Author Topic: Michael James about self enquiry based on teachings of Ramana Maharshi  (Read 1531 times)


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While we are in a dream state, we identify a dream body as ‘I’ in exactly the same manner that we identify our present body as ‘I’ in this waking state, and we take the dream world that we see to be real in exactly the same manner that we take the world that we see in this waking state to be real.But as soon as we wake up from a dream, we understand without the least doubt that all that we experienced in that dream was only a product of our own imagination, and was therefore unreal. Thus the dream state clearly demonstrates to us that by the power of its imagination our mind has the ability not only to create a body and world, but also simultaneously to delude itself that that imaginary body is ‘I’ and that that imaginary world is real.

Knowing that our mind possesses this wonderful power of creation and self-deception, can we reasonably avoid doubting whether the body we take to be ‘I’ and the world we take to be real in our present waking state are in fact any more real than the body and world we experience in a dream? Do we not have good reason to suspect that our body and this world that we experience in our present waking state are merely imaginary creations of our own mind, just as the body and world that we experienced in dream were? What evidence do we have that our body in this waking state and the world we perceive through the senses of this body are anything other than a creation of our mind?

In this waking state we understand that the bodies and worlds we experience in our dreams are merely products of our imagination, and exist only within our own mind, yet we generally assume without question that the body and world we now experience are not mere products of our imagination, but exist independently, outside our mind. We believe that this body and world exist even when we are unaware of them, as in dream and deep sleep, but how can we prove to ourself that this is so?

‘Other people who were awake when we were asleep can testify that our body and this world continued to exist even when we were unaware of them’ is the answer that immediately comes to our mind. However, those other people and their testimony are themselves part of the world whose existence in sleep we want to prove. Relying on their testimony to prove that the world exists when we do not perceive it is like relying on the testimony of a confidence trickster to prove that he did not swindle our money.

The people we meet in a dream may testify to us that the world we perceive then existed even before we perceived it, but when we wake up we realise that their testimony proves nothing, because they were just a part of the world that our mind had temporarily created and deluded itself into believing to be real. There is no way we can prove to ourself that the world exists independent of our perception of it, because any proof we may wish to rely upon can come only from the world whose reality we are doubting.

In this waking state our mind tells us that the world we are now experiencing is real and that the world we experienced in dream is unreal, but in dream our same mind told us that the world we were then experiencing was real. The differences that we now imagine to exist between that state and our present state did not appear to exist then. In fact, while dreaming, we generally think we are in the waking state. If we were to discuss the reality of waking and dream with someone in a dream, we would probably agree with each other that this ‘waking state’ – as we would then take our dream to be – is more real than a dream.

Since we can be sure that our body exists only when we know it, and since we know our present body in only one of our three states of consciousness, our notion that this body is ourself is open to serious doubt. Since we know that we exist in dream, when we do not know the existence of this present body, is it not reasonable for us to infer that we are the consciousness that knows this body, rather than this body itself?

If we are consciousness, that is, if consciousness is our real and essential nature, we must be consciousness in all the states in which we exist. Since our consciousness cannot know anything else without first knowing itself – without knowing ‘I am’, ‘I know’ – the essential nature of our consciousness is self-consciousness, the consciousness of its own being or existence. Whatever else it knows, our consciousness always knows ‘I am’, ‘I exist’, ‘I know’.

Do we exist in deep sleep? Yes, obviously we do, because when we wake up we know clearly and without any doubt ‘I slept’. If we did not exist in sleep, we could not now know that we slept. Since sleep is a state that we actually experience, it is not only a state in which we exist, but is also a state in which we are conscious of our existence. If we were not conscious in sleep, we could not know our experience in sleep – we could not know with such certainty that we slept and did not know anything at that time. What we are unconscious of in sleep is anything other than our own being or existence, ‘I am’, but we are not unconscious of our own being. Let us imagine a conversation that might occur between two people, whom we shall call A and B, just after B has woken up from a deep dreamless sleep.

A: Did someone come into your room ten minutes ago?
B: I do not know, I was asleep.
A: Are you sure you were asleep?
B: Yes, of course, I know very well that I was asleep.
A: How do you know that you were asleep?
B: Because I did not know anything.

