiration. Remember to do this. You are invoking the name of God. And if you do this everything will be worked out. Not worked out like you want it to perhaps but everything will be worked out, I can assure you of this. Everything will work itself out. Your job is to invoke the name of God. Not to react to the situation.
Before you can practice self inquiry the best thing you can do is think of God…You are invoking the name of God. And if you do this everything will be worked out…I can assure you of this.
Chanting is a very important process. It makes the mind one-pointed. When the mind becomes one-pointed, you can focus on the Self. And by focussing on the Self, the mind becomes annihilated, and you become free.
Do not take the things we do here for granted. Everything is important, everything. If you get involved in it, you will see the results in a short time. But if you just come here for amusement because you have nothing better to do, as I said before, 50 years will pass and you’ll still be running to teachers, running to India, going to different states looking for certain ways or methods of finding yourself.
But in truth, there is no way and there’s no method. The Self is the Self, just like the sun always shines. You just have to remove the clouds and the sun will shine once again like it always did. And so it is, that all you’ve got to do is remove the ignorance, the world and all its ramifications from your mind and you will be free.
But in truth, there is no way and there’s no method.
R: …there is nothing that can be explained. As long as you can explain it, it’s not it. So what is left? Silence, quietness.
Q: Why does the music or song help to realize the consciousness or unexplainable?
R: The music quiets the mind. It makes the mind quieter and quieter. It makes the mind one-pointed. So you can get rid of it and become still, quiet.
Q: So we can use music to quieten our mind?
R: Yes. If you come home after a hectic days work, if you listen to chanting music like this, you’ll become quieter and quieter. You’ll become more and more relaxed and you’ll be able to go deep within yourself. Deeper and deeper than you’ve ever gone before. That’s how the music helps.
So try to keep your mind quiet, keep it from thinking and everything will take care of itself.
So as long as we believe that we are the body, chanting, music makes you one-pointed. It mellows you out and makes you calm and cool and peaceful. Remember music soothes the savage beast.
So as long as we believe that we are the body, chanting, music makes you one-pointed…Remember music soothes the savage beast.
Yet it is paradoxical due to the fact that when we went to grammar school, we learned the multiplication table, and that was sort of the substratum for higher mathematics. Without a multiplication table we would never have gone on to higher mathematics.
So again, for some people these things are necessary, ritual worship, surrender to God, mantras, chanting. These things are sometimes important to some of us.
Yet, they do not liberate you. Liberation comes by itself, but if we have not practiced the ritualistic worship, the mantras, the chanting and the other things, we will become aggressive, arrogant, cynical, whereas we have to develop humility and compassion.
…for some people these things are necessary, ritual worship, surrender to God, mantras, chanting…Yet, they do not liberate you.
When we understand these things we stop playing games and we get down to spiritual work. We forget about all these human traits, and we begin to realize, “My true nature is consciousness. I am absolute reality. I am pure awareness, ultimate oneness. This is my real nature. And even if I do not feel it right now, I am going to work on myself continuously even if it takes me ten million lifetimes, I will work on myself diligently and do what has to be done, until I become free.” The rest is up to you.
Now let’s chant together Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.
Robert: To know total happiness is to quiet your mind. When your mind becomes quiet, quiescent, happiness ensues all by itself. There are many ways to do this. One of the best ways that I know is chanting. Chanting has a positive effect upon the nervous system. It also has other subtle qualities that cause the mind to become still and quiet. So les prepare ourselves by doing a little chanting, shall we?
I’m not really interested in any of your problems because I know that you are absolute reality. You believe that something is wrong with your life, you’re not being treated right, you don’t understand too much, or whatever it may be. It’s a lie.
I’m not really interested in any of your problems because I know that you are absolute reality. You believe that something is wrong with your life…It’s a lie.
Therefore silence is the best way to wake up, not by chanting mantras or prayers or incantations. Those things may bring you a little peace.
Q: Another question I think is important but is chanting more advantageous than listening to music? Like om, or any of that kind of music?
R: Again it depends on the person. Chanting is very, very good. The purpose of chanting is to make your mind one-pointed. So you can realize that you are in silence and you are quiet and you’re still and you’re able to sit in the silence. As you know when you chant for about fifteen-twenty minutes or a half hour, you feel very comfortable and very relaxed and very mentally still. Your mind becomes still. Then you can watch your mind more closely. You can ask, “Who am I?” more sincerely after a chant and the question will go deeper into the Self. But when you are doing worldly things for instance coming home from work. You have your mind on the TV and then you ask, “Who am I?” it’s more superficial.
It doesn’t go in deep enough. But when you chant for a while and then you say, “Who am I?” or then you say, “I am.” It goes much deeper into consciousness.
Q: So the question is: Is chanting better than listening to the music?
I should think so, yes. Because your entire being gets involved with the chant.
You can ask, “Who am I?” more sincerely after a chant and the question will go deeper into the Self. But when you are doing worldly things for instance coming home from work. You have your mind on the TV and then you ask, “Who am I?” it’s more superficial.
Chanting is very helpful to make you one-pointed, to put you into a state where you can absorb your own reality. So let’s do a little chanting together, shall we?
But I ask you to have an open heart and ponder the things that we discuss. I am not a philosopher. I am not a preacher. I am nothing. And our teaching is a teaching of silence. Even the words that I appear to speak are words of silence. If you listen to the silence you too will become silent and experience the bliss which you are.
To begin with, chanting is very efficacious. It is something that makes your mind one pointed and allows you to accept the realities as outlined. So we’re going to do a little chanting first. Everything we do is part of the unfoldment. All is well.
Now one of the ways of quieting the mind is chanting. It has been known for centuries that chanting makes the mind one-pointed. It works through the nervous system, bringing peace and tranquility to the mind. Then the mind disappears of its own volition.
Let’s do that now, shall we?
The closest thing you can come to, to having an experience of quiet mind, is chanting. Chanting has a vibration in the nervous system that actually causes the mind to slow down. There are many people who cannot do atma-vichara, self-inquiry too long. And for
those people who are practicing self-inquiry, sometimes you are meant to take a break. So put on a chanting tape and chant along with it to yourself, or out loud, and you will find that you go deeper within yourself and the mind begins to become quiescent, still, calm. So let’s do that right now, shall we.
Some people tell me they like the talks better than anything else we do. Some people tell me they like the chanting better. Some people tell me they like the question and answers better. Some people tell me they like the silence better. Remember what this is. This is satsang. It’s not a lecture or a musical festival. Everything we do is important, even if I spoke about the weather and nothing else. It’s being at satsang that causes something to take place within your consciousness and lift you higher.
Everything we do is important, even if I spoke about the weather and nothing else. It’s being at satsang that causes something to take place within your consciousness and lift you higher.
To yourself. Even if someone is looking at you and screaming at you. As you watch the person screaming put a smile on your face, do not react and chant “I-am” to yourself.
Even if someone is…screaming at you…do not react and chant “I-am” to yourself.
Q: Robert, is the love that a person feels when they sing or they play an instrument, is that the love of the actual consciousness, the love bliss of consciousness coming through, even though it’s filtered through the mind?
R: Not really. Consciousness cannot be filtered through the mind. The mind has to be totally transcended for consciousness to be aware of itself. Consciousness is self-contained. It has absolutely nothing to do with the mind.
But, what you’re talking about, when you chant, when you play beautiful music, when you feel that feeling, it’s on the way towards that. It makes you one-pointed. If your mind is one-pointed, you can easily practice self-inquiry.
…when you chant…It makes you one-pointed. If your mind is one-pointed, you can easily practice self-inquiry.
When your mind is thinking about so many different things, about the world, about your job, about your family, about your car, about your dog, about all kinds of things, then it’s hard to get through. So we chant, we do yoga, we do different exercises, we sing bhajans, and the mind becomes calm, quiescent.
When the mind becomes quiescent it is like a clear lake. The clear lake reflects the sun and the moon and the stars. If the lake is murky and moving about, it does not reflect anything. And so it is when your mind is clear, quiescent. It reflects your divinity. When it’s murky, it reflects the world.
