I am following the teaching of Shri
Raman Maharshi on Self- inquiry but
I have one doubt: when I ask the question
"Who am I?", I get the answer "body
+ mind + intellect". Why can't we consider
ourselves to be this composite which
is everchanging but keep our identity at that moment as 'I'?
A: You could consider that you have answered this question yourself. 'Who-you-really-are' does not change. Whenever you consider the body-mind-intellect, what you see is always different from when you last looked; yet 'you' who are looking is always the same. Therefore, you cannot be these things. Another, even simpler way, is to say that since 'you' are the subject seeing the body, mind or intellect as an object, therefore you cannot be them.
However, that is the traditional
way of analysing the situation. Ramana
does not advocate this. He says you should
not analyse. When the answer 'body +
mind + intellect' arises, you should
ask 'to whom does this answer arise?'
and carry on enquiring.
What should be the life-style of an "enlightened" person in
A: In reality, nothing changes when 'someone' becomes enlightened - before there was the non-dual brahman, after there is the non-dual brahman. From the standpoint of the relative world, what has happened is that self-knowledge has arisen in the mind of the now-enlightened person so that he or she now knows that everything is brahman. From the standpoint of another person, it will outwardly appear that nothing has happened, except that the enlightened person's behavior is likely to change. I say 'likely' because the extent to which this happens is somewhat dependent upon the mental preparation that this person underwent prior to the enlightenment. Such things as mental eqanimity are likely to increase post-enlightenment. The person's behavior to others is likely to be different - more sympathetic, loving etc. - because it is now known that these 'others' are in fact one's own Self. Desires etc. are likely still to arise but whether these are satsified or not will no longer be important. And so on... The person's working, social life etc. may well continue as before, since there is no reason to try to change anything when all is known to be perfect (and changeless) in reality but then again, it may not. E.g. perhaps the person had a natural inclination to teach, which had been supressed and, since there are now no ambitions etc., he may give up his materialistic lifestyle and devote it to others. Who knows?
feel that language itself is the only entity which has the
possibility to create ignorance, duality, freedom, bondage..etc.
In the realm of language the (individual) subject and object
are created by language itself and its structures (nouns,
names, verbs...). The very concept of being (existing) or
not being (not existing) is given by language itself and
has no power outside its frames. Time and space are created
by language also. Language only has the posibility to create
the division of perceptor-percepted, and so on. Is reality
outside the frames of language?
A: I think that I would have to say that language
helps perpetuate the illusion of duality but does not in itself
cause it. There is no question but that language can only take
place in seeming duality and its use inherently assumes another
(to whom it is directed) and objects/thoughts/feelings that
form the topic of the language. But the cause of our failure
to realize that all there is, is brahman and 'I am That' is
self-ignorance. I do not see how you can argue that language
is the cause of self-ignorance. On the contrary, it is only
by skilled use of language, through shravaNa and manana, that
we gain the direct self-knowledge to remove that ignorance
and bring about enlightenment.
I'm not sure what you mean by your last question. As noted
above, language necessarily implies dualism but reality cannot
be 'outside' anything (otherwise it would not be non-dual).
Q: Language creates the illusion of the "I" and
the illusion of the "this" or "that". Language
creates concepts, definitions, conditions... Language divides
reality into "I" and "you". Krishna Menon
once said "...where there is no where...", What is
that? The words of the sage are useful in order to neutralize
the illusion, and ignorance created by wordly language. Do
A: Nothing can affect reality, including language but I think
we agree that its use can certainly confuse us in vyavahAra.
And yet, as you say, the sage has to use language in order
to point the way out of our confusion, towards the truth.
Q: Just finished reading your book and
found it a noble and mature work.
I note that in the "Teaching Method" section you
say you come from the Traditional perspective and looked into
Direct & Neo before eventually returning to Traditional.
I come from the Direct perspective because that was what resonated
with me. As mentioned before I have read one book
on the neo perspective which I found invalid. I have also read
the Bhakti essays on your website which were interesting. I
see Bhakti not as worship, reciting mantras, singing,
dancing, a descent into sentimentality or anything like that
but as in devotion to the work of integration. Do I now need
to go to the Traditional methods, I don't know.
