Warning about "Awareness Watching Awareness"

banana's picture

Average: 3.2 (38 votes)

I have encountered here a question asking about the method known by the name "Awareness Watching Awareness" and have decided to post my opinion. I will appreciate others who are acquainted with it to post their own opinions about it.

There is a book called "The Most Rapid and Direct Method To Eternal Bliss" (Previous name of the book was "The Imposter") by Michael Langford which suggests the method of "Awareness Watching Awareness" which is claimed to adhere to the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj.

You can read the book online in http://www.albigen.com/uarelove/most_rapid/contents.aspx

The book is well ordered like a mathematics or logic book and this may be excellent but it appears, of course, that format is not enough - the content itself, the method, has fundamental unfortunate flaws.

It is an erroneous distorted interpretation of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj in general and of the Self Inquiry in particular.

It is based on many inaccurate axioms (e.g. that thoughts are words-based only while in reality thought movement can be also made of "visual clips" alone such as the visual scene of an event stored in memory) and confuses between different concepts (e.g. Nisargadatta's concept of "I AM" and the Self).

But worse of all, it assumes that the Self or as it termed there "background awareness" can be watched as an object while it is fundamental that anything that can be watched as an object cannot be the ultimate subject, the self, but is just another face of the "I" thought. Regarding the self, you can only abide in it, not watch it, i.e. peel off the onion to remain naked as the self.

Bottom line: beware of this or any other method which claims to improve Self Enquiry and stick to the simple and pure Ramana's Self Enquiry.

genep's picture

Selling books

"The Most Rapid and Direct Method To Eternal Bliss" by Michael Langford

Michael Langford probably wanted to write a book called
" The Most Rapid and Direct Method To be a Billionaire" ..and while he was writing he probably discovered that perhaps the quickest way to become a billionaire is to write a book called "The Most Rapid and Direct Method To Eternal Bliss"... if there are enough suckers to buy this book ...
... and then maybe his next book will be :
" The Most Rapid and Direct Method To Win the Lottery" ... or
" How to Buy the Brooklyn Bridge."

If Langford uses anything from Ramana Maharshi and/or Nisargadatta Maharaj to support his book... . the title of his book -- then MOST OBVIOUSLY he has absolutely not a clue
about anything they have to say about "Spirituality" Advaita, non-duality, Self, alias... "Eternal Bliss" ... about "every hair on your head is predetermined"

genep | Thu, 04/23/2009 - 15:18
nathan's picture

We should judge by the content itself only

I think we should be very careful and judge the book purely according to its content and not according indirect circumstances - wanted to sell books or not, the name of the book etc. One can argue in response that Langford was generous enough to put the softcopy of the book free of charge on the net!

"The Power of Now" of Tolle as well the publications of Ramana Ashram, "I am That" of Nisargadatta, the books of Osho and many others are great spiritual books and yet are sold for money. So what? Money is not dirty, "I Am That" is even over expensive (Chetana Publications).

I think that though the strict format and clarity of the book and the smart repetitions are very impressive and unique, and though it is clear that enormous serious editing work was invested in the book, indeed it seems from a first read that the writer has fundamental errors in the content itself which is what makes this book problematic.

After reading this post yesterday, I decided to be fare enough (also with myself, who knows what opportunity I may missing by being quick judgmental) and print the softcopy and read it thoroughly before I make my final judgment.

nathan | Thu, 04/23/2009 - 16:37
genep's picture

reading books

-- Langford is not alone with his ignorance of Spirituality, Non-duality ... the concept, alone, that there is some sort of thought called "Awareness that can Observe Awareness" defies/denies/defiles literally everything in Ramana's/Nisargadatta's "non-duality."

of the thousands of people who claim to have read "I AM THAT"... "The Truth Is" ... .... few have a clue to what these books are about ... if they did they would clearly understand why Ramana can say without reservation that "every hair on you head is predestined."
indeed when it comes to the very core of non-duality, Advaita, nobody seems to have a clue what three words mean, even though there is a three volume book written about these three words: "Nothing Ever Happened" ... indeed, if there was a library full of books to explain these three words "Nothing Ever Happened" this library would do little to awaken mankind to its meaning.

as for Tolle's book "The Power of Now": it is a lot of fragrant garbage that does little but cover the Now.

only dreams have awakenings -- sleep is samadhi. -- O'no

genep | Thu, 04/23/2009 - 20:15
abra's picture

Does little but to cover the Now

I wouldn't make such sweeping statements.

