The following is excerpted from the small book by Ramana Maharshi entitled Who Am I?
What is the nature of the mind?
What is called mind is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines), the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross; it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).
What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?
That which rises as “I” in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought “I” rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one thinks constantly “I,” “I,” one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the “I” thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.
How will the mind become quiescent?
By the inquiry “Who am I?” The thought “Who am I?” will destroy all other thoughts, and, like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then there will arise Self-realization.
What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought “Who am I?”?
When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: “To who did they arise?” It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?” The answer that would emerge would be “To me.” Thereupon, if one inquires “Who am I?,” the mind will go back to its source, and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practiced in this manner,, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out but retaining it in the Heart is what is called “inwardness” (antar-mukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as “externalization” (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the “I” which is the source of all thoughts will go and the Self which ever exists will shine. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity “I.” If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Shiva (God).
Body, senses and mind are tools, vehicles, instruments. There may be moments in daily life when there is no function but this absence of functioning has nothing to do with tranquility. Function and non-function alike appear in tranquility. Tranquility is the ground of existence, all perception. Very often what we call meditation is only the non-activity of the senses. Many people make a great effort to bring these tools to rest through various techniques. These methods of concentration are completely artificial procedures. The rest thus achieved is localized. Real tranquility is multidimensional. It is diametrically opposed to any concentrum. It has no direction. It is openness, receiving. Tranquility comes naturally. All concentrated effort is a violation. A concentrated mind is never free. It is stiff with no subtlety.
See that in all effort to bring to a stop organs which by nature are meant to function, there will be fixation on the object. The natural state of the mind is movement so why impede its natural functioning? In real meditation there is no achieving, no controlling, because there is no one who meditates. When you let go of the doer tranquility immediately appears. Your existence in space and time appears within this tranquility. All existence is in tranquility but tranquility is not in existence.
When you really understand who you are, you will experience unalloyed happiness. Happiness that you only dreamed about, happiness in the Silence, when nothing is happening but you’re happy. Always happy, always at peace. All of the Gods that you have been praying to all your life, all of the Buddha’s you’ve taken refuge in, the Krishnas, the Kalmias, the Shivahs, the Christ, Allah, they’re all within you. You are that. There is only the one Self and you are That. Ponder this.
The knowledge of this brings you eternally infinite happiness instantly. When you begin to understand who you are, your Divine nature, that you are not the body, you’re not the mind, once you understand your Infinite nature, who you really are and there’s nothing else, you immediately become instantly happy. For happiness is your very nature. Happiness, the Self are synonymous. Consciousness, Absolute Reality, Pure Awareness, are all synonymous. There is only One. It has many names, but the One pervades all of space and time. And it is the only existence and you are That. There is no other existence. Awaken to this truth. You are the only One that does exist. And you are Consciousness.
What is the best way to encourage people in meditation?
The first thing: for a patient to go to the doctor you must make him realize that he is sick; otherwise there is no need to go to the doctor.
So the people you want to encourage into meditation: first you have to make them aware that they are frustrated, perhaps for so long that they have forgotten that they are sad. They cannot remember when they laughed from their very hearts. They have become robots – they do things because they have to be done but there is no joy in doing them.
They are living an accidental life. Their birth is accidental, their marriage is accidental, their children are accidental, their job is accidental. Their life has no sense of intrinsic growth and direction. That’s why they cannot feel like rejoicing.
So first you have to make them aware where they are – and almost everybody is in the same situation. Death is coming close – you cannot even rely on your being here tomorrow. And your life is an absolute desert – it has not found any oasis, it has not felt any meaning, any significance – and death may destroy all possibilities in the future.
So first you have to make them aware of their meaningless, accidental, frustrated life. They know it, but they try to suppress their knowing in many ways, because to know it continuously is a torture. So they go to the movies to forget it. They go to parties, they go to picnics, they drink alcoholic beverages; they do everything – just to somehow not remember the reality of their life, their hollowness, futility.
This is the most important part – to remind them. And once a person remembers all this, then to lead him towards meditation is a very simple thing, because meditation is the only answer to all the questions of man. It may be frustration, it may be depression, it may be sadness, it may be meaninglessness, it may be anguish: The problems may be many but the answer is one.
Meditation is the answer.
And the simplest method of meditation is just a way of witnessing. There are one hundred and twelve methods of meditation, but witnessing is an essential part of all one hundred and twelve methods. So as far as I am concerned, witnessing is the only method. Those one hundred and twelve are different applications of witnessing.
The essential core, the spirit of meditation is to learn how to witness.
You are seeing a tree: You are there, the tree is there, but can’t you find one thing more? – that you are seeing the tree, that there is a witness in you which is seeing you seeing the tree.
The world is not divided only into the object and the subject. There is also something beyond both, and that beyond is meditation.
So in every act… and I don’t want people to sit for one hour or half an hour in the morning or in the evening. That kind of meditation is not going to help, because if you meditate for one hour, then for twenty-three hours you will be doing just the opposite of it.
Meditation can be victorious: witnessing is such a method that can spread over twenty-four hours of your day.
Eating, don’t get identified with the eater. The food is there, the eater is there, and you are here, watching. Walking, let the body walk but you simply watch. Slowly, the knack comes. It is a knack, and once you can watch small things….
This crow, crowing… you are listening. These are two – object and subject. But can’t you see a witness who is seeing both? – The crow, the listener, and still there is someone who is watching both. It is such a simple phenomenon. Then you can move into deeper layers: you can watch your thoughts; you can watch your emotions, your moods.
There is no need to say, “I am sad.” The fact is that you are a witness that a cloud of sadness is passing over you. There is anger – you can simply be a witness. There is no need to say, “I am angry.” You are never angry – there is no way for you to be angry – you are always a witness. The anger comes and goes; you are just a mirror. Things come, get reflected, move – and the mirror remains empty and clean, unscratched by the reflections.
Witnessing is finding your inside mirror.
And once you have found it, miracles start happening. When you are simply witnessing the thoughts, thoughts disappear. Then there is suddenly a tremendous silence you have never known. When you are watching the moods – anger, sadness, happiness – they suddenly disappear and an even greater silence is experienced.
And when there is nothing to watch – then the revolution. Then the witnessing energy turns upon itself because there is nothing to prevent it; there is no object left. The word “object” is beautiful. It simply means that which prevents you, objects you. When there is no object to your witnessing, it simply comes around back to yourself – to the source. And this is the point where one becomes enlightened.
Meditation is only a path: the end is always Buddhahood, enlightenment. And to know this moment is to know all.
Then there is no misery, no frustration, no meaninglessness; then life is no longer an accident. It becomes part of this cosmic whole – an essential part. And a tremendous bliss arises that this whole existence needs you.
Man’s greatest need is to be needed. If somebody needs you, you feel gratified. But if the whole existence needs you, then there is no limit to your bliss. And this existence needs even a small blade of grass as much as the biggest star.
There is no question of inequality. Nobody can substitute for you. If you are not there, then existence will be something less and will remain always something less – it will never be full. That feeling – that this whole immense existence is in need of you – takes all miseries away from you.
In the mind, in the process of thinking, there is so much energy. How can we use that energy in a creative and constructive way?
The question is very complex. It sounds simple, but it is not simple.
You are asking: The mind is full of energy, how to use this energy in a creative and constructive way?
Who is going to use this energy?
If mind itself is going to use this energy, it can never be creative and can never be constructive.
That is what is happening all over the world. That is what is happening in science. The whole misery of science is that mind is using its energy. But mind is a negative force; it cannot use anything creatively, it needs a master. Mind is a servant. Do you have a master?
So to me the question is… meditation brings the master in. It makes you fully aware and conscious that the mind is your instrument. Now, whatever you want to do with it you can do. And if you don’t want to do anything with it, you can put it aside and you can remain in absolute silence.
Right now you are not the master – even for five minutes. You cannot say to the mind, “Please, for five minutes, just for five minutes be silent.” Those will be the five minutes when mind will be faster, rushing more than ever – because it will have to show you who is the master.
There is a famous story in Tibet. A man wanted to learn the art of miracles, so he served a saint who was thought to be a knower of all the secrets. He served the saint day in, day out; he closed his business. The old saint told him again and again, “I don’t know anything. You are unnecessarily wasting your business, and you are becoming a burden to me because whenever I look at you…. Twenty-four hours a day you are sitting here, on my head, and I don’t know any miracles. What to do?”
The man said, “You cannot avoid me so easily. I have heard that you have been hiding those secrets. But if you are stubborn, I am also stubborn. I will die sitting here, but I will learn the secret.”
Finally the saint said, “Listen. This is the mantra” – it was not much, it was a simple mantra – “Just repeat Om, Om, Omkar and all the secrets of all the miracles will be available to you as you become more and more attuned with the mantra.”
The man rushed towards his home. While he was going down the steps of the temple the saint said, “Wait! I have forgotten one thing. After taking the bath, when you are sitting to chant the mantra, remember not to let any monkey enter into your mind.”
That man said, “You must be getting senile! In my whole life no monkey has ever entered into my mind. Don’t be worried.”
He said, “I am not worried. It is just to make you aware, so you don’t come later on and tell me that a monkey disturbed everything.”
The man said, “There is no fear about the monkeys. Everything has entered into this mind, but a monkey? I don’t remember this at all, not even in a dream.”
But as he started moving towards his house he was amazed; monkeys started appearing on the screen of his mind – big monkeys, giggling. He said, “My God!” He tried to push them away, “Get out! Get lost! I don’t have anything to do with monkeys, and particularly today!” But he was surprised that it was not one monkey, it was a vast line; they were coming from all sides.
He said, “My God, I had never thought that in my mind so many monkeys are hidden. But first let me take a bath.” But it was so difficult to take a bath because continually he was shouting “Get out! Get lost!”
Finally his wife knocked on the door – “What is the matter? Who is inside the bathroom? Are you alone?”
He said, “I am alone.”
“But then why are you shouting so loudly, get out, get lost?”
He said, “About these monkeys….”
The woman said, “You have gone mad. What monkeys? There are no monkeys here; keep quiet.”
He said, “Strange. This woman has never been so hard on me, but in a way she is right because there is nobody in the bathroom. But to say that they are in my head looks even worse.”
He sat in his worshipping place, but the monkeys were inside. He closed his eyes; they were sitting all around him. He said, “I have never thought that monkeys are so interested in me. Why are you bothering me? A few are inside the mind, and if I close my mind, a few are sitting all around me. They push me from this side and from that side, and giggling! I am a silent man, and this is not gentlemanly behavior.”
And again the wife looked into his worshipping place and she said, “With whom are you talking?”
He said, “My God, now I have to explain something which I do not understand myself. Just don’t you disturb me tonight. Tomorrow morning I will go and I will see that old man.”
The whole night he took showers many times, rubbed the soap as much as he could to clean himself, but there was no way. In fact, the bathroom was so full of monkeys that to make his way into the bathroom was difficult; to come out of the bathroom was difficult. And when he came back to his worshipping place they were sitting all over – even in his place a big monkey was sitting chanting Om, Om, Om.
That man said, “I cannot wait for morning.” It was midnight. He rushed to the temple, woke up the old man and told him, “What kind of mantra have you given to me?”
He said, “I have told you, that was the condition. That’s why for so many years I have not told it to anybody – because that condition is unfulfillable. You simply drop this idea of miracles, and the monkeys will disappear.”
The man said, “Just… I have come for that. I don’t want any miracles, I don’t want any secrets. Just please help me to get rid of these monkeys because they are sitting all over the place, and if I open my shop tomorrow they will be sitting all over the shop. I am a poor businessman. I got into the wrong business; this is not my business. You do your business but please, if you can help me….”
The saint said, “There is no problem. If you drop the idea of miracles those monkeys will disappear. They are the guardians of the miracles.”
If you try even for five minutes to stop thinking, more thoughts will rush in than ever – simply to show you that you are not the master. So first one has to get the mastery, and the way to become the master is not to say to the thoughts, “Stop.” The way to become the master is to watch the whole thought process.
If the man had simply watched the monkeys, had allowed them to giggle, had allowed them to do whatsoever they were doing; if he had been simply a witness, those monkeys would have gone – seeing that this man seemed to be absolutely indifferent, not interested at all.
Your thoughts have to understand one thing: that you are not interested in them. The moment you have made this point you have attained a tremendous victory. Just watch. Don’t say anything to the thoughts. Don’t judge. Don’t condemn. Don’t tell them to move. Let them do whatsoever they are doing, any gymnastics let them do; you simply watch, enjoy. It is just a beautiful film. And you will be surprised: just watching, a moment comes when thoughts are not there, there is nothing to watch.
This is the door I have been calling nothingness, emptiness.
From this door enters your real being, the master.
And that master is absolutely positive; in its hands everything turns into gold.
If Albert Einstein had been a meditator, the same mind would have produced atomic energy not to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki but to help the whole of humanity to raise its standard of living. Without meditation the mind is negative, it is bound to be in the service of death. With meditation the master is there, and the master is absolute positiveness. In its hands the same mind, the same energy, becomes creative, constructive, life affirmative.
So you cannot do anything directly with the mind. You will have to take a little roundabout way; first you have to bring the master in. The master is missing, and for centuries the servant has been thinking he is the master. Just let the master come in, and the servant immediately understands. Just the presence of the master and the servant falls at the feet of the master and waits for any order, for anything the master wants to be done – he is ready.
The mind is a tremendously powerful instrument. No computer is as powerful as man’s mind – cannot be, because it is made by man’s mind. Nothing can be, because they are all made by man’s mind. A single man’s mind has such immense capacity: in a small skull, such a small brain can contain all the information contained in all the libraries of the earth, and that information is not a small amount.
Just one library, the British library, has so many books that if we put those books in a line side by side they will go three times around the earth. And a bigger library exists in Moscow, a similar library exists in Harvard; and there are similar libraries in all the big universities of the world. But a single human mind can contain all the information contained in all these libraries. Scientists are agreed that we may not be able to make a computer comparable to the human mind which can be put in such a small space.
But the result of this immense gift to man has not been beneficial – because the master is absent and the servant is running the show. The result is wars, violence, murders, rape. Man is living in a nightmare, and the only way out is to bring the master in. It is there, you just have to get hold of it. And watchfulness is the key: just watch the mind. The moment there is no thoughts, immediately you will be able to see yourself – not as mind, but as something beyond, something transcendental to mind.
And once you are attuned with the transcendental then the mind is in your hands. It can be immensely creative. It can make this very earth paradise. There is no need for any paradise to be searched for above in the clouds, just as there is no need to search for any hell – because hell we have created already. We are living in it.
I have heard that a great politician died. Naturally, he was afraid that he would be taken to hell. He knew his whole life: it was absolutely criminal and nothing else. It is impossible without crimes to succeed in getting political power. In going higher on the ladder of power, you have to crush, kill, destroy – you have to do everything. But if you succeed then you are forgiven, nobody remembers that you have done anything wrong. And he was a successful politician. But as he was dying he was afraid; he remembered his whole past, and he was certain that “I am going to hell. Now nothing can help. Those political tricks will not be helpful here.”
But when he opened his eyes he was in front of heaven. He could not believe it. He asked the angels who had brought him there, “There seems to be some mistake, some bureaucratic mistake. This is heaven and you have brought me here?”
“This is, certainly. And there is no mistake, you have earned it.”
The man said, “What are you talking about? I have done everything wrong that can be done.”
They said, “We know, but your whole life you lived in hell, and now to send you to hell again will not be justified. Moreover, our hell will look very old-fashioned. You have been living in a very ultramodern hell, and we don’t want to feel ashamed. Our hell is very ancient, our methods of torture are very ancient, and you have refined everything so well that in fact you will laugh – ‘Is this hell?’ So the only way… even God was puzzled. You are three days late. You must have died three days ago, but it took three days for God to make the decision about where to take you. Finally we decided, ‘It is better to take him to heaven, because hell he has lived enough.’”
People still go on thinking that hell is somewhere down underneath the earth – and you are living in it, this is the beauty – and heaven is somewhere above.
You can change this hell into heaven if your mind can be under the guidance of the master, of your self nature. And it is a simple process….
But don’t try directly with the mind; otherwise you will be getting into trouble. One can even get into insanity. If you try to put your mind energy into creative directions – you are not capable even of stopping it for one moment and you are trying to put it into a creative dimension – you will go crazy. You will have a nervous breakdown.
Don’t touch the mind. First just find out where the master is. It is a complicated mechanism. Let the master be there, and the mind functions as a servant so perfectly.
In the East we have done this. Gautam Buddha could have become Albert Einstein without any difficulty; he has a far greater genius. But his whole life was concerned with transforming people, with awareness, with compassion, with love, with blissfulness.
The first step to reclaiming the “I AM” is referred to by Gurdjeff as “self-remembering”. The following post is taken from chapter seven of Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous in which he gives his recollection of Gurdjieff’s teaching as well as his own experience.
ON ONE occasion while talking with G. I asked him whether he considered it possible to attain “cosmic consciousness,” not for a brief moment only but for a longer period. I understood the expression “cosmic consciousness” in the sense of a higher consciousness possible for man in the sense in which I had previously written about it in my book Tertium Organum.
“I do not know what you call ‘cosmic consciousness,’ ” said G., “it is a vague and indefinite term; anyone can call anything he likes by it. In most cases what is called ‘cosmic consciousness’ is simply fantasy, associative daydreaming connected with intensified work of the emotional center. Sometimes it comes near to ecstasy but most often it is merely a subjective emotional experience on the level of dreams. But even apart from all this before we can speak of ‘cosmic consciousness’ we must define in general what consciousness is.
“How do you define consciousness?”
“Consciousness is considered to be indefinable,” I said, “and indeed, how can it be defined if it is an inner quality? With the ordinary means at our disposal it is impossible to prove the presence of consciousness in another man. We know it only in ourselves.”
“All this is rubbish,” said G., “the usual scientific sophistry. It is time you got rid of it. Only one thing is true in what you have said: that you can know consciousness only in yourself. Observe that I say you can know, for you can know it only when you have it. And when you have not got it, you can know that you have not got it, not at that very moment, but afterwards. I mean that when it comes again you can see that it has been absent a long time, and you can find or remember the moment when it disappeared and when it reappeared. You can also define the moments when you are nearer to consciousness and further away from consciousness. But by observing in yourself the appearance and the disappearance of consciousness you will inevitably see one fact which you neither see nor acknowledge now, and that is that moments of consciousness are very short and are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical working of the machine. You will then see that you can think, feel, act speak, work, without being conscious of it. And if you learn to see in yourselves the moments of consciousness and the long periods of mechanicalness, you will as infallibly see in other people when they are conscious of what they are doing and when they are not.
“Your principal mistake consists in thinking that you always have consciousness, and in general, either that consciousness is always present or that it is never present. In reality consciousness is a property which is continually changing. Now it is present, now it is not present. And there are different degrees and different levels of consciousness. Both consciousness and the different degrees of consciousness must be understood in oneself by sensation, by taste. No definitions can help you in this case and no definitions are possible so long as you do not understand what you have to define. And science and philosophy cannot define consciousness because they want to define it where it does not exist. It is necessary to distinguish consciousness from the possibility of consciousness. We have only the possibility of consciousness and rare flashes of it. Therefore we cannot define what consciousness is.”
I cannot say that what was said about consciousness became clear to me at once. But one of the subsequent talks explained to me the principles on which these arguments were based.
On one occasion at the beginning of a meeting G. put a question to which all those present had to answer in turn. The question was; “What is the most important thing that we notice during self-observation?”
Some of those present said that during attempts at self-observation, what they had felt particularly strongly was an incessant flow of thoughts which they had found impossible to stop. Others spoke of the difficulty of distinguishing the work of one center from the work of another. I had evidently not altogether understood the question, or I answered my own thoughts, because I said that what struck me most was the connectedness of one thing with another in the system, the wholeness of the system, as if it were an “organism,” and the entirely new significance of the word to know which included not only the idea of knowing this thing or that, but the connection between this thing and everything else.
G. was obviously dissatisfied with our replies. I had already begun to understand him in such circumstances and I saw that he expected from us indications of something definite that we had either missed or failed to understand.
“Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you,” he said. “That is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves.” (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) “You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still ‘is noticed,’ ‘is seen.’ … In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself” (He again emphasized these words.) “Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by self-remembering. Otherwise you yourselves do not exist in your observations. In which case what are all your observations worth?”
These words of G.’s made me think a great deal. It seemed to me at once that they were the key to what he had said before about consciousness. But I decided to draw no conclusions whatever, but to try to remember myself while observing myself.
The very first attempts showed me how difficult it was. Attempts at self-remembering failed to give any results except to show me that in actual fact we never remember ourselves.
“What else do you want?” said G. “This is a very important realization. People who know this” (he emphasized these words) “already know a great deal. The whole trouble is that nobody knows it. If you ask a man whether he can remember himself, he will of course answer that he can. If you tell him that he cannot remember himself, he will either be angry with you, or he will think you an utter fool. The whole of life is based on this, the whole of human existence, the whole of human blindness. If a man really knows that he cannot remember himself, he is already near to the understanding of his being.”
All that G. said, all that I myself thought, and especially all that my attempts at self-remembering had shown me, very soon convinced me that I was faced with an entirely new problem which science and philosophy had not, so far, come across.
But before making deductions, I will try to describe my attempts to remember myself.
‘The first impression was that attempts to remember myself or to be conscious of myself, to say to myself, I am walking, I am doing, and continually to feel this I, stopped thought. When I was feeling I, I could neither think nor speak; even sensations became dimmed. Also, one could only remember oneself in this way for a very short time.
I had previously made certain experiments in which are mentioned in books on Yoga practices. For example there is such a description in Edward Carpenter’s book From Adam’s Peak to Elephanta, although it is a very general one. And my first attempts to self-remember reminded me exactly of these, my first experiments. Actually it was almost the same thing with the one difference that in stopping thoughts attention is wholly directed towards the effort of not admitting thoughts, while in self-remembering attention becomes divided, one part of it is directed towards the same effort, and the other part to the feeling of self.
This last realization enabled me to come to a certain, possibly a very incomplete, definition of “self-remembering,” which nevertheless proved to be very useful in practice.
I am speaking of the division of attention which is the characteristic feature of self-remembering.
I represented it to myself in the following way:
When I observe something, my attention is directed towards what I observe—a line with one arrowhead:
I ————————————————> the observed phenomenon.
When at the same time, I try to remember myself, my attention is directed both towards the object observed and towards myself. A second arrowhead appears on the line:
I <———————————————> the observed phenomenon.
Having defined this I saw that the problem consisted in directing attention on oneself without weakening or obliterating the attention directed on something else. Moreover this “something else” could as well be within me as outside me.
The very first attempts at such a division of attention showed me its possibility. At the same time I saw two things clearly.
In the first place I saw that self-remembering resulting from this method had nothing in common with “self-feeling,” or “self-analysis.” It was a new and very interesting state with a strangely familiar flavor.
And secondly I realized that moments of self-remembering do occur in life, although rarely. Only the deliberate production of these moments created the sensation of novelty. Actually I had been familiar with them from early childhood. They came either in new and unexpected surroundings, in a new place, among new people while traveling, for instance, when suddenly one looks about one and says: How strange! I and in this place; or in very emotional moments, in moments of danger, in moments when it is necessary to keep one’s head, when one hears one’s own voice and sees and observes oneself from the outside.
I saw quite clearly that my first recollections of life, in my own case very early ones, were moments of self-remembering. This last realization revealed much else to me. That is, I saw that I really only remember those moments of the past in which I remembered myself. Of the others I know only that they took place. I am not able wholly to revive them, to experience them again. But the moments when I had remembered myself were alive and were in no way different from the present. I was still afraid to come to conclusions. But I already saw that I stood upon the threshold of a very great discovery. I had always been astonished at the weakness and the insufficiency of our memory. So many things disappear. For some reason or other the chief absurdity of life for me consisted in this. Why experience so much in order to forget it after-’wards? Besides there was something degrading in this. A man feels something which seems to him very big, he thinks he will never forget it; one or two years pass by—and nothing remains of it. It now became clear to me why this was so and why it could not be otherwise. If our memory really keeps alive only moments of self-remembering, it is clear why our memory is so poor.
All these were the realizations of the first days. Later, when I began to learn to divide attention, I saw that self-remembering gave wonderful sensations which, in a natural way, that is, by themselves, come to us only very seldom and in exceptional conditions. Thus, for instance, at that time I used very much to like to wander through St. Petersburg at night and to “sense” the houses and the streets. St. Petersburg is full of these strange sensations. Houses, especially old houses, were quite alive, I all but spoke to them. There was no “imagination” in it. I did not think of anything, I simply walked along while trying to remember myself and looked about; the sensations came by themselves.
Later on I was to discover many unexpected things in the same way. But I will speak of this further on.
Sometimes self-remembering was not successful; at other times it was accompanied by curious observations.
I was once walking along the Liteiny towards the Nevsky, and in spite of all my efforts I was unable to keep my attention on self-remembering. The noise, movement, everything distracted me. Every minute I lost the thread of attention, found it again, and then lost it again. At last I felt a kind of ridiculous irritation with myself and I turned into the street on the left having firmly decided to keep my attention on the fact that I would remember myself at least for some time, at any rate until I reached the following street. I reached the Nadejdinskaya without losing the thread of attention except, perhaps, for short moments. Then I again turned towards the Nevsky realizing that, in quiet streets, it was easier for me not to lose the line of thought and wishing therefore to test myself in more noisy streets. I reached the Nevsky still remembering myself, and was already beginning to experience the strange emotional state of inner peace and confidence which comes after great efforts of this kind. Just round the corner on the Nevsky was a tobacconist’s shop where they made my cigarettes. Still remembering myself I thought I would call there and order some cigarettes.
Two hours later I woke up in the Tavricheskaya, that is, far away. I was going by izvostchik to the printers. The sensation of awakening was extraordinarily vivid. I can almost say that I came to. I remembered everything at once. How I had been walking along the Nadejdinskaya, how I had been remembering myself, how I had thought about cigarettes, and how at this thought I seemed all at once to fall and disappear into a deep sleep.
At the same time, while immersed in this sleep, I had continued to perform consistent and expedient actions. I left the tobacconist, called at my Hat in the Liteiny, telephoned to the printers. I wrote two letters.
Then again I went out of the house. I walked on the left side of the Nevsky up to the Gostinoy Dvor intending to go to the Offitzerskaya. Then I had changed my mind as it was getting late. I had taken an izvostchik and was driving to the Kavalergardskaya to my printers. And on the way while driving along the Tavricheskaya I began to feel a strange uneasiness, as though I had forgotten something.—And suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten to remember myself.
When Amido and I were on Koh Phayam, Thailand, in 2004 we met a New Zealand couple named Ross and Karyn. They had a bungalow next to ours. We had never spoken until after the tsunami that hit on December 26, which seemed to bring a lot of people together. There was a strange sense of oneness with everyone experiencing this huge swell that went all around the Indian Ocean. You could literally feel and see the interconnectedness. Anyway we struck up a friendship and found that we had many common interests, one of them was U.G. Krishnamurti. None of us had spent any time with him but we were all interested in doing so. I was particularly concerned with seeing him before he died.
A year later we ran into Ross in Bangkok. He and Karyn were on their way to India, as were we. We talked about Goa and keeping in touch to communicate if we found a spot we really liked. A couple of emails later and they were at Arambol Beach, Goa, and recommended the place, so we made plans to meet up.
On our arrival in Arambol, we were walking into the village with our backpacks and wondering how we would find them when from the other direction Ross appeared on his way to some shop. We spent a couple of breakfasts sharing information and stories over very large bowls of fruit muesli at the Buddha’s Smile restaurant.
Ross and Karyn met an English guy who had visited every guru he could learn about in India and kept a very well-documented address book. He told Ross and Karyn that of gurus he had seen the two that really affected him were U.G. and a 90 year old sage named Ajja. They proceeded to relate the story that this fellow had told them.
It went like this: He spent quite some time at Ajja’s ashram in Karnataka near Mangalore and he kept wanting to speak with Ajja. He was continually told to go to the mediation hall. Finally, he was sitting in the hall and became tremendously angry and just couldn’t handle the experience anymore, so he grabbed his bag and walked down the drive to leave. As he was leaving, he looked back at Ajja and saw Ajja watching. And that was the end of his time there. But this experience somehow really affected him.
When I heard the story I knew right away that I wanted to meet this man, Ajja. Karyn also shared with us an interview that Ajja had given to Andrew Cohen published in What is Enlightenment? Ross also told us that U.G. was going to be in Bangalore in February. This fellow had given them the contact information, but they were sworn to secrecy, so didn’t feel comfortable sharing the details of the information that had come from him. They said that once they arrived they would contact us and in that way it would be their information and not this other fellow’s.
We didn’t stick around very long in Arambol, as nice as it was; we wanted to go straightaway to Ajja’s ashram.
We phoned the ashram from Mangalore, an hour and a half away by bus, to ask if we could come. The woman on the phone told us to come right away and we would be in time for lunch. When we arrived Ajja was meeting with some Indians on his porch and we were told to hurry up and we could meet him. So we took off our hiking boots and dropped our packs as quickly as we could and had just enough time for a Namaste and then were told we could meet with him later. Lunch was being served in the dining hall. The food that was served at the ashram was simple and fabulous.
After lunch we were given a room. But very soon after our arrival Amido and I needed to be separated because there were a few other visitors coming. Amido shared a room with a lovely Swedish woman named Ingrid and I bunked (although there was no bed or mattress) with an Indian man who would be arriving later.
Besides Ingrid there were a couple of other foreigners, a German named Hans who had been coming regularly for a couple of years, an Israeli named Giri who was together with a lovely English woman named Thea. In addition, Giri’s brother was visiting along with a friend and his wife and daughter.
Later in the afternoon, an Indian doctor named Satish, who took care of organizing darshans with Ajja, paid us a visit. He wanted to get some background from us and learn why we were there. He asked us to clarify our questions if we had any so as to make better use of our time with Ajja. He said that he would talk with Ajja and let us know when it was time to see him.
In the meantime Amido and I made use of the meditation hall and participated in the chanting and other activities. I found that Dr. Satish’s question about whether I had any questions a particularly powerful engine for my inquiry. The question was – did I have a question? This whole process of wanting to see Ajja seemed to be one of the primary teaching methods for westerners. We heard many stories of westerners wanting to see Ajja and being told to go to the meditation hall. To most it seemed like some kind of punishment. For Amido and I, from the very beginning, we enjoyed our time spent there and really used the opportunity to explore deeply.
In the afternoon at tea time, the doctor came and told Amido and I that there were some Indians coming to visit Ajja later and we could try and tag along. He wasn’t sure if Ajja would allow us to stay or not. It seemed that it wasn’t something that he could just ask Ajja. When Satish informed us of his plan the other westerners present overheard and the lights went on in their minds. This would be a good opportunity for them too.
When the time came, all of us foreigners filed on to the porch for darshan with Ajja. Ajja came and sat down and immediately said you, you, you, etc. to all the foreigners, go to the mediation hall. Amido and I went right away and used that opportunity to explore all the feelings that were aroused. We were joined by Ingrid and Hans but the others didn’t come.
So again it was an opportunity to explore the question about a question. And when I sat with that for some time I found that I did have a question. I was aware of a sense of awareness which somehow I could physically relate to the area at the back of my head. And I was also aware of an energy, a sense of being that I would say somehow related to the area around my heart. My question became – what is the relationship between these two? It was not very long after formulating this question that it was answered in my meditation.
It seemed that the awareness of awareness was not an activity, there was no movement. But the energy that I felt around the heart was active, not static. What seemed to happen was the awareness gave attention to the energy and with this attention the energy became less active. It gradually settled and when it completely settled it felt as if it was absorbed by the awareness. That is the best way that I can describe what took place. In that merging, that joining, that absorption there were no more questions. The question was answered in dissolving. And in that dissolving of the question there was light and bliss.
Our time passed wonderfully at the ashram and we found that there was some strange connection between Ajja and U.G. Almost everyone at Ajja’s had been to see U.G. In fact we learned that a couple of years earlier, Ajja, on two occasions, had been taken to the house where U.G. was staying in Bangalore. The first time, Ajja sat next to U.G. but they never said a word to each other. When Ajja left and was in the car ready to drive away, U.G. went outside and namasted to Ajja. The second time, Ajja sat next to U.G. and spoke for some time. Apparently it was the rare occasion when U.G. actually let someone else speak. Ajja spoke Kanada, so only the local Indians could understand but during that time U.G. was silent.
Thea was present during this meeting and it was the first time that she met either Ajja or U.G. and she met them both together. Thea continued to have a very strong connection with both Ajja and U.G. and would shuttle back and forth between Puttur and Bangalore. Several of U.G.’s close friends in Bangalore were regular visitors at Ajja’s ashram. Because of this we had no difficulty getting all the information necessary for a visit with U.G. In fact we were getting messages at the ashram as to the exact arrival of U.G. in Bangalore.
Daily, we participated in “chores” around the ashram in the morning and also any other time we were asked to help out. Thea was the one who assigned jobs in the morning and in the afternoon someone might come and ask for help with some other task. It invariably involved doing a very menial task with the utmost awareness. Because the ashram was so small, one was often within sight of Ajja who would sit on his porch and oversee all the activities. And Ajja’s presence was so strong that one was almost bowled over with the present moment. It was difficult ‘not’ to be in the moment. His presence created a very powerful Buddhafield.
One day Amido, Ingrid and I, were asked to help with some cleaning. Ajja had left the ashram and we were to help with the cleaning of the tile floor in his house. He had a very modest room but it was full of consciousness. There was “that something” the same that I had felt whenever I had been in Osho’s living quarters, a certain sensing, clarity, presence, to be honest not unlike the heightened awareness accompanying some of my past LSD experiences.
Sunday was the day that many Indian visitors came. It was the day that even the foreigners could count on spending time in Ajja’s presence. On the Sunday that we were there, we all went into the original house on the property which was a hut the musician lived in. It was small but there was a second story. The Indians and Ajja were downstairs and all of us foreigners were upstairs just above Ajja. Bhajans were sung, music was played and it was a lovely time. Finally Ajja asked for one of us foreigners to sing a song. I went blank, not a song came to mind but Thea, bless her heart, sang The Lord of the Dance. It was really extraordinary, because she is one of the most ethereal persons I have ever met, and in the beginning her singing was rather meek and then you could sense her taking courage and finding her power through the singing.
The following day was some kind of special day, it was a full moon and musicians were coming and there was going to be quite a celebration. We sang and danced out on the ground in front of Ajja’s porch. He came out and encouraged both the musicians and us dancers. There was a performance where two speakers enacted a conversation regarding Rama and his shooting of Vaali with an arrow from behind. After the music and performance a great meal was served. The whole event was wonderful.
Earlier in the day we had been asked what our plans were and without thinking I said we would leave the following day. It was going to be a week, and we had experienced so much, especially with the coming evening celebration it seemed appropriate for us to move on. In addition, we now knew that U.G. was in Bangalore and we wanted to go and see him.
The next morning, Dr. Satish came to visit us and said he would see what arrangements could be made for us to have darshan with Ajja before we left, but nothing was guaranteed. To be honest, Amido and I were so overflowing with the whole week it really didn’t matter if we would be able to have darshan or not. Of course it would be nice but we would be happy whatever happened.
Hans had made arrangements and was planning to see Ajja that day as well. He was going to take his camera to have a photo taken with Ajja. We packed our things and prepared ourselves to leave after lunch. Sometime before lunchtime, a woman named Kavita came and said “the two people who are leaving today should come now.” I ran and told Amido and we were ready. I saw Hans on the way and told him what Kavita had said. He was not leaving that day so stayed behind. Kavita took us over to the porch. We sat in front of Ajja and Kavita translated questions of where we were from and our background. While sitting with Ajja, the whole group sang Bhajans. Ajja turned to us and asked us to sing a song we knew. Because of the experience on the day of Thea singing, we had at least thought of a song that we both knew just in case. It was one of the celebration songs from the Poona Ashram, Asalaam Aleikum.
The words are as follows:
May the love we share here spread its wings
And fly across the earth and sing
Its song to every soul that is alive
May the blessings of your grace Bhagwan
Be felt by everyone and may we
All see the light within, within, within
Asalaam aleikum, Aleikum asalaam
Asalaam aleikum, Aleikum asalaam
Asalaam aleikum, Aleikum asalaam
While we were singing, I experienced what I had seen in Thea when she sang. In the beginning there was a hesitancy but we continued through it and then a power took over and one just rode with it. Ajja smiled and asked where we had learned the song and we told him at Osho’s ashram and he said that it was related to his name. Ajja is just a nickname which means uncle but his name is Bhagavan Arabbi-Nithyanandam. The Arabbi is related to Islam. He has joined the two together like so many Sufis of India.
At the end of the singing, Ajja said that we were very clean and didn’t have a lot of thoughts. I said that it was because we had spent a lot of time with Osho, and Ajja said that we had done a lot of work. I responded, “so not a lot more digging.” He said that now we needed to stabilize. He asked if we had any questions and we said no, (my questioning had dissolved days before). Eventually I piped up that yes there was one question, “Could I take a photo of him?” He agreed and had someone take a photo of Amido and me with him. After our time with Ajja, an Indian man, Sudarshan had some questions. When they were answered he had more questions. Eventually, Ajja turned to Amido and me and said, “Look, this couple has no questions and you are here with me every day and you have so many questions.”
Dr. Satish came and reminded Ajja that Hans was still waiting and so he was called over. He had his photo taken with Ajja and we all sang more Bhajans and then ate some ice-cream. We must have spent close to an hour with Ajja and it was truly glorious. We said our Namastes.
After lunch, Sudarshan was the one, when everyone was having their nap, who stayed around and made arrangements for a rickshaw for us. He wanted to make sure that it came and the driver knew where to take us. We had been bonded in the sweetness of Ajja’s Darshan. And then it was time to bid farewell. It had been one extraordinary week.
U. G. Krishnamurti
We had a hard time finding a room in Bangalore when we arrived late at night. Everywhere was full because one, it was the wedding season and two, there was a big “Art of Living” gathering in the city, with many visitors both Indian and western. In fact we had to resort to calling an Indian (Shiva) who we had met at Ajja’s and had given us his phone number. We stayed at his apartment that night and left early in the morning. Shiva, his wife and mother were going to London that day.
After finding a place the next morning, we made our way to Chandrashekar’s home courtesy of some very elaborate directions and a map. When we walked through the door the first people we saw were Ross and Karyn. We entered the living room where everyone was gathered and watching a video on the television. We sat down on the floor without really surveying the room. In fact I had been wondering where U.G. was when I realized he was sitting on the sofa watching the video of himself.
Soon the video was off and U.G. was telling stories. This is what his meetings consisted of at this point–gossiping with friends. Ingrid was there too. She had come from Ajja’s ashram and was sitting on the sofa next to U.G. We had tried to warn her about U.G., that he wouldn’t behave as she might expect an Indian holy man to act. He was throwing around the word bitch quite a bit and she looked uncomfortable.
It was a very informal arrangement and people would come and go at will. Because we were the new arrivals, U.G. directed some attention to us. Ingrid left and I suggested Amido move to the sofa where she sat enjoying being in his presence. When he learned that I was from the States he directed all of his stories about the States towards me.
It really was quite an interesting experience. First of all, there was the heightened sense of presence, that same presence that I have experienced with Osho, Jean Klein, the 16th Karmapa, J. Krishnamurti and also with Ajja. That presence was at the core, at the center. If you came out of that center you could get caught up in the whirlwind that blew around his words. He used language that could easily throw you off your center. And it was not just the words but the energy had an appearance of anger at times, and yet if you stayed in the center it was love.
We only visited over two days but even in that short time heard some stories so many times that I could finish them off myself. It was interesting to watch those that have spent a lot of time with U.G. They seemed to rest there at the center. Others would get caught up in what he was saying. That can be seen on some U.G. forums where people actually believed what he was saying about J. Krishnamurti or Osho. To me, he was just shocking people out of their conditioning, but he also seemed cognizant of how far he could go without really hurting someone. He seemed sensitively outrageous.
We learned that many of our sannyasin friends had become very close to U.G. We met some at the house and learned of others that had been hosting U.G.’s stay in Palm Springs. We said our goodbyes to Ross and Karyn who were staying on. I was so happy that we had managed to meet U.G. before he left the planet. As it turned out, this was his last visit to Bangalore. When we bid him farewell, it was namaste and I felt that we had connected with an old friend. The entire time he was so welcoming and loving in his unique way.
The following year we returned to India with the intention of visiting Ajja and then going on to Bangalore to see U.G. again. He was scheduled to be in Bangalore in February just like the previous year. As it turned out we arrived at Ajja’s ashram the day after he left the body.
We were able to take part in the ceremonies involved with the Samadhi, one of which was maintaining a chant through the night by taking shifts. Ajja was not cremated but buried in a traditional lotus Samadhi position. He had supervised the building of the structure to house the Samadhi all through the previous year. On top of the marble tomb a granite block was placed that had a small hole above Ajja’s head. We took part in the last day of the ceremony, chanting around the Samadhi through the night. We spent only two days at the ashram this time because we could sense the ashram had a lot of adjustments to make and we didn’t want to be in the way.
The first day we arrived at the ashram, we learned that on January 31st in Italy U.G. had fallen in his bathroom and couldn’t get up. He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t drinking water and he wasn’t passing urine. This information was coming to Srinath at the ashram who was in contact with Mahesh Bhatt, the longtime friend of U.G.
On February 1st, Ajja had a stroke. He was hospitalized in Puttur. After some days the doctor said that they couldn’t do anything for him there and so he was transported in an ambulance to Mangalore.
We were told that when U.G. heard about Ajja he said, “I don’t want to breathe, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to be in this body.”
Ajja left his body on March 12th and on March 14th we heard from Srinath that U.G. had sent everyone away and that it seemed he would be going soon too. We left the ashram and continued on our travels. We later learned that U.G. left his body on March 22nd. No one ever seemed to know the nature of this strange connection between Ajja and U.G but it was a blessing to have met them both.
This post is from a collection of essays, stories, insights and poems that have occurred to me along the Way titled Here to Now and Behind.