Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be As You Are

Sri Ramana Maharshi taught that every conscious activity of the mind or body, for example ‘I think’, ‘I remember’, 'I feel' ‘I am acting’, etc., revolves around the tacit assumption that there is an individual ‘I’ who is doing something, a common factor and mental fiction termed the ‘I’-thought (a translation of Aham-Vritti, which literally means ‘mental modification of ‘I’). He equated individuality with the mind and the mind with the ‘I’-thought which is dependent on identification with an object, and said that after Self-realisation there is no thinker of thoughts, no performer of actions and no awareness of individual existence. When the thoughts arise, he said, the ‘I’-thought claims ownership of them- ‘I think’, ‘I believe’, ‘I want’, ‘I am acting’, but there really is no separate ‘I’ that exists independently of the objects that it is identifying with, only an incessant flow of misidentifications, based on an initial assumption that the ‘I’ is individual and associated with the bodily form. He considered this ‘I am the body’ idea as the primary source of all subsequent wrong identifications and its dissolution as the principal aim of self-enquiry.

Sri Ramana taught that since the individual ‘I’-thought cannot exist without an object, if attention is focused on the subjective feeling of ‘I’ or ‘I am’ with such intensity that the thoughts ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ do not arise, then the individual ‘I’ will be unable to connect with objects. If this awareness of ‘I’ is sustained, the individual ‘I’ (the ‘I’-thought) will disappear and in its place there will be a direct experience of the Self. This constant attention to the inner awareness of ‘I’ or ‘I am’ was called self-enquiry (atma vichara) by Sri Ramana Maharshi and he constantly recommended it as the most efficient and direct way of discovering the unreality of the ‘I’-thought. He taught that the ‘I’-thought only finally disappears when the perception of all objects, both physical and mental, ceases and only Self Awareness exists. This is not brought about by being aware of an ‘I’, but only by BEING the ‘I’. This stage of experiencing the subject rather than being aware of an object is the culminating phase of self-enquiry.

This important distinction distinguishes self-enquiry from most other spiritual practices and it explains why Sri Ramana consistently maintained that most other practices were ineffective. He often pointed out that traditional meditations and yoga practices were predicated on the existence of a subject who meditates on an object and he would usually add that such a relationship sustained the ‘I’-thought instead of eliminating it. In his view such practices may effectively quieten the mind, and they may even produce blissful experiences, but they will never culminate in Self-realisation because the ‘I’-thought is not being isolated and seen to have no real existence. [1]

When one turns within and searches
Whence this `I' thought arises,
The shamed `I' vanishes
And wisdom's quest begins.
Upadesha Saram, v 19, Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi
[edit] From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Arranging thoughts in the order of value, the `I' thought is the all-important thought. Personality-idea or thought is also the root or the stem of all other thoughts, since each idea or thought arises only as someone's thought and is not known to exist independently of the ego. The ego therefore exhibits thought-activity. The second and the third persons do not appear except to the first person. Therefore they arise only after the first person appears, so all the three persons seem to rise and sink together. Trace, then, the ultimate cause of `I' or personality. The `I' idea arises to an embodied ego and should be related to a body or organism. Has it a location in the body or a special relation to any particular spot, as speech which has its centre in the brain or amativeness in the brain? Similarly, has `I' got any centre in the brain, blood, or viscera? Thought-life is seen to centre round the brain and the spinal-cord which in turn are fed by the blood circulating in them, carrying food and air duly mixed up which are transformed into nerve matter. Thus, vegetative life - including circulation, respiration, alimentation, etc. - or vital force, is said to be (or reside in) the core or essence of the organism. Thus the mind may be regarded as the manifestation of vital force which again may be conceived as residing in the Heart. [2]
[edit] From The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One, by Sri Sadhu Om

Sri Ramana Maharshi named Self-enquiry as ‘Who Am I?’, thus drawing our attention directly to the first person. In this question, 'Who Am I?', 'I am' denotes Self and 'who' stands for the enquiry. It does not mean enquiring into a second or third person object. Also, Self (atman) does not exist as an object to be known by us who seek to know it!

Self-enquiry is unnecessary for the Self, and Self-knowledge is impossible for the ego. The enquiry 'Who Am I?' taught by Sri Ramana should be taken to mean Self-attention (that is, attention merely to the first person, the feeling 'I').

While practising Self-enquiry, instead of taking any one of the five sheaths as the object of our attention, we should fix our attention only on the 'I'-consciousness, which exists and shines as oneself, as the singular, and as a witness to and aloof from these five sheaths.

Sri Ramana has advised that Self-enquiry can either be done in the form 'Who am I?' or in the form 'Whence am I?'. 'Who is this I?' may rather be called 'I-attention', 'Self-attention' or 'Self-abidance'. Enquiring 'Whence am I?' is enquiring 'Whence is the ego?', meaning ‘From what?’. When taken in this sense, instead of a place or time coming forth as a reply, Self-existence, 'we', the Thing (vastu), alone is experienced as the reply.

When sought within 'What is the place from which it rises as 'I'?, 'I' (the ego) will die! This is Self-enquiry (jnana-vichara)

– Ramana Maharshi, Upadesha Undiyar, verse 19

He who seeks 'Whence am I?' is following the ego, the form of which is 'I am so-and-so', and while doing so, the adjunct so-and-so, having no real existence, dies on the way, and thus he remains established in the Self, the surviving 'I am'.[3]

On the other hand, he who seeks 'Who am I?' drowns effortlessly in his real natural 'being' (Self), which ever shines as 'I am that I am'. Therefore, what is absolutely necessary is that Self-attention should be pursued till the very end.

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