…when your mind is clear, quiescent. It reflects your divinity.
All these things are good, chanting, yoga, singing bhajans, everything is helpful. They all lead to atma-vichara.
Again, all these things simply make the mind quiet. Their purpose is to make the mind quiescent, calm, and peaceful, and then your Self, your real Self will shine through all by itself, when the mind becomes absolutely still. It will not happen during the singing or during the chanting. The purpose again is to quiet the mind. When the mind is quiet, when all the chanting has subsided, when all the music has subsided, when you have entered that place where there are no others, then you will awaken to your true Self.
…all these things simply make the mind quiet…It will not happen during the singing or during the chanting….when all the chanting has subsided…when you have entered that place where there are no others, then you will awaken to your true Self.
… As you keep practicing whatever method you’re using, you can practice meditation, you can practice mantras, whatever you’re doing to quiet the mind helps. Of course karmically if a person has been doing this in a previous existence, it will be much easier in this particular life, and you’ll fall right into it. But all these things are simply gimmicks to quieten the mind. They’re necessary for most people, but not for everyone.
But all these things are simply gimmicks to quieten the mind. They’re necessary for most people, but not for everyone.
Everything we do here is important. Every song we play, every chant we do, every word, every silence, it’s all important.
I know there are some people who would like to keep quiet all the time. They’d like me to shut up and not say a word, and just sit still. There’s a time for that also.
But remember, if you will, that the words that come out, are words of silence. Even though I may be appearing to talk to you, you’re sitting in the silence. Think about that. What I’m trying to say is, do not look for faults. Do not say to yourself, “Well, I’d rather be doing this,” or “Why don’t you give us more of this and less of that.” Remember it’s you that says this. This is coming out of your ego. Allow everything to be.
Do not say to yourself, “Well, I’d rather be doing this,” or “Why don’t you give us more of this and less of that.” Remember it’s you that says this. This is coming out of your ego. Allow everything to be.
That’s what I meant before when I said you have to become a bhakta first. That means you just give out love, compassion, joy, kindness. You become a living embodiment of that. Then Jnana starts to develop inside of you. But if you always find fault with others, you’re always trying to correct something. You always see what somebody else is doing.
…you have to become a bhakta first
When your mind is full of doubts, apprehensions and suspicions, all of this negative energy pays a price in your consciousness and you develop in reverse. As the years pass you wonder why you haven’t made too much progress. Give of yourself. Open up. Love. And then see what happens.
The chanting we do has a very positive effect on the nervous system. It clears the chakras. It makes you one-pointed, so you can turn into your original Self. The whole object of everything we do is to make you one-pointed, so you can ponder “Who am I?”
The mind becomes quiet and everything unfolds as it should. So let us do a little chanting.
The whole object of everything we do is to make you one-pointed, so you can ponder “Who am I?”
Think of some of the teachers that you know or heard about. Nisargadatta, he always prayed. He realized that he was consciousness. He was self-realized, but at the same time he chanted, he prayed, he had devotion. It sounds like a contradiction. For you may say, “If someone is self-realized and knows himself or herself to be all there is, to whom do they pray?” Try to remember that all spiritual life is a contradiction. It’s a contradiction because words cannot explain it. Even when you are the Self, you can pray to the Self, which is you.
Ramana Maharshi always had chanting at the ashram, prayers, devotional hymns. These things are very important. Many westerners, who profess to be atheists, come to listen to lectures on Advaita Vedanta, and yet nothing ever happens in their lives. As long as you do not have devotion, faith, love, discrimination, dispassion, it will be very difficult to awaken.
As long as you do not have devotion, faith, love, discrimination, dispassion, it will be very difficult to awaken.
Therefore those of you who become bored with practicing self-inquiry may become very devotional. Surrender everything. Give up your body, your thoughts, all the things that bind you, whatever problems you may believe you have. Surrender them to your favorite deity. You are emptying yourself out as you do this. Do a lot of it. Become humble. Have a tremendous humility. If you can just do that you will become a favorite of God and you’ll not have to search any longer. But of course the choice is always yours.
Have a tremendous humility. If you can just do that you will become a favorite of God and you’ll not have to search any longer.
Just being aware of this, your thoughts stop. There is nothing to think about. There is no thing you have to do. There are no mantras you have to keep chanting. There are no formulas that is going to turn you into ajnani. There are no yoga practices that you have to keep doing. You simply have to be aware that absolute reality is omnipresent, all pervading, and there is no room for anything else.
All of the things I shared for you, with you rather. What you ought to do is to pick out the one that appeals to you mostly. Part of it should always be reading the transcripts because the transcripts somehow set you off on the right path. And then the method you’ve got to use, whether it’s self-inquiry or chanting or becoming the witness that will come to you easier. In other words you will know what to do by reading the paragraph from the transcripts and pondering the paragraph
As you know, on Sunday we have puja and we have chanting. To whom are we chanting? To Hari, to Ram, to Krishna.
I must again tell you as long as you believe you are the doer, that you are the body and the mind do not fool yourself into thinking you’re not, for if you weren’t you wouldn’t react the way you react to situations.
So as long as you believe that things are real, then you have to pray to God, because God does exist for you. You can call God the law of karma. In reality karma does not exist. Yet how many of us have such reality?
So as long as you believe that things are real, then you have to pray to God
Therefore the best thing for you to do is to practice the Jnana practices, but keep doing your puja. Do not give it up. If you’re doing japa, whatever practice you have, keep it up.
Words are only to motivate you to keep quiet. That’s all words are good for. Chanting, words, they’re only to quieten the mind. Keep you still. In the stillness is your reality. In the quietness is your strength, not in the noise, not in the talk. Try to be quiet most of the time. Do not get involved in too many conversations.
Words are only to motivate you to keep quiet.
The guru is the Self. The guru is the I-am expressing. The Self and the guru and the I-am are all-pervading. So when you’re turning within yourself and you are chanting I-am and turning your so called problems over to I-am, you’re turning them over to the guru, to God and to the Self. They’re all one because it’s all-pervading.
The point I’m trying to make is that the Sages understood that at this age the way to realization, the way to unfoldment, the way to liberation, the easiest way is through namah japa, the chanting of God’s name. This they say was the thing to do in this age. This is the meditation to do in this age. Namah japa, chanting of God’s name. As an example, “Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.” This is what human beings were supposed to do
in this age to awaken.
As the years went by people such as Buddha, Shankara, Jesus, some others, people that we know about like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and others including myself came to conclusion that what is needed in this age is a combination of teachings.
Jnana Marga, the path of wisdom is the highest stage of all yogas. That combined with bhakti Marga, the path of devotion and karma Marga, the path of service. These are the stages, these are the principles that we have to learn and understand. Therefore what I do is teach those three methods together, combined.
When you teach Jnana Marga by itself as many so-called beings, gurus are doing today it becomes a bunch of rhetoric. It builds up the ego, it doesn’t destroy it. Jnana Marga by itself becomes cold and calculating. People start to feel as if they are superior to others. It is called also the talking school. Where people talk to each other debate issues about Jnana Marga. Get involved in heated discussions, debates, arguments and you get absolutely nowhere.
If you teach and you learn bhakti Marga, the path of devotion by itself you can become a fool. Where you become devoted to all the statues and all the trees and become devoted to all the gurus and you have just blind devotion, without knowledge. So that is not sufficient.
When you practice karma bhakta, the path of service to humanity. You become the servant of other bodies. The servant of the people. Yet you become confused because you
don’t really know who to help. You really don’t know to whom to give service to. There are so many poor people, homeless people, deprived people, whom shall you serve? And
again you become confused.
But when you combine all of them together, Jnana Marga, bhakti Marga and karma Marga you have a beautiful teaching.
But when you combine all of them together, Jnana Marga, bhakti Marga and karma Marga you have a beautiful teaching.
Good Afternoon. It is good being with you once again on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Everyone is sweating profusely. Chanters you are not. Why should we want to chant?
