Author Topic: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I, II, III.  (Read 6325 times)

Subramanian.R

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(The article has appeared in Mountain Path,  January - March 2016)

*
The original version of this article was written at the request of Alasdair Black, the editor of the newsletter
published by the Ramana Maharshi Foundation, UK and was published in their Autumn 2013, Newsletter.

*

In English books on the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, and also among many of His devotees and
followers, a lot of mystery and confusion seems to surround the Sanskrit word ' Sphurana', so
much so that some aspirants agonize over whether or when they are going to experience the mysterious
and elusive thing that this word is imagined to denote.  In this context, therefore, the first thing that needs
to be clarified is that what we are seeking to experience when we practice Atma Vichara or self investigation
is not anything mysterious or previously unknown, but is only 'I', ourself, with which we are already
more familiar than we are with any other thing.

We already experience this 'I', of course, but what we are now trying to experience other than it, but is
just the same 'I' but with a greater degree of clarity -- in fact, with absolute clarity.  At present the clarity
with which we experience  'I' is less than perfect, because we experience it mixed with other things that
we mistake to be 'I', such as our body and mind, and hence our current experience of 'I' is confused and
clouded by our experience of those extraneous adjuncts as 'I'.  Therefore, we clearly know that I am,
we do not clearly know what I am, so Sri Bhagavan advises us to investigate and find out who or what
we actually are.

What then is the meaning of this term 'Sphurana', and why did Sri Bhagavan occasionally uses it?
Unsurprisingly, all that this word  denotes in the context in which He used it is just to clarity of self
awareness  - the very clarity that He advises us to seek.  Therefore Sphurana is not anything other
than 'I', but is only the greater degree of clarity with which we are not trying to experience 'I'.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               
« Last Edit: April 06, 2016, 12:25:31 PM by Subramanian.R »

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2016, 11:13:21 AM »
In the context of Bhagavan's teachings, just as Vichara (investigation or inquiry) means by default only
Atma Vichara (self investigation or self inquiry), Sphurana means by default only Aham Sphurana,
the 'clear shining of I'.  Just as the shining of a light is not other than that light, because if a light
did not shine it would not be a light, this clear shining of 'I' is not other than 'I' because if 'I' did not shine
(that is, if it was not experienced by itself) it would not be 'I'.

However, in the contexts other than Bhagavan's teachings, the Sanskrit word Sphuranam has a much
broader range of meanings, such as shining, glittering, sparkling, twinkling, flashing, shining forth,
springing to the mind, appearing, starting into view, breaking forth, manifestation, quivering, trembling,
throbbing, vibration or pulsation.  In short, anything that shines, appears, manifests, becomes clear
or makes itself known can be called Sphurana. In the context of Bhagavan's  teachings, however, many
of these meanings of Sphurana are obviously not applicable, because 'I' does not sparkle, twinkle,
quiver, tremble, throb, vibrate or pulsate, since it is essentially just being, not something that moves in any
way or does anything. The things that we mistake to be 'I',  such as our body and mind, do move and act,
but 'I' itself just is and does not move or do anything.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2016, 01:26:43 PM »
Though the term Sphurana does have various meanings, not all of its meanings are applicable in any
given context, so which of its meanings are applicable is determined by the particular context in which
it was used.  Therefore which of its meanings is or are applicable in the context of Bhagavans' teachings?
When Devaraja Mudaliar asked him the meaning of Sphurana, He replied, 'It means 'vilankuvathu'
and 'vilakkuvathu'. Vilankuvathu and Vilakkuvathu are both verbal nouns (from the verb 'vilangu' and
'vilakku' respectively0. or to be more precise, participial nouns, as for example is Ulladu, so just as
Ulladu can mean either 'what is' or 'being', Vilanguvathum can mean either 'what shines' or 'shining' and
Vilakkuvadhu can mean either 'what makes clear' or 'making clear'. This is then what He meant by
Sphurana when He coined the term aham sphurana so aham sphurana means the shining of 'I' or the
making clear of 'I'.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2016, 10:11:42 AM »
Obviously, 'I' does not shine in the same way that a physical light shines, so in this context 'shining'
is not used literally but metaphorically. That is, in this context the basic metaphorical meaning of
'shining' is 'being experienced', so whatever is experienced at any given time can be said to be 'shining'
at that time.  Since 'I' is not only the only thing that is always experienced,  but also the only thing that
is experienced by itself, is not only ever-shining but is also the only thing that is self shining.

