This Chapter Is Taken From The book Hunting The ‘I’ (According To Sri Ramana Maharshi)- Part II, Hunting The ‘I’ By Lucy Cornelssen
Are you happy?
When you reply with the counterquestion ‘What is happiness?’ that means that you have already observed how brittle, how transient and short-lived your so-called happiness is.
But maybe what we have in mind was not happiness at all, but only pleasure?
‘Pleasure’ means the fulfilment of some desire or the removal of something unpleasant. But experience teaches that, after one desire has been fulfilled, two other ones will emerge, and after something unpleasant has been removed, something else of a similar kind will present itself and obstruct our intention to enjoy ourselves. We try and try again to change circumstances and conditions; is it not our birthright to be happy?
Then why have we to struggle and to fight and still miss it? Because of a single error of ours: We do not know ourselves properly, and by that same error everything else is spoiled. Nor do we know what happiness is.
Real happiness needs no struggle nor endeavour, no reason nor cause; it is inherent in the real ‘I’. However you and I, we live on a wrong ‘I’, as it were. That is the mistake which has to be removed before we can claim our birthright on real happiness.
So says Ramana, the Maharshi. And he advises us to dive deep into ourselves with the question: ‘Who am I?’
Don’t expect an answer to it; there is none, because every possible answer which might come to our mind is wrong. However, he promises us that one day, provided our perseverance and patience keep us on the path, there will emerge a real ‘I’ the identity of the Great Experience, and together with it the true happiness, which is Satchi-dananda, the Bliss of Conscious Be-ing.
Somebody asked Sri Ramana:
“When we start this enquiry, who is doing it?”
Sri Ramana’s answer: “The Self does no vichara. That which makes the enquiry is the ego. The ‘I’ about which the enquiry is made is also the ego. As the result of the enquiry the ego ceases to exist and only the Self is found to exist.” (Day by Day, 21.11.45.)
But there are people who feel unable to attack the wrong idea of themselves immediately. They want first to be shown an intellectual approach. There may also be some who do not even know how to ‘go within’. To those we recommend first that they take a closer look at their own ‘person’, at that which they take as ‘I’.
You say: ‘I sit, I walk’, obviously taking the body as ‘I’, because it is the body that sits or walks.
But don’t you also say; ‘I think, I believe, I decide’, etc.? This ‘I’ seems rather to be of the nature of the thinking mind!
And what about your being glad or sad, elated or depressed? Isn’t it an ‘I’ of some sort of feeling? And at another time there emerges an ‘I’ which is intending something, planning, designing, an ‘I’ which seems to be sheer willing?
The conclusion seems to be: ‘I’ means all this together as my body-mind-person.
‘My?’ Whose? By looking at these ‘I’s quite frankly, we see that this body-mind-person also is not ‘I’, but ‘mind’. So whose?
Where is the ‘I’ to be found in this case?
A strange whim of language?
Let us consider the body. It cannot be ‘I’, because everybody talks about ‘his’ body. Apart from that, it has been born without having asked its ‘I’ beforehand, and it shall die without asking its ‘I’ whether it agrees to it or not. And in between it is living upto its appointed hour without any consideration for its ‘I’, a mere biological phenomenon, a product of this planet, and it seems rather presumptuous to say even ‘my’ body. Moreover ‘my’ body does not at all obey me, its ‘I’. Does ‘my’ thinking mind do that? The answer is: ‘No, on the contrary.’
Thus it seems that thinking, feeling and willing are functions of the body, or, to be more specific, of its brain, a biologically reacting mechanism which serves the body properly without needing an ‘I’ for that purpose.
But still there seems to be an ‘I’, because we are conscious of it vividly even now, at this moment, when it appears to lose its last foothold!
Keep very quiet and observe: This ‘I’ does neither think nor will; it has no qualities, is neither man nor woman, has neither body nor mind; it has no trace of the ‘Person’ which you had in mind during your previous questions about the ‘I’. It simply is conscious of itself as ‘I am’. Not ‘I am this’, ‘I am that’; only ‘I am’…………………………………………………………………..
But beware: It’s not you who has this ‘I’…Consciousness as an object, but this Consciousness is your real ‘I’!