Jnana without bhakta is dry knowledge. You have to have Jnana with bhakta. You have to feel passion. You have to feel love. You have to feel loving kindness. This comes with bhakta. Unless you become a bhakta, you cannot be a Jnani. They both go together hand in hand. It’s like a man and a woman. You can’t have one without the other.
Jnana without bhakta is dry knowledge.
There are many people who profess to be Jnanis. They are very dry intellectuals. Very cold people. When you chant to the Goddess or the God, and you feel the chant in your heart, you will feel this way towards your fellow man. The same love you give to God you give to your fellow man. How can you love others if you do not love yourself? You love yourself by letting your heart open up and feel the passion, the joy, the harmony which is your divine real nature.
Become involved in the chanting. Feel it. Be it. And you will be amazed at the change that comes over you.
Become involved in the chanting. Feel it. Be it. And you will be amazed at the change that comes over you.
Until you come to the realization that there is no sadhana. All these years I’ve been spending standing on one foot with my arm in the air, chanting mantras, doing pranayamas has been unnecessary. Now you can only say this when you’ve arrived a certain place in life.
The stronger you’re attached to this earth the more sadhanas you have to do. But as you begin to lose attachment to this earth your form of sadhana changes. Your spiritual practices change. They become less and less. Since you’re beginning to realize that you are the pure awareness. Does the pure awareness have to do sadhana? Or does God have to do spiritual practices?
The stronger you’re attached to this earth the more sadhanas you have to do.
Now let’s talk about you. Many of you have been performing yoga practices, meditations, chanting, pranayama and various techniques in order to awaken. But I say to you that this will never cause you to awaken. It will bring you good feelings, it will bring you a semblance of peace, but you will never awaken through the practice of yoga unless the yoga leads to self-inquiry, or it leads to complete surrender of the ego. If you practice anything else it inflates the ego.
…you will never awaken through the practice of yoga unless the yoga leads to self-inquiry, or it leads to complete surrender of the ego. If you practice anything else it inflates the ego.
But do not make it hard for yourself by believing thoughts, that you have to do certain things or to say certain prayers or to do certain chants, drop all that kind of thinking. And just be! Just be yourself. You’re neither this nor that. If you’re nothing that you can talk about or imagine then your mind becomes still. And when your mind becomes still you’re already home. So learn to observe the part of you that tells you that there is something you’ve got to do, that it’s hard. Observe that in you. And when you do not respond to it, it will go away and you’ll be free. You’re already free.
But do not make it hard for yourself by believing …that you have to do certain things or to say certain prayers or to do certain chants…You’re already free.
In satsang there may be bhajans where you sing together, kirtans where you chant together, silence where you do nothing, just sit. Questions once in a while. This is what
satsang is all about. It really makes no difference what I say.
Consciousness has nothing to do. Absolute reality is absolute reality just the way it is. It doesn’t have to practice any sadhanas, chant any mantras, or do anything.
Absolute reality…doesn’t have to practice any sadhanas, chant any mantras, or do anything.
Why not awaken now? What are you waiting for? Make up your mind that you’re going to awaken right now, and allow your mind to turn into your heart, which is pure awareness. Do it. Some of you are still asking, how do you do it?
Through silence, experiencing the moment, the now, the reality. Nothing is happening now. No one is suffering. Now is the only moment you’ve got. Abide in the now.
Everything is perfect right now. Feel It. Don’t think about it. Feel it. There are no yesterdays, there are no tomorrows. All of your so called sins have been transcended. No past and no future. You are fully alive now. Right now. Enjoy.
Everything is perfect right now. Feel It. Don’t think about it…You are fully alive now. Right now. Enjoy.
Gaudapada is a giant in the history of Advaita, and he is often known as the great-grandfather of Advaita Vedanta. Here in this post I want to focus on the practical aspects of the principle text of Gaudapada, the Mandukya Karika, aimed at the seeker of liberation. What is Gaudapada urging the seeker of liberation to actually do? There are many other aspects of the karika too, such as the metaphysical and philosophical elucidations, but maybe I will save discussion of these for a future post.
Gaudapada (c. 6th century CE) was the great-guru of Shankara (788-820 CE), ie. he was Shankara’s guru’s guru. And for those of you who don’t know, Shankara is the person who made the word non-duality (Sanskrit: Advaita) famous. It was he who brought together various texts and propped them up with logic and scriptural arguments and essentially systematised and founded what is today known as Advaita Vedanta.
While we know very little about Gaudapada and his life, he is famous for writing a commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad called the Mandukya Karika or Gaudapada’s Karika. Whilst Gaudapada was not a Buddhist, it is clear that he drew heavily on Buddhist teachings in the karika, often using near exact copies of some Buddhist phrases in his writings, and much of what he writes will be very familiar to those who have studied Mahayana Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism.
In my view much of the methodology for spiritual practice as well as the conceptual framework within which Gaudapda forms his views is much more similar to Buddhist thought that any Vedanta scripture that we know of that comes before Gaudapada. Conversely, we have many Buddhist scriptures that in essence give the same practical method for enlightenment as Gaudapada, the only substantive difference with Gaudapada being their philosophical way of interpreting and writing about the nature of reality. Now whilst I have been studying both Vedanta and Buddhism for over twenty years, I still do not consider myself to be an expert on the scriptures, so I welcome any corrections or alternative views you want to put my way.
As an interesting aside, the only copies of the Mandukya Upanishad we have are those which are combined with Gaudapada’s commentary. As no earlier versions without the commentary have been found, this has led some to speculate that perhaps Gaudapada himself wrote the Mandukya Upanishad. Textually and stylistically this seems unlikely, but, like with many upanishadic texts, their precise origins and authorship remains shrouded in darkness.
I thought I’d start with verse 90 of Chapter 4 of Gaudapada’s Karika, as it gives an overview of his approach:
IV 90. One should be conversant, at the very outset, with four things. These are as follows: the things to be avoided, the goal to be realized, the disciplines to be cultivated and the tendencies to be rendered ineffective. Of these four, all except the goal to be realized i.e. the Supreme Reality exist only as products of the imagination.
Gaudapada lists four things we should know from the outset as a spiritual seeker: what we are looking for, what we should do, what we should not do and what habitual tendencies we should get rid of. The supreme reality he is speaking of is none-other than Brahman. This is the goal to be realised, and all else, he states, is illusory. Essentially Gaudapada is saying there appears to be a spiritual path with a seeker and a goal and things to do and things to not do, but actually all there is is reality. The spiritual path is an illusion.
He makes this clearer in this famous oft quoted verse from Chapter 2 verse 32:
II 32. There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.
As we are stuck in illusion, what is the (illusory) way out? What is the (illusory) path we should follow? Gaudapada has already stated that the goal of the search is Brahman. Much of the Karika is devoted to philosophical explanation and reasoning about the nature of Brahman, illusion, cause and effect, duality vs. non-duality, etc, but in the following verses Gaudapada gives us a method we can use, and in doing so he also gives us an experiential definition of Brahman. The following verses are from Chapter 3:
III 40. Yogis who are ignorant of non-duality depend on the control of the mind for attaining fearlessness, the destruction of misery, Self-Knowledge and imperishable peace.
First Gaudapada makes it clear that for one who is not already self-realised or liberated (‘ignorant of non-duality’), control of mind is the method. What are the fruits of this method? They are fearlessness, the end of suffering, knowledge of the supreme reality and unending peace. That control of mind is required was already stated in verse III.35 in which he writes ‘The controlled mind is verily the fearless Brahman’ – he is essentially saying that egoic vasanas (habitual tendencies) need to be removed – a point which he will reiterate later in verse III.46 below.
III 41. The mind is to be brought under control by undepressed effort; it is like emptying the ocean, drop by drop, with the help of a blade of kusa grass.
Gaudapada then says that this (illusory) path takes much effort, ie. a spiritual practice is required, and he likens this to using a blade of grass to empty the ocean drop by drop. Whilst Brahman is already fully here and now, an (apparent) path is required to remove (apparent) ignorance. As I said before, this post will not dwell too much on the philosophical aspects, but focus on practical steps for the (apparent) seeker. So how do we proceed on this path?
