The evolution of Tony Parsons 2 – Was Tony reading Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj? | Neo-Advaita | Radical Non-duality| Traditional Advaita Vedanta

‘I am that. I am the source of all that is, and so are you’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 117.

Generally speaking I do not comment much on other teachers as everyone has their own path and different teachings can be helpful at different times (apparently!). If you have found a teaching or communication useful, who am I to say otherwise? I am not interested in trying to take you away from something you resonate with, enjoy or agree with – quite the contrary in fact. However occasionally I find myself writing posts such as these in order to shine some light and clarity on aspects of certain teachings (or ‘non-teachings’!) and give my view for those who are interested.

Last year I wrote a post called ‘The evolution of Tony Parsons’ in which I noted how Tony’s expression has changed over time, becoming more and more radical or ‘neo-advaitic’ and less traditional as the years have progressed. Conversely, in previous years gone by his expression was much more in line with the traditional type teachings that he now states are dualistic, confusing and misleading. I also noted how in my view some important absences in the teaching limit its effectiveness, and how the evolution of his teaching is actually in line with the teaching methodology of traditional Advaita.

Nowadays all references to ‘I am That’ or ‘awaken to your true nature’ and references to awareness are all dismissed as being ‘dualistic’ and ‘for the me’ by Tony Parsons, but several years ago he was speaking in this very way that he now says is dualistic.

Since writing ‘The Evolution of Tony Parsons’, I was encouraged to read another another book of Tony Parsons published in 2004, which is no longer on sale, called ‘Invitation to Awaken’. As his first book ‘The Open Secret’ was published in 1995, this represents at least the first 9 years of him sharing these teachings. I obtained a copy about six months ago but for some reason today I was moved to actually pick it up, take a look at it, and write this post. Having flicked through it, I can only presume that it is no longer on sale as it contains teachings which now Tony Parsons says are dualistic and inaccurate. In fact I would guess that most of the following quotes would now likely be thought of as being dualistic by those who advocate radical non-duality (or neo-advaita) style communications. The subheading ‘Embracing Our Natural State of Presence’ is exactly the type of teaching language that is now refuted by so-called radical non-duality, so it is particularly interesting that this was the phrase chosen to be put on to the book cover:

In this book called ‘Invitation to Awaken’, what I would call the savikalpa aspect of the traditional teaching is unfolded by Tony Parsons in a manner very similar to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings. This savikalpa (literally meaning ‘with objects’ or with arising phenomena present) teaching illumines the oneness between all arising phenomena and the space-like consciousness that we are, but by itself rarely leads to permanent end of (apparent) duality and suffering.

However, unlike Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings, in Tony’s teachings the nirvikalpa aspect of the Vedanta teaching is notably absent. This nirvikalpa (literally, without objects or arising phenomena) aspect of the teachings, in which one naturally turns away from objective phenomena towards the Subject/Self, is the actual part of the teaching which is liberating. It is this aspect of the teaching that many never take up, for the ego doesn’t want to go there, and it is this part of the teaching that (for most) leads to liberation. It is this nirvikalpa aspect of the teaching which removes the habitual energetic tendency (vasana) to identify with the body-mind. eg. Nisargadatta Maharaj teaches the method of staying with the ‘I AM’, which leads one to this liberating nirvikalpa aspect of the teaching, but Tony Parsons advocates no such thing – in fact he even detracts from this kind of sadhana/practice, so allowing the ego-mind and duality to remain intact.

Please note that most of the quotes below are probably now refuted by those who have an affinity with radical non-duality, including Tony Parsons himself. Please also note that I have selectively taken quotes to highlight the similarity with more traditional vedanta expositions, at least the savikalpa aspect of the teachings. In the book there are still many neo-advaita style teachings present.

Please also note that I am not trying to criticise any teachings or teachers/speakers but my interest is only to share how these teachings may have evolved into their present form and I hope this article is useful to those seekers who are faced with an abundance of teachings and are trying to find their way through it all.

‘A meeting with Tony Parsons can be an invitation to rediscover your true nature. Reading a book like this may help you recognize your own doubts, hope and questions until they no longer come to the surface’

Quote from back cover of ‘Invitation to Awaken’ by Tony Parsons

‘Totally radical and uncompromising expression of absolute Non-dualism’

The preface to the 2004 book ‘Invitatation to Awaken’ by Tony Parsons states that:

‘this book is a totally radical and uncompromising expression of absolute Non-dualism’.

Tony Parsons also states in the same preface:

‘I am surprised at the number of teachings that are presented or thought of as nondualistic or Advaita teachings when they are anything but. As far as I can see, the radical, clear, and uncompromising expression of absoute nonduaism is still very rarely communicated’

Let us see some of these ‘totally radical and uncompromising expressions’ in this post.

