Is the point of the teachings is to remove all thinking, all thought, all concepts? Is that what is meant by stilling the mind? Tom describes how we can use objects such as the breath or a picture to help us to still the mind initially or we can attend directly to the I AM, the subject, which is Self-enquiry.
This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das and put together by volunteers.
Whilst I am very familiar with the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I am less familiar with the teachings of Papaji. However I have often been struck, whenever I come across excerpts of Papaji’s teachings, that they seem quite different to the teachings of Sri Ramana. Now, is this just because I have only seen excerpts of Papaji’s teachings and these excerpts are out of context? Or is there actually a substantive difference between what they teach? Or perhaps they are pointing to the same thing in a different way?
Before I continue, I just want to be clear that my intent here is not to condemn or criticise anyone. I fully understand that we each have our own unique path and that different teachers and teachings can be a part of that journey. My intent here is to explore the teachings, and I hope this exploration is helpful to you. If it is not, please feel free to ignore this post or give me some constructive feedback!
Well the more I have seen of Papaji’s teachings, the more it seems to me that the teachings are essentially different to that of Sri Ramana’s. Sri Ramana emphasises the need for sadhana, for turning away from the world and towards the Subject-Self, and for the necessity of Self-Enquiry, and Papaji tends to do the opposite – he seems to de-emphasise the need for sadhana, does not advocate turning away from the world and does not state that Self-Enquiry is the sole means to Liberation.
But as I am no expert on Papaji, I would welcome your thoughts. Here is an example of a teaching from Papaji, which seems quite representative of the kind of thing he would normally teach. I saw this posted on Facebook:
“There is no sadhana better than just staying as Peace. If you must do any practice, then do Vicar (Self-inquiry).
Joy is also a good sadhana because it destroys mind, so always be happy. Always think of It and be happy: spend the rest of your life knowing you are Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
Some practice is better than getting lost in samsara and is good in that it sometimes fatigues the mind, but typical sadhana is usually important only for the ego.
All sadhana is projected by ego so it is on a sandy foundation. This ego projection is samsara so search only for the seeker.“I” is ego so when this meditates there are no good results. Choice of practice depends on the choice of results.
Brahman has no attributes and is beyond mind so no practice will take you to that: It is self revealing.
Ramana says “Simply keep Quiet for it is Here and Now”This is the nearest practice because Brahman is your very nature.“
Notice that Papaji is stating that some sadhana is good – he says here there are two reasons sadhana is good: firstly that it is ‘better than getting lost in samsara’ and secondly that ‘it sometimes fatigues the mind’. Note that he does not state that sadhana is necessary for liberation in the way that Sri Ramana Maharshi does (see later), nor does he state that Self-Enquiry is the only essential method to liberation, which is what Sri Ramana often stated (see later for examples of this).
Papaji then goes on to state that ‘all sadhana is projected by the ego so it is on a sandy foundation’. This is sounding less like Sri Ramana or traditional Advaita Vedanta and more like what is often called neo-advaita, something that Sri Ramana criticised. Neo-advaita often propagates the notion that practice/sadhana is done by the separate ego-I and so it necessarily perpetuates the ego-I.
Note that whilst this seems logical and rational enough, it is actually a belief based on inductive logic rather than a truth. Whilst it is true that this certainly can happen – ie. sadhana can certainly lead to perpetuating the ego-I, this is not necessarily the case and there are exceptions. I explain this in these videos:
Papaji then goes on to state his essential view, that ‘no practice will take you to that [Brahman]’. He then concludes his teaching by stating ‘simply keep quiet for it is here and now’ stating this is what Sri Ramana also said.
Now it is true that Sri Ramana often said that we should ‘be still’ and that this is the practice, but what did he mean by ‘be still’? If we read and examine Sri Ramana’s written work ‘Who Am I?’, we will see what Sri Ramana means when he says ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’. Note that we can trust the teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ as an authentic rendition of Sri Ramana’s teachings as they were written by Sri Ramana himself. Let us see: the first time we come across the notion of quieting the mind in ‘Who Am I?’ is as follows:
‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.’
Now on the face of it this is quite a strange statement for Sri Ramana to make: that the world will disappear when the mind is still. Clearly, when Sri Ramana states that the mind is to be quiet, he is perhaps using these words in a different way to how they are normally used. How can it be that when the mind becomes quiet the world disappears?
