Tom: Yes, ego-mind-thought must die for realisation to occur. Those who are still attached to the body-mind-world and still take themselves to be the body say otherwise.
Ego is ignorance. Ego is duality. It is the ego that creates/projects the body-mind and world, like in a dream. When ego goes, everything goes, and all that remains is the Self. It cannot be put into words or understood by the mind. In truth ego never existed at all.
Objections to this such as ‘how does the sage function without ego’ only occur in ignorance of taking the sage to be the body and in the presense of ego-ignorance seeing body-mind-world.
The paradox of this cannot be explained in words, but when the mind becomes so completely and utterly still so that time and space and personhood all cease to exist, this ‘Self’ is somehow ‘known without knowing’.
Sometimes to those who are on the spiritual path, it can seem like those who are in full ignorance are happier. It can feel like ignorance is bliss, but it isn’t. It’s deep, deep suffering.
There are few things about spiritual seeking…First, the spiritual seeker has a certain type of sensitivity, which makes them more sensitive to suffering, because they are more aware of it often. That self-aware aspect can intensify suffering that wouldn’t bother other people so much. Some spiritual seekers have fairly nice lives outwardly. But inwardly they are suffering intently because they are more sensitive to their suffering because the awareness is there.
The other thing about the spiritual path is that it is often an isolating path, which also makes it difficult. There is no one to share it with, very few people understand this, because most people are not seekers of liberation, they are seekers of other things.
The other thing is there is nothing you can do about it. Say ignorance was bliss, probably with this there is no turning back! I’m sorry to say, you can’t go back!
Sri Ramana Maharshi did not say you have to love me, you have to devote yourself to me – that is not the essence of the teaching at all. That is actually to miss the point to what he is actually pointing towards. He said you’ve got to follow my teachings. You have to follow the Guru’s instruction.
This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das.
Q. Why do we suffer? Tom: Because we seek (something different to ‘what is’)
Q. Why do we both suffer and seek? Tom: Because we take ourself to be a separate vulnerable body-mind entity. So long as we do so we are compelled to both suffer and seek.
Q. Why do we take ourself to be a separate body-mind entity? Tom: Because we believe our thoughts that tell us so (ie. it is a belief that we are a body-mind entity – note that I call this belief ‘the ego’)
Q. What is the solution? Tom: The solution is to stop this type of thinking.
Q. How can we do that? A. We find, perhaps after much trial and error, there is only one essential method that consistently works, and that is to take one’s attention away from objective phenomena and place it upon the first person, the ‘I AM’, the Subject-Self. This practice is called Self-Enquiry. This process is explained in detail in the book The Path of Sri Ramana – Part 1
Q. My mind is too busy for this method Tom: Then try another preliminary practice such as mantra recitation, devotion, chanting, watching the breath, hatha yoga, etc, as suits you – try another calming practice first – preferably a practice you are drawn to, and then when the mind is calm go straight back to Self-Enquiry.
Q. What about other teachings or methods? Tom: You will find that other teachings methods (methods other than Self-Enquiry) at most only lead to a temporary effect that comes and goes. Don’t take my word for this, you can find out for yourself.
Q. Why do other methods not work? Tom: Other methods, which involve attending to objects (gross or subtle objects such as thoughts, feelings, the breath, or other objects) invariably give rise to egoic ‘body-based’ thinking as the ego only survives when it can think of objective phenomena. And when we attend to objective phenomena you will see that the ego always finds a way to rise and ‘take control’ or ‘take the reins’ and posit itself as the true ‘I’.
Q. Isn’t this quite an extreme practice? Tom: Yes, it is this extreme practice that is required, for most people, for the ego to end.
Q. Doesn’t this practice just perpetuate the separate ego-I? Tom: No, that too is just another belief, that all practice necessarily perpetuates the ego-I. Try it – with consistent daily application results are quickly seen.
Q. Ok thanks! Tom: You’re most welcome. Let me know how it goes!
Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji (SSS, 1880-1975), was a vedic scholar who devoted much of his life to studying the works of Shankara (c. 7th century BCE), the great reformer of Advaita Vedanta. SSS came to the conclusion that many of the texts that are ordinarily attributed to Shankara are not genuine works of Shankara, and that the truly genuine works of Shankara are essentially the commentaries he wrote on the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Brahma sutras and a non-commentarial text called Upadesa Sahasri. Whilst this view remains a controversial minority view, and personally I am not convined by the evidence brought forth, many are increasingly subscribing to it.