Awareness and Consciousness

When reading this book, there are several phrases that seem reminiscent of the language used in Nisargadatta Maharaj’s book ‘I am That’. Tony here even speaks of the distinction between ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’, which is a fairly peculiar distinction made in the specific Advaita Vedanta teaching lineage from which Nisargadatta Maharaj comes from. In fact I have never heard of this kind of distinction made by anyone else in quite this way:

‘Anger, sadness and thoughts can still be present, but they all arise in what I am, which is awareness.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 3

Awareness is the source of all. As the matrix of everything, it is completely still, silent and impersonal. It has no relationship with anything; it’s the singularity from which everything emanates. Consciousness for me is the soup, which contains everything that apparently happens, including the sense of separation….Awareness simply is and requires nothing; consciousness can only arise in awareness.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 3

‘…you are That. That is it – simple awareness. Just know this awareness, which is watching the game of consciousness. You have always been That.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 4

You are simply awareness, seeing whatever arises. It’s absolutely simple, and it’s absolutely what you are. Just let awareness see what arises. ‘

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 21

Tony Parsons and Nisargadatta Maharaj

So when I read the above on the first few pages, I thought that this must have been a time during which Tony was reading Nisargadatta Maharaj. The influence of Nisargadatta seems to be fairly strong. But was Tony even aware of Nisargadatta Maharaj? I would find it difficult to believe that this distinction between ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ would arise otherwise, as practically no other teacher uses this terminological difference as far as I am aware. Well, I found my answer on page 37 when Tony mentions Nisargadatta by name:

‘When Nisargadatta said ‘Nothing is happening’, this’s what he meant. Actually, nothing ever happens’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 37

Here we have Tony Parsons interpreting Nisargadatta Maharaj! For those familiar with radical non-duality/ neo-advaita as well as more traditional expositions, perhaps there is some humour in this!

Love and wisdom

Nisargadatta famously said in I Am That:

‘Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.’

Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

Here we have Tony saying something very similar on page 43:

‘Deep wisdom is knowing ‘I am awareness, I am nothing’, but unconditional love is knowing that ‘I am everything’.

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 43

Later in the book Tony quotes Nisargadatta Maharaj, seemingly approving of this style of expression:

‘In the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, while absolute wisdom sees that ‘I am nothing’, absolute love sees that ‘I am everything’. Everything is generated from unconditional love’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 60

‘Neo-Advaita’

Contrast this with what Tony says nowadays, namely that the notion of awareness is itself dualistic and perpetuates the ego. The following quotes are taken from This Freedom by Tony Parsons, published in 2015:

‘Awareness is the fuel of separation…Awareness is that which helps to construct a subject-object world. It is the accomplice of separation. A subject is aware of an object.’

Tony Parsons, This Freedom, page 48

‘But awareness is a function that needs something apart for it to be aware of.’

Tony Parsons, This Freedom, page 9

‘Awareness simply feeds separation, and a state of detachment can arise and be mistaken for enlightenment.’

Tony Parsons, This Freedom, page 9

‘Consciousness, knowing and awareness are similar apparent functions within wholeness. Awareness is the function through which the apparently contracted energy of a separate identity arises. The function of awareness re-establishes and maintains the illusory sense of a self’

Tony Parsons, This Freedom, page 50

However, previously Tony said something quite different, namely he emphasised the subject, similar to traditional vedanta and Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings:

‘Some people teach that awakening is seeing that there is no ‘doer’, that consciousness is all there is. But there’s something that knows that consciousness is all there is. It is the lover, the ultimate, what you are.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 61

I am that

Let us see again how Tony used to talk about non-dualty – all italics are present in the original text:

‘I am that. I am the source of all that is, and so are you’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 117.

‘You are That’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 111.

‘I don’t need to still my mind because I am stillness itself…I am the stillness, and the mind arises within it’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 122.

‘You are absolute awareness, and without absolute awareness nothing can be’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 94.

‘[talking about the Buddha] he ultimately gave it up and saw ‘I am That”

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 96.

‘…the nearest I can get to is is absolute Being. When the state of unconditional love is total, it leads to the fnial realisation ‘I am absolute Being’ or ‘There’s just absolute Being.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 43

‘While your perception of ‘I am That, I am the absolute, I am awareness, I am the light just as everyone else is’ remains constant, in certain circumstances you can still contract back into identification. This means that at times you can still be in relationship…’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 49

‘Let’s close our eyes and be open to the possibility that there’s no one there, that there’s simply awareness – silent, still, impersonal awareness – and whatever seem to be happening is arising in that. Just be the watcher…you are the stillness; you are the silence in which everything arises. Embrace that which never moves and is totally still’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 53

The ‘I Am’

Another phrase Nisargadatta Maharaj uses is ‘the I Am’. Here in this same book we have Tony using the same phrase:

‘You are the I Am, and so am I’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 58

The Subject

These days Tony states there is no subject, the subject being an illusion that perpetuates duality. Here is an example of this:

‘Question: But is there a perception of ‘what is’?

