The Silencing Question

Posted on February 6th, 2010

Ramana’s injunction to “ask yourself, ‘who am I?’ ” is considered by many to be his most important teaching. It’s importance is in inducing the questioner to investigate “what is the source of the presumed entity which is asking the question?” (or any question, for that matter). The immediate source of any question—of all speculation, in fact—is the thought, the idea, that there is an “I” to pose the question: the innocent question “who am I?” can open the door to the provocative question “Is there an I?” Or is the “I” simply another thought form, as are any questions in association with it?

Yet, another of Ramana’s teachings is even more instructive. He reminds us that we spend about 25 years of the average lifetime in sleep. During a portion of these sleeping hours, we are aware (cognitively) of the fantasy images which we term dreams. But we are also, for the remainder of the time, in a non-aware condition of deep sleep. And thirdly, we spend a portion of our daytime hours in what is called the waking state.

Ramana points out that during the period of deep sleep, we are “dead to the world”. Self-referenced imaging ceases: we are not aware of our self—or any self or non-self—nor any other thing, or any conceived relationship between things. Our vital condition, our immediate presence, is that of (what could be called) pure spirit. No thoughts arise, there being no conception of an entity to which to attach them. In this condition, the question “who am I?” is automatically self-resolved.

Yet, there is a being—or rather, beingness—present: were one to be shaken by another’s hand, waking consciousness would reappear as certainly as if it had never been absent.
Thus, Ramana refers to the three states, or conditions, of presence (or beingness) which we all personally experience: the waking state: the dreaming state; and the state of deep, un-conscious sleep.

The latter is our unblemished, original condition of beingness— such as experienced in the womb, of which we have no cognitive memory. It is the condition upon which the “I”-oriented dream and waking states are superimposed.

Dreams yield to it, and the waking state gives way to it (as, for example, when we are anesthetized); it is the vital, underlying screen upon which our dream and waking images are enabled. Therefore, it can be said to be the source of our I-dominated perceptions, both in dreams and waking behavior.

What “you” truly are, then, in your primal form, is that which gives rise to—or creates—all that is known to the I, including its self. “You”, in your purest beingness, are not “I”; you are the source of the I—and all else which ostensibly is perceived by that presumed entity.

Ramana would say that this “you” is a “permanent” condition, therefore ever-actual or “real”. The “I” comes and goes, dying (daily) in its dream and waking states into its persistent dreamless condition; so the I is impermanent (being recreated daily) and is therefore not real, a phantasm.
In this sense (only), it is sometimes declared that there is Waking, Dream and Deep Sleep states, and the Fourth State; the latter being like a thread which supports the three (aforementioned) beads, and merely represents the beingness upon which the previous three states depend. Were this Fourth State to not be present (as in physical death), you would not experience waking, dreaming nor deep sleep. The underlying condition of all three is the vital, I-thought-free presence that is referred to as the Fourth State—your unceasing “true nature”.
What makes this (deeper) understanding of Ramana’s teaching so important is that it is an unerring graveyard for the stubborn I-thought. Whenever a perplexity arises to the cognitive “self”, Ramana would advise reflecting: “Did this dilemma arise during deep sleep?” No. Therefore, it is a non-real, a phantasmic, dilemma.

Did the question “who am I?” arise in deep sleep? No. Therefore, if you understand “who” you are in deep sleep, you need not concern yourself about it—or any other thought-generated concern, for that matter.

So, even more fruitful than asking your “self” who-am-I?, is the one-pointed reflection “Did this thought occur in deep sleep?” This reflection will silence the I-generated conflicts.

Posted in Living Nonduality, Nondual Teachers, Monograph    Tagged with Ramana Maharshi


Mind Bender - November 6th, 2010 at 7:59 AM
When you dream, yes it is subconscious. Scientists believe that you don't dream every time you sleep. Normally you have to be in a deep state of sleep, along with some feelings you have (whether they be happy, sad, angry, etc. that's what channels the type of dream you have). Studies say that if you are awakened by another force interfering (such as a person shaking your shoulder to wake you up, or an alarm clock) then the chances of you remembering your dream are slim, since it puts your body into a state of trying to figure out where you are, what you should be doing, etc. so your brain forgets it as it is not important. If you sleep until you are fully rested and wake up on your own, then the chances of you remembering your dream(s) is very high, since your body has had time to wake up slowly and think about everything. Some people may not dream at all because of constant disturbances during the night, or simply do not have the personal qualities to create such worlds while unconscious. The fact that they are subconscious does effect it to an extent, however it does not fully rely on that single factor. Like I said earlier, not everyone dreams, however everyone normally has the capability to dream. Some people cannot dream, for example someone with a past of mental illnesses may not be able to dream.

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