However, it is important to remember that though in our present waking state we say, ‘I knew nothing in sleep’, the knowledge that we actually experience while asleep is not ‘I know nothing’, but is only ‘I am’. In sleep what we actually know is ‘I am’, and nothing but ‘I am’. Since this knowledge or consciousness ‘I am’ exists in all our three states of consciousness, and since nothing else exists in all three of them, is it not clear that we are in reality only this essential consciousness ‘I am’ – or to be more precise, this essential selfconsciousness ‘I am’?

Since our ‘knowing consciousness’, which is what is commonly called our ‘mind’, appears in waking and dream but disappears in sleep, it is impermanent, and hence it cannot be our real self – our true and natural form of being and consciousness. Since our ‘being consciousness’, on the other hand, exists in all our three states of consciousness, waking, dream and deep sleep, it is permanent, and hence it is our real self, the very core and essence of our being – our true and natural form of consciousness.

Since our entire experience of duality or multiplicity arises only in our mind, and since our mind is built upon the flimsy foundation of our imaginary lack of clarity of self-knowledge, when this mist-like imaginary lack of clarity is dissolved in the clear light of unadulterated self-consciousness, our mind and all the duality that it now experiences will disappear for ever, just as a dream disappears as soon as we wake up from sleep. Therefore in verse 1 of Ekatma Panchakam Sri Ramana says:

Having forgotten ourself [our real self, our pure unadulterated consciousness ‘I am’], having thought ‘[this] body indeed is myself’, [and] having [thereby] taken innumerable births, finally knowing ourself [and] being ourself is just [like] waking from a dream of wandering about the world. See [thus].

Our present waking state is in fact just a dream that is occurring in our long sleep of self-forgetfulness or lack of clarity of true selfknowledge. So long as this sleep persists, we will continue dreaming one dream after another. Between our dreams we may rest for a while in dreamless sleep, but such rest can never be permanent.

A dream actually appears within our own mind, but our mind experiences itself as being a body that exists within that dream. Such is the self-delusive power of our imagination. Therefore in verse 3 of Ekatma Panchakam Sri Ramana says:

When [our] body exists within ourself [who are the basic consciousness in which all things appear], a person who thinks himself [or herself] to be existing within that inconscient [material] body is like someone who thinks that the screen, [which is] the adhara [the underlying support or base] of a [cinema] picture, exists within that picture.

In the kalivenba version of Ekatma Panchakam Sri Ramana added the compound word sat-chit-ananda, which means ‘beingconsciousness- bliss’, before the initial word of this verse, tannul or ‘within [our] self’, thereby reminding us that what we are in essence is only the perfectly peaceful consciousness of being, ‘I am’. Other than our basic consciousness of our own being, everything that we know appears within the distorted object-knowing form of our consciousness that we call our mind, which arises within us during waking and dream, and subsides back into ourself during sleep. Our true consciousness of being – our essential self-consciousness ‘I am’ – is therefore like the screen on which a cinema picture is projected, because it is the one fundamental adhara or underlying base that supports the appearance and disappearance of our mind and everything that is known by it.

Time is an imagination that we do not experience in sleep, but is a part of each of the worlds that we experience in waking and dream. Since the world that we experienced in a dream is not the same world that we experience now in this present waking state, the time that we experienced as part of that dream world is not the same time that we are experiencing now. Therefore if we try to judge the duration of dream by the standard of time that we experience now, our judgement will inevitably be distorted and therefore invalid.

Therefore to help us to free ourself from all our desires,attachments, fears and aversions, Sri Ramana and other sages teach us the truth that everything other than our own self-consciousness, ‘I am’, is unreal, being a mere figment of our own imagination. This is why in verse 559 of Guru Vachaka Kovai he confirmed the inference that we can draw from the fact that whatever we experienced in a dream appeared then to be as real as what we experience in this waking state appears now to be, stating explicitly:

If dream, which appeared [and was experienced by us as if it were real], is a mere whirling of [our own] thoughts, waking, which has [now] occurred [and is being experienced by us as if it were real], is also of that [same] nature [that is, it is likewise a mere whirling of our own thoughts]. As real as the happenings in waking, which has [now] occurred, [appear to be at this present moment], so real indeed [the happenings in] dream [appeared to be] at that time.