Tony: No, there is just ‘what is’…there is no perceiver that is real’

Tony Parsons, This Freedom, page 49

However previously Tony emphasised the subject – italics in the following quotes are not added by myself but are present in the book. The first quote is presumable referring to Ramesh Balsekar who used to teach the ‘no doer, all is consciousness’ teaching at that time:

‘Some people teach that awakening is seeing that there is no ‘doer’, that consciousness is all there is. But there’s something that knows that consciusness is all there is. It is the lover, the ultimate, what you are.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 61

Here is another example of Tony emphasing the subject, again italics are present in the original text:

‘Question: How does one drop it [the veil], then?

Tony: One doesn’t drop it. It’s dropped by seeing that there is no individual, but only space in which things apparently happen. You get a sense of moving ‘behind’ the person that’s always been at the forefront of things. Just behind that apparent person is the one that knows the person standing there looking at me’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 64.

Integration after awakening

Imagine my suprise to hear Tony discussing the need for integration after awakening! Here is what he says:

‘After awakening, people need to integrate what’s happened to them. Very often they rush out and say ‘I’m giving Satsang on Friday’, even though there’s been no integration.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 70

‘Although I experienced great clarity walking across the park, it took some time to integrate the vast seeing that ‘this is all there is’…a lot of people start teaching thinking that they can help others attain what they have, but if they haven’t integrated their awakening, their teachings may create some confusion.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 71

Perhaps it is these kinds of statements which explains why this book is no longer being published?

Is this just linguistics or semantics?

But isn’t this just linguistics? The ‘old Tony’ and the ‘new Tony’ – are they not just saying the same thing using different words? I don’t think so. Our true nature, consciousness, is often traditionally said to know itself, just like Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings. Here is a questioner trying to get to this point, taken from the 2015 publication This Freedom, page 51:

Questioner: But surely the no thing that is and isn’t, knows itself?

Tony: It’s doesn’t need to know it is and is not. It is an illusion that consciousness knows consciousness…Where would it go to stand apart and know itself?

Questioner: I am not talking about a consciousness that is apart, I am talking about a consciousness that is in it.

Tony: So consciousness is another word for knowing or awareness, and these are all transient functions…they are in movement. They are actions that apparently happen within wholeness. Consciousness of a tree, consciousness of self, knowing the sky, knowing I am, awareness of a thought; it is wholeness appearing to be a separate knower.’

Tony Parsons, This Freedom, page 51

And again on page 52:

‘So as consciousness is an inconstant function within the everything, how can it be the everything?’

On page 61:

‘Awareness is the accomplice of separation. Awareness is a function which requires something for it to be aware of. When awareness arises there is a subject aware of an object. That is awareness.’

However, what did Tony say back in 2004?

‘…you are That. That is it – simple awareness. Just know this awareness, which is watching the game of consciousness. You have always been That.’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 4

‘I am that. I am the source of all that is, and so are you’

Tony Parsons, from Invitation to Awaken, page 117.

OK, that’s all from me on this for now. I hope you enjoyed reading the above and found it interesting and perhaps even useful. Again, the idea of this post is not to criticise or condemn, but to share and give insight into how such teachings can change and evolve over (apparent) time. Please feel free to check out Tony Parsons’s current teachings on YouTube and see what you think for yourself!

Namaste

Tom

Direct and Indirect Knowledge (Paroksha and Aparoksha Jnana) | Advaita Vedanta

First we hear the teachings (sravana), then we think about the teachings (manana), then we realise what they are pointing to (*paroksha jnana or understanding primarily on the level of the mind, ie. indirect knowledge;).

This naturally leads to abiding as the Self (nididhyasana), which leads to deeper and deeper silence (mouna or samadhi).

Eventually all of the egoic tendencies (vasanas) are removed (vasana kshaya) resulting in destruction of ignorance (manonasa or destruction of egoic mind) which is the same as liberation (moksha) or direct knowledge (*aparoksha jnana – direct knowledge) or self-realisation (atma sakshatkara)

This entire path is then seen to have been illusory (maya)!

Where is there to go? Who/what entity is there to go anywhere? What is there to do?

In the meantime suffering will continue until the Self is realised as your own very Being, and it is Abidance in that Being as that Being that fructifies as Moksha.

🙏
❤️

*Think of ‘paroksha’ as meaning ‘mediated’, so paroksha jnana means knowledge that is mediated by something, ie. it is indirect knowledge. Conversely think of aparoksha as meaning unmediated, so aporoksha jnana refers to unmediated or direct knowledge.

Why faith IS required for liberation | Advaita Vedanta

I have heard some Advaita Vedanta teachers say that there is no need for faith in Vedanta. However, what do the Advaita scriptures say?

Here we shall look at some selected quotes from Shankara and the Bhagavad Gita below which state both the importance and necessity of faith on the Path to Liberation, and explore why this is the case.

WHY IS FAITH IMPORTANT?