III 42. The mind distracted by desires and enjoyments should be brought under control by proper means; so also the mind enjoying pleasure in inactivity (laya). For the state of inactivity is as harmful as the state of desires.
Here Gaudapada states we should not be distracted by desire for sensual pleasures and warns us that dwelling in the pleasure of inactivity (laya) is also not the way, for this is actually just another sensual pleasure that fuels the egoic process further.
Already here, for those of you versed in a variety of Buddhist thought, you will see the familiarity in the methodology, in which dwelling on any sense object is pointed out as nothing other than egoic desire. But why should be turn away from these desires? Isn’t desire for pleasure natural and human?
III 43. Turn back the mind from the enjoyment of desires, remembering that they beget only misery. Do not see the created objects, remembering that all this is the unborn Atman.
We see another classic Buddhist teaching here. It is pointed out that seeking pleasure, or ‘enjoyment of desires’, just leads to further suffering. This is akin to the Buddha’s teachings on Dukkha (Pali for suffering). In fact the Sanskrit word here used is ‘Dukkham’, almost paying homage to the Buddha’s teachings. All pleasures come and go, and though they may please us for a short time, eventually they leave us. And when they do, they leave us wanting more, feeling incomplete, addicted to our desire for more and more and more. And so the seeking-suffering, the wheel of samsara, continues
The remedy suggested here is to see all this as the ‘unborn Atman’, and not to see the objects themselves at all.
What problems may we encounter on this path, and how do we remedy them?
III 44. If the mind becomes inactive, arouse it from laya; if distracted, make it tranquil. Understand the nature of the mind when it contains the seed of attachment. When the mind has attained sameness, do not disturb it again.
This verse mimics the Buddhist scriptures we see detailing various Buddhist meditation methods, in which remedies for both inactivity and distraction are advised so that the meditator can find that still point of equanimity. Again, the idea is of neither slipping into the dull state of laya with all its bliss and laziness (tamas), nor being hyper-agitated and enamoured with thoughts and the world (rajas), and this attaining peace (sattva).
Are there any further stumbling blocks on this path?
III 45. The yogi must not taste the happiness arising from samadhi; he should detach himself from it by the exercise of discrimination. If his mind, after attaining steadiness, again seeks external objects, he should make it one with Atman through great effort.
The instructions Gaudapa give us are extremely concise, and each of these terse verses could be unpacked in much greater detail. Here the seeker is warned not to become attached to happiness, which is nothing other than another subtle object. Seeking objects in order to gain fulfillment is a sure way of perpetuating the ego-illusion together with its addiction to feeling good.
The second sentence also highlights another important aspect of the teaching, namely that even after steadiness of mind is attained, there can be a lapse back in to delusion/ignorance, where the ego and it’s object-centred desires raise their head. The remedy for this is continued practice. Avoid this step at your peril.
What about when the mind no longer falls back into egoic desire or laya?
III 46. When the mind does not lapse into inactivity and is not distracted by desires, that is to say, when it remains unshakable and does not give rise to appearances, it verily becomes Brahman.
Here we are given a pragmatic definition of self-realisation or Brahman – ie. when ignorance no longer remains, when the mind no longer deviates and follows egoic desires, where the grasping mind has essentially died.
To put this into vedanta-speak, Gaudapada is equating realisation of Brahman with removal of the egoic vasanas, something reiterated by Shankara when he famously wrote vasana kshaya moksham, which means ‘destruction of the vasanas is Moksha (liberation)’.
So I will end this post here. The actual instructions are few, and for those with faith they can easily be followed. Be patient – remember – slow and steady wins the race. Re-read the above verses a few times so they sink in, and best wishes.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
The following excerpt is taken from ‘Be As You Are’ by David Godman
Question: For controlling the mind, which of the two is better, performing japa of the ajapa [unspoken] mantra or of omkar [the sound of `om’]?
Ramana Maharshi: What is your idea of unspoken and involuntary japa [ajapa]? Will it be ajapa if you go on repeating with the mouth `soham, soham’ [`I am he, I am he’]? Ajapa really means to know that japa which goes on involuntarily without being uttered through the mouth. Without knowing this real meaning people think that it means repeating with the mouth the words `soham, soham’ hundreds of thousands of times, counting them on the fingers or on a string of beads.
Before beginning a japa breath control is prescribed. That means, first do pranayama [regulating of breath] and then begin repeating the mantra. Pranayama means first closing the mouth, doesn’t it? If, by stopping the breath, the five elements in the body are bound down and controlled, what remains is the real Self. That Self will by itself be repeating always `aham, aham’ [`I, I’]. That is ajapa.
Knowing this, how could that which is repeated by mouth be ajapa? The vision of the real Self which performs japa of its own accord involuntarily and in a never-ending stream, like the flowing down continuously of oil, is ajapa, gayatri and everything. If you know who it is that is doing japa you will know what japa is. If you search and try to find out who it is that is doing japa, that japa itself becomes the Self.
Question: Is there no benefit at all in doing japa with the mouth?
Ramana Maharshi: Who said there is no benefit? Such japa will be the means for chitta suddhi [purifying the mind]. As the japa is done repeatedly the effort ripens and sooner or later leads to the right path. Good or bad, whatever is done never goes to waste. Only the differences and the merits and demerits of each will have to be told, looking to the stage of development of the person concerned.
Question: Is not mental japa better than oral japa?
Ramana Maharshi: Oral japa consists of sounds. The sounds arise from thoughts, for one must think before one expresses the thoughts in words. The thoughts are form the mind. Therefore mental japa is better than oral japa.
Question: Should we not contemplate the japa and repeat it orally also?
Ramana Maharshi: When the japa becomes mental, where is the need for the sounds? Japa, becoming mental, becomes contemplation. Dhyana, contemplation and mental japa are the same. When thoughts cease to be promiscuous and one thought persists to the exclusion of all others, it is said to be contemplation. The object of japa or dhyana is the exclusion of several thoughts and confining oneself to one single thought. Then that thought too vanishes into its source – absolute consciousness. The mind engages in japa and then sinks into its own source.
Question: The mind is said to be from the brain.
Ramana Maharshi: Where is the brain? It is in the body. I say that the body itself is a projection of the mind. You speak of the brain when you think of the body. It is the mind which creates the body, the brain in it and also ascertains that the brain is its seat.
Question: Sri Bhagavan has said that the japa must be traced to its source. Is it not the mind that is meant?
Ramana Maharshi: All these are only the workings of the mind. Japa helps to fix the mind on a single thought. All other thoughts are first subordinated until they disappear. When it becomes mental it is called dhyana. Dhyana is your true nature. It is however called dhyana because it is made with effort. Effort is necessary so long as thoughts are promiscuous. Because you are with other thoughts, you call the continuity of a single thought meditation or dhyana. If that dhyana becomes effortless it will be found to be your real nature.
Question: People give some names to God and say that the name is sacred and that repetitions of the name bestow merit on the individual. Can it be true?
Ramana Maharshi: Why not? You bear a name to which you answer. But your body was not born with that name written on it, nor did it say to anyone that it bore such and such a name. And yet a name is given to you and you answer to that name, because you have identified yourself with the name. Therefore the name signified something and it is not a mere fiction. Similarly, God’s name is effective. Repetition of the name is remembrance of what it signifies. Hence its merit.
Question: While making japa for an hour or more I fall into a state like sleep. On waking up I recollect that my japa has been interrupted. So I try again.
Ramana Maharshi: `Like sleep’, that is right. It is the natural state. Because you are now associated with the ego, you consider that the natural state is something which interrupts your work. So you must have the experience repeated until you realize that it is your natural state. You will then find that japa is extraneous but still it will go on automatically. Your present doubt is due to that false identity, namely of identifying yourself with the mind that does the japa. Japa means clinging to one thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts. That is its purpose. It leads to dhyana which ends in Self-realization or jnana.
Question: How should I carry on japa?
Ramana Maharshi: One should not use the name of God mechanically and superficially without the feeling of devotion.
Question: So mechanical repetition is unproductive?
