The Mother Divine
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By Sadhu Om as recorded by Michael James
5th December 1978

Sadhu Om: If we worry about other people or what is happening in this world, even if our concern is motivated by the sāttvika qualities of love and compassion, that shows that we still have a satya-buddhi [sense of reality] regarding the world. So long as we take this world to be real, we will be concerned about it and the people we see in it, and our concern will prompt us to face outwards, away from ourself. This is why Bhagavan taught us that whatever world we see is no more real than any world we see in a dream. It is just a mental fabrication, so it seems to exist only when we are aware of it.

Only if we are willing to accept this will we have sufficient vairāgya [freedom from desire, attachment and so on] to be able to dive within deep enough to obtain the ātma-muttu [the pearl of self- knowledge]. Therefore,ultimately, we must be willing to give up even the sāttvika feelings of love and compassion for others.

When Bhagavan said [in the nineteenth paragraph of NāṉĀr? (Who am I?)], ‘Likes and dislikes are both fit [for one] to dislike [spurn or renounce]’, he implied that we need to give up all concern about anything other than ourself. Only when we do so will we be willing to turn within and surrender ourself entirely.

Sadhu Om [while discussing intense yearning for Bhagavan’s grace and the prayers that come welling up out of one’s heart as a result of such yearning]: Ignore the one who complains, lamenting the state of separation from him. There is a great power that is working within us rectifying our defects. The more we come to know of its working, the more ego will yield itself to that, thereby withdrawing from activity and subsiding. Finally, peace alone will remain. It was in such a state of yearning and complaining that RamaṇaSahasram [a thousand verses that Sadhu Om wrote praying for jñāna] came out. The mind will complain and complain about its state of separation until finally it no longer remains to complain about anything.

Sadhu Om: When I first came to Bhagavan and thought deeply about his teachings, I came to three important conclusions.

The first of these conclusions is that of the three characteristics that he said define reality, namely eternal, unchanging and self-shining; self-shining (svayamprakāśa) is the one essential characteristic.

Neither eternal nor unchanging on their own, nor both of them together, can be sufficient to define what is real, because if we try to decide what is real without considering whether or not it is self-shining, we could conclude that something insentient is real. For example, we could argue that physical space is eternal and unchanging, so it is real. But how do we know that it is eternal or unchanging? How do we know that it even exists? It seems to exist only because we are aware of it, so it seeming existence is dependent upon our awareness of it. How can anything that depends for its seeming existence upon some other thing be real? Therefore, nothing that is insentient and hence not aware of its own existence can be real.

In order to be real, a thing must be aware of its own existence, and this is what Bhagavan means by being self-shining. Whatever is not self-shining cannot be real, even if it seems to be eternal and unchanging.

If we carefully consider the meaning of self-shining, it will be clear that whatever is self-shining must also be eternal and unchanging, so the characteristic of being self-shining includes within itself these other two characteristics of reality. We can understand this by considering some examples.

Some people may consider the sun to be self-shining, for instance, but we can repudiate such an idea by pointing out that the sun is not aware of its own existence, so to make its existence known it must depend upon another light, namely the light of the mind that perceives it. Therefore, whatever is insentient (jaḍa) is not truly self-shining in the sense that Bhagavan uses this term.

Since the seeming existence of all insentient things is illumined by the mind, is the mind self-shining? No, it cannot be, because if it were self-shining it would shine even in sleep. Since it does not shine in sleep, it does not exist then, because existence and shining are one and the same thing. Existence is uḷḷadu or sat, and shining is uṇarvu or cit, and as Bhagavan explained in verse 23 of UpadēśaUndiyār, uḷḷadu [what exists] is uṇarvu [awareness]: because of the non-existence of [any] awareness other [than what exists] to be aware of what exists, what exists (uḷḷadu) is awareness (uṇarvu). Awareness alone exists as we.

Whatever seems to exist at one time but not at another time does not actually exist even when it seems to exist. Therefore, since the mind seems to exist only in waking and dream but not in sleep, it does not actually exist at all. Its existence is just a seeming existence, so its awareness (shining) is just a seeming awareness and not real awareness.

Since the mind does not shine in sleep, the property of shining (awareness) is not natural to it. In other words, shining is not the svabhāva [own nature] of the mind. The light by which it shines is one that it borrows from some other source, namely ātma-svarūpa [the real nature of ourself], which is the light of pure awareness.

What actually shines by its own light, therefore, is only our real nature, because we alone exist and shine in sleep, and we do so without the aid of any other light, because nothing other than ourself exists then. Everything else appears and disappears, but we exist and shine by our own light of pure awareness at all times and in all states without ever undergoing any change, so we alone are eternal, unchanging and self-shining. Therefore what is real is only ourself, as Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of NāṉĀr, ‘yathārthamāyuḷḷaduātma-sorūpamoṉḏṟē’, ‘What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [the real nature of oneself]’, and in verse 13 of UḷḷaduNāṟpadu, ‘ñāṉamāmtāṉēmey’, ‘Oneself, who is jñāna [awareness], alone is real’.