However, 'shining' in a metaphorical sense means not only 'being experienced' in general, but more
specifically 'being clearly experienced'.  Thus the more clearly a thing is experienced, the more brightly
it may be said to be shining.  It is significant, therefore, that though the basic meaning of vilanguvadhu
is either 'what shines' or 'shining', it also means either 'what is clear' or 'being clear', so in the case of
aham sphurana or the shining of 'I', sphurana or 'shining' simply means 'being clear' or 'being clearly
experienced.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2016, 09:25:54 AM »
Since what is always more clearly experienced than any other thing is only 'I', it may be said to be
the most brightly shining of all things, but so long as its shining is mixed with the shining of all things,
but so long as its shining is mixed with the shining of any other things (all of which are illuminated
only by the light of 'I', which is a metaphorical way of saying that they are all experienced only by
the conscious thing called 'I'), it is not shining sufficiently clearly.  In order to shine with complete clarity,
'I' must shine alone, -- that is it must be experienced on its own, in the absence of all other things.
When it shines alone, in complete isolation from all other things. When it shines alone, in complete isolation
from all other things, it shines clearly, and this clear shining of 'I' alone is what Bhagavan sometimes described as Aham Sphurana.


contd.,

Arunachala Siva.
         

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2016, 10:07:15 AM »
Since a light is a light only because it shines, and since it shines only because it is a light, and it
and its shining can never be separated from each other, and in fact its shining is nothing other than
itself.  Therefore the two basic meaning of 'vilanguvadhu', namely 'what shines' and 'shining', both
actually denote the same thing.  For example, in the case of Aham Sphurana, 'I' is both shining and
what shines.  That is, shining or being clear -- and hence in this sense Sphurana -- it is, shining or being
clear, -- and hence in this sense Sphurana -- is the very nature of 'I' because if it did not shine (that is,
if it were not experienced by itself) it would not be 'I'.  Therefore Aham Sphurana, the 'shining of I' or
'clarity of I', is nothing other than 'I' itself.

When a light shines, not only does it make other things clear, but it also makes itself clear, and likewise
whatever else shines (whether literally or metaphorically) thereby makes itself clear.  Therefore, when
Bhagavan said that Sphurana means 'Vilanguvadhu' (shining or being clear) or 'Vilakkuvadhu' (making
clear), what He implied is that it actually means both simultaneously, because by shining or being clear
'I' is making itself clear.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                   

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2016, 09:26:57 AM »
This is why anything that makes itself clear, such as a light, a sound, a throbbing, a pulsation, a vibration,
an explosion or anything else that appears, manifests, springs into view or strikes the mind, can be
described as a Sphurana.  However, no such things can be Aham Sphurana, because Aham Sphurana
is the shining of 'I' alone.  Moreover, there is a fundamental difference between Aham Spurana and
every other type of Sphurana,  because any other type of sphurana is conditional, since it depends on
'I', whereas Aham Sphurana is unconditional, since it depends upon nothing but other than itself.

That is, a light, a sound, a throbbing or anything else other than 'I' can make itself known or clear,
so there can be no sphurana of any such thing unless it is experienced by 'I'.  In the case of Aham Sphurana,
on the other hand, what experiences the 'I' that makes itself clear is only that very same 'I' itself.
Therefore Aham Sphurana is the only self shining Sphurana   -- the only Sphurana that experiences itself.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2016, 04:30:01 PM »
After Bhagavan explained to him that Sphurana means 'vilanguvadhu' (shining or being clear) or
'vilakkuvadhu' (making clear),  Devaraja Mudaliar went somewhat off topic by asking, 'Is it not a sound
we hear?  Since his original question was about the meaning of the word, Sphurana in Aham Sphurana,
it was not relevant to ask about a sound, unless he imagined that Aham Sphurana is somehow a sound
of sound, unless he imagined that Aham Sphurana is somehow a sound of sound, unless he imagined that
Aham Sphurana is somehow a sound of some sort.  However, just as Aham Sphurana is not literally a light,
it is also not literally a sound, but just it can be described metaphorically as a light, it could also (at a stretch
of imagination) be described metaphorically as a sound, so it seems that Bhagavan replied implying that
it is not a sound that we can hear but a 'sound' (figuratively speaking) hat we become aware of it.  That is,
the nature of 'I' (aham) and hence of the shining of 'I' (Aham Sphurana) is silence, so it it is described
metaphorically as a 'sound', it is 'soundless sound', and hence it cannot be heard heard but can only be
experienced in silence.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2016, 09:44:12 AM »
In English books on the teachings of Bhagavan, though the noun Sphuranam is used, the verb 'sphur',
from which this verbal noun is derived, is not used, whereas in Sanskrit He used this verb as He did for
example in Verse 20 of Upadesa Saram, where He used it to describe the shining forth of oneself as
'I am I'  after the ego is destroyed by self investigation,  perhaps as frequently as He used its noun form,
Sphuranam, and in Tamizh, He sometimes used its equivalents, 'spuri' or 'puri'.   The Sanskrit verb
'sphur' means to shine, be bright, be clear, be evident, make itself known, flash to mind, appear clearly,
become visible, manifest, arise, shine forth, burst out plainly, start to view, spring, dart, flash, sparkle,
glitter, gleam, glisten, twinkle, twitch, tremble, throb, palpitate, jerk or kick (and thus it is etymologically
related to English words spurn or spur, which like it are believed to be derived from a Proto-Indo-European
meaning to twitch, push or kick).  In Tamizh the frequently used verb 'puri' which means to shine, be
manifest, be clear to be understood, and its much less frequently used form 'spuri' which tends to mean
more specifically to strike one's mind, are both derived from this Sanskrit verb 'sphur'.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                   