I also think that "I AM THAT" is a masterpiece (also thanks to the superb translation work of Maurice Frydman - the English versions of the later books of Maharaj do not enjoy the level of clarity of "I Am That" partly due to the translations though they are more advanced in terms of content) and so is "The Truth Is". But one has to remember modestly that the fact that he/she favors a certain path does not mean that this path and its books are the absolute truth and there is none except them - these books are valuable to someone favoring Advaita or that feel drawn to the general idea of Advaita. For people of other paths and approaches these books may seem a rubbish powwow and they will surely have their own set of favorite books.

Regarding "The Power of Now" - I suspect you totally missed the point of this book which its greatness is exactly due to its simplicity, careful phrasing and focus. At the end of the day it's not the many reasonings and sophisticated analytical schemes that make the difference in spirituality but exactly this that "does little but to cover the Now". Is there anything else significant? I think the tremendous transformation it happens to do in so many people from so many different places and backgrounds is the proof for the magical effectiveness of this book, I have some friends whom I amazed what this book has made them.

abra | Fri, 04/24/2009 - 10:12
sisi's picture

It's the expectations

I think that precisely because of the fact that the book is flawless technically (the format and editing are quite impressive!), the flaws of the content itself stood up. You develop expectations. Because after all, 90% of the spiritual fall far behind it.

Understanding the above, I'm going to give it a try. There were so many inferior books (and teachers) that I still gave them a try and in retrospective learned from them a lot. Plus, we may be wrong in our prompt easy judgment. Plus, the attitude of overruling something right upfront is more of a reaction of the ego and fears rather than an honest action.

sisi | Fri, 04/24/2009 - 09:18
divine intervention's picture

Tim, others - what do u think?

I came across this online version of the book some time ago, gave it a serious attention and had similar doubts - it is definitely a serious work and with almost unparalleled quality of structure and delivery and i felt the things there work and yet... i also felt that still something subtle there is out of tune... it is and it is yet not...

Tim, shira, phroggy, leo, enlight, nancy, angel76 (and of course many others here) - I learned to value your opinions about advaita even if sometimes I do not agree with you - I will appreciate your unbiased opinion about the book. Please, if you haven't read it, give it a fair trial without prejudice as if you didn't read all the above comments. Regardless of its true value, it is an interesting unusual read due to its structure. Try to approach it with a positive attitude and to read it thoroughly and say what you think...

divine intervention | Tue, 04/28/2009 - 10:49
shishmanidov35's picture

Distortion of Sri Ramana's Self Enquiry

Funny, I came across this "awareness watching awareness" sometime ago and had the same reservations.

I wonder what others think.

shishmanidov35 | Wed, 09/16/2009 - 18:52
atlantis's picture

too perfect is imperfect

I learnt to distance from too organized and decided books. This analytical approach is maybe good to depict reality in mathematics or in any other field of the mind but not in chaotic spirituality. The Heart does not adhere to numbered phrases and closed models.

This is precisely the case of http://www.gurusfeet.com/blog/plastic-flowers-or-law-imperfect-perfect

atlantis | Tue, 12/22/2009 - 23:17
Tania's picture

Ignorance watching ignorance

That method should be called "Ignorance watching ignorance" or rather "Deception watching deception". It's so full of traps, cheap self propaganda, manipulative bogus references to writings of true masters like Ramana and Nisargadatta and it is practically erroneous.

For example, it starts with "watch your awareness", not giving attention to the main issue: what exactly is this object called awareness? how do you locate it? Then there is the usual western old school instruction of drawing attention from thoughts and so on.

I really encourage beginners to be careful with that method and stay with the instructions of the really realized teachers like Ramana and unlike this Langford. I'm happy that others here noticed the danger in that pretentious wannabe half-baked method.

Tania | Mon, 08/22/2011 - 23:59
Pb's picture

Splitting hairs

Hi banana,

It is important to understand one another. You raise three points, and none of them are clear to me. So I seek clarifications.

"It is an erroneous distorted interpretation... Of Self Inquiry." saying it doesn't make it so. You need to demonstrate why it is wrong, and how it is distorted. So we can disregard your opinion until you bulwark it with reason.