Ramana Maharshi: Acute diseases will not be cured merely by repeating the name of the medicine but only by drinking the medicine. Similarly, the bonds of birth and death will not cease merely by doing many repetitions of mahavakyas such as `I am Siva’. Instead of wandering about repeating `I am the supreme’, abide as the supreme yourself. The misery of birth and death will not cease by vocally repeating countless times `I am that’, but only by abiding as that.
Q: How do I ‘turn within’ or ‘turn towards the Self’?
Tom: There is no turning within. Turning within is just a turn of phrase! Everywhere you turn is outside. You may think you are turning within, but wherever you focus is outside. Everything you focus on is actually a subtle object, and all objects are ‘outside’, meaning non-self. All objects are seen.
How can you turn towards the seer? The seer can never be seen. By that I mean the seer can never be seen as an object. The seer is the Subject. The Subject is you.
Self knowledge simple means knowing that you exist, knowing that you are.
Ignorance is identifying as this or as that, meaning identifying as one of the myriad objects that are seen.
So, how to turn within? Just don’t chase objects, and don’t identify as objects.
You could say ignorance has 2 steps:
Step 1: identifying as this or that. This creates a false notion of self, also known as ego or the jiva
Step 2: that ego/jiva then seeks pleasure and security in the world of objects.
In Step 1 we create the structure or form of the ego. Step 2 represents the movement or function of the ego. So we have described the ego’s form and function, its structure and movement.
Most teachings attack either the ego-function or the ego-form, and ‘Turning within’ can attack either function, form or both.
So, be free and easy, be as you are
See this video for more on this:
One of the many things I admire about Ramana Maharshi is that he didn’t try to re-invent the wheel. He used to frequently refer people to traditional texts if it was relevant to their path, and even translated a number scriptures into Tamil for those who were unable to read or understand classical Sanskrit.
For me this was really brought home to me when reading Ramana’s Supplement to 40 Verses on Reality. This is a collection of 40 verses that Ramana composed, except that he didn’t compose all of the verses himself. Several were taken from other scriptures, but, I assume, as they said what he wanted to convey, he just copied the verses and gave the reference of where he took them from.
Here are the first 5 verses of Ramana’s Supplement to 40 Verses on Reality. Note how he places emphasis on the role of the guru and the guru’s power to lead those around him/her into freedom through darshan:
In the company of sages, attachment vanishes; and with attachment, illusion. Freed from illusion, one attains stability, and thence liberation while yet alive. Seek therefore the company of sages.
from Bhajagovindam by Shankaracharya
Not by listening to preachers, nor by study of books, not by meritorious deeds nor by any other means can one attain that Supreme State, which is attainable only through association with the sages and the clear quest of the Self,
from Yoga Vasishta
When one has learned to love the company of sages, wherefore all these rules of discipline? When a pleasant, cool southern breeze is blowing, what need is there for a fan?
from Yoga Vasishta
Fever is overcome by the cool light of the moon; want, by the good wish-yielding tree; and sin by the Holy Ganges. Those three — fever and want and sin — all flee at the august sight of the peerless sage.
from Subhashita Ratna Bhandargara, chapter 3 verse 6
Holy rivers, which are only water, and idols, which are made of stone and clay, are not as mighty as the sages. For while they make one pure in course of countless days, the sage’s eyes by a mere glance purify at once.
from Srimad Bhagavatam, Tenth canto, chapter 48 verse 31
❤ Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya ❤
Robert Adams (1928-1997), who I think I can rightly call a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, taught in his later years in the USA. From what I’ve read of his teachings, they are incredibly similar to the verbal teachings of Ramana Maharshi, and also have a sense of openness, precision and clarity.
I’ve trawled through a few of his writings and put together some excerpts that I hope will be of benefit to the seeker of spiritual enlightenment. This is not meant to represent the complete scope of Robert Adam’s teachings, but just to highlight some key points that leapt out to me as I read through. I particularly concentrated on the role of thought in Robert Adam’s teachings.
I have bolded some phrases that seemed important to me and also interspersed some very brief comments in red. Again, I hope this is of benefit to you.
Firstly, some teachings about ‘no thoughts’, which will be expanded upon later on. In the initial quotes Robert says ‘no thoughts’, but in the later quotes he explains exactly what this means.
Sitting here quietly, peaceful, without thoughts then you are the unblemished Self. The ultimate reality, this is you right now. As soon as you start thinking about it, it goes away, it changes, it’s not you any longer, it’s your humanhood. So when I say to adore your Self I am referring to adoring yourself as God, as the ultimate reality which is really you. But if you think of yourself as a human being with problems who makes mistakes you cannot adore yourself at all. You condemn yourself you put yourself down.
Liberation means that you’re totally and completely free, without thoughts. There are no thoughts in the Self. If there were thoughts in the Self, it wouldn’t be the Self. For the Self is only one and all-pervading. When you become absorbed in the Self, it’s completely different than what you ever believed. It’s not explainable. But as far as you’re concerned, you become totally free, happy, peaceful. There is no longer anyone to argue with or become upset over. This is the Self.
It’s very simple, no thoughts and you’re free.
Now a bit about a method of creating a state in which there are no thoughts:
See what you’re doing now. You’re thinking. That spoils it. Learn to stay without thought. Even if for a few seconds. It’s hard isn’t it. This is the reason you have to ask yourself, “To whom do these thoughts come?” It’s only a modality to cause you to stop thinking. (slight pause)
Some of you are beginning to feel what I’m talking about. No thoughts. Nothing to remember. Nothing to do. When thoughts come to you about your affairs, about your predicament, realize that you have surrendered your affairs and your predicament to the Self and all is well.
In other words there should be no situation that appears strong enough to set you off. Feeling miserable or feeling too happy. No thing should have that power. It’s called the thoughtless state.
It’s really not that hard. Let go. Close your eyes, it’ll help. If you have to do something, observe your breath. But if you can’t, forget about your breath. After all, to whom does the breath come? To the body. Since there is no body there is no breath. Then what is? I-am. What is I-am? Silence. Open your heart, let go. There is no past, no future. No thing can ever harm you. You exist in eternity. Be still. The breath does not exist any longer. There never was a body.
There is only that. Silence.
Your job is to stop thinking. To remove the thoughts. The thoughts are your Master now. That make you feel sad or happy, good or bad. Why do you feel this way? For your thoughts since you were a little kid have been impressed by the world conditions, by your parents, by your school, by your church and they have convinced you and programmed you to believe this is good, this is bad, this is right, this is wrong. Only when you have this are you successful. If you don’t have certain things you are a failure. It is the thoughts that tell you these things. Again if there are no thoughts there is noone left to tell you anything. This is called liberation, moksha, freedom. You begin where you are now. You begin with yourself. You question yourself. You inquire, “Who am I?” You sit in the silence. If thoughts come you inquire, “To whom do they come? You become still.”
When the mind is quiet the thoughts subside. When there are no thoughts there is the self. So all these practices are really to quieten the mind, not for any other purpose. No matter what form of sadhana you’re practicing. Whether you’re a Jnana or bhakta or karmic yoga or anything else they’re really the same. All of these practices are simply to quieten the mind. To make the mind one pointed. When the mind becomes one pointed self-inquiry becomes very easy. Then the mind will disappear completely and you’ll be free.
And what about feelings?
Body sensations are the same as thoughts. As you keep inquiring, “Who am I?” And you stay in the space between the answer, between the question. Then the body thoughts become less and less and the thoughts become less and less, they’re the same thing. The feelings and the thoughts are nothing as you practice sel finquiry. You ask, “Who does this come to? It comes to me. I think this. Who am I?” And when you keep still your body sensations will slow down, as well as your thoughts. And soon there will be no body sensations, there will be no thoughts. There will be nothing. So body sensations are the same as thoughts. T139: Existence Is Not In Form! 1500 When one goes the other goes also. You cannot have body sensations without thoughts. There has to be a thought about a body sensation. So when the thoughts dissipate, the body sensations will also dissipate.
Is no-thoughts the same as self-realisation?