What happens when we no longer identify
with who we take ourselves to be (and this is not a case of switching
identity to another conceptualised sense of self). How
do we live as we did before playing our roles as before
if that seems ridiculous? For example children in a kindergarden
one of whom finds that although they still look the same on
the outside discovers that inwardly they find it's no longer necessary
to play with toys, enacting little dramas etc. Are you
supposed to just carry on playing whilst just not identifying
with it until the secenery changes. Surely you only carry
on doing it whilst you believe it's true.
A: I have probably said this before (I have certainly said
it many times) but it is the essence of Advaita so bears repetition:
The entire problem (of identification, saMsAra or whatever)
is one of self-ignorance and the only thing that can remove
this is self-knowledge. So, if you still have doubts or uncertainties,
you are still lacking some aspect of self-knowledge. The surest
way of gaining this is traditional teaching. However, if as
seems to be the case, you already understand, and know
to be true, most of this stuff, then it may be that reading
more, seeing some reputable teacher, discussion etc. will be
Once the self-ignorance is gone (or, if you prefer, when
you are 'enlightened'), life carries on much as before outwardly.
Yes, you now know that all is brahman, that there is no created
world etc. but the body still exists (as name and form) and
prArabdha karma is not wiped out (if it were, the body would
come to an end there and then). So it just carries on and,
knowing that you are not doing any of this, you can just watch
and enjoy. It's not ridiculous - it is lIlA, the divine play.
have two questions for you.
First, I heard rumors that you were working on a book about
the differences between traditional and Neo-Advaita due out
2008, is this true?
Second...bear with me here, it's hard to explain... I've
been studying nondual philosophy for ten years and a devotee
of Ramana Maharshi for two, and every contact with Ramana through
words, pictures, and his ashram in New York has given me peace.
Indeed, this is the quality he says to look for in a guru!
I recently came across the writings
of Tony Parsons and this has been anything but peaceful.
Tony says that Self-enquiry is "not possible" but
he seems to imply that he has a better method--read his books
and attend his seminars. I would not be troubled by Tony
if he had simply said, nothing is possible and left it at
that. But the way in which he presents his teachings seems
to imply that satsang with him or one of his recommended
students is the only way to realization and this has been
highly disturbing to me because I see his logic:
"Self-enquiry is a method that requires
the illusion of free will doing the enquiry; reading or hearing
Tony's lectures is passive, they can be heard by
no-one, (as opposed to self-enquiry, which must be done by "someone") and
requires no free will, hence no ego illusion is strengthened."
(in my words)
I am truly struggling with this as
I see Tony's logic, which would imply that he and his students
are "the only way" as
yet, but this "dream seeker" feels no attraction
to Parsons and even less interest in reading him further
or attending his meetings. Tony would most definitely claim
that I feel disturbed by him because I have truly heard him
and my ego is threatened; and this is good; but what I feel
is not a sense of risk or danger, but a sense of paralysis,
as his logic has taken away Ramana's way and self-enquiry and
left me with another option--go see him--which I am simply
ou seem to be much more experienced
in these issues than myself--actually, more than anyone else
I've read so far--so I would really appreciate any insight
into this conundrum--basically, is it true that only Tony's
(or Gill, Kersschot's) "communications," because
receiving them does not involve a false sense of "you" doing
something, are the only possible method of awakening and that "self-enquiry
is a myth?" I'm sorry to ramble on for so long but I find
these ideas rather difficult to articulate!
A: The quandry that you describe is one, I am sure, that
is shared by many seekers and it is specifically in order to
resolve issues such as this that I wrote the book.
(It is called 'Enlightenment: the path through the jungle -
a criticism of non-traditional teaching methods in advaita'
but will not be published until the summer of next year.)
