- Student’s Journal
The meaning of the word self inquiry is to understand or know about oneself. This sounds very simple in words but anyone who has tried doing it even for a few minutes, he/she shall be confronted with the stupendous complexity of the mind. The most common reason for people to come to self inquiry is to end suffering without resorting to any belief. In today’s world, because of such a profusion of paths and teachers, it is not very difficult for a seeker to find out various paths that talk about self inquiry. In my opinion the teachings of J Krishnamurti, which I also teach in my NEEV Psycho-Philosophy Group, are one of the best to begin with. It is from Krishnamurti I learnt that the cause of our suffering is not due to some supernatural force or energy, but due to the way our minds are conditioned. He never cared to develop a system of his teachings. Instead, he preferred a live inquiry in the form of a dialogue where he would take up a question from a seeker and examine it, tear it down to bits, much like Socrates did, so that every belief and assumption held in the question would reveal itself in the furnace of such a penetrating dialogue. By eliminating everything false, the truth remains: such was his method.
In this article I am presenting such a dialogue with a student of the NEEV Psycho-Philosophy Group, where he starts out examining the notion of success, failure and comparison in society, in his journal. The dialogue starts going deeper as it moves from the leaves, to the branches to the trunk of the mind. The dialogue reveals the overwhelming tendency of the mind to land on an answer, to arrive at a certainty, to land on a conclusion on which it can build its comfortable nest. It is the task of the teacher to keep demolishing the nest the student is trying to build by advancing answers, so that he/she find quick relief from suffering. In my last article, “The Difference Between Thinker and Observer in Advaita: A Dialogue” I had talked about how one needs to shift from being a thinker to an observer if one has to undergo the subtle level of inquiries in Advaita. The dialogue in this article shows how one can make this shift and the massive difficulties encountered by a student’s mind in making this shift. It took me about seventeen years of inquiry to shift totally from being a thinker to an observer. Without this step, none can hope to make any progress in any path of self inquiry or Jnana Yoga. It is the base on which all future self inquiry at the most advanced levels rests upon.
The idea of success. What is it? What does it give us? What does it mean by being successful? Literally, the word means: not to fail. But what is the problem in failing? Isn’t it just a label. Nothing can be achieved in the first attempt. To reach a goal or in other words to achieve success one needs to go through a lot of attempts, i.e., a lot of failures. But they are just attempts named a failure. What is wrong in the word? It is wrong only when it is relative to someone else who is a reference mark who has succeeded, but you failed. But why the comparison? Apart from being a psychological thing is comparison required? The comparison for an individual begins right from childhood when a child is compared for his/her looks. Then the individual goes to school, and they are compared on the basis of grades. Comparison on the basis of gender, caste and wealth. There is a difference in the way you are treated if you are successful or come from a successful background. The mind wants recognition and superiority because of this comparison. It thinks what is life without being successful, recognized and superior. It wants the experience of being superior to others. Furthermore, it wants authority. But the world we live in is ever-changing and success cannot be a static state. Life is like a wave with its crests and troughs. The mind fancies happiness and hates misery. The idea of losing all one has makes one fearful and anxiety steps in. All acts are done with a flavour of anxiety, fearing that success might leave one. So, if we have an idea of success and failure we will always have fear. How do we get rid of the fear? When we do a root cause analysis we find that comparison is to be blamed, because success is a relative concept. There is no absolute success.
Anurag: Of course the idea of success is rooted in comparison. Now ask further, what is the root of comparison?
Student: To be superior to everybody?
Anurag: And why do you want that?
Student: Because since childhood I was compared and I was told that somebody was better than me
Anurag: So? Why continue with this conditioning?
Student: I want to get rid of it. But I keep doing it. I sometimes feel that I am not good enough. I feel that if I behave in a certain way and achieve something I will be better.
Anurag: See good enough is again comparison. You compare to feel superior. Then I am asking why you want to feel superior. You said conditioning. I asked why continue? Now move further. Don’t create circular arguments. Get my point?
Student: I do not have a valid point which can cancel out the conditioning
Anurag: Exactly. Because you don’t know the reason for wanting to continue your conditioning.
Anurag: Think and tell 🙂
Student: OK. I will think more. 🙂
Anurag: We always do things for some perks. Right?
Student: Yes. I want to have the feeling of superiority. I want to have power
Student: Because when I was a kid I was the tiniest till grade 10 and there was a lot of bullying, not physical. My dad was principal and was strict and kids did not like me because of that fact. I am scared that I might be bullied again. So I want to have power. I don’t want to be wronged
Anurag: Ok. So stay alone 🙂
Student: I want to do fight back who did this to me. I want to be calm and peaceful, but a virtue cannot be forced. Till the time I have this anger. I won’t be at peace
Anurag: Yes I understand. So will taking out revenge solve the anger
Student: I think it will have a closure. I mean that’s what my mind thinks
Anurag: So why don’t you seek a closure?