The no mind state is when you’ve come from practicing, to the place in the silence. Where there are no thoughts bothering you any longer. You get there through self inquiry. That is the fastest way. But that is not self-realization. Self-realization is when the mind is pulled into the spiritual heart…
…Liberation, moksha, self-realization is when the mind that’s left over in the silence is pulled completely into the spiritual heart. At that time your whole mind, the I dissolves completely and you are free.
So the no mind state is a very high state. It’s the state of bliss. But there is still somebody left to experience the bliss. When the bliss is pulled into the heart there is no one left to experience anything. Therefore you no longer say, “I’m in the no mind state.” At that time there is nothing to say. Can you understand that?
I’m scared. What will happen if I don’t think?
The thoughts and the ego are synonymous. As the thoughts slow down, the ego slows down, and begins to also disappear with the thoughts. When there are no thoughts, there’s no ego. When there’s no ego, there’s nobody left to think. Then the question you will ask is, “How do I function without thinking?” As I mentioned in the beginning, the sage’s thoughts are like a burnt rope. They appear to be real, but they’re not. In other words, your thoughts are not real. They are false. How do you function without thoughts? Very well, thank you.
Many of you still believe you have to have thoughts to function. You think you’ll become a vegetable, but you will be spontaneous without thoughts. You’ll be motivated by the Self. You will know what to do, where to go, whom to speak to, whom not to speak to, much better than you do now, much, much better. Things will happen to you spontaneously. Everything we always talk about is very paradoxical, and the paradox here is, even though you have no thoughts, you will still think about certain things. It has to be done. But there’s absolutely no thinker alive. There’s no thinker. There is no one left to think, yet you still appear to be thinking about certain things, so you can function. It’s similar to what we were discussing on Sunday. People always ask me, “What do you see? Do you see the world?” Of course I see the world. If I didn’t see the world, I wouldn’t be able to function. But I see the world as the Self. In other words, I see the world as images on reality, like in the movies, the images on the screen. I’m able to see the screen and the images at the same time. I see reality and I see the images. So it is with the thoughts, the same thing with the thoughts. You appear to be thinking, but you’re not thinking. This is a very important point to remember. You will think whatever you have to think about, but the thoughts will be dead, like the burnt rope, like the fan with the plug pulled out, but the blades are still spinning, until they stop.
But can we really stop our thoughts? It that actually possible?
Now really, no Sage on this earth or anywhere else really stops the thoughts. As long as you see a body, and you call that body the Sage, there will always be some sort of thinking in that body, some sort of thought. For instance I can be sitting here and I’ll say to myself “when I go home I’m going to eat a dish of ice-cream”. This is a thought. But what happens when I say it and what happens when you say it?
When I say it, when I think it, it is similar to a burned rope. A burned rope may appear to be strong, but when you pick it up, it turns to ashes. It’s burned. There’s nothing there. When you say it, it is like a real rope, not burned. You give it energy, you give it power. Again when the Sage thinks of something, it is like a fan that has been pulled out of the socket. It’s still turning, but there’s no power. The power is dead. The power has been cut off. In other words, the source of a Saint is dead. The source of the Sage has no power, no power whatsoever. This is why it is said, a Sage does not think. A Sage has no thoughts. What it really means is that the Sage’s thoughts are dead.
When the thoughts are dead, you live in ABSOLUTE REALITY. You live in PURE AWARENESS. When the thoughts are dead you live in SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, in NIRVANA. So what do you have to do to also cease thinking, so the thoughts can become dead? You simply do not attach yourself to the thoughts. By not attaching yourself to the thoughts, by not reacting to the thoughts, by not responding to the thoughts, they lose their power and begin to fade away. Yet do not give them any energy. Do not give them any power. Do not say to yourself, I have to stop my thoughts. Do nothing like this. Just slow down, slow down. Let the thoughts do what they may. Allow the thoughts to go their own way. Do nothing with your thoughts. Do not think about them. Do not fight them. And above all, do not try to stop them. You may think this is so difficult, but it’s not.
It’s like when you first wake up, before the thoughts come. You’re still drowsy from sleep. And when the first thoughts come to you, you hardly pay any attention to them. That’s the attitude to have.
A different approach to/clarification of the practice – no need to remove thoughts
It has come to my attention that many of you are trying to stop your thoughts, control your thoughts. You cannot really do this. Trying to stop your thoughts, as Ramana Maharshi says, is like a thief becoming a policeman to catch the thief. In other words, the thief that becomes the policeman will not catch the thief, because he is the thief himself.. And so it is with our minds. When we use the mind to stop the thoughts, the mind will not stop the thoughts at all, because the mind wants to go on living.
Stopping the thoughts is annihilating the mind, and the mind does not wish to be annihilated. The mind wants to live on to fill you full of nonsense, superstitions. Therefore we do not try to stop, the thoughts. What do we really do? We do absolutely nothing. There is really nothing you have to do to make the thoughts cease. Always remember when you do things according to the Sadhanas you’ve learned, the spiritual exercise you’ve practice, the meditations, the yoga. This will make you free for a couple of moments, and then the thoughts will come back to you with full force, knocking you over. You cannot stop the mind or control the mind with spiritual practice.
Again you cause the thoughts to cease by doing absolutely nothing. By being your SELF. And all the scriptures we read, unless the mind stops spinning there will be no realization, no liberation. Only when the mind stops, the thoughts cease to be, is there liberation. Yet we use the words “to stop the mind, to stop, the thoughts”. This is sort of a misnomer. For again you have to use the mind to stop the thoughts, and the mind does not want to do this. It does not wish to cease thinking.
Yet by ceasing to think, you do acquire unalloyed happiness, infinite peace, Divine Bliss. When the thoughts do stop, these verities come forward, and you become free. You do not have to watch the thoughts, analyze the thoughts, be the witness to the thoughts, or observe the thoughts in any way whatsoever. All of these symptoms simply make the mind stronger really.
Ignore the thoughts completely, totally, absolutely. Again, do not fight your thoughts. Ignoring your thoughts is not fighting your thoughts. Do not try to change your thoughts. Above all do not try to stop your thoughts.
What is the best way to deal with thoughts?
It makes no difference if the thoughts are good or bad, they’re both impostors. In reality there are no good thoughts, there are no bad thoughts. We’re not trying to replace bad thoughts for good thoughts. We’re trying to LEAVE THE THOUGHTS ALONE. Not to do a thing about them. I want to make this perfectly clear. This is the highest way to handle your thoughts.
Do not be in conflict with your thoughts and the self. When there is no conflict there are no thoughts. Thoughts only appear because there’s conflict. By conflict I mean, you’re worrying about getting rid of your thoughts, you’re doing sadhana, meditation, pranayamas, japa. All of these things cause conflict. For aren’t you saying, “I’m doing these things to become liberated. I’m doing these things to become free.”
The reason there’s a the conflict is because you’re already free and liberated. Therefore when you give yourself the information that you have to do something to become liberated, there is immediately conflict. This is the only problem you have. It is your conflict. And this conflict comes from programming when you were a child, from samskaras, from previous existence, things that you took with you, the habits that are inside of you, that you believe you are.
This is where the conflict comes from. For it tells you, “I’m just a human being, I’m just a frail body. I have to suffer sometimes, sometimes I have to be happy.” This is all a lie. There never was a you that has to suffer. There never was a you that has to be happy.
Thoughts are an optical illusion:
Do not analyze what I am saying. Do not even agree with what I’m saying. Just be open. Open your heart by remaining still, silent. Allow the thoughts to come, do try not to stop them. Do not judge your thoughts, analyze your thoughts, or try to change your thoughts, or try to remove your thoughts. This will put you back in conflict with your thoughts. Do not even observe your thoughts. Do not even be the witness to your thoughts. Why? Because in reality there are no thoughts. The thoughts that you think you’re thinking, are an optical illusion. It is false imagination. Don’t you see? Everything that you’re thinking about is false. There is no thinker and there are no thoughts. So why have you been practicing all these exercises all of your life? It’s like a person in the ocean going in search for water. Awaken. Be free. Be yourself.