Why is faith important? Simply put, because without sufficient faith one will not have the dedication, love and perseverance to continue with self-enquiry (vichara), until liberation is attained. And Self-Enquiry, as taught by the Upanishads, by Shankara and by Sri Ramana Maharshi, is the only practice that ultimately leads to Moksha.

SOME TEACHERS SAY FAITH IS NOT REQUIRED

There are some teachers that say faith is not required for Vedanta as one can discover this all for oneself like a scientist can discover the various laws of nature.

Whilst this truth needs to be discovered for oneself and realised for oneself, I have noticed these teachings that push out the need for faith tend to be the teachings that predominately stay on the level of the mind. They tend to teach that prolonged meditation on the Self/Self-Enquiry is not required for liberation, and that essentially one can come to liberation through qualities such as having a keen intellect combined with exploring the nature of our present experience only.

This being the case, these teachings alone do not lead to the end of individuality, duality and suffering – ie. they do not actually lead to Moksha (liberation) at all, and the ego-separation remains.

‘FAITH PENDING RESULTS’?

Some say that Shraddha, the Sankrit word for faith, does not refer to blind faith or mere belief, but to a ‘faith pending results’, similar to the ‘faith’ required for a science student to follow a scientific experiment in order to discover the truth it yields.

Whilst there is some truth in this, it is not the whole truth, and also note that the scriptures do not define faith in this way (see the quotes section below). It is true that faith, as spoken of in the Advaita scriptures, is not the end goal in itself, meaning one doesn’t simply believe in God or in a dogma or creed of some kind and leave it at that, which would be rather superficial and on the level of the intellect predominantly. Rather faith is a ferry to take us to the shore of liberation, and this liberation is the goal, and this goal of liberation or God must be ‘experienced’ or ‘realised’ or ‘known’ for oneself, for want of a better phrase.

However, the faith spoken of in the Vedanta scriptures is much deeper than what has been described above. It is not just a mere willingness to try something until you see the results, like a scientist, or even a simple trust that the teachings will show you the way, but something that throbs in our very core, a deep conviction, in our very heart, in our Being. It is a deep resonance, a magnetic pull, intertwined with an intuitive knowing.

This faith cannot be taught, but is something that at some point in our journey springs into our very Being and takes us Home to Liberation. Perhaps it comes to us having listened to and studied the Advaita (or similar) teachings for some time, or perhaps faith dawns after having experienced the various ups and downs of life, or perhaps it comes to us unasked for, as Divine a Gift from God, a Gift of His Grace.

This true faith is inextricably linked with Bhakti, or devotional love of the Divine, which culminates in love to be with Self as Self, otherwise known as Self-Enquiry or Dhyana (meditation).

For me this Faith arose through the Presence and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and for that I am forever grateful. His Presence and His Teachings unfailingly guide Homeward those who have come under His Spell and Grace. He is the Lord, He is the very Self, he resides within your very Heart – turn inwards and dis-cover (ie. uncover and reveal) your identity with Him.

QUOTES FROM THE VEDANTA SCRIPTURES

Let us see what kind of person, according to Vedanta, attains Jnana, or ‘divine knowledge’, otherwise known as liberation:

Bhagavan Lord Krishna states in the Gita Chapter 4, verse 39: ‘Those whose faith is deep and who have practiced controlling their mind and senses attain divine knowledge.’

But what if this faith is not present?

Lord Krishna also states in the Gita in the next verse, chapter 4, verse 40: ‘But persons who possess neither faith nor knowledge, and who are of a doubting nature, suffer a downfall. For the skeptical souls, there is no happiness either in this world or the next.’

In Chapter 5, Krishna further states in verse 17: ‘Those whose intellect is fixed in God, who are wholly absorbed in God, with firm faith in Him as the supreme goal, such persons quickly reach the state from which there is no return, their sins having been dispelled by the light of knowledge.’

What is the definition of faith?

Shankara defines faith and states it is necessary for realisation in Vivekachudamani: ‘Acceptance by firm judgment as true of what the Scriptures and the Guru instruct, is called by sages Shraddha or faith, by means of which the Reality is perceived

Shankara also writes in Aparokshanubhuti that Shraddha is required for liberation and defines Shraddha as follows: ‘Implicit faith in the words of the Vedas and the teachers (who interpret them) is known as Shraddha

Lets leave the last quote of this post to Bhagavan Sri Krishna, this time from the last verse of Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita where he states: ‘Of all yogis, those whose minds are always absorbed in me, and who engage in devotion to me with great faith, them I consider to be the highest of all.’

The Non-Dual Vision of Jesus Christ and the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi | Non-duality | Advaita |Christianity

Here the non-dual teachings of Jesus are succinctly presented.

