Here is my response to a post on my friend Shiva’s blog. He’s currently visiting Sri Ramanashramam in India. This reply won’t make much sense without prior knowledge of Sri Ramana’s self-inquiry.
In response to you comment:
>distinction between the kind of ‘being present as awareness’ approach you describe and focusing of awareness upon the sense of ‘me’ which seems to be the crux of self-enquiry. Is it not the awareness which looks rather than the intellect? Care to comment…..?
This question can be paraphrased as, “being present AS you” versus “focusing awareness ON you”.
Gyana Yoga has three steps with enlightenment occurring at the end of the third step:
1) Hearing: listening to the guru describe the Self
2) Reflection: focusing ON the Self with the intellect
3) Realisation: remaining AS the Self without using the intellect
When we start we have no Self-awareness so the third stage is not an option. So we search for the Self as an object. We give our attention to the I-thought and look at where this “thing” arises.
We read books, ask questions, contemplate it day and night, go over and over the philosophy, argue about it, get angry about it. During this objective process of seeking our source the intellect becomes purified of the rajas and tamas which cling to the body and world.
Eventually, what remains is a sattvic intellect through which pure consciousness shines and we graduate to the third step – Realisation. There is no more confusion about what the Self is or effort trying to find it because the I-I has been found to some degree. Further purification comes more from being this I-I than doing (Yoga Stura 2:10).
Bhagavan describes this third step of “just being” as attending to “aham-sphurana” or I-I. (See David Godman’s website)
It seems that I-I is not enlightenment, but it is close and I think many Advaita teachers mistake this for enlightenment because the transparent, sattvic mind is accompanied by the light of consciousness, silence, peace, bliss, unboundedness, imperceptible individuality, etc. People seem to be in this state for many years before sattva disappears.
Nisargadatta said that he thought he was fully enlightened, but then he said he witnessed his own death. I take that as he was living with a sattvic mind (aham-sphurana) for a long time, then one day it left and took his latent individuality with it.
I liken it to walking through a dark forest (avidya) and suffering by bumping into things. As dawn comes there is enough light to end the suffering. But the sun has not risen – ie pure consciousness has not yet been directly perceived.
>someone else asked a question about what the Sages describe as the unreality of the world. A.Ramana was espousing the typically Advaita Vedantic (a school of Indian phiosophy) view that the world has no objective existence independent of ones subjective perception of it,
I find it useful to consider the world 100% real and 100% unreal. Not appreciating Her (the world/Prakruti/Mother Divine) can lead to disrespectful and small-minded behaviour. I knew a man who did a lot of psychedelic drugs, but he was also clever with advaita. He reasoned that the world, the drugs, the body were all unreal and therefore didn’t matter. He undervalued both sattva and the relative reality. Inevitably She taught him a lesson about not respecting Her.
Om Namah Shivaya!