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2016, 02:35:48 PM »
Since some of these various meanings of 'sphur' and 'spuri', such as to shine forth, spring into view,
become clear, or strike one's mind, imply an experience that is somehow new, one of the connotations
both of these verbs and of their various derivatives, such as the verbal nouns Sphuranam in Sanskrit
and 'spurippu' in Tamizh, is newness or freshness. Therefore, in the context of self awareness but more
specifically a fresh clarity (or fresh degree of clarity) of self awareness.

Hence, after Bhagavan explained to him (Devaraja Mudaliar) that sphurana means 'vilanguvadhu'   
(shining or being clear) or 'vilakkuvadu' (making clear), if Devaraja Mudaliar had asked, 'But is not
'I' always shining or making itself clear?  In what sense, then is Aham Sphurana any different to the
ordinary shining of 'I' that we already experience?'  He would have probably replied by explaining
that the term Aham Sphurana does not denote merely the ordinary shining of 'I' or the ordinary
manner in which it makes it clear, but more specifically a fresh and more clearly shining of 'I'     

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2016, 11:50:41 AM »
As Sri Sadhu Om used to say (punning on the words 'new clear' and 'nuclear'), Sphurana is a new clear
awareness of ourself.  Just as the potentially destructive power of nuclear energy is released by splitting
an atom, the all destroying power of this Sphurana or new clear self awareness is released by splitting
the ego atom -- the chit jada granthi or knot that binds the conscious (ourself) to the non  conscious
(a body) -- by means of keenly focused self attentiveness.

Until the final moment when the ego is destroyed completely by absolute clarity, but even while practicing
self attentivenes we are beginning to split it, and thus we experience a less than perfect kind kind of
Sphurana, a fresh but still partial degree of clarity of self awareness. which will not have the  power to
destroy our mind entirely, but will not gradually undermine it by weakening its vasanas, or outward going
inclinations. Only when we experience absolute clarity of self awareness, which is the perfect kind of
Sphurana, will its full power be released, thereby destroying not only our mind but also its entire creation,
the appearance of this vast universe that comes into seeming existence whenever it rises, as Bhagavan
is recorded as saying:

'The spark of Jnana will easily consume all creation as if it were a mountain heap of cotton. All the crores
of worlds being built upon the weak (or no) foundation of the ego, they all topple down when the atomic
bomb of Jnana comes down upon them.'  (Devaraja Mudaliar, Day by Day.  22.11.1945 afternoon.,)

This spark of Jnana or atomic bomb of Jnana is the absolute clarity of self awareness, which is the perfect
variety of what Bhagavan sometimes called the Aham Sphurana.

contd.,

(from the next issue of Mountain Path)

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I.
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2016, 04:37:16 PM »
Part II:

When we practice Atma Vichara (self investigation) what we are seeking to experience is greater and greater
clarity of self awareness until such clarity becomes absolute, and the only way to experience such clarity
is to be keenly and vigilantly self attentive.  Therefore, just as clarity of self awareness is our goal, so it is also
the only means by which we can reach the goal, and hence, since it is just clarity of self awareness, Aham
Sphurana is both our goal and the path to it.


We begin to taste a partial and imperfect kind of this Aham Sphurana or fresh clarity of self awareness as soon
as we turn our attention keenly towards ourself in an attempt to experience who am I, and our experience
of this Sphurana deepens and becomes increasingly clear as we focus our attention more and more keenly
upon our essential self awareness, 'I am'.  Thus during our practice of Atma Vichara we experience varying
degrees of Sphurana or clarity of self awareness.       