The relationship between ourself and our body is similar to the relationship between gold and a gold ornament. Just as gold is the one substance of which the ornament is made, so we are the one substance of which our body and all the other objects of this world are made. Therefore in verse 4 of Ekatma Panchakam Sri Ramana says:

Is [an] ornament other than [the] gold [of which it is made]? Having separated [freed or disentangled] ourself, what [or how] is [our] body? One who thinks himself [or herself] to be [merely a finite] body is an ajñani [a person who is ignorant of our one real, infinite and non-dual self], [whereas] one who takes [himself or herself] to be [nothing other than our one real] self is a jñani, [a sage] who has known [this one real] self. Know [yourself thus as this one infinite self].

Since death is just the ending of an extended dream, it is merely a state of abeyance or temporary subsidence of our mind, like the sleep that we experience every day. After we have rested for a while in sleep, our latent desires and fears impel our mind to rise and become active once again in another state of dream. Similarly, after we have rested for a while in death, our latent desires and fears impel our mind to rise once again in another state of activity, in which we imagine some other body to be ourself.

Therefore when Sri Ramana said, “having taken innumerable births”, he was referring to this repeated process of forsaking one dream body and imagining another dream body to be ourself. Rebirth or reincarnation is therefore not real, but is just a dream – an imaginary event that occurs repeatedly in our seemingly long sleep of imaginary self-ignorance.

Since our self-ignorance is therefore not real but only imaginary,in order to put an end to it all we need do is cultivate the habit of remembering or being attentive to our own essential being, ‘I am’. As Sri Ramana says in the eleventh paragraph of Nan Yar?:

… If one clings firmly to uninterrupted svarupa-smarana [remembrance of one’s own essential nature or real self, ‘I am’] until one attains svarupa [that is, until one attains true knowledge of one’s own essential nature], that alone [will be] sufficient. …

Who am I? The sthula deha [the ‘gross’ or physical body],which is [composed] of the sapta dhatus [the seven constituents, namely chyle, blood, flesh, fat, marrow, bone and semen], is not ‘I’. The five jñanendriyas [sense organs], namely the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose, which individually [and respectively] know the five vishayas [sense ‘domains’ or types of sense perception], namely sound, touch [texture and other qualities perceived by touch], form [shape, colour and other qualities perceived by sight], taste and smell, are also not ‘I’. The five karmendriyas [organs of action], namely the vocal cords, feet [or legs], hands [or arms], anus and genitals, which [respectively] do the five actions, namely speaking, walking, holding [or giving], defecation and [sexual] enjoyment, are also not ‘I’. The pancha vayus [the five ‘winds’, ‘vital airs’ or metabolic forces], beginning with prana [breath], which perform the five [metabolic] functions, beginning with respiration, are also not ‘I’. The mind, which thinks, is also not ‘I’. The ignorance [the absence of all dualistic knowledge] that is combined with only vishaya-vasanas [latent inclinations, impulsions, desires, liking or taste for sense perceptions or sense enjoyments] when all sense perceptions and all actions have been severed [as in sleep], is also not ‘I’. Having done neti [negation, elimination or denial of whatever is not ourself by thinking] that all the abovesaid things are not ‘I’, not ‘I’, the knowledge that [then] stands detached alone is ‘I’. The nature of [this] knowledge [‘I am’] is sat-chit-ananda [beingconsciousness- bliss].

Hence in verse 22 of Upadesa Undiyar Sri Ramana briefly states the essential conclusion that we should arrive at by means of the rational process of self-analysis, which in the ancient texts of advaita vedanta is called neti neti or ‘not thus, not thus’:

Since [our] body, mind, intellect, life and darkness [the seeming absence of knowledge that we experience in sleep] are all jada [inconscient] and asat [unreal or non-existent], [they are] not ‘I’, which is [chit or consciousness and] sat [being or reality].

Source: Happiness and The Art of Being Book
which is a layman’s introduction to the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana By Michael James