Hunting the 'I'
By Lucy Cornelssen - 3rd Edition. 1991
There is a certain mountain, belonging to the Eastern Ghats, about 200 km south-west of Madras, named Arunachala, meaning 'Hill of Fire' or 'Hill of Dawn'. The Puranas claim that it is the most ancient mountain on earth. Folklore, legend, fairy-tale? Well, geological research has confirmed the 'fairy-tale'.
Thus the feet of the Hindus, children of this country, and those of the foreign travellers do not touch merely rocks and sands and mud, but their minds are given to a long and awe-inspiring history of civilisation over many centuries, and their very hearts feel here the touch of a deeper mystery, though wrapped up for ever in the silence of an inscrutable past.
Thousands of Indian legends and parables are at the same time veiling and revealing the living Truth about God, Man and World. In this legend of Arunachala, Brahma stands for buddhi, the reason, Vishnu for ahamkara, the ego of man, Siva for Atman, the secret of man's true Nature. Neither reason nor ego can, of their own talents, reach the Supreme Atman, the Supreme Self, the true nature of man; they have to submit. Only then the Atman reveals Itself.
Is it not our birthright to be happy?
Then why have we to struggle and to fight and still miss it?
Because of a single error of ours: We do not know ourselves properly, and by that same error everything else is spoiled. Nor do we know what happiness is.
Real happiness needs no struggle nor endeavour, no reason nor cause; it is inherent in the real 'I'. However you and I, we live on a wrong 'I', as it were. That is the mistake which has to be removed before we can claim our birthright on real happiness.
So says Ramana, the Maharshi. And he advises us to dive deep into ourselves with the question: 'Who am I?'
It seems that thinking, feeling and willing are functions of the body, or, to be more specific, of its brain, a biologically reacting mechanism which serves the body properly without needing an 'I' for that purpose.
But still there seems to be an 'I', because we are conscious of it vividly even now, at this moment, when it appears to lose its last foothold!
Keep very quiet and observe: This 'I' does neither think nor will; it has no qualities, is neither man nor woman, has neither body nor mind; it has no trace of the 'person' which you had in mind during your previous questions about the 'I'. It simply is conscious of itself as "I am''. Not 'I am this', 'I am that'; only 'I am'....
But beware: It's not you who has this 'I' ... Consciousness as an object, but this Consciousness is your real 'I'!
This attitude of aloofness, of detachment, has to be kept and practised as often as possible throughout the day.
Because the moment you are perceiving something and reacting on it, being interested or emotionally involved, positively or negatively, you have covered up the silent, neutral, pure, witnessing 'I' by the reactive aggressive, personal 'I'.
Accordingly the sadhana of hunting the 'I' includes the practice of attention to our own perceiving, with the purpose of cutting it short just before the stage of reacting sets in. In practicing this kind of detachment the seeker will soon get to a state of pure awareness, which is no longer 'perceiving'.
If we do not resolve to attack the deadly enemy in every nook and corner of our daily life, we shall never get rid of this ghost which we have pampered unconsciously for so long. But what is the means?
There is only one way to overcome the ghost .... to watch it. Do not fight, do not resist. Only try to watch it, quietly but ceaselessly. In other words, develop an unconcerned witness-consciousness towards men, things and happenings without, but particularly towards yourself within. It means to carry on the calmness of the mind gained in your meditation to cover your whole day. You will distinctly feel it as an undercurrent of peace and detachment.
Obstacles and Pitfalls
The one which soon will betray itself as a great deposit of obstacles is the so-called mind, with its main qualities, restlessness and dullness.
Don't try to attain something! Sadhana is meant to remove only. Deny reality to everything, including yourself. It is not you who realises the Self; the Self reveals only itself. To whom? To Itself only.
Don't fight against your 'I'! Every resistance is strengthening the 'I' because the motive-power behind resistance is 'Will'!
Don't suppress either! Because a suppressed thought, feeling or intention is bound to rebound!
The mark by which this pitfall is recognised is 'I' have realised.... This 'I' can only be a 'wrong I', because it is not the 'I' that realises.
With this idea he gives his 'personal I' a strong chance to develop into a 'spiritual I', which is much worse than his original quite ordinary 'I', strengthened by all his previous spiritual effort. The result is a spiritual pride, the worse the more advanced the sadhaka has become, because his attainments, serve only to confirm his 'right' to be proud of his success.
His is a journey like that in fairy-tales, when the hero has to go through many adventures, to fight against many enemies and even demons, to win the princess at the end. The further he proceeds, the mightier the obstacles.
The new and definitive disguise of his ego .... I is 'the Guru', and this last and most powerful pitfall never releases him, because he never recognises that he is its victim. There are nowadays many whose Guru-pitfall caught them even much earlier on their path.
The Snake in the Rope
The real guru is one who has realised the Self.
If you are ready for him, he will meet you without any searching for him on your part. And only then can you be sure that he is the guru for you.
Even the first quest after the meaning of life is already prompted by the inner, the real Guru. There is a beautiful experience of Moses, preserved in the tradition of Islam. When he complained, "O Lord, where shall I seek to find these?'' he heard the answer, "Thou wouldst not seek Me if thou wouldst not already have found Me!''
ESP-experience belongs to the 'personal I'. The teachings of the sage of Arunachala revolve around "hunting the 'I''' until it submits. To seek and attain siddhis means to strengthen it. That settles the matter once and for all.
Sanyasa is meant for one who is fit. It consists in renunciation not of material objects but of attachment to them. Sanyasa can be practised by any one even at house. Only one must be fit for it (T 588).
It is the sovereign wisdom of this mysterious land, lost in the sea, in the 20th century just as it was millenniums ago, when it was expressed in 'Manu's Law for Sannyasins':
"He should not wish to die, nor hope to live,
But await the time appointed, as a servant awaits his wages.
He must not show anger to one who is angry.
He must bless the man who curses time.
He must not utter falsehood.
Rejoicing in the things of the spirit, calm,
Caring for nothing, abstaining from sensual pleasure,
Himself his only helper,
He may live on in the world, in the hope of eternal bliss''.
Thus sannyasa is neither showy, nor brilliant, nor very attractive a path, but just one on which Truth is likely to meet the wanderer, provided he is a true sannyasi.
The true Jnana-Sadhana is 'hunting the I' until you reach the mysterious 'I am that I am' by which the Supreme Power revealed itself to Moses (Exodus 3, Verse 14). This method was already known to the ancient sages but later neglected. Ramana Maharshi did not pick it up at random. When he awoke in his Great Experience to the real 'I', the Self, he recognised once and for all that 'personal I' belongs to another dimension of consciousness than the true I. He also recognised that to find its source and hold on the wrong 'I' was the way to get beyond this relative consciousness with the pure Awareness of turiya, that Knowledge which is Be-ing.
Going beyond thinking by jnana, beyond feeling by bhakti, beyond self-willed action by karma marga means going beyond 'I' which was from the very beginning, the birth of a genuine reflexive Identity, a 'wrong I'; it means noting more or less than returning to the Source of Pure Consciousness. Thereafter....
"Your efforts can extend only thus far. Then the Beyond will take care of Itself. You are helpless there. No effort can reach It.'' (T 197)