The Radical Rigors of Now
The trap of the ego is knowledge and the trap of the mind is thought. It is these two traps that either inflate or deflate the egoic identity, which is the root of all suffering. If you do not pay attention to the guidance and wisdom of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi you will miss important insights. If you do not pay attention you will simply be endlessly trapped by knowledge and thought—the endless stream of consciousness arising in what we collectively refer to as mind. But what is mind exactly?
On close intimate examination it can be seen directly the nature of mind is thought arising from emptiness—a vast indescribable void in the heart. The natural tendency is to give your attention to the thought and overlook the emptiness, but to see the emptiness for yourself requires the radical rigor of now. What does this mean? What did Ramana actually say about the process of discovering your true nature? What does this discovery offer you?
To discover the substratum, or the vast emptiness of your being, requires the radical rigorous practice of discovering the source of the thought ‘I’, which is the deep feeling of ‘me’ or ‘I am me’ in your body. This is not a one-time event or an experience—rigorous means the intense ruthless redirection of mind to its source in the heart. It is the Bhakti Jnana practice prescribed by Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi meant for mature seekers whose deepest desire is liberation from samsara—the ancient and horrifying karmic wheel of suffering.
This rigor does not entail focusing on the I-thought or focusing on the perceived source in the heart, but is more accurately described as discovering directly, intimately, the source of the deep feeling ‘I am me.’ This direct intimate discovery can only be fresh and alive in the eternal moment of now. Ramana described this intense continuous rigorous practice as self-inquiry known in India as vichara. Self-inquiry is the practice of returning your attention to the source of your attention in the heart continuously until there is no one to inquire and no one to experience.
What does this rigorous practice actually do for you? It simply annihilates the idea of the you of you so that you can directly experience the vast empty nothing of you. Strangely, it is the direct discovery of this nothingness that sets you free from the endless strategies, fears, hatred, revenge, jealousy, sadness, anger—or the nature of suffering generated by your mind. The challenge is to really apply the teaching in a radical rigorous continuous way in this moment—until the deep feeling of you completely dissolves in this eternal now.
One of the great misunderstandings being propagated by various teachers in the west is to place your attention on the I-thought itself or the space to the right of your physical heart in your chest, which produces a feeling of bliss. This is a wondrous feeling and experience, which only serves to perpetuate the feeling you are special—it generates the enlightened ego. The enlightened ego is an arrogance of mind that has nothing to do with self-realization. It is part of the great illusion of Maya.
If the specialness of you, or ego, who is the one experiencing bliss, continues than the mind remains intact and patterns of suffering will reinstate themselves. The enlightened ego is like thinking the water in a mirage will quench your thirst—it is great trick of your genetic mind and ego. In other words, this is a bliss state deeply rooted in the arrogance of mind that inflates the ego, but does nothing to destroy the ego. As long as the egoic identity remains it simply does nothing to liberate you from the endless hell realm of samsara.
When you wake up in the morning the I-thought immediately leaps into your brain, which creates the deep feeling that the ego is real, but is it? What is the I-thought exactly? If you intimately examine this for yourself you can discover directly that the ego or I-thought is a powerful illusion of thought and feeling that has no real substance. It is seeing through this illusion that begins a deeper inquiry into the astounding happiness of pure being—the astounding, dumbfounding, stupendous JOY that you are in the core.
Ramana so beautifully illuminates, “When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?” The natural answer will emerge ‘To me’. Thereupon if one inquires ‘Who am I?’ the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source.”
This radical rigor of now is essential to develop the skill necessary to stay in the source until only the essence remains—this and only this is self-realization. This is Jnana marga—the bhakti path of freedom.
The true Jnani, realized one, is non-existent and in this emptiness is eternal bliss.