Well earlier in ‘Who Am I?’ Sri Ramana explains that it is the mind is a power that creates or projects the entire body, mind and world, so to ‘be quiet’ means not just to still the ordinary thinking mind, but to still this world-projecting power, ie. to remove all of Maya. Ramana repeats this, see here, also from ‘Who Am I?’:
Question: When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer
Question: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.
I have a video here which explains the importance of this teaching. It fundamentally explains why some teachings are liberating and others are not:
Again, I hope it is clear that this teaching of Sri Ramana’s, or at least the emphasis, is quite different to what Papaji is proposing. Papaji is telling us to rest in happiness and joy and ‘keep quiet’ for the Self is ‘here and now’ whereas Sri Ramana is emphasising removing the entire body-mind-world from our consciousness. We can see that Sri Ramana’s teaching is far more extreme – it is this extreme teaching that is needed to remove ignorance and realise the Self.
Papaji is stating that all sadhana is projected by the ego and will never lead us to the Self/Brahman, whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as the only sadhana that will lead us to Liberation. Again, Sri Ramana’s teaching is more narrow and prescriptive in this way, as he maintains that Self-Enquiry is the only way. Let us see what else Sri Ramana writes in ‘Who Am I?’:
Question: Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Other than inquiry [Vichara; Self-Enquiry], there are no adequate means.
We can see that Sri Ramana is stating that sadhana or self-enquiry is essential to make the mind quiet, so that when Sri Ramana is asking us to ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’, he is actually asking us to do Self-Enquiry.
Now on the same Facebook post which posted the Papaji teachings above, I saw the following Sri Ramana Maharshi quote, which seems to state something quite different to what Papaji is saying. It states that meditation (Upanasa) is definitely required for liberation – Sri Ramana clearly states ‘this is definite’, in direct contrast to Papaji who states the opposite. This following quote is taken from Sri Ramana Gita, an early text of Sri Ramana’s teachings that was comfirmed by Sri Ramana as being an accurate representation of his teachings:
Now this above quote is taken from Chapter 1 of Sri Ramana Gita. It is worth noting that the title of this chapter is ‘The Importance of Upasana [meditation]’. The next two lines in the same chapter reads as follows:
1.14 When discarding sense-objects, one abides in one’s own true nature as a flame of Jnana, this state of being is termed sahaja sthiti [the natural state].
1.15 In the firm, natural state, through that Supreme Silence free from all vasanas, the jnani knows himself as such without any doubt.
Again, we can see the emphasis on needing to turn away from sense-objects, what Sri Ramana calls ‘removal of the world’ in Who Am I?, and on ending the vasanas, or egoic habitual tendencies to identify as a body-mind.
But how are we to practically do this? How are we to practically turn away from the world and be free from all Vasanas. Well the practical method is to do Self-Enquiry. In Chapter 3 of Sri Ramana Gita we can see the essential method Sri Ramana is advocating:
Question: what in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime innervision?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense-objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone brings about the sublime inner vision.
We can see that the emphasis is on continuing to perform the sadhana, as it is this sadhana that leads to the mind ‘becoming quiet’. When Sri Ramana says the mind should be quiet or that thoughts should stop, he means that the entire world projection should cease and all vasanas are to be ended. How to do this? We should ‘strenuously withdraw all thoughts from sense-objects’ and remain fixed in Self-Abidance, ie. we should do Self-Enquiry.
Ramana also states in the above quotes that ‘this effort alone’ leads to liberation, meaning that this is the only essential method which all other methods ultimately bring us to.
But how long should we continue this sadhana for? Sri Ramana tells us in Who Am I?
Question: How long should inquiry be practised?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry “Who am I?” isrequired. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry.
So as far as I can see, Ramana is constantly emphasising sadhana and turning away from the world, and that this should be relentlessly pursued until realisation is attained, whereas Papaji de-emphasises sadhana, and in so doing de-emphasises turning away from the world.
Papaji and Sri Ramana both talk of silence, but Sri Ramana speaks of a deep silence in which there is only abidance as Self devoid of all objective phenomena, whereas Papaji’s ‘silence’ seems much more superficial stilling of the mind without removing all objective phenomena or removing the vasanas.
Papaji also de-emphases sadhana, or at least does not emphasise Self-Enquiry whereas Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as being the sole means to liberation.