The following are excerpts I have put together from the introduction of the book ‘Happiness and the Art of Being’ by Michael James. I felt there were so many gems and biblical quotes packed in tightly together in just the introduction of this book – someone else perhaps would have made the introduction alone into an entire book I felt that it would be worthwhile to tease out some of the points about Jesus’s teachings and put them together into a post for the benefit of seekers. It very nicely sums up the inner teachings of Jesus in light of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and points to the core teachings of both.

You can read the entire book, ‘Happiness and the Art of Being’, online for free here, and I encourage you to make a donation to the author and/or buy a hard copy of the book in order to support the author.

Bold type and subheadings have been added by myself. I have also changed the paragraph structure of the text in places – I hope these aid the readability of the text and assimilation of the key points.

Namaste

Tom

Also see: Recommended Reading: Books for Enlightenment, Liberation and Self-Realisation

Jesus and non-duality

The true aim of all religions

The inner aim of all religions and spiritual traditions is to free us from this illusory state in which we imagine that we are separate from God, the one unlimited and undivided reality.

Original Sin

For example, in Christianity this state in which we violate the oneness and wholeness of God by imagining ourself to be an individual separate from him is called the ‘original sin’, which is the root cause of all misery and unhappiness.

The Truth shall set you free

Because we can become free from this ‘original sin’ only by knowing the truth, Christ said,

‘[…] ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8.32).

The truth that we must know in order to be made free is the truth that we are nothing but the adjunctless pure consciousness ‘I am’ – that ‘I am’ which is the true form of God, as disclosed by him when he revealed his identity to Moses saying,

I am that I am’ (‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’ – Exodus 3.14).

Die to your (individual) self

To ‘know the truth’ does not mean to know it theoretically, but to know it as a direct and immediate experience. In order to destroy the illusion that we are a limited individual consciousness, a person separate from the perfect whole which is called God, we must experience ourself as the unlimited and undivided pure consciousness ‘I am’.

Therefore, to know the truth and thereby be made free from the illusion called ‘original sin’, we must die and be born again – we must die to the flesh and be born again as the spirit. That is why Christ said,

‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. […] Except a man be born of […] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3.3 & 3.5-6).

That is, to experience and enter into the true state of God, we must cease to exist as a separate individual, a consciousness that identifies itself with the flesh and all the limitations of the flesh, and must rediscover ourself to be the unlimited and undivided spirit, the pure, unadulterated and infinite consciousness ‘I am’, which is the absolute reality that we call ‘God’.

When we identify ourself with a body made of flesh, we become that flesh, but when we cease to identify ourself with that flesh and know ourself to be mere spirit, we are born again as our original nature, the pure spirit or consciousness ‘I am’.

The need for us to sacrifice our individuality in order to be born anew as the spirit is a recurring theme in the teachings of Jesus Christ:

‘Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal’ (John 12.24-25).

‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it’ (Luke 17.33).

‘And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ (Matthew 10.38-39).

‘If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Matthew 16.24-26, and also Mark 8.34-37 and Luke 9.23-25).

That is, in order to rediscover our true and eternal life as the spirit, we must lose our false and transient life as an individual. If we seek to preserve our false individuality, we shall in effect be losing our real spirit. This is the price we have to pay to live as an individual in this world. Therefore, whatever we may gain or achieve in this world, we do so at the cost of losing our real self, the state of perfection and wholeness (which in this context is what Christ means by the term our ‘own soul’). In exchange for regaining our original and perfect state of wholeness, we have only to give up our individuality and all that goes with it. Which is truly profitable, to lose the whole and gain merely a part, or to give up a mere part in exchange for the whole?

Take up thy cross

In order to give up or lose our individuality, as Christ had done, he says that we must follow him by denying ourself and taking up our cross. To deny ourself means to refrain from rising as an individual separate from God, who is the whole – the ‘fullness of being’ or totality of all that is. To take up our cross means to embrace the death or destruction of our own individuality, because in the time of Christ the cross was a powerful symbol of death, being the usual instrument of execution. Thus, though he used somewhat oblique language to express it, Christ repeatedly emphasised the truth that in order to rediscover our real life as the spirit we must sacrifice our false life as an individual.

Christ’s resurrection

This sacrifice of our individuality or identification with the flesh, and our consequent resurrection or rebirth as the spirit, was symbolised by Christ through his own crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. By dying on the cross and rising again from the dead, Christ gave us a powerful symbolic representation of the truth that in order to become free from the ‘original sin’ of identification with the flesh and thereby to enter the ‘kingdom of God’, we must die or cease to exist as a separate individual, and thereby rise again as the pure spirit, the infinite consciousness ‘I am’.

The Kingdom of God

The ‘kingdom of God’ which we can see and enter only by being born again as the spirit is not a place – something that we can find externally in the material world of time and space, or even in some celestial world called heaven.

When Christ was asked when the kingdom of God would come, he answered,

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17.20-21).

The kingdom of God cannot be found by observation, that is, by any form of objective attention – by looking externally here or there. It cannot be found in any place outside us, either here in this world or there in heaven, nor indeed is it something that will come in the future. It exists within us even now.

