Friday, February 8, 2008

fed with the joy of silence

What is being attempted is 'looking at the mind by the mind". Attention of the mind which has so far not been on the individual, the thinker, the doer, but on his thoughts, is shifted back to the person. The individual is taken for granted and has not been given any attention. As a result, the mind's power has not been utilised for self-knowledge, knowledge about oneself. At this point, it is worth remembering that the mind is a dynamic force because of its essential content, namely consciousness, intelligence. The mind identifies itself with whatever object its attention is fixed on. The purpose of the effort and practice now suggested is to transfer the focus of the mind's attention to itself, to its centre. Consequently, the entire energy of the mind becomes available for revealing the nature of the mind - "by gathering itself from variety to thought-free unity of itself, it enjoys freedom from distraction ... the gaze turned on itself leads to the discovery of its nature".

Since the individual's "I"-thought rises simultaneously with the countless other thoughts and also because of the habitual attention of the mind being on the other thoughts, no care has been bestowed on the "I"-thought. In the Ramana way, the whole situation is met by replacing "thought attention by self-attention". If attention is fixed on the subject even as conceptualisation takes place, as the movement of thoughts gathers momentum or soon thereafter, one would be tackling the problem at its very inception.

Vigilance is needed not to be carried away by the swift thought current. Repeatedly attention is brought back to the individual. How? For self-attention Ramana gives two invincible tools, the first of which is in the form of the question "Who am I?

One begins by questioning for whom these thoughts occur. Since the thoughts are for the person, attention reverts to him. Thought formation is muzzled, nipped in the bud by this device for self-attention in the garb of a question. This switching back of attention to the "I" serves the important purpose of cutting it off from the company of other thoughts. In other words, the identification of the mind with the rest of the thoughts is scissored. The "I"-thought is isolated, actively observed and attacked by the intense enquiry "Who am I?"

The isolation of the central thought thus achieved is, however, not an end in itself. It is a step, no doubt an important one, in the intelligent journey back to the source. Here we have to press into service the complementary weapon, provided by Ramana, again in the form of a question, "Whence am I?", "Wherefrom does this "I"-thought arise?" The whole idea being one of merging the mind in its source. The disease is the identification of the pure mind with the impurities of the past as a result of the idea of separate existence. For eradicating this false notion the potent medicine is awakening of source consciousness through this method. The mind is constantly reminded of its true strength, its home and unity with the totality of life. "This practice of self-attention is a gentle technique which merely invokes awareness of the source from which the mind springs". Success depends on the extent to which one is saturated with the keen edge of enquiry. For there is no fixed time for its practice. Even while engaged in work, there can be, without any prejudice to the work itself, the under-current of attention on the "I" and its real nature as a powerful and silent vehicle of consciousness.

Recapitulating, the practice of self-enquiry separates the "I" from its association with other thoughts and the mind turns within. This happens more readily with growing awareness of its inner strength. Fed simultaneously with the invigorating tonic of source-awareness, the mind itself becomes the bridge back to its abode. When the mind is fed with the joy of silence the old habit of seeking links with the other thoughts gradually wanes till at last the mind stays submerged in the vast all-pervading silence of its source.

~ A.R. Natarajan, The Silent Mind

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