Student: I am seeking
Anurag: Then where is the problem? 🙂
Student: The account is not closing.😅 Too much of debt 🙂
Anurag: Alright. So it’s just a matter of time. One day the debts shall be repaid.
Student: Will it close if I want to close it? Is it that easy?
Anurag: Yes. Just a matter of time. Isn’t it?
Student: I will be so happy when I accept it.
Anurag: Accept what? That you will achieve closure someday by seeking revenge?
Student: I did not have a very good relationship with my dad also. He was always patronizing towards us. So I have issues with authority figures. Like a senior to me.
Anurag: This. Stick to this, “ I will be so happy when I accept it.”
Student: OK. Accept it just as an experience in live and move on.
Anurag: But remember your solution is to seek revenge. You said it above. The only problem was that it is going to take some time.
Student: But I don’t want to consciously. I can’t even take revenge because it will not be of any benefit
Anurag: So one part of you wants and the other doesn’t. Right?!
Anurag: So how can you have any closure with two opposing desires?
Student: Never ever
Anurag: So. What is the way out now? You seemed very sure of your solution earlier.
Student: To let go of the desire
Student: By discrimination? Because it does not go with what I want
Anurag: Wait a minute. What does not go and what is it that you want?!
Student: I meant the revenge part does not serve anymore, to my future goals and it is a burden
Anurag: But you seemed sure about it as a solution a while ago. You just said that the debts are too high so taking time. What was the problem with the solution?
Student: No, I was not sure about the solution. I was saying my heart wants to get revenge, but I don’t t think it as a solution.
Anurag: Why is revenge not a solution?
Student: Because it’s too late
Anurag: For what?
Student: To take revenge
Student: The people who did it are no more in my life. But I am scared that I might have to go through the same
Anurag: Your father is alive right?
Student: Yes, he is. I was talking about my batch mates. Now things are better
Anurag: You don’t want to seek revenge from your father for being an authority figure.
Student: He is old now.
Student: I don’t want to take revenge. He will go through pain. When he has no control over anything.
Anurag: Why? Because he is your father? If he were your batch mate, you would?
Student: I had fights with him. I did not talk to him for long. If my batchmate did, I would, yes. I would at least do something that I was satisfied. At least let my anger out.
Anurag: Why this discrimination?
Student: Because he is my father. It would be wrong if I don’t accept it.
Anurag: So? Revenge is revenge, right?
Student: It is
Anurag: Wrong by which and whose standard?
Student: If I don’t accept that I would not take revenge because he is my father. I meant to say that
Anurag: Did I tell you it is wrong?
Student: I felt that I was pretending
Anurag: What was your pretence?
Student: In hiding the fact that I would not take revenge because he was my father. I was hiding the reason
Anurag: So your solution of revenge is not total and absolute. There are so many considerations along with it.
Anurag: So has this solution ever worked for you?
Student: Well I never took revenge, because I had the burden of being the good boy at all times. Good employee good son good everything. I want to hear that is a good boy. Actually he is the best😅
Anurag: Aren’t we going in circles. You said earlier that you are employing your solution of seeking revenge.
Student: But that is not what I want. I want a closure to this feeling. I want peace.
Anurag: So we are back to your conflict. Right?
Anurag: Why not seek revenge? Take one side of the conflict.
Student: OK. I will look bad, that was the concern. If I seek revenge I will not be the good boy
Anurag: So that again brings you to another conflicting desire. Lol !
Student: Yes. I can’t tell you what I feel in my heart. A lot of burden.
Anurag: So then what is the problem now? We started with revenge, superiority, comparison etc as problems. What is the problem now?
Student: Now, I feel lighter.
Student: Because it was lying in my heart.
Anurag: So you needed to go through a confession sort of thing?
Student: Naah! Problem is that I have those feelings.
Anurag: So. What is the problem in those feelings?
Student: I don’t feel good about me having such feelings.
Anurag: So what to do now?
Student: Nothing, they can be there. I can just see them.
Anurag: But you just said that you don’t feel good about them?
Student: Yes, I want to get rid of them. Not have any feelings at all. Because I consider having such feelings wrong
Anurag: But you just said now that you don’t have a problem too? Why?
Student: Because they are considered bad by the society. Then I will not fit in the definition of a good man, because I have bad thoughts.
Anurag: OK. So what is the solution now?
Student: To let them be and see them without any judgment?
Anurag: Does this solve your problem?
Student: Not immediately. Because that is a belief which I have about the society about good and bad
Student: By letting go of the belief then
Anurag: What is the belief?
Student: That something is good or bad.
