Talking about Atma Vichara

… and said that after Self-realisation there is no thinker of thoughts, no performer of actions and no awareness of individual existence.
– from the current Wikipedia entry on Self-Inquiry (Atma Vichara)

I haven’t studied Ramana Maharshi much, but I suspect this is an inaccurate translation.

There is no thinker or doer, or at least no identification as the gestalt (sensation-image) of a thinker or doer. The gestalts may still be there, or not, but they are no longer taken as what we are.

And there is no awareness of individual existence either, yet that phrasing may be a little misleading, possibly fitting into ideas of meditation as a way of zoning out: There is an individual existence, but no awareness of it, as if we had successfully banished it from awareness through sophisticated practices of denial.

It seems more helpful to say that there is a recognition of no individual existence, of an inherent absence of no individual existence. Or more accurately, a recognition of the separate I as imagined, as a gestalt only. That gestalt may still be there, or not, but no longer taken as what we are.

He considered this ‘I am the body’ idea as the primary source of all subsequent wrong identifications and its dissolution as the principal aim of self-enquiry.

Hm…. Again, it is true enough in a certain sense, but can also be a little misleading. When I explore it for myself, I find first the “me” gestalt of a person in the world, and it is made up of sensations, a body-image, and images of a personality with a history, roles in the world, and so on. The gestalt of a separate “I” is a little different. It takes the form of a doer and an observer, and these gestalts are made up of sensations in the head area and images of a doer or observer.

So the phrasing is true in that even the gestalt of a separate I is anchored on particular sensations. Yet, it can be misleading if we take the phrase “I am the body” to mean the “me” gestalt. Recognizing the “me” gestalt is helpful, but only the first step.

And the rest of the Wikipedia article makes this clear. It is only if taken out of context that these phrasings can be misleading, but it is still helpful to aim at being as accurate as possible when using words as pointers to these things.

And as always, it is the practice of it that is important. Even the most accurate pointers are still just pointers. And any clarity comes only through own investigation.

One thought to “Talking about Atma Vichara”

  1. Hi again. I’ve read quite a bit of Ramana’s works, and he had the habit of speaking near exclusively from the perspective of the dharmakaya (or close to that level of attainment). Pretty problematic from a practical perspective, especially when concerning morality. Buuut that said, his teachings helped me a ton in the beginning.

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