The key to the understanding of this problem relates
to 'levels' of reality. The absolute truth is that there is
no creation, there are no objects, no people, no duality of
any kind. This is what the neo-advaitin teachers claim and
this, too, is what traditional advaita teaches. But it does
not seem like this to the 'person' who is deluded by self-ignorance
into believing that they are a separate individual living in
an alien world. A useful metaphor is the dream. The dream world
may be endlessly complex and totally believable to the dreamer
but this is not seen until the dreamer awakens, when the world
and the dreamer are seen (by the waker) never to have
existed separate from the mind.
Neo-advaita refuses to acknowledge the validity of the empirical
world of the person, whereas tradtional advaita does. Traditional
teaching openly acknowledges the person and aims to remove
the self-ignorance via a series of well-proven, stepwise procedures,
carefully gauged to the level and understanding of the seeker.
Neo-advaita simply restates the bottom-line reality. No matter
how many times this message is repeated, it is most unlikely
to have any effect (unless this is the negative effect that
you mention). Furthermore, it is not at all helpful to deny
the existence of the person since that is what the seeker believes
himself to be. The belief in 'I' must not be denied since that
essential 'I' is also the non-dual reality.
To most people, it does feel that we have free will and this
belief creates no problem as long as we use it to 'choose'
a path that is going to lead to enlightenment! Advaita is not
inimical to reason. Each step of the traditional path is logical,
totally comprehensible and brings immediate and unarguable
self-knowledge. When neo-advaitin teachers makes statements
such as 'heard by no-one', it does not take much discrimination
to 'choose' between them! The ego is also not a problem, in
the sense that you need not worry about it. As you progress
on a traditional path, it naturally looses its dominion and
ulitmately is seen for what it is - a mistaken superimposition.
Needless to say, there is much more about all of this in
the book but if you feel that your specific question has not
been answered, please come back.
Q: I have long been interested
in the diverse schools of mysticism. I have a rudimentary knowledge
of Vedanta, having taken several Indian philosophy classes
A few days ago, I chanced upon Michael Langford's "The
Imposter," which was inspired by Ramana Maharshi. I was
very impressed by the clarity of its exposition. The author
says he is enlightened.
Later, I read some more documents on the main site, specifically, "Sahaja
- What is Liberation according to Sri Ramana Maharshi?" The
ideas therein horrify me:
- According to Michael Langford and his interpretation of
Ramana's teachings, after sahaja samadhi, the mind is dead.
The sage does not perceive particulars (names and forms)
but resides in reality. Objective knowledge (perception of
particulars) is no longer possible. Reality is defined as
- That the appearance of the sage continues after his enlightenment
is merely the body-delusion of unenlightened people. Basically,
Ramana has no awareness of anything in this world after his
enlightenment, because he is perpetually in sahaja samadhi.
It is other people's delusion who create the appearance of
Ramana, after he ceased to be aware.
- All phenomena are unreal. Nothing ever happened.
- All paths other than self-inquiry lead nowhere.
Normally, given my background in Indian philosophy, I would assume
that the author has fallen into extreme views, e.g. asserting
ultimate reality while denying conventional reality. Previously,
I assumed that after enlightenment, objective knowledge persists.
For instance, if I'm crossing the road, I become aware of cars,
etc. Basically, the mind-body nexus persists, and my ego with
it. In fact, I have read in some Yogic exegesis that without
the ego, aham, perception and activity are impossible. And that
the aham, rather than dying after enlightenment, actually functions
better, because it is no longer entangled by desires.
Now the author asserts that after enlightenment, the ego dies,
and that perception and activity are no longer possible, and
that one resides perpetually in non-dual awareness. Now if this
were pure speculation, then I wouldn't pay much attention to
this - since it contradicts everything I've been told. The problem
is that the author claims that he is personally enlightened,
and that he testifies to this, etc. And he has quotations from
Ramana to back his assertions:
"In sahaja, however, the mind has resolved itself into the
Self and has been lost. Differences and obstructions mentioned
above do not therefore exist here. The activities of such a
being are like the feeding of a somnolent boy, perceptible to
the onlooker (but not to the subject). The driver sleeping on
his moving cart is not aware of the motion of the cart, because
his mind is sunk in darkness. Similarly the sahaja jnani (liberated
sage) remains unaware of his bodily activities because his mind
is dead, having been resolved in the ecstasy of Awareness (Self).
