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The Reflection of the Self
Manikandan: I have been reading the interview/commentary on the teachings of Sri Ramana where Sri James says, “Ramana defines enquiry as holding the mind on the self which means keeping your attention on the reflection of the self in the sattvic mind.”
I have a problem here: one cannot say self is not an object and in the same breath claim that it is possible to attend to its reflection. An analogy of the reflection of a face in a clear mirror will not work here, as self is not like a face (or any other object for that matter). Simply put, my question is: How can self, not being an object, be reflected by a sattvic mind?
James: It doesn’t make sense to you because you are not taking Isvara/maya into account. Maya projects a causal, subtle and gross body in/on the self, limitless awareness. These three bodies make up the world and the jivas, apparently conscious beings. This is a matter of experience. You, a jiva, and the world (jagat) are know by limitless, self-effulgent, non-objectifiable awareness. The jiva is actually the self but thinks the self is an object because maya, ignorance, deludes it. The jiva is endowed with a subtle body (sukshma sarira). This subtle body is made of sattva, awareness in the form of subtle substance that reflects awareness, not absorbs it, as does the physical body. The jiva, owing to its vasanas, directs its attention to the world (bahir mukha), not toward its subtle body. A yogi/inquirer directs his attention to the subtle body (antar mukha). He does this so he can fix his attention on awareness as it reflects on the subtle body. After some time the thought “I am awareness/the self” arises in the subtle body and the jiva contemplates its meaning. When the meaning is assimilated, the jiva realizes that it is actually the self, limitless awareness.
Manikandan: It is interesting to note here the following answer given by Sri Ramana when someone asked him the difference between mind and the self: “There is no difference. The mind turned inwards is the self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world.” This appears in Be as You Are by David Godman, and I assume this is the essence of what Sri Ramana spoke to the questioner.
James: This statement cannot be true, although there is a certain truth to it. See the implied meaning: How can the mind be the self in one position and the ego in another?
This implies that the mind can become the self. But as Ramana says, speaking from the platform of non-duality, the mind is the self. It can only be the self because reality is non-dual. This is what the Upanishad says. If there is no difference between the mind and the self, then the self changes, i.e. it can turn inward or outward, but scripture says that the self is not a doer and that it never changes.
What the statement means is that a mind turned inward, meditating on the reflection of the self, can realize the self and a mind turned outward toward the world will not realize the self. The mind takes the form of the object that it meditates on. If the mind is sattvic the reflection of the self in it will be pure and pure knowledge will take place in the mind.
Manikandan: Sri Ramana does not say here anything about the reflection of the self and also nowhere does he say self-enquiry is looking at the reflection of self.
James: He says inquiry is holding the mind on the self. By this he means the reflection of the self since the self cannot be objectified, only its reflection. The reflection is brought about by maya.
Manikandan: If one reports that he was practising self-enquiry by paying attention to the reflection of self, then he is mistaken.
James: You are free to think what you want, Manikandan.
Manikandan: Self-enquiry is remaining as self during self-enquiry; there is no one looking at anything.
James: How can you remain as the self if there is only the self and you are it? Remaining implies duality so there is a doer (karta) there who is doing the remaining. There is no remaining for the self, because it is not a doer and there is nothing for it to remain in, insofar as it is everything.
If there is a doer, then it is looking at something. Either its attention is inward inquiring into the self or outward inquiring into the world. In non-dual reality there is no one looking at anything but we are talking about non-dual reality where maya is creating the appearance of duality. If there is duality, there is a doer and there is looking.
Manikandan: If one thinks so, then it is just a thought and it has to be properly recognised as thought, and one continues to remain as self thereafter in the inquiry (we can’t ask who remains, as it is another thought).
James: This is true.
Manikandan: Self-enquiry, as I understand, is not an action like looking at a reflection. That is why Sri Ramana says it is the process (when it is temporarily happening of its own accord in some cases) and also the goal (when it becomes permanent).
James: How can it be a process and not be an action? Self-inquiry is an action in the sense that it is the application of self-knowledge to the mind, assuming one has been taught the nature of the mind (mithya) and the self (Manikandan).
Self-inquiry is a conscious action. If it just happens then it is only an epiphany, a spiritual experience. Yogis meditate/inquire on the reflection of the self and jnanis apply the knowledge “I am the self” until the mind’s ignorance is gone.
Then the mind becomes the self. In other words, it realizes its non-separation from the self, limitless awareness. When the last vestige of self-ignorance goes, the knowledge becomes permanent. Self-realization is not an experience. It is hard and fast self-knowledge (stithya pragna). The goal is you, the one seeking the self.
You have to remember that there is only one self and you are the self whether you know it or not. You also have to know that you are always experiencing the self – because the self is all there is – whether you think you are experiencing it or not. This means that if you are seeking the self, you have an ignorance problem. Self-inquiry is for self-knowledge because only self-knowledge removes ignorance. Self-inquiry is not for experience. That is why it is called inquiry (vichara).
Ramana was a jnani. He never said he was a teacher. He just made statements to people who came to him. Sometimes he spoke the language of identity (Vedanta) and sometimes the language of experience (yoga). He never made it clear what the relationship between yoga (experience) and Vedanta (knowledge) was. This is not to say that he didn’t know the difference, only that it seems no one ever asked him that question or if they did his answer was not recorded.
doubts are caused by lack of understanding of
you know and the self you know, but how they are connected is only
revealed when you understand
The Vedic teachings are difficult because they say that reality is
non-dual and then they proceed to speak to the doer. If reality is
non-dual awareness, then there is no doer and nothing to do. But
there is a doer and something to do – this is a matter of
experience. So how does it happen that the non-dual becomes dual? It
is impossible, but it happens. Such is the nature of
Manikandan: Your comments on this will be highly appreciated.
James: It is my pleasure, Manikandan.