By considering thus, we can see that unless a thing is eternal, it cannot be self-shining, because though it sometimes seems to exist and shine, it does not always exist and shine, so even when it does shine it must do so by whatever light illumines both its appearance and its disappearance. Likewise, unless it is unchanging, it cannot be eternal, because it is one thing before each change and another thing afterwards, and since it is not eternal, it cannot be self-shining. Whatever is truly self-shining, therefore, must necessarily be eternal and unchanging.

The light of pure awareness, which is our real nature, is what illumines both the mind in waking and dream and its absence in sleep. However, what the word ‘illumines’ means in this context is not ‘knows’ but ‘makes known’, and it is important to understand this distinction, because what knows the seeming existence of the mind in waking and dream is not pure awareness but only the mind itself. Without the background light of pure awareness, the mind could not know anything, either itself or anything else, but in the clear view of pure awareness there is no mind at all. The mind as such is a shadow, and light can never know a shadow.

However, though the mind is a shadow, it is not only a shadow, but a mixture of light and shadow, because it is cit-jaḍa-granthi, a knot (granthi) formed by the seeming entanglement of awareness (cit) with a body, which is insentient (jaḍa). The cit element of the mind is pure awareness, which is never aware of anything other than itself, but it is what illumines the mind, enabling it to know both itself [the subject or perceiver] and everything else [the objects or phenomena]. All the phenomena known by the mind are just shadows, because they are jaḍa, so they are not known by the clear light of pure awareness, but they are known by the mind, because the mind is not a pure light but a mixture of light and shadow, cit and jaḍa.

Therefore, though the light of pure awareness makes the mind known, it does not make it known to itself [pure awareness] but only to the mind. The mind exists only in its own view and not in the view of our real nature. Hence, our real nature is not aware of the presence of mind in waking and dream, so it is not aware of its absence in sleep. In its view it alone exists, so it is not aware of any changes, nor is it aware of any state other than its own eternal and unchanging state of pure awareness.

Who then is aware of the absence of the mind in sleep? In sleep no one is aware of its absence, because the fact that it is absent in sleep is just an idea that exists in its view in waking and dream. Therefore, when it is said that the light of pure awareness illumines the presence of the mind in waking and dream and its absence in sleep, what that means is that it lends its light to the mind, thereby enabling the mind to know both that it [the mind] is present in waking and dream and that it was absent in sleep.

The mind borrows its light of awareness from our real nature, but it misuses this light to know things other than itself. This is like directing the beam of sunlight reflected from a mirror into a dark cave and thereby using it to know whatever objects are in that cave. If instead that reflected beam of light were directed back to its source, the sun, it would merge and be lost in the bright light of the sun. Likewise, instead of using the light of the mind to know anything other than ourself, if we were to direct it back to its source, ourself, it would merge and be lost in the bright light of pure awareness, as Bhagavan implies in verse 22 of UḷḷaduNāṟpadu:

Consider, except by, turning the mind back within, completely immersing it in God, who shines within that mind giving light to the mind, how to fathom God by the mind?

What he refers to here as pati, the Lord or God, is our real nature (ātma-svarūpa), which is the light of pure awareness. If in this way we turn our entire mind or attention away from all phenomena backto face the light of pure awareness, which is its essential cit element, what will remain shining is only real awareness, which is what we actually are, as Bhagavan implies in verse 16 of UpadēśaUndiyār:

Leaving aside external viṣayas [phenomena], the mind knowing its own form of light is alone real awareness [true knowledge or knowledge of reality].

The second and most important of the three conclusions I reached after reflecting carefully on Bhagavan’s teachings is that ego will be destroyed only when it attends to itself alone, because as he says in verse 25 of UḷḷaduNāṟpadu, ego is a formless phantom that comes into existence, stands and nourishes itself by grasping form, which means by attending to anything other than itself, so if it tries to grasp itself alone, it will dissolve back into the source from which it arose, which is what he means by saying, ‘tēḍiṉālōṭṭampiḍikkum’, ‘If sought, it will take flight’. This is why he implies in so many other places, such as in verses 22 and 27 of UḷḷaduNāṟpadu, that we cannot know our real nature and thereby eradicate ego by any means other than turning our attention back within to investigate the source from which we have risen.

The third conclusion I reached, which logically follows on from the second one, is that the more we attend to ego the more it will subside. In other words, in order to keep ego in check we must watch it vigilantly, and in order to surrender ourself entirely we must persevere in our attempts to attend to ourself as keenly and as constantly as possible.

(To be continued)

Michael James assisted Sri Sadhu Om in translating Bhagavan’s Tamil writings and Guru VācakaKōvai. Many of his writings and translations have been published, and some of them are also available on his website, happinessofbeing.

Courtesy: Mountain Path