479 Self Knowledge is good

This has been an interesting week; as always, I have been doing a lot of reading … indeed, I have started Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book The First and Last Freedom, and one of the things I remember from my first reading sessions is that Krishnamurti says he hasn’t read any “sacred” literature himself: He didn’t read the Bhagavad Gita nor the Upanishads, Bible, Quran etc. Wow! Says he, “When you quote the Bhagavad Gita or the Bible or some sacred Chinese book what you’re doing is repeating …” and what you are repeating is never the truth.

Aldous Huxley quotes an author of one of the Mahayana sutras in his foreword to First & Last Freedom, “the truth was never preached by the Buddha, seeing that you have to realize it within yourself.”

The next chapter I'm starting today is chapter IV Self Knowledge. This will be good, Self Knowledge is a favourite subject of mine, especially in view of a previous blog 411 Spirituality, the Sam Harris way, where I dispute the non-existence of the Self (the Buddha [and Sam Harris] say the Self is an illusion).

Leo Tolstoy agrees with me, the Self is to be reckoned with.

Realizing the truth and understanding the misery and confusion (the chaos) that exist in the world - but primarily within ourselves - is only possible with finding clarity within ourselves and that clarity comes about through right thinking. Clarity is the result of intense self-awareness and right thinking; right thinking comes with self-knowledge.

“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end … you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river. As one studies it, as one goes into it more and more, one finds peace. Only when the mind is tranquil - through self-knowledge - only then, in that tranquility, that silence can reality come into being. It is only then that there can be bliss. And it seems to me that without this understanding, without this experience, merely to read books, to attend talks … is so infantile, just an activity without much meaning.” (From chapter II What are we Seeking?)

This is an interesting thought for me ... to be reading can be considered infantile? Hmmm, I am asking myself today, am I reading too much? Maybe less reading, more meditation ... seeing we have to realise the truth (about ourselves) within ourselves. It is recognised - on so many levels - meditation helps alleviate our inner chaos.

This week I was made aware of yet another guru with a book I am That. I did some research; finally I wrote this to the person who made the introduction:

Thank you very much for directing me to Nisargadatta … I have spent a few hours with him now, and I have to say he doesn’t speak to me. I’m not saying his writings or teachings are false, but while he said a lot of compelling things, I find him muddled and often contradictory (I went to www.maharajnisargadatta.com). When I say that, please remember where I am coming from: These days I reject just about all gurus, you could say I’m guru-tired … I stick with Krishnamurti, though (who said we don’t need teachers [there’s a lot more to that, of course]).

I had a guru 28 years ago, in the Sant Mat 'system' and I moved away from them about 5 years later … after that I spent many years trying this guru, that system … Osho, Maharaj Ji, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation; Beatles) etc. … I looked around for many years. For me the bottom line is, I enjoy reading as much as I can original philosophies (I could well see myself study Shiva Advaita … so much to do, so little time!) but I often find myself not in tune with contemporary gurus. In fact, currently Krishnamurti is the one (who doesnt’ want followers, who doesn’t want to be a teacher) whom I agree with - and respect - the most.

Nevertheless, it’s always good to sharpen your senses by reading something new ... I hope my analysis (which admittedly is quite superficial, I did not get his book) doesn’t offend you or put you off. As regards Nisargadatta's writings, take this statement for instance: "Worship the indwelling ‘I am’ in you, it is the ‘I am’ that is born, it is the ‘I am’ that will die, you are not that ‘I am’.” This is not at all clear to me ... why would I worship the “I am” in me if it is the entity that is born and will die?

When asked about his biographical details, Nisargadatta used to say that "I was never born". For him, the essence of his being is eternal, pure and ever free awareness which is not confined to a specific body-mind. Frankly, I find that churlish and silly … sure, his essence is eternal (so is everyone’s), but so what? In the context of biographical details that statement is meaningless.

"… the mind often thinks it acts. This false idea (that the mind is the self) is what keeps us from recognizing our Self …” Well, I cannot see from which point of view this statement could be seen as correct or as of any value; of course the mind keeps us from seeing the Self, but it does so with it’s actions (of being deluded, being distracted, of wanting something … money, position, refrigerator and so on [as Krishnamurti says]); so mind is acting alright … that, in fact, is the problem!

Nisargadatta makes the point that all we should do is contemplate the notion of “I am That” or, even simpler “I am”. In my opinion he is very verbose on that subject. He says, " All that a guru can tell you is: 'My dear Sir, you are quite mistaken about yourself. You are not the person you take yourself to be.” That is very good, but then he goes: “There is no such thing as a person. There are only restrictions and limitations. The sum total of these define the person …” I see a contradiction here: “There is no such thing as a person.” Well, that’s nonsense … and he contradicts himself right away, when he says, "The sum total of these (restrictions and limitations [of the mind]) define the person …” Which is correct. And that is the point with his recurring statement of “I am That” or “I am” … we want to know who we are (Know Your Self), but we are not what we perceive to be with our mind (the person, the ego), we are what we define as our Soul, our inner, everlasting Self. But I can see another contradiction when he says: "It is right to say ‘I am’, but to say ‘I am this’, ‘I am that’, is a sign of not enquiring, not examining, of mental weakness or lethargy …” How so, if his book is called “I am That”?

Nevertheless, he is ever so right when he says, “There is the body and there is the Self, between them is the mind, in which the Self is reflected as ‘I am’. Because of the imperfections of the mind, its crudity and restlessness, lack of discernment and insight, it takes itself to be the body and not the Self. All that is needed is to purify the mind so that it can realize its identity with the Self. When the mind merges in the Self, the body presents no problems. It remains what it is, an instrument of cognition and action, the tool and the expression of the creative fire within."

I do like this statement: "There is nothing to practice. To know yourself, be yourself. To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that. Just be. Let your true nature emerge. Don't disturb your mind with seeking. “ Yet, he then says,"The seeker is he who is in search of himself,” which is really cool (we are all seekers) … again, I think his message is muddled.

I also like this: " A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly, once your mind is quiet.” That is what I say in my meditation class.

Here he talks a bit like E.T. methinks, convoluted and muddled: “... the Self is not one super-entity which knows independently, regardless of things; there is no such super-entity, no Creator with infinite intellect. God does not exist independently from creation. What does exist is the "total acting" (or functioning) of the Ultimate or Absolute Reality along the infinite varying forms in manifestation ...” But this is good: "This Absolute Reality is identical to The Self.” I just believe it could all be said more simply and clearly.

This is cool,"When I met my Guru, he told me:’"you are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are" …” But frankly, what I don’t like is this incessant reference to his master’s teaching of, “I am” or “I am That”; I find it sounds like a slogan, a catchphrase … but then, I admit, I probably don’t grasp its significance, since I haven’t read the book.

This is how I feel about Nisargadatta: His message is simple (it is the universal spiritual message inherent in most religions and spiritual philosophies, i.e. the mind keeps us from recognizing the Self as our true nature) and I like some of his stuff, but it is all written up less simple and clear than I’d like it to be. For my liking it would suffice to say:

“Meditate; realize who you are: You are two beings, 1) your mind (your ego), which shapes your persona; the entity you present to the world, which makes your life-decisions, good or bad; your mind dies with you. 2) Your inner, true Self, your Soul, your inner God, which drives your compassion, understanding and sense for mercy and forgiveness; your Soul is everlasting. Meditation stills your mind and helps you go beyond your ego and connect with your Self."

As you know now, I write about this stuff a lot in my book en.ligh.en.ment … in fact, you could say 'this stuff’ (spirituality, philosophy) is my hobby! But while I enjoyed this diversion - as I said - I now wonder if indeed I read too much.

I have an essay KNOW YOUR SELF