Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Open Secrets

The commentator quoted in my last post has replied in a kindly fashion, and I think it's worth responding to:
“I am the previous commentator whom you quoted. My apologies for the deprecatory tone of some of my remarks, which I regret. I tried to edit my comment after posting it, but found that I could not. I was over-reacting to your last post which seemed to wander pretty far from anything I recognized as self-enquiry, but now I understand your purpose better. The constructive part of my comment, I believe, was the recommendation of the James book, but that doesn't seem to be the focus of your interest right now.

I do think Michael James is making a very serious effort to address the practice of self-enquiry specifically for beginners. But he does not spend a lot of time discussing beginners experiences with the practice, but rather in clarifying and correcting characteristic beginner's misconceptions of the practice, and wrong approaches to it. I think this does at least overlap some of the areas in which you express an interest in your current post. And books are not necessarily merely about "theory" as opposed to "practice". James does indeed get into the theory, but primarily focuses on practice.

I suppose we're all "beginners" in this practice, but I have been devoted to this particular path of self-enquiry, inspired by Ramana, for decades now, including several stints in Tiru, acqaintance with Godman, James, and others, etc. But this is not my place to discuss my experience with this practice. This is not a discussion group, but rather a blog which is your stage.

Again my best regards to you and best wishes for your practice. May it be fruitful.”
Thanks, dude, I appreciate the kind words. No apologies necessary, as your criticism is probably quite valid. I only wish you would be more specific about what you saw in my posts, because that would be really helpful. You have to understand, I'm very much alone out here, with no one around me who practices self-enquiry, and not much chance of traveling to Tiruvanamalai anytime soon, and yeah, kind of going crazy. So I'm just putting it out there as it rattles around and then comes out of my mind. I don't expect any of it to be correct or right. And you don't have to think that it isn't your place to put in your two cents. Believe me, two cents is more than I have, so it could prove mighty valuable to me. You're probably right that we're all just beginners, but some are more beginnerish than others I'm sure. One thing self-enquiry does, I think, is make us realize that we are all equal, that we really are all in this together, and struggling for better or worse with that part of ourselves we all share in common. And it eliminates any sense of worry about being criticized or having failed, because it's obvious we have already done that for endless lifetimes, and it can't really get any worse, so what do we have to lose except some silly sense of self-imagery.

I appreciate the reference to Michael James' site, but without mentioning any particulars, I don't really know what part of his site you are referring me to, or what issue you noticed that might be addressed there. If you've been practicing self-enquiry for a couple of decades I'm sure you have a lot of wisdom to share with me and others who might be reading this blog, and it would be more than appreciated. Again, have no fear of trespassing on any taboos here. Self-enquiry (as I understand it) means going beyond those things to the core of ourselves, where we are one at heart. So you are not separate from me, nor do you have to act that way. Nor does anyone out there. Just do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think that's the only operative rule.



Anonymous said...

Fine remarks, dear friend. The American Advaitin Robert Adams (see his book "Silence of the Heart") said there are three essential qualities for anyone who would realize the truth: compassion, humility, and service. I think he would have approved of the humility implicit in these words of yours.

I was not actually referring the Michael James' website, but rather to his published book "Happiness and the Art of Being". It is available on amazon or as a free pdf file at Though there may not be anything there with which you are not already familiar, I think it is worthwhile to post the link at least for the benefit of others.

I do not wish to address individual points in your earlier posts as I doubt that would be productive. My recommendation for this particular book is that it contains very clear and thorough discussions of the entire process and practice of self-enquiry including clarifications of common misunderstandings about the meaning of Ramana's teachings on the subject. Even after having read "everything" on the subject, I have found his straightforward and unpretentious essays grounding and helpful.

Whether or not this practice is out of reach for those who do not initially show the signs of exceptional qualifications is an interesting question. As you stated in an earlier post, Ramana was of the view that it was not. I believe my experience confirms this also, but for me to go into detail about this in a public statement might end up sounding like I am making claims which is far from what I wish to do. Certainly persistence is required, and the mind will throw up a lot of garbage, including doubts about the practice itself, in the process. Perhaps adjunct practices are helpful too. Ramana discussed many, including pranayama and mantra practice, but placed special emphasis on a light, pure, sattvic diet. He went so far as to suggest that while the pranayama and mantra practice might be dispensable, the light, sattvic diet was not. Michael James gets into discussions like this which I think can be helpful for beginners at all stages of the practice.

I understand your frustration about feeling as though you're out in the wilderness alone with this practice, but I think all of us who take this on seriously feel this way whether we're in the company of others who are likewise practicing or not. I think this is more a symptom of getting deeply in touch with the contents of one's personal mind than with actually being alone. We're all alone in this just as much as we're all together in this. Both are true.

My own experience with this practice is closely associated with my own particular collection of mental garbage as well as life experiences, presumptions and assumptions, and so forth. I am not sure that anyone would benefit from hearing about this, as perhaps they have enough of their own to deal with without getting an pile of mine dumped on them. Maybe it is for this reason, as you have noticed, that there isn't much discussion of the actual experiences of one who is deeply involved in this practice. We might be curious about the specific experiences of others, and even believe that hearing more about this might shed light on our own struggles with the practice, but I question whether it really would. Perhaps it's just a distracting curiosity. In any case, no one else's experience is going to indicate a pathway for oneself. That will have to be found in one's persistence, and aloneness.

This is already a lot more than I intended to say, so I'll bring my comments to a close here. My intention was only to recommend the James book and I do feel that it is a worthy contribution to the literature on the subject of self-enquiry. I hope that others will find it beneficial as I have. Though I prefer to remain anonymous let me be clear that I am not the author of the book, nor am I trying to promote it for any reason other than my conviction that it is a good and helpful resource. Anyway, it's free so there is obviously no commercial agenda.

As always, best regards and best wishes to you and all.

P.S. In previewing this comment it looked as though the link to the free pdf file was cut off. So I'll try again. Here it is:

Anonymous said...

Well, the link got cut off again. Apparently it is too long of a "word" for this format. However, it can be found on the "Happiness of Being" website, or by googling on "Happiness and the Art of Being".

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't care what you or anyone else or even Ramana might say about this, self-enquiry is not a "practice." To call it that is just to make a self-conscious, narcissistic, egoistically fetishistic affair out of what is patently, in that case, NOT self-enquiry.

To wit, if I ask you your name, is it feasible that I call that "The Practice of Asking You Your Name?" No it is not, it's ridiculous.

If you don't answer and I ask you several more times, is it feasible then? Preposterous.

If I go through some other investigative method of finding out who you are, am I then engaged in "the practice of finding out who you are?" Obviously not; it's a moronic notion. I am simply making the inquiry.

So if you want to find out your own ultimate identity, then FIND OUT! Ask. Discover. But instead you merely believe, in self-delusion, that you're engaged in some years-long program of "the practice" of finding out. No wonder it's a failure. There is actually nothing going on at all except the same old ego gamesmanship that wants something to hold onto, THE METHOD, the means that make you special, the club you can belong to. That is not serious.

A cold splash of water needs to be applied, but many would rather continue to daydream and spin fantasies instead. Neither actual self-enquiry nor its fanciful, time-wasting, theoretical alternative delusions are anything special enough for the kind of hype that's called "THE PRACTICE OF . . ."

Anonymous said...

You're just getting all worked up over words, kang me, a lot of froth over nothing. Relax. And anyway, who said it was a failure?

Anonymous said...

Did you think I was talking to you, anon? Dumbass. BY and I have had many discussions over the years. I didn't read what you wrote but take what you will from it. But if think it's just words, you're clearly a juvenile idiot.

Mike said...

I second what anonymous said.

(I want some of that kang practice!
His style of sweet talk turns me on.)

Anyway, similiar thoughts to anon's
were floating in the vastness of
My Consciousness! Which, I was of course observing without being lost in the thought stream.

What do you all think of the Oprah/Eckhart web show?