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November 18, 2012


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Dear Brian

Sri Ramana did not have a guru in the sense of a person instructing him. His only outward guru he ascribed to Mount Arunachala which he saw as a manifestation of the Self.
Ramana formulated his self enquiry after his non guru instructed immersive experience aged 17. He did not in any way relay what his guru taught him, as he had none.

All the best
Nick from the UK

Nick, it's true that Ramana didn't have a human guru. But he speaks about an "inner guru" which is the Self. See:

Ramana said:
"God, Guru and the Self are the same.

Realization is the result of the Master's (Guru's) grace, more than teachings, lectures, meditations, etc. They are only secondary aids, whereas the former is the primary and essential cause.

Guru's grace is always there."

So with all of this talk about "guru," it's half true that Ramana had a guru who told me to pursue his practice of self-inquiry. Ramana just believes in a non-physical guru who is, essentially, his true Self.

Hey Brian

Yes I accept your response. That would be my take too.
I also accept the general tone of your post, though I tend to feel it applies to differences of opinion on (for example) how to interpret quantum theory; ie - Copenhagen versus Many worlds etc.
For committed atheists like Prof Dawkins (who is on record as saying he would like to be proved wrong about God etc) I am not convinced that any amount of evidence would ever convince him. I think he could have a road to Damascus event and end up attributing it to indigestion or an over excitable amygdala caused by some medication. I'm afraid that for some scientists and religionists alike there is simply no dialogue, only trench warfare.
I fail to imagine the quality and type of evidence or even personal experience that could or would convince scientism that it needs to broaden its horizons.
With sincere regards

Nick, I enjoy reading Ramana. However, after reading a bunch of books about neuroscience and no-self, along with a bunch of books about Buddhism and no-self (they say much the same thing in different ways), I've come to feel that what Ramana is pointing to is just that:

We don't exist the way we feel we do -- as a separate ego/soul/whatever floating above the body/brain. Rather, we ARE the body/brain, meaning we aren't distinct from the world around us; we're nothing special.

Now, given Ramana's HIndu background, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't agree with the materiality/reductionism of what I just said. But science/Buddhism and he would agree that the "I" we feel ourselves to be is an illusion.

Ramana advised searching for that "I", then discovering that it doesn't really exist. Intellectually, the same thing can be accomplished much more quickly by reading a neuroscience book. Experientially, though, Ramana's and Buddhism's inquiry approaches probably have merit.

Hey Brian
Thats an interesting perspective. I am not sure that Ramana would have disagreed with the basics. After all non duality states that Samsara is Nirvana, so in that sense it is completely irrelevant what the supposed monistic 'stuff' might be that everything is reduced to.
I would tend with Professor Christian de Quincey in begging the question that we do not even know what'matter' ultimately is to reduce everything to it. It seems to me to as much a metaphysical postulate as Berkeleys idealism. I do agree that the non dual perspective of Ramana seems to involve immersion in the substance essence of the universe. For me it is wholly irrelevant what linguistic tag we put on that 'stuff'. Soon as we tag it we are lead down doctrinal and dogmatic lines that limit exploration (at least for me).
Your core position seems to be that of an ego eclipsing metaphysic that is informed by current science and Buddhism. I am not at all sure that a Vedantic reading is so very different, witness Tony Parsons and Nisargatta for example.
Any way this could run and run.

"Experientially, though, Ramana's and Buddhism's inquiry approaches probably have merit."

But if the probable merit is never verified experientially, you've merely explained to your self how there is no self.

I claim no experience of selflessness, but it's clear to me how no amount of conviction can compensate for what can only be experienced.

cc, I partly agree with you (assuming I understand what you're saying). I guess it comes down to what we mean by "experience."

How do I experience that the Earth orbits the Sun, rather than vice versa? Really, I can't, observationally, because I don't have the ability to observe this from deep space.

So I rely on what science tells me, on animations, explanations, etc. Then, when I see the seasons change, and know about the tilt of the Earth and all that, my experience of my place in the solar system is altered by my knowledge.

That's a real experience. Likewise, learning from neuroscience that there is no "self" inside the brain is a real experience. True, likely I could have an even truer experience of no-self, but we're talking gradations here, not either/or.

So I tend to disagree that gaining knowledge isn't an experience. Everything is an experience. What else is life, but experience? You seem to divide life into "what can only be experienced" and something else. I don't know what that something else is.

Put differently, if some things "can only be experienced," this implies that there are some things that "can only not be experienced." But how would we know about them if they can't be experienced?

"...if some things "can only be experienced," this implies that there are some things that "can only not be experienced." But how would we know about them if they can't be experienced?"

Your logic notwithstanding, whether "I" exist as anything but an idea, a concept, an image, I must come to know experientially that I am no more than the decider because deciding is too superficial.

Hello Brian,
I have some questions for you. Please frankly answer. Remember that if you lie, you would not be lying to me; you'd be lying to yourself.

1. Have you totally adhered to the basic requisites of radha soami in these 35 years like,
(a) Purely vegetarian diet
(b) Abstaining yourself completely from alcohol or any such intoxicant
(c) No extra maritial relationship
(d) A Moral life
(e) Minimum 2.5 hours of daily meditation

2. After initiation, haven't you experienced any sound/light of any sort during meditation like a very low pitch beeping/humming sound ?

I shall be waiting for your reply.


(a) Yes, purely vegetarian diet. No meat, fish, eggs, or anything containing them.

(b) In the 35 years I had one alcoholic drink at what I recall was my 15 year high school reunion. So that'd be 1981. Other than that, no alcoholic drinks or any other intoxicants like marijuana.

(c) I did have sex with my first wife before we were married in 1970, and also with my second wife after I was divorced but before we were married in 1990. Ask around and you'll find that this is common among initiates in the United States: having sex with a loved one before getting married to them. Never had sex with anyone else, other than myself (to my credit, I did take a "marriage" vow with myself, promising that I'd be true to me and live with myself through better and worse for as long as I shall live).

(d) Moral life, sure. I'm not morally perfect, assuming it is possible to define what a "moral life" consists of. Regarding service to others/volunteer work, I did a lot of it, mostly for the guru/RSSB. Served as sangat secretary many times. Spent years doing writing seva for RSSB publications department.

(e) For about half of those 35 years I did 2.5 hours of meditation a day. When my daughter was young and I was working at a 8-5 job I put in 1.5 hours a day. Also at some other times later. I'm proud of how diligent I was. Never missed a day of meditation. Ask around and see how many other initiates can say that.

(2) Sure, I've heard sounds like that in meditation. Also out of meditation. So has my wife, who has tinnitus at times, along with tens of millions of other Americans. And, I assume, people around the world. Hearing the sort of sounds you mentioned is very common. See:

So now I'll await your reply to my own questions. I assume from your judgmental tone about lying, etc, that you are a RSSB devotee. In a comment please answer the same questions you asked me.

And remember your own words: Please frankly answer. Remember that if you lie, you would not be lying to me; you'd be lying to yourself. I shall be waiting for your reply.

Ordinarily I wouldn't ask personal questions of you, but since you asked them of me, you must be as pleased to reveal details about your own life as you are desirous of knowing my own. So I'm looking forward to knowing more about you, which of course includes knowing your full real name and where you live.


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