I know it’s difficult for some of you to think that you have to do absolutely nothing to become free, because you’re already free.
No thoughts can liberate you
Just the idea of wanting to awaken is a mistake. Just the feeling that I want to become awake, I want to become self-realized, I want to be liberated, is a mistake, for it’s part of the thinking process, and the thinking process can never liberate you. There are no thoughts that can liberate you. There are no emotions or feelings that can liberate you, awaken you, make you free.
Question: So when you say don’t think, you don’t mean stop all your thoughts. You mean stop identifying with the thoughts that are occurring.
R: Yes. Thoughts come before the thinker comes on the picture.
Question : So is there any point where they stop, where the thoughts do stop?
R: The thoughts do stop, yes, and you just act spontaneously. But they appear like thoughts, but they are no longer thoughts. For instance if I think I’m getting up off this chair, the thought had to come to me spontaneously, but that’s the end. So I’m not really thinking about getting off the chair. I just did it.
Q: That’s like the end, the duration, is no longer present. The thought arose, died, there was no concern.
R: That’s right.
Q: There is no separation between the thought and the action.
R: Exactly. It’s all one.
Q: So really what happened is you lost all sense of division like there was separate thought entities. They come, they end, another one comes, it’s just like, right?
R: There’s no beginning and no end.
Q: So actually non-duality is the real thing, even with thoughts, and what appears to appear is the I or the one concerned with the thoughts, and that’s when duality surges up.
Does a Jnani have thoughts?
Question: Robert I have a problem with this thing about thoughts, ultimately thoughts are the manifestation of the Self. I don’t know if I’m wrong but, if that’s the case the thoughts are non-dual per se. Duality comes only when there is somebody who believes they’re the thinker. So thoughts per se like in the case of the Jnani, he has thoughts but there is nobody to think about? I mean that’s the way I see it.
R: The Self is self-contained and the Self really does not manifest thoughts to begin with. Thoughts are an illusion and like you say, the Jnani does have thoughts. But the thoughts of the Jnani can only goes this far and they stop. But they do not bring on any more karma, they do not disturb the Jnani at all. They have no value whatsoever to the Jnani. The thoughts come very lightly, very slowly, they come and they go, they come and they go. There is no permanent thought. But the thoughts do not come from the Self. The Self is the Self. They appear to come from the Self. Just like the world appears, the body appears, the thoughts appear.
Therefore when you follow the I like we said in the beginning and we realize the thoughts and the body is attached to the I, when the I goes everything else goes. Thoughts go and everything goes. So don’t try to really stop your thoughts, get rid of the I that thinks the thoughts. See the difference? Whenever I tell you stop thinking, I mean catch the I that thinks. Find the source of the I that thinks. And the thoughts will stop by themselves.
Question: Robert, in several traditions I see, I think they talk about realization it comes along with the elimination of thoughts. Is that true or is the thinker which is creating that and thoughts are still happening in the Jnani? Of course I believe that thoughts are happening in the Jnani it’s just that he doesn’t identify with them or he doesn’t think?
R: That’s true. They like bounce off. The thoughts come and disappear at the same time. They come and they’re gone, they come and they’re gone.
Q: That’s right, you don’t dwell on them do you?
Q: But the Jnani or the realized one doesn’t see them as factual things.
R: Indeed that’s right. No the thoughts are just return to nothing. They come and they melt. Like ice. They come and they melt and they go, and they come and they melt and they go.
Q: No clinging whatsoever?
R: No clinging, no attachment.
Q: So that’s what it means, elimination of thoughts?
R: Yes, you can say that.
Q: Because actually thoughts will always happen, within the nature of things while you are living in this world.
R: It’s not like the thoughts that the average person has. The thoughts that come to me. I realize that they’re not real. So I just look at them and they go away.
Q: So they acquire a new quality?
R: They’re a different quality of thought. But you’re right as long as there’s something present, some part of the body is still present, thoughts come, but they don’t come to me. They just pass through. Like empty mind.
Do thoughts even exist?
In reality there are no thoughts. There is no one trying to stop them. There is no liberation, there is no bondage. There is nothing. You’re using the same nothing to stop your thoughts. Do nothing. Because you are nothing. Nothing plus nothing makes nothing. Can you see why I tell you to do nothing now? Because you’re using your real nature when you do nothing. YOU are your SELF YOU are the ABSOLUTE REALITY when you are NOTHING. Consequently when you are doing something to stop your thoughts, you’re fooling yourself. Nothing will ever happen. Like I say, you will acquire a little peace, that’s it. But by slowing yourself down, saying nothing, hearing nothing, doing nothing, being nothing, your thoughts will stop completely, totally absolutely. And as I mentioned before, you will feel beautiful happiness, peace of mind, bliss, you’ll be free.
Consciousness has no thoughts. (SB: But if consciousness is all there is how can thought be outside of all there is.) Thought is not outside of all there is, thought is part of the ego, part of the non-existence. Thought does not really exist. It’s like the body that doesn’t really exist. And the world does not really exist. And the mind does not really exist. And karma does not really exist. So thought does not really exist.
Q: So the motion doesn’t really exist?
R: Motion doesn’t really exist.
Q: That is why it’s an illusion. It just appears pretty real.
R: An illusion does not really exist.
What about the doer?
Question: And the difference is between those thoughts which have a claim in it and those thoughts which do not.
R: Have a claim?
Q: Yeah, those claims that I’m doing something.
R: You have to realize, “I am not the doer.” And when those thoughts come, ask yourself, “To whom do they come?” And they’ll disappear. Is that what you mean?
Q: No, because you were talking about the thoughts of a Jnani that they had different thoughts and I would take it that those thoughts don’t have any claim of doing?
R: Oh I see what you mean, right. That’s right.
Q: And other thoughts have a claim of doing.
Q: So there’s a difference between those which have a claim and those which don’t.
R: A Jnani has no attachment to his thoughts whatsoever. They mean nothing, they’re valueless.
Does the ‘illusion of life’ disappear when you are self-realised?
There’s only consciousness and whatever appears in consciousness is an image…Like still life and when you realize who you are, you realize that you are the consciousness and not the still life. And the still life becomes an illusion. But it’s still there. But you’re aware that it’s not reality. You realize that everything is non reality. But it exists as an image in the Self.
Like the images in the mirror. They appear to exist. But you can’t do anything with them, because if you try to grab them you grab the mirror not the image. Consciousness is the same way. When you try to grab anything, you find it’s illusory. It doesn’t exist. Only consciousness exists.
So you ask, what about everything in the room, it appears to be real. That’s part of the dream, it’s part of the illusion. When you have a dream, you dream that everything exists, the world exists, the universe exists, people exist and you’re going through all kinds of periods, problems and delusions, but then you wake up and it’s gone. So when you wake up you laugh, for you realize it has all been a dream and only the Self exists, and you are that.
Does consciousness even exist?
Q: But when you say that consciousness exists that’s looking at it from a relative point of view. In itself consciousness doesn’t have a feeling of I exist.
R: Of course, you’re right. But to explain it you have to use some words…There is no consciousness, there is no existence, there’s no Self. So let’s keep still then.
It is the I, or the thinker, or the knower who has to be eliminated. For in reality there is absolutely nothing to know. If you are all-pervading, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, what else do you want? You’ve got everything. You are everything.
So when you try to know something, you’re making a grave mistake. This is a very important point. Remember this. In Advaita Vedanta, the knower is the last to go. What comes after the knower? Silence! There is nothing else.
The highest path of Jnana is no thinker left to think at all. Nobody is home. There is a total blank. There is no one around to do any thinking or preparing anything or trying to solve a problem or trying to do anything. At that stage you’re totally free.
You always have to think. Why do you have to think? You think you have to think, yet there is no thinker. You think you have to know, yet there is no knower. You think you have to be. There is no being. There just is, and you are that is-ness.
Meditation can serve many purposes: increased happiness, improved concentration and academic performance, clarity and insight into everyday issues, improved health and sleep, etc. This article’s meditation will likely help with all or most of these, but the end goal is none of the above. The goal here is total freedom, enlightenment, nirvana or moksha (all are used as synonyms here). I have included some Sanskrit words in brackets in case you are interested.
No object, gross or subtle, can lead to lasting fulfillment.
I recommend you contemplate deeply on this.
For most of us, after a little contemplation, this becomes obvious to us. However,we can go further: if we continue on this contemplation, we can start to realise that even seeking momentary pleasure or momentary fulfillment in objects is a cause of suffering. Subtlely, we still believe that our fulfillment lies in obtaining contact with the objects of our desire. Subtlely, we are reinforcing the sense of ‘I’ or ‘me’, also known as the ego, and the root cause of suffering is continued.
Contemplate deeply on this.
First, that objects cannot give us lasting fulfillment. Secondly, that getting involved in the world of objects in order to be psychologically fulfilled is already the path of ignorance and suffering.
Similarly, seeking enlightenment or liberation in the world of objects or using an object such as thought as a means of enlightenment is also futile. So, what to do?
When this is realised at a deeper and deeper level within ourselves, dispassion (vairagya) arises. We ‘turn away’ from worldly objects, meaning we no longer look for happiness in objects.
Remember, that experiences are also objects – they are known to us, they are felt and perceived, and they, like other objects, come and go. Peace, love, oneness – all these can be experienced, and all experiences come and go. Insight into the impermanence of phenomena leads to not clinging to such experiences. This is called ‘turning inwards’ or ‘looking within’.
The role of a formal practice
For most people, I recommend a formal practice of spending as much time as you can each day without engaging with thoughts, whilst still remaining awake and aware (ie. not in trance and not asleep).
Formal practice is useful as ignorance, or taking yourself to be a separate self, is so deeply ingrained, that even when the mind is ordinarily quiet in everyday life, it is still stained with this ignorance that is merely dormant, and so insight does not manifest (unless the seeker is especially ripe/ready). A period everyday of being away from thoughts, upon which ignorance depends, is of a great benefit and can greatly quicken the spiritual search.
Actually doing a formal practice, as opposed to simply talking about silence and so on, is one of the best ways of taking the spiritual quest out of the mind or intellect, and transforming clever concepts into genuine spiritual understanding and insight.
Not doing a spiritual practice is one of the best ways of remaining caught in the clutches of the intellect and ego for years to come. Often the mind will come up with reasons and select teachings that say no practice is required, so beware the tendency of the ego to find a way to perpetuate itself rather than foster its own demise.
Sit in a comfortable position with your back upright. This is so you don’t fall asleep and are able to maintain a serene stability of mind for an extended period of time. Having a practice in the same place and the same time of day can be a useful aid to this, as the mind becomes trained to become quiet at that time and place over time.
‘But I don’t like to meditate’
Meditation is not for everyone, and my writings are tips for you to take on board and apply to your life as you feel is best. If you don’t like meditation, then I would recommend you try some other kind of formal practice, be it chanting, yoga or mindfulness, as you see fit. Over time the idea is that these practices will calm your mind, and purify and balance your energies and you will start to be naturally drawn to a more contemplative peaceful (sattvic) practice.
‘I want to meditate but my mind is too busy’
If you feel drawn to meditation, but your mind is too noisy, then, like the example above, I would try some preliminary practices first, such as light exercise, hatha (physical) yoga, chanting or breathing exercises. Try meditation immediately after one or more of these preliminary practices and your mind should be considerably quieter.
Follow your heart and intuition and do what you feel drawn to. Allow this to be your practice as long as it feel right for you. There are no strict rules and better to follow your own genuine path (swadharma) rather than someone else’s if it doesn’t feel right.
A method of meditation
- Prior to meditation, start by chanting for 3-5 minutes. This cleanses the energetic system and allows for a deeper and more awake meditation.
- Take your time to settle down and allow the mind to become calm. I find that spending 2-3 minutes allowing myself to sit with my eyes open and take in my surroundings is helpful in transitioning between being engaged with the world to meditation.
- Also take time to feel the body, allowing each part of the body to be experienced, and also allow each part of the body to relax. Pay particular attention to the forehead, jaw, and shoulders, where a lot of tension is often held. If you can, energetically allow the sense of you to drop down into your chest and belly area and feel relaxed.
- Allow the mind to become relaxed. Take up the attitude that everything is welcome here, and allow everything to come and go. Sensations, sounds, thoughts, all can come and go. Accept what is. Allow your mind to become light, carefree and happy. Happy acceptance is the general aim, not to be a state of mind that is forced, but to be allowed to arise.
- Now start to withdraw your mind. Use an anchor if required: this can be a mantra (a sound that is repeated, such as ‘Om’, which can be repeated for example on every outbreath), an object (either real external object, or better still, a visualised object), or the breath. As the meditation progresses the anchor should become gradually more subtle, so I often start with counting my breaths, then I let go of counting and just stay with the breath, then I just stay with the feeling of peace and happiness for as long as I feel until I am ready for the next step:
- By now the mind should be relatively quiet and also stable in that quietude. There are several options of what you can do here, and as everyone is different, the exact method will vary from person to person. Essentially, notice that even peace and quietude are subtle objects. Either let them go or be aware of them whilst simultaneously knowing they are not you and that you and ‘your bliss’ do not depend on them. Here we are getting in touch with that which is not an object, that which is ever present, that which does not come and go, that which is the nature of presence-awareness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), that which is the essence of who you are (atman), or pure subjectivity (drik). This process of separating the perceiver/subject (drik) from that which is perceived/objects (drisya) is technically known as discrimination (viveka), or discernment.
- Follow your intuition. The key is to not focus on objects, not to engage with the world of objects, not to identify with the body-mind and to also question this notion of ‘I’. You can rest in I AM and eventually you will see that this I AM is also an object that appears to the ‘real I’ which is not an object. This is the approach from the ‘sat‘ (being) aspect of sat-chit-ananda (reality) Or you can let yourself be aware of awareness, that which is not an object, that which you are, and allow the brightness of awareness to vividly shine and outshine all objects, consuming all objects in its dazzling light. This is the approach from the ‘chit‘ (consciousness-awareness) aspect of reality. Or you can bathe in the happiness that arises when there is no concern for objects and deriving happiness from the myriad phenomena that rise and fall – thus approaching reality from its ‘ananda’ (blissful/happiness) aspect. A fourth method is to ask ‘Who am I’, and search for the root of the ‘I thought’, as prescribed by Ramana Maharshi, and allow this to take you to the Source, which is none other than reality itself, and abide there until all tendencies to identify as a separate ‘I’ or ‘me’ are rooted out. See here for more details on this.
- Note that while it is important not to ultimately get caught up in feelings of bliss and peace, or get similarly locked into a trance state, it can be of benefit to linger here for a while. Why? Because it feels good and it is purifying. The effects of lingering in peace eventually do wear off, but they still have some provisional purifying effect and have value in countering negative tendencies and bad habits/psychological states we may be prone to entering into. Eventually, when the time is right, we can let go of peace and bliss too, but no rush is needed in all this. All in good time. ‘Good things come to those who wait.’
- Be happy, relax, do not cling, have faith
Contemplate how all objects, gross and subtle, cannot lead to enlightenment complete, and rest in your true nature, devoid of objects and full of peace and bliss.
Establish a daily practice and do not allow reasoning from the ego to convince you otherwise. Note how the the ego may resist this. The ego is prone to selecting teachings that lead to its continuance rather than its demise.
Use preliminary techniques relating to the world, body and mind as suits your disposition and take your time. Use an anchor if required, and eventually allow this to give way to a deeper silence in which you are fully awake and aware. There is no rush and this should be enjoyable and relaxing rather than hard work.
Play the long game rather than strive for short term gains. Relax.
Allow yourself to feel any phenomena – notice they are not the essence of you, the subject. Locate the sense of ‘me’, and notice this too is an object. Rest in that ‘placeless place’ where no objects are.
Trust your intuition and be careful not to fall asleep or get (too) caught up in experiences including peace and bliss.
Best wishes to you, practice, practice, practice, and please get in touch if you feel I can be of assistance
Click on the album title to view the images: