More with Ramesma can be found at his blog: Beyond Advaita
The following is from an email exchange with Ramesam after our doing our second conversation video.
Jordan: Ramesam, what you told me the other day, shifted me from thinking there is no ‘suffering’, which is what I’ve been focused on, to seeing that there is no ‘sufferer’ – something I’m still pondering. All along, I’ve been seeing it as a ‘me’ having a dream, and therefore trying to see everything in the world (in what’s ‘real/not-real’) as a dream; whereas, in ‘reality’, as you explained, there is no ‘me’ either dreaming or not dreaming, which is where the focus needs to be in the first place. No?
Ramesam: No ‘me’: It is correct. The final message of Non-duality is there is no real ‘me’ as an experiencer experiencing things which are out there. The ‘me’ we carve out for ourselves with some boundaries (including a body) is illusory, purely an imaginary entity.[But of course, at a purely transactional level (feeding, clothing, paying taxes etc.) a limited entity with a unique ID has to function. Such actions that are required for the maintenance of the body at certain levels of reasonableness will not invite any harm or carry over after-effects (vasanas – impressions).]
In order to make it easy for us to dissolve the imaginary boundaries we have drawn around ourselves all through our life, a few guidelines are offered:
- One of them is, as you said, consider as if we are moving and living in a dream. This will help in reducing the feeling of solidity and physicality of the external world. It will then help in reducing our habit of giving weight to the happenings there in the world.
- Another guideline is “to be just a disinterested uninvolved witness” to whatever goes on – including the affairs concerning a ‘me’. (You are an unconcerned Witness-Consciousness).
- A third suggestion is “to think some Lord or God is doing all things and i am only obeying His instructions.”
- Meditation techniques like ‘mindfulness’, insightfulness etc are also tools suggested.
- Another suggestion is to imagine that everywhere and everything is ‘me’ only. Or the reverse of it – all things are within ‘me’.
But all these are just intermediate positions because they still posit a ‘me’ here practicing to dissolve the ‘me’.
The final understanding or Reality is that there is no ‘me’ even to do any of these practices !!
Ramesam (i write in continuation to my last mail about : no me.): perhaps the most significant difference between the traditional teaching of Advaita and some of the modern teaching (christened Neo-advaita by people like Dennis, Alan Jacob, James Swartz), IMHO, emerges at this level after realizing that there is no ‘me’ even to practice anything.
most of the new crop of teachers seem to stop there whereas traditional advaita takes only it as a point of inflexion. Nidhidhyasana – an abidance in that understanding (of the absence of a ‘me’) unswervingly and ceaselessly – starts then.
so the realization of “no one” being there is not a license to do and act as one pleases (on the pretext that no one is doing !!), but to be as that ONENESS. In that oneness, there will be no desire to acquire, to possess, to own, etc. etc. or seek another person for ……
after all who or what second ‘thing’ or other ‘person’ is there to look for fulfillment when i am already everything that is?
this point doesn’t seem to get as much attention as it should from the teachings or actions of the neo-teachers.
the traditionalist emphasis becomes important here. This may be the real argument of James, Dennis et al, in addition to the point they make about the pre-qualifications/training required before the final message of “no me” is imparted.
i thought of mentioning this to you because we touched a bit on this issue last Friday.
How do I abide in no me? For example, do I keep reminding myself of that truth; do I keep looking for the ‘me’ that is being triggered and then challenge it; how do I incorporate this ‘no me’ into my everyday life?
Furthermore, does that mean I can’t seek out someone (you, for example) who knows more than I do in something that, for whatever reason, I am compelled to understand, even beyond understanding?
Does it mean that I can’t buy a newer, faster computer so I can process videos faster and be more efficient in my daily endeavors?
Ramesam: Yes, these are very genuine doubts every seeker in all ages has been raising!
Even Gita arose to answer such doubts (the exact form in which the doubt manifests may differ).
Volumes of commentaries and commentaries on commentaries by Sankara and his disciples have been written on such issues.
Admittedly there is no short answer. Western type of education (mental training) makes us uncomfortable to be or operate in a fuzzy state. We are more accustomed to categorize and organize things.
So i shall try to put it this way for your kind consideration:
Phase I: To get to know the basic message of Oneness (what all exists is One, there is no second) in its correct formulated expression.
This gives us only an intellectual understanding.
As J Krishnamurti used to say: “Do you understand or you think you understand? The understanding has to be as real understanding but not an understanding as a thought” or some such words.
The example he used to give is that fire burns my finger. If it stays merely at verbal level, a doubt still lingers in me (does it or not, how intensely etc. etc.). When i know it experientially, with my heart soul and body (as the expression goes), i have no more doubt. The matter ends there. No more seeking to know the truth behind the burning.
So the moment we say i understand (that all is one) and follow it with but ……., it is an indication that we have to go to the next phase.
Phase II: To reflect on the (Advaita) message, discuss with co-seekers, read again the source texts, take help of some systems (e.g. offering to a deity all actions as not mine), cultivate relinquishment, drop claims of ownership and doership for all things and actions, practice detachment, keep good company, observe reticence, examine whenever a desire or ego props up (as you already said in your mail – but not challenge it because challenging and opposing it will only strengthen the ego) etc. etc. This phase will continue till not even an iota of doubt is left within me about the message of Oneness in my day to day life.
thus the oneness gets ingested from a verbal level to real clarity.
We are now ready for the third phase.
Phase III: Abidance in and as Oneness. Even after clear understanding in phase II, efforting is required because the mind tries to spring back to its old style of functioning and reacting because of force of habit. The habits are not merely the acquisitions in our life time – they go back to times immemorial because some of them are inherited from our ancestors, tradition, society etc. etc. Whenever the mind goes back to its old style, we do have to remember the advaita message. We have to facilitate this by enveloping ourselves so that the environment enables us to remember the message.
Honestly speaking, even the greatest of the teachers / so called realized people still live with a body only because there is some trace of ego left in that body. The moment all traces of ego completely dissolve, the body automatically falls off like the ripe leaf in the Fall. [Again volumes and volumes of debates exist on the scope and content of a ‘mind’ (ego) in a realized man.]
Strictly speaking everybody is already That Oneness, whatever That is. We do not have to become something new by any of these practices/phases.
It is our mind which veils us by its habits from being That. It is for the mind to know that it is the one that is creating the veil of separation and quiet down from its usual dualistic reactions. So a few Upanishads declared:
“It is the mind that keeps the human being in bondage or liberation. The mind that feels free is Free; the mind that says it is bound, is bound!!!”
i think i have already written too long. i should stop here, i guess.