Anurag: But society does consider things as good and bad and rewards and punishes accordingly.
Student: Yes, it does.
Student: But then people do good and bad things all the time without worrying. Why is it that moral standards apply to me?
Anurag: So be like the rest. Is that the solution?
Student: No. I don’t want to be like rest.
Anurag: Why not?
Student: Because being in a society you have to have good conduct.
Anurag: But you said you DON’T want to be like the rest?
Student: Yes, I meant not like who do bad things.
Anurag: OK. But you have bad thoughts?
Anurag: Then. What to do about them?
Student: Just watch them? Because I can’t do anything about my thoughts.
Anurag: We are going in circles again.
Student: I don’t have an answer, sir. Shall I get back to you with this tomorrow? I will think over it.
Anurag: Right. Absolutely right.
Student: So that was the right answer
Anurag: What do you do when you don’t have an answer?
Student: Hahaha. I think about it.
Anurag: First, we never ever come to this. That we don’t have an answer.
Anurag: Does thinking get an answer?
Student: No. Remaining with what is
Anurag: Why? Don’t just give textbook answers. Why does thinking not give any answer? Do you see this or you believe it?
Student: I believe it 😶 Thinking brain is not for psychological problems
Anurag: Another textbook answer.
Student: You wrote it somewhere. I copied it. Apologies.
Anurag: So what to do now?
Student: I do not know. Actually.
Anurag: Good. Now stay here. What does one do when one does not know?!
Student: I get impatient.
Student: For not knowing.
Anurag: And then?
Student: And then feel bad that I became impatient and that is not what I want. And then the whole game of thoughts.
Anurag: Absolutely. So now what?
Student: So stop thinking. Yay!
Anurag: Can you stop thinking?
Student: Then just let the thought be and not get bothered by it. Ignore it. Just let is pass
Anurag: But you do get bothered?
Student: Realize that it is just a thought
Student: And it does not affect me
Anurag: Is that a belief or a reality?
Student: Looks like a reality to me.
Anurag: Are you sure?!
Student: Thought does not affect. They are just thoughts. It is me who considers them good or bad
Anurag: Lol ! So what was this whole dialogue about?
Student: About how thoughts were bothering me. They were thoughts with labels. And I gave them the labels. Now I have removed the labelling filter.
Anurag: Then. What happened now? The society judges and labels you even if you don’t label your thoughts.
Anurag: Then? 🙂
Student: I am again without an answer
Anurag: Great !
Anurag: So what do you do now. When you don’t have any answer?
Student: Realize that it is just thought.
Anurag: And then what happens?
Student: Then they don’t bother me
Anurag: Society still labels you.
Student: That is the truth we have to live with
Anurag: Good. So suffering is inevitable.
Anurag: 🙂 I thought you were inquiring into the end of all suffering?
Student: I was about to ask you then why we are pursuing this. The end goal is to get rid of suffering.
Anurag: I don’t know. You tell me.
Student: I want to end all suffering.
Student: That is the goal in my life now. I don’t want suffering
Anurag: But you answered me this question, “Good. So suffering is inevitable” with a “yes”.
Student: There was no question mark. I thought it was a statement and I concurred.
Anurag: Even then. You concurred. 🙂
Student: Suffering can only go away when I let go of my subjectivity. When everything is me. When I realize it. When I realize my true nature
Anurag: What do you mean by subjectivity? See your problem was society labels you.
Student: Me being the subject and the world being the object. The duality.
Anurag: Then what will happen. Will society stop labeling you?!
Student: No it will keep doing but then society is not under my control.
Anurag: You know this even now. Without any inquiry.
Student: Yes. I know that.
Student: Then I need to have a clear understanding.
Anurag: About what?!
Student: Even death is inevitable, can I do anything about it? That society will do what it does. It should not bother me.
Anurag: Again you are going in circles. It does bother you.
Student: Yes right now it does.
Student: But then the path promises end of suffering. Isn’t it?
Anurag: So the path is a pill for you? An anesthesia for your pain?
Student: Wasn’t that the reason everybody enters? To end suffering? Desire for freedom? Isn’t that end of suffering.
Anurag: Why don’t you go to a psychologist?
Student: I don’t think psychologist can give me what I want
Student: I want absolute freedom.
Anurag: So where does psychology fall short?
Student: Well I can go to a psychologist. But I did not think it will give me what I want. I did not see psychology as a means to my goal
Anurag: Why does psychology not give absolute freedom?
Student: Because the books I read a couple of books on the working of mind, and it did not end my suffering.
Student: Because they all deal with thought
Anurag: And how is self inquiry different?
Student: Well it says end of suffering. If I choose a goal I will pursue that field. I cannot be playing football to have enlightenment.
Anurag: And what is the aim of psychology?
Student: Sir, I am not so well informed about psychology.