To see and enter into it, we must turn our attention inwards, away from the external world of time and space that we observe by means of the limited flesh-bound consciousness that we call our ‘mind’, and towards our true consciousness ‘I am’, which is the underlying base and reality of the observing consciousness ‘I am so-and-so’.

The true teaching

The exhortation ‘behold’ that Christ used in the above passage is very important. He did not merely tell us the fact that the kingdom of God is within ourself, but exhorted us to look and see that it is within ourself. That is, he did not merely tell us the truth that he saw, but told us that we should each see it for ourself.

In more modern English, we would express the passage

‘[…] neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you’

as

‘[…] and they should not say, ‘Look here or look there’, because, see, the kingdom of God is within you’.

This exhortation that Christ makes to us not to look here or there but to see that the kingdom of God is within ourself, is the essence of the spiritual practice taught by Sri Ramana and all other true sages. We should give up attending to anything outside ourself, and should instead turn our attention inwards to see the reality that exists within us.

The kingdom of God is not a place but a state – our natural state of pure self-conscious being. When we see it within ourself by turning our attention towards the innermost core of our being, we enter into it and become one with it.

This is the state of being born again as the spirit – the state of mystical union with God that all Christian contemplatives seek to attain. In this state called the ‘kingdom of God’, the pure consciousness ‘I am’, which is the spirit or true form of God, exists and shines alone in all the splendour and glory of its undivided oneness and unlimited wholeness.

The teachings of Sri Ramana

The teachings of Sri Ramana thus throw a fresh light upon the spiritual teachings contained in the Bible. In the same manner, they also throw fresh light upon the spiritual teachings of all other religions.

Though his teachings are easily recognised as a fresh and clear expression of the ancient teachings of advaita vēdānta, they in fact clarify the inner essence not only of advaita vēdānta but also of all other spiritual traditions.

The truth that he taught is not a relative truth that is limited to any particular religion or human culture, but is the absolute truth which underlies all human experience, and which is the source and foundation of the spiritual teachings of all religions. For certain cultural or other reasons, in some religions this truth is expressed less openly and clearly than in others, but it is nevertheless the truth that lies at the heart of every religion.

Though this truth is not recognised by most of the followers of the various religions, particularly by the followers of those religions in which it is hidden more obscurely, it is nevertheless expressed in some form or other in the scriptures and the philosophical and mystical writings of every religion, and it can be discerned and recognised by all who have the eyes to see it. The teachings of Sri Ramana, if understood clearly and correctly, give us the eyes or insight required to discern and recognise it wherever it is expressed, no matter how seemingly obscure may be the words that are used to express it.

Dualistic vs non-dualistic teachings

All words are open to interpretation – and misinterpretation. This is particularly true of words that speak about the spirit – the reality that lies beyond the limitations of physical matter, and that therefore cannot be perceived by the five senses, or known as an object of consciousness. All interpretations of such words fall into two distinct categories – interpretations that are strictly non-dualistic, admitting no division of the one and only reality, and interpretations that are either completely dualistic, or that at least concede that within the one reality there are divisions and distinctions that are real.

Ultimately the interpretation that we each choose to accept depends not upon the truth itself – because the nature of the truth cannot be proved objectively – but upon our own personal preferences.

Most people – whether they hold religious beliefs or cherish a more materialistic outlook on life – prefer to take a dualistic view of reality, because such a view assures them of the reality of their own individuality, and of the world they perceive through their senses, and (if they choose to believe in God) of God as a separately existing entity. Therefore the only basis for a dualistic view of reality is the attachment that people have to their own individuality, to the world that they think gives them happiness, and to their idea of a God who they believe will give them the things that will make them happy….

One truth in all religions

This non-dual reality is the one truth about which all religions speak. Though they do not always describe the non-dual nature of this truth in explicit terms, all religions do so implicitly in one way or another.

No religion has a monopoly on the truth. What is true in one religion is true in every religion. The truth can never be in any way exclusive, because if it were, it would only be a partial truth and not the whole truth – a relative truth and not the absolute truth. To be wholly and absolutely true, the truth must be all-inclusive – it must be the one whole that includes everything within itself.

The one whole truth that does include everything within itself is the infinite spirit, the single consciousness that we all know as ‘I am’. Everything that appears to exist does so only within this consciousness. Though the manifold forms in which things appear are unreal as such, the one real substance of all things is the consciousness in which they appear. Therefore the one truth about which all religions speak is the single, all-inclusive and non-dual whole, the spirit or consciousness in which all things appear and disappear.

The Universal Christ and the ‘I Am’

However, because they interpret the spiritual teachings of their religion in a dualistic manner, most of the followers of the various religions tend to believe that their own religion somehow has a monopoly or exclusive claim upon the truth, and is therefore the only means to salvation. For example, throughout the history of Christianity, most ordinary Christians have believed that true salvation can be attained only through the person of Jesus Christ, and that atheists, agnostics and the followers of other religions can be saved only by converting to Christianity. They have justified this unreasonable and arrogant belief by their dualistic interpretation of Christ’s saying,

‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14.6).

