I AM & Realisation

joejo's picture

Average: 5 (1 vote)

At the outset, I feel that there is a clear and unmistakable difference between the approach of Soham or 'I am That' meditation and the path of Self Enquiry. Both are valid approaches of Gyan marg or the vedantic path of knowledge.

The approach of yoga is a bit different. It lays down twin approach of Practice and non - attachment known as Abhayasa and vairagya.

There are two different stages in the path of spiritual development. In the first stage Practice is the means and later quietitude is said to be the means. This corresponds to stage of effort and later non - effort. Even the Vedantic paths presuppose certain preparation. The qualifications are clearly laid out as Six Jewels (wealth) or shad sampatti.

They are, control of senses, restraint, endurance, withdrawal or non - attachment, faith and equanimity. So I am baffled when someone says that just be your Self without any effort or just feel the sense of am-ness without effort.

In upnishad it is said that the natural tendency of the mind is to be extroverted towards sense mind and only a courageous man (Veera) can turn it inwards.

In ancient teachings our base nature is compared to a Bull which BTW is said to be Vehicle of Siva much in the same way as the body is the vehicle of Soul. To train or ride this Bull requires tremendous efforts. Our ancestors being farmers were aware of this.

Only a courageous man who can be compared to a Tiger can conquer(tame) the animal nature. This ought to be our natural state as Humans. Tiger in Hindu mythology is the Vehicle of Devi or Divine Mother. We have all fallen from our natural abode ( swadishthan which means own abode), the second chakra. The story of the fall is not to be found in Genesis alone.

To sore high like a eagle the man must use his spirit the contemplative or meditative quality or the ability to ponder. The vehicle of Vishnu is Garud or eagle.

When the man has acquired these three qualities he is said to have a true I and can rightfully say I AM.

Shantideva's picture

So-Ham mantra

If performed with the right intention the So-Ham meditation is a self-enquiry dhyana of the type called shamatha, like any meditation using a bija. The intention is to cognize the Source of the utterance by "giving away" a bit of oneself with each exhalation.

But if performed as repetition of a "feel-good" exercise So-Ham becomes a mere affirmation similar to "Every day in every way" etc.

So there is a difference but it's a difference of intention rather than inherent quality.

So-Ham (pronounced like a nasalized "hum") means "He am I" and is the reciprocal of Ham Sah - "I am He." Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj taught the two both as single mantras and as an alternating japam.

When synchronized with Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) the alternating japam can lead rapidly to a state of Samprajnata (supported) Samadhi.

Shantideva | Mon, 05/30/2011 - 21:33
joejo's picture

Self Enqiry by Ramana maharshi

By self enquiry I meant as taught by Maharshi Ramana. Turning the mind inward and if one could say a movement of the center of gravity inwards to the source is true Self Enquiry.

Meditation techniques aim to quieten the agitated mind so that the reflection of Self is seen clearly or that the mind takes the vritti (form) of the object of meditation.

joejo | Tue, 05/31/2011 - 08:25
leo's picture

Common mistake

What you describe is NOT Ramana Maharshi's self enquiry but the hinduistic self enquiry - two different things.

Ramana's self enquiry is simple and straighforward and well defined: observation of the sense of "I", a certain feeling/though ("I" thought) that can be traced and observed. By doing so, at a certain point, you abide in the "I Am". This is an indirect way for most people that can not go directly to "I Am".

The beauty of Ramana's self enquiry vs trhe other (which is basically neti neti)is that it is well defined and does not let space to speculations and distortions of the lazy mind which prefers anything but to observe etc.

More info: http://www.gurusfeet.com/blog/self-inquiry-tips (excellent guide!)

You can find more

leo | Tue, 05/31/2011 - 09:15
Shantideva's picture

Douglas's even better way

I very much agree with the self enquiry tips, but as I posted in reply ...

These directions most certainly point to where we need to look but there is an even simpler, more direct and more accessible way.

The English philosopher-sage Douglas Harding devoted his adult life to showing people how we can see directly into our own nothingness. For him, as for many, vision was the predominant sensory pathway to realization.

Anyone interested should visit the website www.headless.org and enjoy the "experiments" offered by Douglas and others.

Once you "get it" you realize that you are no mere mortal but rather Capacity for everything and everyone. This is none other than the Atman-Brahman or, to Buddhists, the living Void.

I would enjoy reading your comments after visiting www.headless.org.

Shantideva | Tue, 05/31/2011 - 22:48
joejo's picture

Who abides in I AM

Firstly I did not describe Ramana's self enquiry but merely alluded to the difference between so called (effortlessly) abiding in "I AM" and approach of self enquiry.

In the later part I gave the approach of Yoga and ancient esoteric path, not necessarily Hindu to self realisation.

Secondly the self enquiry taught by Ramana Maharshi is Direct

May I ask who goes (directly) to I AM? If you are considering I AM to be a state then this is not realisation. Mind cannot observe the Self whether it be active or lazy.

joejo | Fri, 06/03/2011 - 14:09
Shantideva's picture


I concur with your meaning of self enquiry, but to avoid confusion I prefer the technical yoga term Svadhyaya, although this too can be misconstrued to mean mere ruminative inspection of one's mental life.

Your characterization of "quietening" meditation techniques applies only to Shamatha, the "calming" approach. The other type is Vipasyana or Insight. Vipasyana is indeed the method advocated by Ramana Maharshi, the Buddha Sakyamuni and Douglas Harding among many others. Buddhists refer to it as the supreme Mind Only path and assuredly, once the mind essence is cognized, it is the easiest and most powerful path.

But Shamatha and Vipasyana both culminate in cognition of the Svarupa or Self Nature. Each conditions the other. In Tien Tai Buddhism Chih (calming) and Kuan (insight) are mutually undertaken in structured emulation of Buddha Sakyamuni's historic practice.
A radically different way is the tantric sadhana employed in the Dalai Lama's Kalachakra tradition. Immensely effective but so strenuous!

The self enquiry of Ramana Maharshi is the Shikan Taza ("just sitting") practice emphasized in Soto Zen, while the koan approach of Rinzai Zen provides the ingenious mental jiujitsu of koans to turn the mind inside out and thus realize the Svarupa.

This is why I wrote that, at bottom, both Shamatha and Vipasyana are methods of Svadhyaya. So I see them as not fundamentally opposed, as you had asserted, but reciprocal.

Would you agree with this more inclusive view?

Shantideva | Tue, 05/31/2011 - 18:59
Shantideva's picture

Full agreement

Going back to what you originally posted, I agree with you that the qualities of Abhyasa and Vairagya are essential and must be either possessed or cultivated.

Zen Buddhism has three Japanese expressions - the Three Pillars - which form the basis of Zazen, the Zen sadhana. Dai-Funshi ("Great Resolve") is Abhyasa, the uninterrupted dedicated practice. Dai-Shinkon ("Great Faith") is the unshakeable conviction of truth, like the certainty that the car keys you dropped on the lawn can be found if you keep searching.

The third Pillar, Dai-Gidan ("Great Doubt") may be unique to Zen. It's the conviction that, notwithstanding all worldly appearances, Liberation is possible. Maybe this is a feistier manifestation of Vairagya ("Objectivity")?

You are right. The serious seeker must be a Vira, a spiritual hero.

Shantideva | Tue, 05/31/2011 - 19:41
joejo's picture

Self Remembering

I am not very familiar with Buddhist approach, yet I see a crucial difference. In the self enquiry taught by Maharshi or Vedanta emphasis is laid on realizing that the sense of self or I must have some root which forms its basis and realizing this is called liberation. On the other hand the Buddhist approach is to negate the self (anata) from the very beginning and have an insight into the changing nature of reality.

The observation (meditation) on the sense of True Self is to be done not only in times set aside for serious contemplation but must be carried forward to our daily routine by maintaining a degree of non-identification with the help of current of awareness generated during sitting meditation

That we are caught in a prison due to ignorance and there exists a possibility of escape should we apply ourselves is a basic premise of all approaches.

joejo | Sun, 06/05/2011 - 00:17
Shantideva's picture

Atman and Anatman

The difference is of language only. And you are right; the process is the same. It can be none other.

It is true that Buddha's Dharma begins by challenging the objective reality of the Atman-Brahman, and after all the core of the Dharma is the discovery that there is no such thing as objective reality. Objective reality is the prison perpetuated by Avidya - the sleep of non-knowing. In truth there is only the endless chain of action-reaction.

The great Chinese master Hui Neng summarized the true situation when he said, "Fundamentally nothing exists."

But that is not the denial of anything. It describes the experience of letting go mind, body, life and all of one's innermost self. The sensation is like dropping an intolerable burden. The rewards are incalculable! Life lives itself and a quiet delight pervades everything.

Nisargadatta Maharaj spoke of this from the other end, so to speak, when he said, "Resolutely reject what you are not." He too experienced Being not as an entity but as a boundless process.

Shantideva | Sun, 06/05/2011 - 05:49