This pure be-ing ‘I am’ is the first glimpse of the real ‘I’, the Self, which is by nature Pure Consciousness.
When your attention is keen, then you will discover simultaneously that there is not now and never has been a wrong ‘I’. It has always been the same ‘real I’, only your mind has covered it up with the idea which it has about your ‘person’.
There are other opportunities, when we could experience this pure ‘I’ consciously. One such is during the tiny gap between two thoughts, when the attention has given up its hold on one thought and not yet caught the next one. But since we never tried our attention is not trained this way, and we will hardly succeed in the attempt.
There is a better chance to catch it between sleeping and awaking. It is very important to try it, if you are serious in your hunting the ‘I’. Take care of a few conditions: Try at night just before you fall asleep to keep as the last thought your intention to catch as the first thing of all on waking in the morning the experience of your true ‘I’.
Another condition: You should take care not to awaken too abruptly such as by an alarm clock, and also not to jump headlong into your daily morning routine. The moment you awake, don’t stir, but remember your intention from last night.
You will succeed after a few attempts. And what is possible once even for a moment can be extended by practice.
This experiment gives you the advantage that you now know the aim of your endeavour. It will help you in your further sadhana like leavening in the dough.
Ramana Maharshi named it the transitional ‘I’ and stressed the importance of this experience again and again.
“The ‘I’-thought is only limited ‘I’. The real ‘I’ is unlimited, universal, beyond time and space. They are absent in sleep. Just on rising up from sleep, and before seeing the objective world, there is a state of awareness which is your pure Self. That must be known.” (Talks, 311).
“The Self is pure consciousness in sleep; it evolves as ‘I’ without the ‘this’ in the transition stage; and manifests as ‘I and this’ in the waking state. The individual’s experience is by means of ‘I’ only. So he must aim at realisation in the way indicated (i.e., by means of the transitional ‘I’). Otherwise the sleep… experience does not matter to him. If the transitional ‘I’ be realised the stratum is found and that leads to the goal.” (Talks, 314).
“I’-thought and ‘this’-thought are both emanations from the same Light. They are related to rajoguna and tamoguna respectively. In order to have the Reflected Light (pure sattva) from rajas and tamas, it must shine forth as ‘I’ – I’, unbroken by ‘this’-thought. This pure state momentarily intervenes between sleep and waking. If prolonged it is cosmic consciousness. This is the only passage to the realisation of the Self-shining Supreme Be-ing.” (Talks, 323)
“Why is not that pure ‘I’ realised now or even remembered by us? Because of want of acquaintance with it. It can be recognised only if it is consciously attained. Therefore make the effort and gain it consciously.” (Talks, 314).
This transitional ‘I’ is a moment of pure awareness, which is aware only of itself as ‘I’, pure Identity in itself. Extended by practice it becomes turiya, the ‘fourth’ of the normal states of consciousness, the three others of which are the waking state, dream and deep sleep. The waking state is consciousness in movement, caused by sense perceptions and the activities of the mind. In dreaming, consciousness is also moving under the impact of dream-creations of the mind. In deep sleep, consciousness is at rest, no thoughts, no pictures, no activity of any kind. That means it is pure Consciousness. So it would be Realisation, if we only would know how to become aware of it. However we cannot; deep-sleep consciousness is covered up by dullness. But since out of this ‘unconsciousness’ the transitional ‘I’ can arise in the shape of pure awareness of itself, as has been shown, we think there must be a bridge between deep sleep and the waking state.
There is none; and none is necessary. Actually there is only one awareness underlying the three states of consciousness, being their very substance and at the same time transcending them. It is called turiya, the ‘fourth’, in relation to the ‘three states’, but in itself turiyatita, ‘beyond the fourth’. Because of the turiya being the substance of the other three states, we can become aware of the transitional ‘I’ and in the same way we can realise turiya as our true nature: Pure awareness, never waking or sleeping, never being born or dying.
“Turiya is only another name for the Self. The three states appear as fleeting phenomena on it and sink into it alone. Aware of the waking, dreams and deep sleep states, we remain unaware of our Self. Nevertheless the Self is here and now, it is the only Reality.” (Talks, 353).
