We’re so happy to feature a new book giveaway!
Please enjoy this excerpt from “The Hero of Our Story” by Edwin Faust.
There are 2 ways to enter to win a FREE hard copy:
- Leave a comment below with your email address (so we can contact you)
- Email us at KOMWriting@gmail.com with the Subject: The Hero of Our Story giveaway entry
The winner will be randomly selected on 10/24/22 and announced on our website and social media. *
When we know who we truly are, rather than who we take ourselves to be, we will realize that we are indeed the hero of our story and that we need not look to others or the world to find our heart’s desire.
The Hero of Our Story is intended to be a simple and accessible entry point for those interested in Ramana and the teachings of Vedanta — one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. A commentary on Ramana’s Sat Darshanam, each of the 42 verses from the text is presented and followed by commentary and discussion by the author.
Excerpt: Longing for Love
“… Can that “I” which comes and goes be experienced by me unless there is an “I” which does not come and go?” The “I” feeling referred to here is that identification of the self with our experience; and as our experience is always changing, the “I” feeling is likewise always changing.
How many different experiences of “I” feeling do we have in the course of a day? At 11 a.m. we may think, “I am smart”, and by noon we may think, with equal conviction, “I am stupid.” Both opinions are triggered by something that has happened or by some memory that has recurred. Which opinion is true? Neither. For that which is real does not come and go: it remains in past, present and future. This is the Vedantic definition of reality (vastu).
Reality, in Vedantic parlance, is that which cannot be negated. Negation (badhita) occurs when one thought-form is replaced by another. Every thought about the body and mind can be negated. In fact, it inevitably will be negated. Try to stop this from happening and see how well you succeed.
Change is all we seem to experience despite an intense and often painful longing for that which does not change. Yet who is the knower of change? Can change be known except by that which does not change? Is not the “I” that witnesses the I-am-stupid thought the same “I” that witnesses the I-am-smart thought? Is there not an “I” that is real, that is unaffected by the ceaseless flux of thoughts, the never-ending process of negation?
This is the principal question asked by one who has begun seriously to wonder who he really is. And this is where Ramana starts his Sat-Darshanam: the changing “I” depends upon the unchanging “I.”
So what is this unchanging “I”?
We begin each “I” thought with “I am _____,” then we fill in the blank variously. If the blanks we fill in, the attributes we assume to be our nature, can be negated, they cannot be the real “I.” As these “I” thoughts dissolve, one after another, to be replaced by the succeeding thought, the one thing that is ever present is the “I am.” We, as conscious beings, persist amid all the changing experiences. In fact, without the constant “I am”, the chameleon “I am such and such” – the ego – cannot exist. In fact, it does not exist in the strict sense, but appears as a series of fleeting and intermittent thoughts to the changeless aware being that we always are.
In Shankaracharya’s Laghu Vakya Vritti, we are told, “Pure consciousness should be distinguished from reflected consciousness with great effort (atiyatnaha).” What is “pure consciousness?” Ramana identifies it as the “Heart”, that is, our core identity. Reflected consciousness is the “I” feeling – the shifting thoughts that we superimpose upon the genuine “I”, which is “free from thoughts”. This distinction is not easily made, which is why Shankara adds the phrase, “with great effort” and why Ramana writes 43 more verses.
Some translations opt for “devoid of thoughts” instead of “free from thoughts,” but the latter seems the better wording as it is less liable to cause misunderstanding. There are teachers and explanatory texts that represent Vedanta as advocating the destruction of the mind, whatever that may mean. Such counsel is often attributed to Ramana. But the mind is given us as an instrument of knowledge. Without our ability to reason, to discriminate, there would be little point to a teaching tradition that offers us freedom from the tyranny of identifying with experience. In fact, if the destruction of the mind were the summum bonum, lobotomies would be a direct path to liberation and gurus could be replaced by brain surgeons.
Without going too far afield at this early stage, it might be worth mentioning that human beings in the waking state cannot be “devoid of thoughts.” We can, however, be “free from thoughts.” This means we do not identify with the thoughts that come and go and that constitute what we call experience. The thought, “I am stupid” may occur to someone who is enlightened as well as to someone still struggling with ignorance, but their respective reactions will differ: one who has self-knowledge will not be affected by the thought; one who does not will believe that his “I” is indeed a stupid “I” and will experience all the embarrassment, regret and humiliation that identifying with such a thought visits upon us.
These revolving “I” thoughts bring us pleasure and pain, but mostly pain. We try to maximize the one and minimize the other, but the wheel keeps turning and we cannot stop it. The good news is that we are not our shifting thoughts. If we were, we would have no stable sense of the self. Yet we do have such a sense. It is the one thing we never lose, can never lose. We can think we are many different things, but we cannot think ourselves out of existence. Try it and see what happens.
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