"It is based on many inaccurate axioms (e.g. that thoughts are words-based only while in reality thought movement can be also made of "visual clips" alone such as the visual scene of an event stored in memory) and confuses between different concepts (e.g. Nisargadatta's concept of "I AM" and the Self)."

This is a philosophical criticism. Due to the extreme brevity of your words, there's no way to assess their validity. However, one can see that Langfords book never seeks philosophical precision at all. Rather, he seeks method, accurate method. And since you quibble about theory and disregard his method, which is the body of his book, your points may also be disregarded here too, despite possibly being laid philosophically.

"But worse of all, it assumes that the Self or as it termed there "background awareness" can be watched as an object while it is fundamental that anything that can be watched as an object cannot be the ultimate subject, the self, but is just another face of the "I" thought. Regarding the self, you can only abide in it, not watch it, i.e. peel off the onion to remain naked as the self."

Please explain what you mean clearly. Do you mean the Self is not an object, but a condition or state, in a manner of speaking? This is evidently also a quibble, because Langford's instructions do not bother with philosophical distinctions, but with practice instructions, so there is no need to intellectually split hairs.

In short, I think you're misreading the book as philosophy rather than instruction, splitting hairs, and focusing on extraneous or insignificant matters to the book. Perhaps you just dislike it and are seeking reasons after the fact?

Kind regards,


Pb | Fri, 09/21/2012 - 04:44
banana's picture

hi pb, it's very hard to

hi pb, it's very hard to explain here in details the pitfalls of "awareness watching awareness" - Are you familiar with Advaita and the works of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj?

banana | Fri, 09/21/2012 - 05:59
Pb's picture

Yes, I'm familiar with them

Yes, I'm familiar with them both. I can't really see a difference between them. Langford is more rigorous and precise, though, and technical. Obviously one gravitates to Maharaj and Ramana as enlightened sages, so it's completely different from reading the work of a dedicated devotee which is how I would characterize Mr Langford.

Pb | Sat, 09/22/2012 - 16:29
NisargaYoga's picture

Awareness Watching Awareness

The book is wisdom.In my humble opinion the author has given the gist/juice of his experience so that others need not get lost in the jungle of spirituality,books,guru's path etc.

He has not taken credit but has clearly given summarized the path from the books of master's
1.Ramana Maharishi
2.Sri Muruganar
3.Sri Saadhu OM
4.Nisargadatta Maharaj

Self Attention,Self Remembrance,Abiding in the Self,awareness watching awareness all denotes the same.

Self Inquiry will help one to understand what the Master's say what self is.

It will take years for the ego to annihilate completely.
The ego/amahkhar will not get destroyed immediately by self inquiry even when one experiences what SELF is.It all depends upon the purity of the soul.

In Adyashanthi's words
Infinity <- Self <- Ego
Nisargadatta Maharaj words - I AM - This is the beginning and also the end of all endeavor.

One has to continuously abide in the self or practice self remembrance or self attention or Awareness watching awareness.
What ever one may choose to name it.

Sri Saadhu OM says his understanding of Sri Ramana Bhagwan's teaching is to practice the self awareness ceaselessly.
In Nisargadatta Maharaj's words - My master asked me to attend to the sense of I AM and I trusted his words and practiced ceaselessly for 3 years.Only a rare aspirant will follow this Direct path.

Best hand book to have it memorized.

NisargaYoga | Sat, 01/17/2015 - 07:33
samsara's picture

I read Awareness Watching

I read Awareness Watching Awareness and in my humble opinion it has a lot of flaws. Read for example "Seth Speaks" by Jane Roberts and afterwards you will realize this.

samsara | Wed, 01/21/2015 - 20:11
mahaprema's picture

Michael's book was one of

Michael's book was one of the greatest discoveries for me (among hundreds of other advaita books read in 20 years). I don't see any contradiction with the teachings of either Ramana or Nisargadatta.
I guess the critics of this master (generous and selfless) haven't tried the method, just what Michaels writes in his book - ego will use any excuse to escape its death. ))
Sure Awareness can be aware of Itself - what else can It be aware of if all there is is Awareness, and how can it not ba aware of anything, incl. Itself, being Awareness?))
A very worthy book, in my opinion.

mahaprema | Mon, 01/18/2016 - 19:07