Somebody asked: ‘Relatively speaking, is not the sleep state nearer to Pure Consciousness than the waking state?’
Ramana Maharshi: “Yes, in this sense: When passing from sleep to waking the ‘I’-thought must start; the mind comes into play; thoughts arise; then the functions of the body come into operation; all these together make us say that we are awake. The absence of all this evolution is the characteristic of sleep and therefore it is nearer to Pure Consciousness than the waking state.”
But one should not therefore desire to be always in sleep. In the first place it is impossible, for it will necessarily alternate with the other states. Secondly it cannot be the state of bliss in which the jnani is, for his state is permanent and not alternating. Moreover, the sleep state is not recognised to be one of awareness by people; but the sage is always aware. Thus the sleep state differs from the state in which the sage is established.
“Still more, the sleep state is free from thoughts and their impression to the individual. It cannot be altered by one’s will because effort is impossible in that condition. Although nearer to Pure Consciousness, it is not fit for efforts to realise the Self.
“The incentive to realise can arise only in the waking state and efforts can also be made only when one is awake. We learn that the thoughts in the waking state form the obstacle to gaining the stillness of sleep; stillness is the aim of the seeker. Even a single effort to still at least a single thought even for a trice goes a long way to reach the state of quiescence. Effort is required and it is possible in the waking state only. There is the effort here; there is awareness also; the thoughts are stilled; so there is the peace of sleep gained. That is the state of the jnani. It is neither sleep nor waking but intermediate between the two. There is the awareness of the waking state and the stillness of sleep. It is called jagratsushupti. Call it wakeful sleep or sleeping wakefulness or sleepless sleep or wakeless waking…it is not the same as sleep or waking separately. It is the state of perfect awareness and of perfect stillness combined.” (Talks, 609).
To reach turiya we have first to scrutinize the three states. In the waking state there is perceiving, thinking, discriminating, and choosing, liking and disliking, desire and fear, memory and anticipating, all of them moving round a perceiving centre ‘I’ and caused seemingly by outside objects. In dreams we experience almost the same without outer promptings, the whole picture, causes and effects, created by our imagination. In deep sleep there is nothing; at least we do not remember anything. But Identity is not wiped out, otherwise a Johnson who went to sleep might awake as a Benson. How can we bring this Identity from deep sleep up into the waking state? How can deep Silence survive in turbulent noise?
We have to use our control of that biologically acting mechanism, the brain. We do it more or less automatically during the waking state.
Think of your own room or office. While moving around you ‘see’ the furniture, because you have to avoid stumbling over it, but you do not see it consciously; the act of perceiving is cut short after the initial stage.
There is music coming out of a radio or transistor. Usually it is similar to the aforesaid while you have to do some work: you hear it, but not consciously; you cut short the act of listening after the first stage.
Somebody might tell you something. You not only hear it but you are listening attentively to grasp the meaning. If you are not interested, you register the news to your memory… or not… and go on with your task. You have perceived the event,
but it has not made an impression on you, has not altered your quiet state of consciousness. You cut it short after the second stage.
This attitude of aloofness, of detachment, has to be kept and practised as often as possible throughout the day.
Because the moment you are perceiving something and re-acting on it, being interested or emotionally involved, positively or negatively, you have covered up the silent, neutral, pure, witnessing ‘I’ by the reactive aggressive, personal ‘I’.
Accordingly the sadhana of hunting the ‘I’ includes the practice of attention to our own perceiving, with the purpose of cutting it short just before the stage of reacting sets in. In practising this kind of detachment the seeker will soon get to a state of pure awareness, which is no longer ‘perceiving’.
To ‘perceiving’ in the customary meaning of the term belongs ‘grasping’, i.e., reacting; it has an object and is an act within time and space. Pure awareness has no object and is beyond time and space. It is the highest wakefulness without all the other characteristics of the waking state.
This is one means to carry over the absolute Silence of deep sleep into the absolute, the pure awareness of the waking state. Sri Ramana Maharshi named it the sleepless sleep, the wakeful sleep or sleepwaking.