In sahaja, however, the mind has resolved itself into the Self
and has been lost. Differences and obstructions mentioned above
do not therefore exist here. The activities of such a being are
like the feeding of a somnolent boy, perceptible to the onlooker
(but not to the subject). The driver sleeping on his moving cart
is not aware of the motion of the cart, because his mind is sunk
in darkness. Similarly the sahaja jnani (liberated sage) remains
unaware of his bodily activities because his mind is dead, having
been resolved in the ecstasy of Awareness (Self)."
"From the above talk by Sri Ramana we can see that the liberated
sage is not aware of objects, the world, the body, the universe,
activity, walking, talking, etc.
However, the onlooker who is still under the illusion of the
ego imagines a sage with a body walking, talking, etc."
After reading the above quotations, I was very shocked. I wanted
to burn all of my spiritual books. Now I'm simply confused. What
if he is right and everyone else is wrong?
This problem is too difficult for me. If it is within your power,
please give me some definitive explanation and clear up my confusion.
I seek the truth sincerely.
The document containing the views of the author on sahaja samadhi
A: I have read some of Michael Langford's material in the past
and he certainly appears to be confused regarding some key
concepts. Your existing understanding is much more nearly correct.
Regarding the principal point of concern, the mind is NOT
destroyed upon enlightenment. Enlightenment is, after all,
an event in the mind! On the contrary, the mind increases in
strength and peacefulness following enlightenment. As you say,
'it is no longer entangled by desires'. The realized person
clearly continues to function in the world and this would not
be possible without a mind! The confusion possibly arises by
misunderstanding the terms:
nirvikalpa samAdhi is the state in which the person is no
longer aware of the outside world - but it is a state and the
mind returns to normality after a time.
sahaja sthiti is not a state and simply means that one never
forgets that 'I am the Self' and 'this Self is all there is'.
Nevertheless, the world appearance continues and the body-mind
continues its role in the world. It is just that it is known
irrevocably that the world appearance is mithyA. It is like
still seeing the sun rise and set but knowing perfectly well
that the earth goes around the sun.
(It is ok to say that the ego dies - this is just the process
of identification of Self with some supposed other thing in
creation. So this mistake no longer occurs post-enlightenment.)
It is true that all phenomena are unreal from the absolute
standpoint but transactional reality is from the empirical,
vyavahArika standpoint. This mixing up of absolute and empirical
is the cause of most confusion in advaita. Similarly, there
is only brahman in reality - no differentiation at all. But
at the relative level, there are separate people going about
their business in an apparent world. The realized man has no
problem accepting this seeming duality, knowing that the reality
Regarding the subject of paths, there are many of these.
Pragmatically, those paths which have been proven over thousands
of years are the most relaible to tread. Traditional advaita
has withstood this test of time. Ramana's Self Enquiry (and
I regard Ramana very highly indeed) has only been around a
relatively short time.
As regards the quotations, it is very dangerous to take these
out of context. Ramana, as with other teachers, gauged his
replies according to the perceived needs and understanding
of the questioner. Traditional advaita teaches many things
that are later withrawn, after the understanding of the student
has grown. (An obvious example is creation itself.) A cynical
observer would have to ask why, if Ramana no longer perceived
a world, he was making these statements...
I just have to comment on Charlie Hayes essay: I REALLY have
a problem with ANYONE, (and I 'know' Charlie, we've talked and
emailed in the past) who writes: "Correcting the error is
simple, A little investigation is all it takes." These are
the kinds of statements that have made my life HELL for so many
years... because, if this is TRUE, then there is something SERIOUSLY
flawed with "me". Because I have been 'investigating'
this error for about 20+ years now, and no matter how much I
KNOW the Truth, the error still runs my life 99.9% of the time.
Maybe some people are just not 'meant for' Advaita. Very discouraged.
A: The fault is not with you but with the neo-(non)teaching.