Anurag: So you have come to self inquiry without seeing other options.
Student: Is that your opinion?
Anurag: Does it matter?
Student: I know in my heart that I tried everything. Whatever I could. I even read books on meditation, Kundalini awakening etc. Does it make me a master of it?
Anurag: So what is different in self inquiry?
Student: It was the most logical. No mumbo jumbo
Anurag: And psychology isn’t logical?!
Student: Yes it is. It answered a lot of questions.
Student: Then again I do not have an answer.
Anurag: Great. Very good. 🙂 Now what?
Student: Hahahaha! Sir, please don’t that. Tell me. What to do?
Anurag: You asked for self inquiry or for answers and solutions?
Student: Self inquiry. Then I do self inquiry. Yay!
Student: OMG! that was intense
Anurag: So what do you do when you don’t have an answer?
Student: 🤯 Do self inquiry.
Anurag: Which means what?
Student: To remain with the initial feeling and watch it without judgement.
Student: Did I get it now?
Anurag: What do you say?
Student: I do🙂🙂
Anurag: What did you have to get?
Student: To know what to do. I was always at the dead end. Thanks. You took me to the edge.
Anurag: Did I give you a solution?
Student: No. I am the solution. You gave the direction.
Anurag: What does that mean 🤔
Student: Lol! That means I have to inquire and find the answer
Anurag: Yups. That is what I was asking. How do you inquire when you don’t know?
Student: You watch the thought without judgment. Without starting the chain of thoughts.
Anurag: But you were wanting some answer?
Student: Will that not lead to an insight?
Anurag: So who is the knower who is the inquirer? 🙂
Anurag: Both the knower and the inquirer 🤔
Student: I am the inquirer
Anurag: But you know even before your inquiry that you will get some answer.
Student: I assumed
Anurag: So. Now what?
Student: I inquire
Student: By watching the mind
Anurag: Where is inquiry in this if you won’t get an answer?!
Student: Hmm. I don’t have an answer again
Anurag: 👍 Great! Very Good 🙂 Is there any inquiry if you have an answer you want to look for?
Student: No. There is no answer. We are just looking for answers. Because we think it will solve the problem
Anurag: And at any point in your inquiry, if you get an answer, will the inquiry end?
Student: No. It will keep going
Anurag: Why not will it end?
Student: Because then I will not have an answer for the answer
Anurag: What? 🤔
Student: Like how I came from success to comparison, hen to revenge. They were all answers to answers. Weren’t they?
Anurag: I was asking questions only all throughout.
Anurag: Then? Lol I am still asking 😁
Student: Then the inquiry should end when I have the answer
Anurag: So suppose you start now, you will get some answer an hour later and the inquiry will stop?
Student: Because there is no end. It will end when I die.
Anurag: Your answer was not at all logical.
Student: Inquiry to that question will end
Anurag: But you did not say that you were starting with any question. You said you were just going to observe the mind?
Student: Observe the mind for the turbulent thoughts.
Student: To get rid of them.
Anurag: So observation will end thoughts. You have this as your answer already. Where is inquiry?!
Student: No it will lead to insight. Into the reason behind the thought.
Anurag: OK. So observation leads to insight. You have this answer already.
Student: I don’t have an answer
Anurag: Great. Very Good 🙂 So what do you do when you don’t have any answer?
Student: Try to search for it?
Anurag: Lol !
Anurag: That is what you have been doing for the past hour 🙂 And for all your life.
Student: But I did not get any answers to anything.
Anurag: Do you have any now?
Student: Because there are no answers.
Anurag: That too is an answer.
Student: It is just our mind which thinks that there are answers
Anurag: Another answer
Student: Then I just be
Anurag: What does that mean?
Student: Don’t look for answers
Anurag: So what about self-inquiry?
Student: Do inquiry but don’t look for answers
Anurag: Now how does that happen?
Student: By not desiring for answers.
Anurag: Can one inquire with an answer?
Student: No, if I already know an answer then I am not doing inquiry.
Student: So I should not be looking for answers. I just be with whatever is there
Anurag: And if you are searching for an answer. Is that inquiry?
Anurag: “So I should not be looking for answers. I just be with what ever is there”. You are asking me for an answer 🙂
Student: Yes sir!
Anurag: See how difficult it is for the mind to stay without searching for an answer. Without landing on an answer. Why can you not just observe without the desire for an answer. Because any answer prevents further observation and inquiry.
Student: True. It wants answers all the time
Anurag: And answers and desire for answers prevent direct observation.
Student: Yes I get it now.
Anurag: This is what Krishnamurti meant by observation/choiceless awareness of what is from moment to moment.
Student: True. How did u understand it so well? Why not me?
Anurag: I am at it for the last 25 years sir 🙂