What do you think? Have I got this right? Or are there other aspects of Papaji’s teachings I am unaware of or something else I am missing? In the meantime here is a video of quotes from Sri Ramana instructing us on the essential method:
And here is a video explaining the technique of Self-Enquiry in brief:
Remember, no teaching has a monopoly on truth. No teaching is totally true, as what is being shared is beyond words and cannot be captured in words. Rather the teaching is a method of removing ignorance, that it all…it is a thorn to remove a thorn. The teaching is also false, a thorn, a new form of ignorance that if clung to will cause suffering
The primary ignorance is the belief in a limited ‘me’ entity, or the notion ‘I am the body mind’, or I am a subject living in a world of objects (subject-object duality).
The teaching is there to remove that false belief.
We do not need to replace this with a new belief such as ‘all is illusion’, but the teaching may take many forms such as ‘all is illusion’.
Ultimately we do away will all teachings.
The best teachings are those that self-destruct once their work has been done!
Perhaps the most important single text that traditionally outlines the Jnana Marga (Path of Knowledge) is Shankara’s Vivekachudamani. This text has been used for centuries as a step by step manual to take one from (apparent) ignorance to Moksha (liberation) in which there is no suffering and it has been recommended by all the great Advaita sages including Sri Ramana Maharshi.
There are many gems littered throughout the text, and here is one of them which you may have missed:
160. The stupid man thinks he is the body, the book-learned man identifies himself with the mixture of body and soul, while the sage possessed of realisation due to discrimination looks upon the eternal Atman as his Self, and thinks, “I am Brahman”.
In verse 160 Shankara tells us that the one who is book-learned in Vedanta considers himself to be a mix of ‘body and soul’. In doing so, the one with mere book-learning still retains identification with the body, and so remains in ignorance and continues to suffer. In verse 162 Shankara, as is characteristic of the writing in Vivekachudamani, repeats his point and elaborates on it to make the meaning clear and beyond doubt:
162. As long as the book-learned man does not give up his mistaken identification with the body, organs, etc., which are unreal, there is no talk of emancipation for him, even if he be ever so erudite in the Vedanta philosophy.
There are many who know the scriptures, know the teachings, but still identify with the body in some way. These verses are a warning against this view. Shankara concludes this small section as follows, dispensing his sagely advice:
163. Just as thou dost not identify thyself with the shadow-body, the image-body, the dream-body, or the body thou hast in the imaginations of thy heart, cease thou to do likewise with the living body also.
164. Identifications with the body alone is the root that produces the misery of birth etc, of people who are attached to the unreal; therefore destroy thou this with the utmost care. When this identification caused by the mind is given up, there is no more chance for rebirth [ie. liberation is attained].
So don’t take yourself to be the body, just as you do not take your shadow to be yourself, do not take your body to be your-Self. Also, do not take yourself to be both the body and something else and in doing so retain a sense of limitation. You are That alone, you are the Self.
Here are some quotes of Sri Ramana Maharshi that contain perhaps the essence of his spoken teachings:
The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything.
Be still. Apart from this the mind has no task to do or thought to think.
If one has realised, he is That which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course we loosely talk of Self-realisation for want of a better term.
That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet.
All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading.
Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it.
For instance, there is space in a hall (room). We are not going to create space anew. We fill up the place with various articles. If we want space, all that we need do is to remove all those articles and we get space. Similarly, if we remove all the rubbish from the mind the peace will become manifest. That which is obstructing the peace must be removed.
Questioner: What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?
Ramana Maharshi: Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight.
The thought ‘I am the body’ is ignorance.
Gifts, penance (tapas), sacrifice, upright conduct (dharma), self-control (yoga), devotion (bhakti), heaven (the expanse of consciousness), substance (existence), peace, truth, grace, silence, the Supreme State, deathless death, knowledge, renunciation, Liberation, bliss—know that all these are only severance of the I-am-the-body consciousness.
Peace is the only Reality. Mukti or Liberation is our Nature. It is another name for us.
Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat, making great efforts to get back into the shade, and then rejoicing ‘At last I have reached the shade, how sweet is the shade!’ We are doing exactly the same. We are not different from the Reality. We imagine we are different, i.e., we create the bheda bhava (the feeling of difference) and then undergo great sadhanas to get rid of the bheda bhava and realize the oneness. Why imagine or create the bheda bhava and then destroy it?
Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness.
Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.
It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The real is as it is, ever. How to realise it? All that is required is this: We have realise the unreal, i.e., regarded as Real what is unreal. We have to give up this attitude. That is all that is required for us to attain Jnana. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in the books is this: We dig a well and create a huge pit. The akasa (space) in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the akasa there. The akasa was there, then, and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.
Effortless and choiceless awareness is our Real State. If we can attain It or be in It, it is all right. But one cannot reach It without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the agelong vasanas (latent tendencies) carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For most people effort is necessary.
Of course, everybody, every book says summa iru (be quiet or still). But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if you find one who has effortlessly achieved the mouna (silence) or Supreme State indicated by summa iru, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been completed in a previous life. Such effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation.
People are afraid that when the ego or the mind is killed, the result may be a mere blank and not happiness. What really happens is that the thinker, the object of thought and thinking all merge into the one Source, which is Consciousness and Bliss itself, and thus that state is neither inert nor blank. I do not understand why people should be afraid of that state in which all thoughts cease to exist and the mind is killed. Every day they experience that state in sleep. There is no mind or thought in sleep. Yet when one rises from sleep one says, ‘I slept happily.’ Sleep is so dear to everyone that no one, prince or beggar, can do without it.
Dhyana [meditation], jnana [knowledge], bhakti [devotional love] and samadhi [meditative absorption] are all names for ourselves, for our Real State. Knowing one’s Self is only being one’s Self, as there is no second existence. This is Self-realisation.
Our Real Nature is Mukti. But we imagine that we are bound and are making strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the time free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something which we have always been and are.
An illustration will make this clear: A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he has gone on a world tour, is roaming over hill and dale, forest and country, desert and sea, across various continents and, after many years of weary and strenuous travel, returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the ashram and walks into the hall. Just at that moment he wakes up and finds he has not moved an inch, but was sleeping where he lay down. He has not returned to the hall after great efforts, but is and always has been in the hall. It is exactly like that. If it is asked, why being free we imagine we are bound, I answer, ‘Why being in the hall did you imagine you were on a world adventure, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea?’ It is all mind or maya.
Those alone who have found out the Real Nature of the ego have seen the Reality. They will have no more doubts or anxieties.
The body is a mental projection. The mind is the ego, and the ego rises from the Self.
The ego can have peace only when it merges back into its Source, the Self
The moral behind the story of Ashtavakra and Janaka is simply this: The disciple surrenders himself to the Master. That means there is no vestige of individuality retained by the disciple. If the surrender is complete, all sense of individuality is lost and there is no cause for misery. The Eternal Self is only happiness and that is revealed.
The whole of Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements ‘I am that I am’ and ‘Be still and know that I am God’.
There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until that is realised, effort is necessary. After tasting such bliss even once, one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the bliss of peace, no one would like to be out of it or engage himself otherwise. It is as difficult for a Jnani to engage in thoughts, as it is for an ajnani to be free from thought.
Any kind of activity does not affect a Jnani. He remains ever in eternal peace.
Ishta Devata (deity of one’s choice) and Guru are aids, very powerful aids on this path. But for an aid to be effective requires your effort also. Your effort is a sine qua non.
As explained in the Gita, sleep is the first obstacle for all sadhakas. The second obstacle is said to be vikshepa, or the sense objects of the world which divert one’s attention. The third is said to be kashaya or thoughts about previous experiences with sense objects. The fourth, ananda (bliss), is also called an obstacle, because in that state a feeling of separation from the source of ananda, making the enjoyer say, ‘I am enjoying ananda,’ is present. Even this has to be surmounted, and the final stage of samadhana or samadhi has to be reached, where one becomes ananda, or One with the Reality, and the duality of enjoyer and enjoyment ceases in the ocean of Satchidananda [Existence-Consciousness-Bliss] or the Self.
The power of a Jnani’s Self-Realisation is more powerful than all occult powers. To the Jnani there are no others. But what is the highest benefit that can be conferred on ‘others’ as we call them? It is happiness. Happiness is born of peace. Peace can reign only when there is no disturbance by thought. When the mind has been annihilated, there will be perfect peace. As there is no mind, the Jnani cannot be aware of others. But the mere fact of His Self-Realisation is itself enough to make all others peaceful and happy.