And you are not alone! Many (most? all?) seekers whose exposure
to Advaita has only been via the modern Western satsang and
neo-style of teaching are similarly frustrated and confused.
My next book (with the publisher and due for publication next
summer) is all about this and will hopefully clarify the situation
once and for all. All of our lives, upbringing, education,
experience are dualistic in nature. This teaching is contrary
to all of that. It is scarcely surprising that it takes time
(the scriptures talk of lifetimes, of course, but it is not
really that bad!) Self-knowledge is needed to remove the self-ignorance
and that has to be taught by someone who not only has the self-knowledge
but is able to utilize proven methods to convey it to others.
The vast majority of Western teachers do not have this capability
and the satsang medium is unable to provide the environment
in any case.
(Note that Charlie's essays were removed from the site at
have read most of your books, in fact I am re-reading "How
to meet yourself". I have also read most of the direct
path authors. Everything resonates deeply but this apparent
me finds it difficult to accept without some definitive "peak
experience", which all these authors seem to have had
where once glimpsed acceptance is not questioned.
All I can say for sure is that the
very possibility that IT is all there is makes me feel lighter
and at peace , so why do I find myself wanting this genuine
article stamped on it, and does it really matter as long
as it feels right? The common theme here is that IT can not
be understood by the mind......which only leaves an apparent
leap of let's say for want of a better word FAITH in "IT".
A: It is not the case that some sort of experience has to
happen. After all, experiences have a beginning and an end
in time whereas the reality is beyond time. The process whereby
self-knowledge removes self-ignorance is most likely to be
gradual. This means that there will, in all probablility, be
a number of 'mini-experiences' if you like, each of which represents
a leap in understanding in a particular area. The final removal
of self-ignorance by the akhaNDAkAra vRRitti will also represent
a quantum leap but there is no law that states that this will
be experienced as a blinding flash of light. It is natural
for the ego to want some 'seal of authenticity' but ignore
it. The ego naturally loses its dominion with the gain
It is certainly the case that IT cannot be understood objectively
by the mind but this is not a problem. Who-you-really-are IS
That so there doesn't need to be any ability to pin it down
by description. The faith really only applies to having a
degree of trust in the sources of that self-knowledge, be it
written or (ideally) spoken by a true teacher. Good teaching
is always reasonable and able to be validated for oneself.
If a good and totally trustworthy friend describes something
to you which is outside of your own experience, it does
not occur to you to doubt them. This is the only sort
of faith that is needed.
Q: As you and many others have pointed out we don't really have any volition, just apparent choice, so you can guess what question is arising, which is, does this apparent me really have any choice whether or not acceptance of what IS happens or not?
A: I think the belief in free will (or not) really depends upon the nature of your own mind. I personally have never really had any problem with the concept of no free will but of course many do. Certainly the traditional view is that we should consider that we DO have free will until such time as we know differently.
As to the question of a choice regarding enlightenment, however, I don't believe we do have any choice there. If you imagine that I ask you to close your eyes and then I hold an object in front of your face. I then tell you to open your eyes but not see the object I am holding. Maybe if I hypnotised you, you really would believe that you couldn't see it but, in the normal scheme of things, you would simply see it and (presumably) recognise it. You would not be able to choose not to do so - the perception would be immediate and direct. Similarly, if the mind is suitably prepared and you are normally intelligent (!) and the relevant self-knowledge is unfolded to you by a qualified teacher, enlightenment will necessarily follow eventually. When the last of the self-ignorance is removed, there is no choice involved.
Is this sense of Being inert? This sense of I AM that
Nisargadatta and others say to stay with. I AM 'seems'
like the ground. What we are and what we are looking for.
But isn't this also content? Is being just more content?
I'm not sure of my question. Being seems as transient as
any other content. Can the other be without content? Awareness
and I AM may be one
but so is any other content.
A: 'I' am that in which everything apparently
arises, exists and to which it returns. 'I' am that which is
unchanging. In fact, everything is simply name and form of
that same non-dual reality that 'I am'.
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