Because of their dualistic understanding of his spiritual teachings, they interpret the words ‘I am’ and ‘me’ that he used in this passage to denote only the individual person Jesus Christ, who was born at a certain time in a certain place called Bethlehem.

However, Christ did not mistake himself to be merely an individual person whose life was limited within a certain range of time and place. He knew himself to be the real and eternal spirit ‘I am’, which is unlimited by time and place. That is why he said,

‘Before Abraham was born, I am’ (John 8.58).

The person who was Jesus Christ was born long after the time of Abraham, but the spirit which is Jesus Christ exists always and everywhere, transcending the limits of time and place. Because that spirit is timeless, he did not say, ‘Before Abraham was born, I was’, but, ‘Before Abraham was born, I am’.

That timeless spirit ‘I am’, which Christ thus knew to be his own real self, is the same ‘I am’ that God revealed to be his real self when he said to Moses,

‘I am that I am’ (Exodus 3.14).

Therefore, though Christ appears to us to be a separate individual person, he and his Father God are in fact one and the same reality, the spirit that exists within each one of us as our fundamental consciousness ‘I am’. That is why he said,

‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10.30).

Therefore, when Christ said,

‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14.6),

by the words ‘I am’ and ‘me’ he was referring not merely to the time-bound individual called Jesus, but to the eternal spirit ‘I am’, which he knew to be his own real self. The inner meaning of his words can therefore be expressed by rephrasing them thus,

‘The spirit “I am” is the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the spirit “I am”, which is the Father or source of all things, but by this same spirit’.

True Salvation

The spirit ‘I am’ is not only the truth or reality of all things, the source from which they all originate, and the life or consciousness that animates every sentient being, but is also the only way by which we can return to our original source, which we call by various names such as ‘God’ or the ‘Father’.

Except by turning our attention within towards the spirit, the consciousness that we each experience as ‘I am’, there is no way by which we return to and become one with our source. Therefore true salvation can only be attained not merely through the person who was Jesus Christ, but through the spirit which is Jesus Christ – the eternal spirit ‘I am’ that exists within each one of us.

We can become one with Christ and God

Not only did Christ affirm his oneness with God, his Father, he also wanted us to become one with him. Before his arrest and crucifixion, Christ prayed for us,

‘Holy Father, […] that they may be one, as we [are]. […] that they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us […] that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one’ (John 17.11 & 21-23).

That is, the aim of Christ was that we should cease to mistake ourself to be an individual separate from God and should know ourself to be the one indivisible spirit, the pure fundamental consciousness ‘I am’, which is the reality of God.

Thus oneness or non-duality is the central aim of the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ.

Differences between religions are only superficial

Every religion consists of a vital central core of non-dualistic truth, expressed either explicitly or implicitly, and a thick outer shell of dualistic beliefs, practices, doctrines and dogmas. The differences that we see between one religion and another – the differences that throughout the ages have given rise to so much conflict, intolerance and cruel persecution, and even to bloody wars and terrorism – lie only in the superficial forms of those religions, their outer shells of dualistic beliefs and practices.

All the disharmony, conflict and strife that exist between one religion and another arise only because most of the followers of those religions are too attached to a dualistic view of reality, which limits their vision and prevents them from seeing what all religions have in common, namely the one underlying truth of non-duality.

Therefore true peace and harmony would prevail among the adherents of the various religions only if they were all willing to look beyond the external forms of those religions and see the one simple and common truth of non-duality that lies at the heart of all of them.

Non-duality

If we accept and truly understand the truth of non-duality, we will have no cause to quarrel or fight with anyone. We will be happy instead to let each person believe what they want to believe, because if a person is so attached to their individuality that they are unwilling to doubt its reality, no amount of reasoning or argument will convince them of the truth of non-duality.

Therefore no one who truly understands this truth would ever try to convince the unwilling. If anyone does try to force the truth of non-duality upon someone who is unwilling to accept it, they are only displaying their own lack of correct understanding of that truth.

Non-duality is not a religion that needs evangelists to propagate it, or converts to join its ranks. It is the truth, and will remain the truth whether or not anyone chooses to accept and understand it. Therefore we can and should do no more than make this truth available to whomsoever is ready to understand it and apply it in practice.

The true blasphemy

Many religious people believe that it is blasphemy or sacrilege to say that we are one with God, because they mistake such a statement to mean that an individual is claiming himself to be God. But when we say that we are God, what we mean is not that we as a separate individual are God, which would be absurd, but that we are not an individual separate from God. By thus denying that we have any existence or reality separate from God, we are affirming that the reality we call God is one, whole and undivided.