However, of those who do follow SSS’s teachings, I have noticed some have not actually read his teachings thoroughly, especially on what he says about Nididhyasana, or Vedantic Meditation.
So in this post we will look at how SSS defines Nididhyasana. I have read many of SSS’s books, and if we look at what SSS actually writes, we will see that the method he proposes is essentially the same as the method of Self-Enquiry as proposed by Sri Ramana Maharshi. Let us see:
The first thing to notice is that SSS states that Nididhyasana is the same as Dhyana Yoga as described in Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita, and Mano-nigraha Yoga as described in Gaudapada’s Karika:
Adhyatma Yoga by SSS p. 9: ‘This Adhyatma Yoga is called as ‘Nidhidhyasana’ and in the sixth chapter of the Gita this Nidhidhyasana is described as ‘Dhyana Yoga’. The complete sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita reveals the process of this Dhyana Yoga with its accessories. In this very Bhagavad Gita in the following contexts also this Dhyana Yoga or Adhyatma Yoga is prescribed: 13-24, 18-52. The same Adhyatma Yoga is also called as ‘Manoni-graha Yoga’ by Gaudapada in his Mandukya Karikas from 3.41 to 3.48. So in all these places the practice of Adhyatma Yoga, its accessories, the obstacles during the practice and the removal of the obstacles are described.’
The second thing to notice is that according to SSS this Nididhyasana is a means to Self-Realisation.
The Theory of Vedanta by SSS, p. 153: ‘In addition to Karma and Upasana, there is a kind of concentrated contemplation called the Adhyatma-Yoga which leads to immediate intuition [of Brahman, ie. Self Realisation].’
This is clarified in the introduction to the text Adhyatma Yoga (in this context the term ‘Vastu Tantra’ means Nididhysana is a means to Self-Realisation or Truth-Realisation): ‘The subject dealt with here viz. Adhyatma Yoga, also known as Dhyana Yoga, Mano-nigraha Yoga, Samadhi Yoga and Nidhidhyasana, is treated these days as a Kartru Tantra Sadana. But in the Shankara Bhashya throughout, this Adhyatma Yogi or Dhyana Yoga is treated as a Vastu Tantra Sadhana.’
The third thing to notice is that the technique of Nididhyasana is to turn one’s attention away from objective phenomena and turn towards the Self until one ‘intuits’ the Self directly.
Here is a quote from The Method of Vedanta by SSS, p. 147, that summarises much of the above and also describes in brief the method of nididhyasana:
‘The aim of the one practising sustained meditation (nididhyasana) is different [to Upasana, defined here as meditation on forms/objects]. He tries to attain direct vision of reality (here in this very world) by turning his mind away from all else. And there is the difference — as against upasana — that after the rise of knowledge nothing further remains to be done. It is this sustained meditation that is referred to at Kathha Upanishad I.ii.12 by the name ‘Adhyatma Yoga’. In the Gita it is sometimes called ’Dhyana Yoga’ (e.g. XVI11.52). In the Mandukya Karikas it is called ’restraint of the mind’ (G.K.III.41, etc.). Its nature is described there in that latter work. Everywhere its result is described in the same way as right metaphysical knowledge, and from this comes immediate liberation (sadyo-mukti).’
SSS then quotes from the Katha Upanishad and Shankara’s commentary on it to make is point clear:
‘The wise man comes to know God through mastering Adhyatma Yoga, and gives up joy and sorrow. (Kathha I.ii.12)
[Tom: ie. through Adhyatma Yoga the Self is realised]
Sankara’s Commentary: Mastering Adhyatma Yoga: Adhyatma Yoga means withdrawing the mind from objects and concentrating it on the Self. Having meditated on the deity, the Self, through attainment of Adhyatma Yoga, the wise man gives up joy and sorrow because there are no gradations of value in the Self.’
On p.149 of The Method of Vedanta by SSS, SSS quotes from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita to explain in more detail the method of Nididhyasana, as follows:
‘That yoga should certainly be practised with resolute mind. Giving up without exception all desires that come from individual, will, restraining the sense-organs on every side through the mind, one should gradually withdraw from all activity, with will and intellect firmly controlled; keeping the mind fixed on the Self, one should not think of anything. Wherever the fickle mind wanders, one should bring it back and fix it on the Self alone, under firm control. Supreme joy comes to such a yogi, whose mind is at perfect peace, whose lusts have subsided, who is sinless and who has become the Absolute.’
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: