Actual Freedom – Selected Correspondence by Topic

Richard’s Selected Correspondence

On Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer (aka Ramana)


RICHARD: All genuinely enlightened beings point to a single edifying moment of awakening (with a variety of descriptions).

RESPONDENT: Who would you recognise as enlightened?

RICHARD: To give but three persons from the last 100 or so years as an example:

• Mr. Venkataraman yer, in mid-1896 at age 17, had his spiritual awakening when he suddenly felt a great fear of death; lying very still he imagined his body becoming a stiff, cold corpse. Following a traditional ‘neti-neti’ (not this, not that)’ practice, he began self-inquiry by asking ‘Who am I?’ and answering: ‘Not the body, because it is decaying; not the mind, because the brain will decay with the body; not the personality, nor the emotions, for these also will vanish with death’. His intense desire to know the answer brought him into an altered state of consciousness beyond the mind, a state of bliss called ‘Samadhi’ by the Hindus. He said: ‘But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body I? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the I within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless spirit. All this was not dull thought. It flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. I was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that I. From that moment onwards the I or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on’. Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer consequently taught the traditional Vedic philosophy that death and evil were maya (illusion) and that liberation from rebirth could be dissipated by the practice of ‘vicara’ (self-pondering inquiry) and ‘bhakti’ (devotional surrender) either to Shiva Arunachala or to Ramana Maharshi (as he was known by his disciples) by which the true Self and the unity of all things would be discovered. (Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica).

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RESPONDENT: Patanjali, Ramana ... this is so similar.

RICHARD: If I may ask ... how is it similar? I cannot see any correspondence whatsoever. Vis.:

• [The Patanjali Yoga-Sutras]; ‘The fifth stage (5) pratyahara (‘withdrawal’) involves control of the senses, or the ability to withdraw the attention of the senses from outward objects to the mind. These first five stages are called external aids to Yoga; the remaining three are purely mental or internal aids. (7) dhyana (‘concentrated meditation’) is the uninterrupted contemplation of the object of meditation, beyond any memory of ego and (8) Samadhi (‘self-collectedness’) is the final stage and is a precondition of attaining release from the cycle of rebirth. In this stage the meditator perceives or experiences the object of his meditation and himself as one.
• [Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer]: ‘The mind can find rest only when it has found the answer to the question ‘Who am I? By incessantly pursuing within yourself the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ you will know your true Self, and thereby attain perfection. The real ‘I’ or the Self is not any of the five senses, nor the sense-objects, nor the organs of action, nor the breath and vital forces, nor the mind. That which remains after excluding all of these is the real ‘I’. If one realises within the heart what one’s true nature is, one will find that it is infinite Wisdom, Truth, and Bliss, without beginning or end’. [endquote].
• [Richard]: ‘With the end of both ‘I’ and ‘me’, the distance or separation between both ‘I’ and ‘me’ and these sense organs – and thus the external world – disappears. To be living as the senses is to live a clear and clean awareness – apperception – a pure consciousness experience of the world as-it-is. Because there is no ‘I’ as a thinker (a little person inside one’s head) or a ‘me’ as a feeler (a little person in one’s heart) – to have sensations happen to them, I am the sensations. The entire affective faculty vanishes ... blind nature’s software package of instinctual passions is deleted. There is nothing except the series of sensations which happen ... not happening to an ‘I’ or a ‘me’ but just happening ... moment by moment ... one after another. To live life as these sensations, as distinct from having them, engenders the most astonishing sense of freedom and magic. Consequently, I am living in peace and tranquillity; a meaningful peace and tranquillity. Life is intrinsically purposeful, the reason for existence lies openly all around. Being in this very air I live in, I am constantly aware of it; I breathe it in and out; I see it, I hear it, I taste it, I smell it, I touch it, all of the time. It never goes away – nor has it ever been away – it was just that ‘I’/‘me’ was standing in the way of the meaning of life being apparent’ [endquote].

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RESPONDENT: Sounds like Ramana ... it even sound like No. 3.

RICHARD: If I may ask ... how does it ‘sounds like Ramana’? I cannot see any correspondence whatsoever between what I experience and describe and what Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer experienced and talked about. Vis.:

• [Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer]: ‘By incessantly pursuing within yourself the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ you will know your true Self, and thereby attain perfection. The real ‘I’ or the Self is not any of the five senses, nor the sense-objects, nor the organs of action, nor the breath and vital forces, nor the mind’. [endquote].
• [Richard]: ‘To be living as the senses is to live a clear and clean awareness – apperception – a pure consciousness experience of the world as-it-is. Because there is no ‘I’ as a thinker (a little person inside one’s head) or a ‘me’ as a feeler (a little person in one’s heart) – to have sensations happen to them, I am the sensations. There is nothing except the series of sensations which happen ... not happening to an ‘I’ or a ‘me’ but just happening ... moment by moment ... one after another. To live life as these sensations, as distinct from having them, engenders the most astonishing sense of freedom and magic’. [endquote].


RICHARD: The whole point of this Mailing List is to discuss together each others’ experience so as to clarify what oneself understands. There is enough written by enough people to find similarities that may be reliably taken as a prima facie case for investigation without having to believe anyone. It is called ‘establishing a working hypothesis’ ... and can further human knowledge and thus experience. One can read one saint’s, sage’s or seer’s words – and cross-reference them with other saint’s, sage’s or seer’s words – so as to gain a reasonable notion of what they are describing (pointing to). This is the whole point of communication: to share experience so that another does not have to travel down the same-same path and find out for themselves what others have already discovered.

RESPONDENT: I agree, thank you for these words. With that objective I would like to ask you what do you mean when saying ‘I’ as ego and ‘me’ as soul? What is the difference between ‘I’ and ‘me’ and between ego and soul? I cannot understand what you are trying to convey.

RICHARD: There are three I’s altogether but only one is actual. The first two ‘I’s are ‘I’ as ego and ‘I’ as soul (‘self’ and ‘Self’) which are the two halves of identity ... thus the first ‘I’ (ego or self) can dissolve/expand/transmogrify so as to reveal/create the second ‘I’ Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer (aka Ramana) spoke of (soul or Self). Usually I write it as ‘I’ as ego and ‘me’ as soul so as to emphasise that the second ‘I’ of Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer fame (‘I’ as soul/‘I’ as ‘Self’) is ‘me’ at the core of ‘my’ being ... which is ‘being’ itself (usually capitalised as ‘Being’ upon Self-Realisation).

Mystical liberation (Moksha) from the bonds of samsara (anava, karma and maya), consists of the soul (atman or purusha) extricating itself from its mistaken assumption of personality or individuality (aham or ‘I’ as ego). This assumption is because of its focus (‘ahamkara’ translates as ‘I-Maker’ in English) on the real-world (samsara or prakriti) and when there is the recognition of its total difference from it – and non-involvement in it – such enlightenment (Moksha) is the freedom from the fettering power of these reincarnational bonds. These bonds do not cease to exist but no longer have the power to fetter or bind the soul (atman), until its final release at physical death (Mahasamadhi) whereupon atman is Paramatman (or the Brahman) ... oft-times referred to as ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (‘That Thou Art’ or ‘I Am That’).

An actual freedom from the real-world (samsara or prakriti) is when both ‘I’ as ego and ‘me’ as soul become extinct – which means ‘being’ itself expires – and not what happens when ‘I’ as ego transmogrifies into ‘Being’ (Paramatman or Brahman). I use the first person pronoun, without smart quotes, to refer to this flesh and blood body sans ‘I’ as ego and ‘me’ as soul.

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RICHARD: The first two ‘I’s are ‘I’ as ego and ‘I’ as soul (‘self’ and ‘Self’) which are the two halves of identity ... thus the first ‘I’ (ego or self) can dissolve/expand/transmogrify so as to reveal/create the second ‘I’ Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer spoke of (soul or Self). Usually I write it as ‘I’ as ego and ‘me’ as soul so as to emphasise that the second ‘I’ of Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer fame (‘I’ as soul/‘I’ as ‘Self’) is ‘me’ at the core of ‘my’ being ... which is ‘being’ itself (usually capitalised as ‘Being’ upon Self-Realisation).

RESPONDENT: By which way the first ‘I’ (ego or self) can expand and create the second ‘I’ (‘I’ as soul/‘I’ as ‘Self’ as ‘me’)?

RICHARD: As a generalisation it has been traditionally held that there are three ways: 1. Jnani (cognitive realisation as epitomised by the ‘neti-neti’ or ‘not this; not this’ approach). 2. Bhakti (affective realisation as epitomised by devotional worship and surrender of will). 3. Yoga (bodily realisation as epitomised by the raising of ‘kundalini’ and the opening of ‘chakras’). It is also traditionally held that these broad definitions are not exclusive of each other (there are elements of Bhakti and Yoga in Jnani; there are elements of Jnani and Yoga in Bhakti; there are elements of Jnani and Bhakti in Yoga) and that they refer to the main emphasis, of the whole approach, on the part of the practitioner.

RESPONDENT: Do you mean that the second ‘I’ is not indeed a direct creation of the first ‘I’ (thought) ...

RICHARD: The first ‘I’, the ‘thinker’, is mostly the result of ‘me’, the ‘feeler’, at the core of ‘my’ being (which is ‘being’ itself) becoming intuitively self-conscious ... and the ‘feeling being’ is primary because ‘being’ is primordial. The first ‘I’ can create the second ‘I’s name and ascribe properties, assign qualities and attribute values according to personal feelings or cultural norms ... but the nature of ‘being’ itself eludes the comprehension of both self and Self.

RESPONDENT: ... but this first ‘I’ can decide to initiate a process of Jnani or Bhakti or Yoga and these processes will lead to the rising of a second ‘I’ which is not of thought?

RICHARD: Yes ... ‘rising’ is as good a word as any (‘emergence’, ‘appearance’, ‘manifestation’ and so on) inasmuch the second ‘I’ is ignorantly allowed to have free reign anyway.

RESPONDENT: If so, is there not a second ‘I’ in a flesh and blood body if never involved in these ways or processes during the physical life?

RICHARD: Oh, yes, the ‘soul’ or ‘being’ is ever-present ... ‘tis the deepest feeling of being ‘me’ (deeper than the surface emotions).

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RESPONDENT: Is thought involved in this process?

RICHARD: Only initially ... the goal is to become thoughtless and senseless because that which is sacred, holy, cannot come into being whilst thought (cognition) and perception (sensation) are operating.

RESPONDENT: Do you mean by ‘thoughtless’ without mental chattering?

RICHARD: No ... the total cessation of cognition in its entirety (including wordless acknowledgement/ registration).

RESPONDENT: When mind is in this situation awareness through the senses increase hugely, so that what do you mean by ‘senseless’?

RICHARD: I am not referring to ‘Nature Mysticism’ ... by ‘senseless’ I mean literally no sensation (no sensate experience) whatsoever. The total cessation of cognition (including wordless acknowledgement/ registration) requires that all perception ceases ... including proprioceptive sensations. There is no consciousness at all ... this consciousness-less state is what the Sanskrit word ‘dhyana’ (mistranslated as ‘meditation’) refers to in the East (known as ‘jhana’ in Pali). It is otherwise known as ‘entering into samadhi’, a trance state called catatonia in the West (or catalepsy) wherein, in Buddhist terminology, ‘Form’ and ‘Feeling’ and ‘Perception’ and ‘Mental Fabrications’ and ‘Consciousness’ cease to exist totally.

Apart from Mr. Venkataraman Aiyer (aka Ramana) in his early years, possibly the best-known example could be Mr. Gadadhar Chattopadhyay (aka Ramakrishna) ... onlookers can see the body is totally inward-looking, totally self-absorbed, totally immobile, totally functionless: the body cannot and does not talk, walk, eat, drink, wake, sleep ... or type E-Mails to mailing lists. A never-ending ‘dhyana’ or ‘samadhi’ would result in the body wasting away until its inevitable physical death ... as a means of obtaining peace-on-earth it is completely useless.


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