All knowledge is only intellectual knowledge. When I do not know who I am, the ignorance is also centered at the intellect level only. Self does not have any ignorance.
Intellect is ignorant about the self. The ego – I am this- that this starts with identification with intellect – That is called chidaabhaasa – the consciousness reflects in the intellect and that reflected consciousness is the ego where it identifies with the notion that I am this – starting with intellect, then the mind and then the body identifications.
When I know who I am, what I will know is I am the substantive for all – the intellect, the mind and the body as well. Everything is just superficial entities superimposed on the true I am. Hence knowledge of I am, is shifting my attention from superficial chidaabhaas to the original chit. They are always together like ring and the gold. If I think I am a ring I have a problem since I am subject to modification. If I realize I am gold then nothing will happen to me even if ring becomes a bangle. Who should know that I am gold and not the ring! Ring that thinks I am the ring has to realize that ring is only a name and form my essential nature is not ring but gold that is substantive for the ring that I am. All this happens in the intellect of the ring only – Hence who am I inquiry is needed – who does that inquiry – It is intellect only. Hence intellect has to get convinced its superficial nature and also the substantive nature of aatma.
Realization: The truth is witnessing consciousness is ever present and never bound at any time and it does not have to realize anything. The ego who is interested to know who I am – in principle can never realize – it is always remain as ego.
The problem is we are trying to separate ego one side and witnessing consciousness on the other – like trying to separate ring on one side and gold on the other. – we cannot have ring without gold. Witnessing consciousness need not have to realize anything – all realizations occur in its presence. It is the same even when one is not realized – like whether ring knows it is gold or not, it is gold only.
Realization is to recognize my intrinsic nature is pure consciousness and my transactional nature is superimposed ego – just as ring has to realize that my intrinsic nature is gold and my superficial nature is ring. Nothing has happened other than shifting my attention to superficial to substantive. That is the understanding at the intellect level only. That is ring’s intellect has to know that I am gold!
When the ring understands that it is gold and its ring nature is only superficial while substantially it is gold, then whatever experiences the ring form goes there are no substantial changes in the gold – that shift in understanding is what is all about.
Experience will come and go but I am not affected by those experiences since they are only superficial and not substantial. Ring will still have a problems – scratches here and there, etc. Ring understands that as gold I am never affected (as an example). People operated on Ramana – the superficial body like ring gets affected but nothing happens to its substantive. That firm abidance in the substantive is self-realization.
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If ignorance is the root cause for the problem of samsaara, only knowledge is the antidote. Knowledge does not involve any thing other than knowing who I am. Hence it is not nirvikalpa samAdhi but nirvikalpa jnaanam which involves inquiry. Inquiry involves the mind – it is therefore not the absence of mind but mind that reached an understanding that one is beyond the thoughts in spite of thoughts present. Hence the amRita bindu Upanishad says: ‘mana yeva manuShyAnAm kAraNam bandha moxayoH’ – mind is the cause as well as means for the bondage and liberation. Nirvikalpa jnaana is the requirement and that becomes samaadhi – not thoughtless state- it is a state of understanding where one is beyond the thoughts, even while the thoughts are present. It is like seeing the water in and through the waves and not elimination of the wave to see the water.
The fact that I have to do something nor to do something implies that I have a deeply rooted notion that I am a jiiva who can do and need not do, etc is there. This includes the saadhana in terms of studying the scriptures, mantra etc.
I am -is pure existence-consciousness is one thing and that is what is involved in the realization of my true nature – the essence that Shree Ramana also emphasizes. Then there is a notion that I have to realize myself that I am, but that very approach puts my understanding that I am existent-conscious entity in the back pedestal since the very notion that I have to realize that which is self-existing self-conscious entity – makes me a saadhak – where saadhak and saadhana duality exists.
I am not this – is easy to say in the seat of meditation but when I am encountering and transacting with the world which I cannot but do – that understanding leaves me in no time – since in the very transaction, I cannot but take the world different from me for me to transact with. Hence I have to understand not only who I am but what is this world that I am transacting with.
Hence Purity of the mind is essential for the preparation of the vedantic meditation that involves negation and assertion that I am not that which is fleeting but that which is ever present.
Hence I am that I am involves very vigilant, consistent mind that is able to discriminate nitya and anitya – that which is eternal and that which is ephemeral – to shift the attention of the MIND to that which is eternal and able to not to take seriously that which is continously changing .
For that scripture is the only means – hence Vedanta insistence of shravanam – mananam and nidhidhyaasanam – essential for any saadhak. Scriptures are called darshanas – or mirrors that reflect my true vision of myself that I am sat chit ananda in relation to what I think I am. Even in Vedantic discussions, it is not what Shankara said or Bhagavaan Ramana said or some aachaarya said etc but what is the central theme that I want to understand that helps me in my saadhana without getting lost in the discussions. – that should be ones focus.
It has been said – one should study scriptures until one realizes and one should study scriptures after one realizes. Until one realizes they help the saadhak and after one realizes the jnaani supports the scriptures. Look at Bhagavan Ramana – He studied the scriptures and established that indeed they are true.
Vedanta says – mind alone is responsible for bondage as well as freedom. So it is both – culprit as well as means to go beyond the mind. That is what meditation is also – use the mind to go beyond the mind.
The notions in the mind that I am this and I am that etc – where I am – the existent-conscious entity identifies with this and this. These notions are in the intellect. Hence these preconceived notions form obstruction for the knowledge – this is also what JK calls as pre-conditioning of the mind – and as you are familiar any attempts to decondition would only condition in a different way. Vedanta understands this and uses a methodology for the intellect to get rid off these preconceived notions and recognize the reality behind the plurality.