If instead we were to claim that we are in reality separate from God, as most religious people believe us to be, that would be blasphemy or sacrilege, because it would imply that God is not the one and only reality. If we were to have any reality of our own separate from God, then he would not be the whole truth, but only a part or division of some larger truth.

If we believe that the reality that we call God is truly the infinite ‘fullness of being’, the one undivided whole, then we must accept that nothing can exist as other than or separate from him. He alone truly exists, and all else that seems to exist as separate from him is in fact nothing but an illusion or false appearance whose sole underlying reality is God.

Only in the state of perfect non-duality is the true glory, wholeness and fullness of God revealed.

So long as we experience a state of seeming duality by mistaking ourself to be an individual separate from God, we are degrading and demeaning him, denying his indivisible oneness, wholeness and infinity, and making him into something less than the only existing reality that he truly is.

The Truth is often unpalatable

Though the inner aim of all religions is to teach us the truth of non-duality, in their scriptures this truth is often expressed only in an oblique manner, and can be discerned only by people who are able to read between the lines with true insight and understanding. The reason why the truth is not expressed more openly, clearly and unambiguously in many of the scriptures of the various religions is that at any given point in time the majority of people have not yet reached a state of sufficient spiritual maturity to be able to digest and assimilate it if it is told as it is. That is why Christ said,

‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now’ (John 16.12).

However, though most of us may be unable to bear and accept the raw and naked truth of non-duality now, with the passing of time we will each eventually gain the spiritual maturity required to understand and accept the truth as it is, and not merely as we would now like it to be.

What does Ramana Maharshi mean by ‘I-I’?

Questioner:

Please can you explain what is meant by the last line in this quote from ‘Who am I?’ by Sri Ramana Maharshi?

‘By a steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind, the mind is transformed into That to which the ‘I’ refers; and that is in fact the Self.

Mind has necessarily to depend for its existence on something gross; it never subsists by itself. It is this mind that is otherwise called the subtle body, ego, jiva or soul.

That which arises in the physical body as ‘I’ is the mind. If one enquires whence the ‘I’ thought in the body arises in the first instance, it will be found that it is from hrdayam or the Heart. That is the source and stay of the mind.

Or again, even if one merely continuously repeats to oneself inwardly ‘I-I’ with the entire mind fixed thereon, that also leads one to the same source.’

Tom:

It means to turn away from objects towards the Self; the mantra ‘I-I’ just being a means to point your attention Selfwards.

‘I-I’ means ‘I am I’ or ‘I am that I am’. This is because in most Indian languages ‘I’ and ‘I am’ are essentially the same word.

In the Path of Sri Ramana Part One it states on p.114:

The consciousness ‘I am’ when felt along with an adjunct (upadhi) as ‘I am so-and-so’ becomes a thought. Of all thoughts, this thought is the first. But the consciousness which shines alone as ‘I-I’ without any adjunct is Self (atman) or the Absolute (brahman). This is not a thought. It is our ‘being’ (that is, our true existence)

and on page 133 it states:

But as we have already said, it is to be understood that the consciousness mixed with adjuncts as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is the ego (ahankara) or the individual soul (jiva), whereas the unalloyed consciousness devoid of adjuncts and shining alone as ‘I-I’ (or ‘I am that I am’) is Self (atman), the Absolute (brahman) or God (iswara).

We can see that I-I (and the variants of this such as ‘I am that I am’, etc) simply refer to the Self, that is consciousness without any objects, as per the quote on page 133.

Am I the Subject, or am I beyond both subject and object?

Question: Am I the Subject, or am I beyond both subject and object? Some teachers will say, ‘you are not the object, nor are you the subject, you are beyond that which is both.’ Could you explain please?

Tom: The essential teaching is that You – the Absolute, the Self, the Divine – You are beyond all objects, that is, you are beyond body-mind-world.

If a teaching says what you are is beyond both subject and object, then subject refers to the body-mind and object refers to the world, and you are That Pure Consciousness which is beyond both.

If a teaching states you are the Pure Subject beyond all phenomenal objects, then You refers to Pure Consciousness beyond all objects, ie. body-mind-world.

Don’t forget the purpose of the teaching is not to have merely an intellectual understanding of the above, but to turn your attention selfwards and abide as the Self, for this is the key/clue that leads to self-realisation – otherwise it is just theoretical talk.

Namaste

Tom

How to abide in Pure Consciousness?

The word ‘pure’ in ‘pure consciousness’ traditionally denotes consciousness devoid of objects, ie. without the experience of objects. This is opposed to the ‘mixed’ or ‘reflected’ consciousness in which objects such as the mind, body and worldly objects appear.

Therefore to abide in pure consciousness means to turn away from objects, turn towards the Self/Subject and rest in Pure Being which is your True Nature.

This is why Shankara states in Vivekachudamani: ‘Dwelling on external objects will only increase evil propensities, so wisely recognising this fact, one should abandon external objects and and constantly attend to one’s true nature within, the Atman’.

For more information on how this is done please see here:

IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)