Maharishi’s talks and dialogues influenced a generation and more. He is the preeminent modern spokesman, nonpareil, in the cause of Advaitha-Vedantha. His own roots begin with Yagnavalkya and trace down through Shankaracharya. Here is his principal method:
‘After negating [all]..as ‘Not-This!; Not-This!’, that Awareness which alone remains-that I am…Pure Consciousness, unrelated to the body and transcending the mind… Self is the sub-stratum of all experience..’
This is of course the unrounded Yājñavalkya’s Rule. When properly rounded and taken to its necessary limit, it terminates not at any modeled notion of ‘Self’ but at Shūnyam.
Nisargadatta Maharaj’s talks and writings drew an active and wide following. Along with Ramana Maharishi, I consider him one of those rare authentic teachers of Advaitha Vedantha in a field crowded with sharp salesmen and feeble consumers.
‘To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. Discover all that you are not-body, feelings, thoughts, time, space, this or that-nothing, concrete or abstract, which you can perceive can be you. The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive.
The clearer you understand that on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, the quicker will you come to the end of your search and realize that you are the limitless being. You are already ‘That’.’
As with Ramana Maharishi, the primary tool of Inquiry is Yājñavalkya’s Rule. When properly rounded and taken to its necessary limit, it terminates again, not at any modeled notion of ‘Self’ but at Shūnyam.
Where did Vedanthins go off-track? Yājñavalkya’s Rule, the loop of ‘Not This! Not This!’ is left unrounded, has been made linear. The self-negation is incomplete. And the placement of ‘Being’, a steel spine, is needed to hold up the rickety structure.
Ever since the days of Gauḍapādācārya, a principal founder of Vedantha, the most influential of intellectual [in counterpoint to devotional and other] Hindu Traditions, a synonym for ‘That’ has been ‘True Self’.
The intuition is simple. Extract and nullify the imagined Modeled-Self and what you have by default is ‘True-Self’. Lose the Modeled-Self. Arrive at ‘Self’.
But a very slippery one as the later evolution of the Tradition shows. ‘True Self’ is a dangerously familiar word and amenable to endless modulation by short-stopped teachers. There is no end to the number of commentaries that have followed waxing effusively about the Nature of the ‘True Self’. Nothing could be more erroneous.
Why is that? It’s because the very notion of a ‘True Self’ is the leftover remains of a Modeled Self. The idea of a ‘Necessary Immutable Subject’ is the tail-end of a Modeled View, the made-up prism of the ‘Subject-Object’ divide. By insisting on it you are just not willing to let go the first cleaving, not willing to take the dive over the Cliff’s Edge.
The premise is that Man is already fallen and needs escape from a cruel and illusory world. That there is a cosmic game afoot and Man must wake up, fight-loose from his ensnarement, play his role and find his freedom, his salvation.
In Advaitha Vedantha, the self-scuttling disconnects before the final, fatal thrust. All this is the unburnt remains of a modeled-world inadequately put to flame.
In the right hands, ‘True Self’ is a helpful term, just as is ‘Not-Two’. But that is exceptionally rare and not worth the search when easier ways are readily documented. But the intuition is very appealing, and fraught with potential for miscue. Try and not grasp at it unless you are with someone who really knows these back-roads.
The Vedanthins went further than most. But the innumerable new variations and competing claims, every one arisen from a stopping-short of True Nothing, created an entire industry of spiritual tourism
‘Being’ as ‘Original [or Universal] Self’ is for sale in every enterprising Ashram in today’s India. Every Guru worth his holiness will pitch it to you, But first firmly encrusting it in inscrutable, impenetrable layers of mystery, forever above reach, always ‘Just around the corner if you practice some more’. Brahman for sale.
Carl Jung famously called Ramana Maharishi the ‘whitest spot on a white space’ [or something very close]. They would have gotten along. And in his writings and talks he was my first mentor [and likely, a distant if reluctant relative]. But I had to move on and find my way to Shūnyam.
I have read discourses as one by Ramana Maharishi where this notion of ‘Witnessing Being’ in time melts away leaving nothing in its place. A delayed arrival at Shūnyam. But they are rare and never laid out with conviction, being delegated to a footnote. Most of the body of the discourse is on the terminus of an ‘Original Self’.
This central theme of ‘A Cosmic Game Afoot’ is present, is a necessity, for the purveying of every formal organized religion. I have a full Post on it which I will put-up as soon as I find it.