Contrary to what some people imagine, therefore, Sphurana is not some sort of 'thing' that we should aim
to experience, because what this term denotes is not an object of experience but only a quality of experience,
and the experience in question is not in any way concerned with any object or 'thing' but is only self experience
-- an experience in which the experiencer, the experienced and the experiencing are all one.
The quality of self experience that this term denotes is its degree of clarity, which we have seen vary from
from the increased but nevertheless still partial clarity that we experience when we start practicing Atma
Vichara or keenly focused self attentiveness, to the complete and absolute clarity that we will experience when
our mind is destroyed by the all consuming light of Atma Jnana or true Self Knowledge.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I, II, III.
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2016, 12:37:54 PM »
Because the verbal origin of this noun Sphurana has not  been made clear in most English books,
there has been a tendency to reify it (that is to depict as if it were a thing), and hence some people
have been led to imagine that it denotes some sort of thing that is other than ourself rather than a simply
a fresh condition or degree of clarity of the metaphorical shining of 'I', and thus they imagine not only the
word Sphurana has a fixed referent, but also that that referent is something other than ourself.  If they
had instead understood the verbal origin of the word, and if they had been familiar with the variety of
contexts in which Bhagavan used the verb Sphur and its derivatives, they would have understood that
He used Sphurana to refer to any degree of fresh clarity of self awareness that is experienced as a result
of practicing Atma Vichara or self attentiveness, and that since we experience varying degrees of such
clarity, including the absolute clarity that is Atma Jnana, the referent of the word Sphurana is not fixed
but variable at least in degree, and hence that verb Sphur and the noun Sphurana were used by Bhagavan
to refer not to any partial degree of fresh clarity of self awareness that we experience while practicing
Vichara, but also to the absolute clarify of self awareness that shines forth when the ego is finally destroyed.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

             

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I, II, III.
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2016, 11:55:55 AM »
A clear example of Him using the verb Sphur to describe the complete and final shining forth of oneself
is Verse 20 of Upadesa Saram:

ahami nasabha jyahama hamataya
sphurani hrtsvayam parama purnasat.

When  'I' (the ego) is annihilated, Heart (oneself) spontaneously shines forth as 'I am I' (aham aham).
This is Parama Purna Sat, (the supreme whole reality).

In the original Tamizh version of this verse, Bhagavan used the verb tondrume, which means 'it certainly
appears, becomes clear, springs up or shines forth', and in this Sanskrit version, He translated this as
Sphurati, which in this context means 'it shines forth, becomes clear, or shines clearly'.  Since what He
is describing here is the spontaneous shining forth of our Heart or true Self as 'I am I', which we will
experience when our mind or false 'I' is annihilated by Atma Vichara, and since he emphasizes that this the
one infinite reality, the Parama Purna Sat or 'supreme whole being', in this context the verb Sphurati
obviously describes only the shining forth of the absolute clarity of pure adjunct free self awareness.
From this it is clear that Bhagavan considered even this shining forth of absolute clarity of self awareness
to be a kind of Sphuranam -- the perfect kind in fact.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

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Re: Demystifying the term ' Sphurana' - Michael James - Part I, II, III.
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2016, 11:03:58 AM »
However, in most cases when He used Sphur or any of its derivatives He did so to describe  the fresh
but still relative clarity of self awareness that we experience during our practice of self investigation
(atma vichara). As far as I can remember, He did not use any form of the verb Sphur or any of its derivatives
in any of His original Tamizh writings, but in Sri Ramana Noolthirattu (His Tamizh collected works) there is
one text in which derivatives of this word are used several times, namely Vichara Sangraham, in which
He uses the Tamizh verb Spuri four times (in sections 1,9, and 10) and its noun form Spurippu eight times
(in sections 1,2,6 and 9), and in all these cases He used these words to denote the partial clarity of self
awareness experienced during the practice of self investigation.  However, before we consider any of these
in more detail, it is important to remember that through Vichara Sangraham is included in Sri Ramana
Noolthirattu, the ideas expressed in it are a mixture of ideas from other spiritual texts that Gambhiram
Seshayyar asked Him to explain and replies that He gave from His own experience whenever Seshayyar
asked for further clarification, so though the passages we consider may have been  answers that He gave
from His own experiences, the conceptual framework within which He gave them and the wording that He
used to express were intended to suit the perspective from which the questions He was answering were
asked.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.