Search & Read
The Self as Ordinary Awareness
Ram: Dear Bettina, thank you for you articulate and interesting letter. I particularly enjoyed the list of ideas that “triggered understanding.” I also wish to thank you for giving me permission to send your letter to people for whom it would be useful. I find it particularly inspiring that you have the confidence to express your newfound understanding to others. Knowledge is knowledge and is not subject to correction.
Concerning the distinction between experience and understanding, I think that should you wish to clarify this to your students you will find that it will be very useful for them. The craving for experience, not just so-called “spiritual” experience, is more than any other bit of ignorance probably responsible for keeping samsara alive in people’s minds. This teaching recently “triggered understanding” in a fellow who read Meditation: Inquiry into the Self. He was so transformed by this idea that he flew all the way from Hawaii to “see me in the flesh”!
I liked your referring to the self as “ordinary” awareness – very good. I hadn’t used that adjective, but will from now on. The words “consciousness” and “awareness” always need to be clarified for Western people because they refer to the subtle body here and not the self.
Bettina: To understand that ordinary awareness effortlessly knows “I am tired, moody, clear, nervous, peaceful” brings such a relief to meditation. Awareness is there all the time, but sometimes “I am not there” but lost in thoughts, identified with images and memories. So what? Old vasanas ripening. Awareness knows. Emahó. Wonderful.
Ram: When speaking about the “I” and the “I,” confusion is always possible. You seem to correctly distinguish “ordinary” awareness from the “I,” but is it also clear to you that ordinary awareness is you, the I, the self? I think the problem here is the usage of words and not a fault in your understanding. What triggered this statement was your contention that “to understand that ordinary awareness effortlessly knows ‘I am tired, moody, clear, nervous, peaceful’ brings such a relief to meditation.”
I think I know what you mean, but my understanding is that the nature of ordinary awareness, the “I,” is meditation. Or if you prefer it another way, there is no “meditation” as an act of mind or a process when you know “I am ordinary awareness.”
When you say, “sometimes ‘I am not there’ but lost in thoughts, identified with images and memories,” do you understand that you are there – or you would not be able to report that “you” weren’t there? I wonder if what wasn’t “there” was simply that attention was not on the self, or more accurately, the reflection of the self in the mind, but was on the thoughts and images in the mind. If you are the self, it doesn’t matter if the mind is in meditation or not, since whatever it would be on would be you, the self. I’m not saying that meditation wouldn’t
happen or be useful after the knowledge “I am ordinary actionless awareness” was firm, but it wouldn’t be useful as a tool for inquiry, since knowledge had taken place. It would be useful for purification of the mind, however, should one elect to do that.
The Need (or Not) for Spiritual Practice
Bettina: A sadhana feels too much of doing.
Ram: Yes, precisely. The mind is the self, but the self is not the mind. However, if you are going to continue to teach, it is wise to continue to do sadhana for anta karana suddhi, purification of the mind. Although it doesn’t matter to you, the “I,” what condition the mind is in, the mind is the instrument through which people contact you and its condition affects how they see and understand you – at least until knowledge takes place.
Bettina: I used to read a weekly newspaper and some novels, but at the moment I just read my two “bibles”: Ram Ram and Shuddhananda’s Path to the Pathless and Tattva Bodha. Wonderful. Clear and precise.
Ram: This is important. Shankara and others make it very clear that one should continue to refine and purify one’s understanding once knowledge has taken place. The richer and deeper and more multifaceted one’s understanding the more effective one is in awakening and permanently enlightening others. I don’t read or study texts anymore, not just because I am the texts, but because I know every idea from every possible angle. This came not from any
“intuitive” grasping but from careful, patient study over a long period of time. If you are going to lose yourself in emptiness and cut all contact with the world this is not necessary, but if you are going to continue to help others it is defintely useful, although, as you know, it is entirely elective – since you are completely free.
It is always useful to know the meaning of words so I would be interested to know what you mean by “meditation.”Do you see it as something other than contemplation, inquiry? Is it an indrawn, inward-turned sattvic mind? Or is it simply seeing from the self?
Bettina: I appreciate very much what you say about impersonal texts. I do need personal explanations and find your satsangs extremely useful as your answers refer to frequently asked questions of any seeker and address very precisely points of misunderstanding and doubt.
Ram: It is in this spirit that I offer the comments above. My view is that when the self functions as guru its primary duty is to tailor the teaching to the doubt, not to offer generic advice like “you are just identified with your ego” or “stop thinking” or to make statements about an ego’s supposed “state,” etc.
Anyway, thank you so much for the nice letter. I am very happy to meet you in cyberspace and to communicate with you – and I accept and appreciate all the affection that the words convey.
~ Love, Ram