Synopsis: Ramesh's self-enquiry to realize the Self is unsuccessful. Two solutions are given. Starting from right standpoint, and right method.
Something is disturbing my mind: It feels like I am trying so hard to realize the Self and nothing is happening. I am still not free.
Vivekacūḍāmaṇi by Ādi Śaṅkarācāryaḥ makes an assertion of a wise person (jñānin):
brahmaiva jīvaḥ sakalaṃ jagat ca
brahmādvitīye śrutayaḥ pramāṇam (479)
The jīva [body-mind-intellect] as well as the entire world are Brahman alone; liberation is only the staying in the knowledge of the partless nature of Brahman; thus in brief is the conclusion of Vedanta. All the śrutis are the pramāṇa – means of knowledge – with reference to the non-dual Brahman.
And yet a contradiction is being asserted, “I am trying. I am still not free”.
Firstly, the “trying” approach should be aligned to pramāṇa (prescription of the scriptures by whose trying freedom is discovered) — and not your own prescription.
Śruti gives several approaches to try.
Vivekachudamani gives a hint to one method:
pañcānāmapi kośānāṃ niṣedhe yuktitaḥ śruteḥ
tanniṣedhāvadhiḥ śākṣī bodharūpaḥ avaśiṣyate (212)
When the negation of the five koshas [superimpositions upon the “I” that is ever free] is done by logical inquiry, then as the culmination of their negation — the sākṣī remains [whose nature is the partless non-dual brahman per 479].
Therefore before continuing to read, stop now and ask yourself, “Is my approach of inquiry ABSOLUTELY aligned with that of the scriptures?”.
If the answer is “yes”, then WHO has taught you?
If taught yourself, the dilemma is revealed. Any scriptural method is meant to be taught by a living teacher; never by self through mere listening or reading.
To perform surgery on the heart, high-precision of technique and skill is paramount. Would you accept a first-timer whose read a few manuals — or accept a humble surgeon with years of training and real-life application on dysfunctional hearts?
The spiritual heart, the seat of “I” is even subtler. How can one afford to depend on one's limited skills and knowledge to master the technique, especially that the stakes are so high.
Secondly, let's correct a common erroneous assumption…
If come to examine your actual experience in reference to freedom from any kind of suffering (like anxiety of the future, doubt whether you're really free or still bound) — you will “see” that you are the same Presence that has been witnessing Ramesh's experience throughout Ramesh's entire life.
Certainly different sensations, emotions, and thoughts have danced through the field of your Presence, but you, that very Presence, are the same now as have always been.
Whereas when this Presence identifies with the 40 year story, or whatever the age is of that body — the Presence seems to claim ownership of all sensory experiences, emotions, and thoughts that have taken place and continue to do so.
In truth, they are projections on the screen of this one undifferentiated, partless Presence (Brahman as per above verse 479), due to the projecting power of maya.
Furthermore, the relative worth or value of these ephemeral projections are determined by Ramesh's vasanas (past impressions strengthened through repetitive thinking).
So there's two layers with which the universal Presence (“I”) mistakenly identifies with…
Layer one: Onslaught of experiences by merely being alive. For example, one can't help but to experience sound of rain falling.
Layer two: Personal interpretations of these experiences.
Neither of these “layers” has anything to do with you, the awareful Presence.
They are simply objects appearing within the scope of your Being.
“Seeing” (understanding) this fact is what constitutes freedom as expounded in above verse 479.
The individual called Ramesh will never be free of experience, but can be free from experience through this discriminative understanding.
In other words, the thought, “I am not Ramesh, but the partless awareful Presence” will register in the intellect of the entity called Ramesh.
This way, Ramesh will see the reflection of His true nature in the mirror of his subtle body (mind).
Put another way, it is actually Presence realizing its own nature through the intellect of the mind-body-sense machine that constitutes the person called Ramesh.
So liberation (moksha per verse 479) is not freedom for Ramesh — but freedom FROM Ramesh. Read this again.
The person Ramesh is a mere projection on the awareful Presence, I.
What's more, Presence doesn’t need the intellect in order to know itself, because it knows itself simply by virtue of the fact that it IS itself.
“I am Present”; this statement of fact is true now as it ever was.
Only because “I AM”, is there experience of “trying”.
Only because “I AM”, is there experience of “doubt”.
Only because “I AM”, is there experience of “certainty”.
Trying, doubt, certainty… these are all projections on “I AM”, whether layer one or two as mentioned earlier.
Meaning “I AM” is intrinsically free of them.
But in order for the knowledge of one's true nature to appear to the person called Ramesh, the intellect is necessary. Hence liberation is matter of concern only to the individual (specifically the intellect/buddhi).
There is disturbance in me because my mind is trying to find Awareness (Presence)… thus attempting to objectify it. Like trying to recall a sound from the past, bringing it into my Awareness.
You are that which knows/sees/experiences/witnesses all objects.
You, the awareful Presence, are the “light” in which all objects appear.
The maya-generated individual called Ramesh, is no more than a finite object within the scope of your Being.
Ramesh's body-mind is only a relative knower/subject in relation to changing objects of the world.
But isn't Ramesh's body-mind changing also? Of course.
Thus you, the Presence, are the “field” of Being in which both the world and Ramesh appears or comes to be known.
I have been trying to live a simple life. But still the disturbances are there, in the mind.
Who has been struggling? Whose mind is disturbed?
You, awareful Presence, don’t have a mind. But effortlessly watch the stream of vasana-induced interpretations play in the field of your Being.
Through identification with this swirl of debris within Ramesh's mind, one erroneously claim it to be “mine”.
Little disturbances will always arise in the mind. When the intellect ceases identifying with them, and understands the debris to be but a product of body-mind-sentiency — therefrom the debris is seen impersonally which is as good as saying “cessation of Suffering” per Buddha's definition of enlightenment.
In other words, pain and pleasure continues due to the dualistic nature of the apparent reality, but the suffering of the individual ceases as a result of the assimilation of self-knowledge.
The apparent person Ramesh will always have certain preferences and proclivities. This is his programming. These phenomena are what constitute the character he appears to be in the grand drama of life.
But once the actor playing Ramesh, so to speak, is not the character, but awareful Presence — then the conflicts that arise in the character’s life no longer bother the actor. The actor is you, Awareness.
Once true identity is claimed, you, Awareness, will still “experience” what Ramesh experiences, but you will no longer be swept away by it.
It will no longer bother in the same way or to the same degree as it did when believed you were the character Ramesh.
You will know that you are the whole that NOTHING can enhance, diminish, or change.
Experience cannot touch Self, much less modify.
Though all experience depends on Self for its existence (need your “light” in order to be known) – you are free of all experience.
Experiences come and go and none leave a mark on the purity of your Being. Experiences arise and subside, but You always are.
Comment if this is sound understanding:
- Freedom is limitless. I cannot objectify limitless.
- Any object that I could gain in the world will always be limited. So even if I get it, it will not erase my sense of incompleteness.
- My sense of incompleteness comes from the fact that I think I am limited. I have to be shown that I am free. There is nothing I can do in the world, no action that I can perform that will erase that sense of incompleteness. Freedom cannot be the result of any action. Inquiry is an action of mind that results in freedom so I have to inquire.
- All objects are defined by boundaries and characteristics/qualities by which they can be distinguished from other objects. But as limitless Awareness, you by definition are attributeless and thus have no distinguishing boundaries, characteristics, or qualities.
- No limited action performed by a limited being can produce a limitless result. And no limited object can produce everlasting happiness. It doesn't mean it shouldn't be pursued, since the individual Ramesh still has worldly-duties long as alive.
- Well put. Nothing to add.