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Adding Self-Inquiry to Core
Samyama Practice (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
351.1 - Self-Inquiry
Sutra: Variations and Importance of Habit (Audio)
Ramana Maharshi and the Samyama Self-Inquiry Sutra (Audio)
August 10, 2009
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
In the previous lesson, we reviewed a range of
self-inquiry (jnana yoga) techniques. We broke them down into five
categories: Natural, Releasing, Affirming, Negating and Transcending.
Each of us will come to
self-inquiry in our own way. Our chosen approach may mix and match elements
from any or all of these kinds of practice. If we are cultivating abiding
inner silence in deep meditation, we will begin to find traction in our
self-inquiry sooner rather than later. We call this "relational," because
inquiries released in stillness are going to move stillness and bring about
true Self-realization. Before that, our inquiries will be in the mind and
will have limited effect on our spiritual progress. In fact,
"non-relational" self-inquiry (in mind rather than in stillness) can build
obstructions to our progress in the mind and emotions. See Lesson
The same is true of
samyama. This is why we have said that at least a little abiding inner
silence is a prerequisite for samyama practice. It is not as critical as in
the case of self-inquiry, because samyama is an aspect of our twice-daily
sitting practices, and we can afford some inefficiency in structured
practice as we gradually develop the habit of releasing our samyama sutras
in stillness. Then this habit of releasing in stillness will begin to
manifest in daily activity in positive ways as abiding inner silence, and
its natural movements gradually increasing in
On the other hand,
self-inquiry is an activity that we may be inclined to undertake outside
sitting practices during normal activity. If inner silence and our ability
to release intentions in stillness are limited, self-inquiry can place a
drag on the quality of our life, even going so far as to negate our life
prior to the rise of Self-realization. We'd prefer to find a way to
cultivate self-inquiry as a natural result of sitting practices, so that
forcing on the level of the mind and its associated difficulties in daily
life can be minimized.
We have already
discussed from many angles in previous lessons how the habit of samyama
naturally creeps from structured sitting practice into our daily activity,
with the many practical benefits that come with that, including the natural
enlivening of whatever kind of self-inquiry we may be drawn to. But so far,
we have not introduced means to bring self-inquiry back into our structured
sitting practices in a way that can efficiently and naturally advance our
ability to inquire for Self-realization in daily life.
In this lesson we are
going to address this directly by suggesting the optional addition of a
self-inquiry sutra to our core samyama practice. For a review of core
samyama practice, see Lesson
The new sutra is:
"I-thought Who am I?"
Our complete set of
sutras in core samyama practice would then become:
Akasha Lightness of Air
I-thought Who am I?
For those who choose to
add the self-inquiry sutra, the instructions for practice in Lesson
unchanged. We would just be adding one new sutra, expanding the list from
nine to ten. Also, for those who take this step, it is suggested to make the
new self-inquiry sutra the default for additional repetitions at the end of
the session. So, if we are doing two repetitions of 15 seconds release in
stillness for each sutra, taking about five minutes to get through the list,
when we get to the end of the list, we have the option to do about five
minutes of repetitions with the self-inquiry sutra. If we are only doing one
repetition with our sutras, we can do a couple of minutes with the
self-inquiry sutra at the end. If we are doing four repetitions with our
sutras, we may consider doing up to 10 minutes of self-inquiry sutra
repetition at the end. Like that.
It is best to develop a
steady habit in our core samyama practice, not switching things around too
often. The habit of attention in relation to the refinement of
neurobiological functioning will go gradually deeper over time with the
consistency of our daily practice routine, and the results will be more
steady in daily activity, which is where we'd like to see them.
Speaking of results,
what might we see emerging in our life from the addition of this
self-inquiry sutra? For that, let's look at the sutra itself.
The sutra has two parts.
The first part is "I-thought." This is the "I" that we are so familiar with
in everyday life I am thinking this, I feel that, I am doing this, etc. It
is the "I" we are repeating to ourselves and others incessantly from the
moment we wake up in the morning until the moment we drift off to sleep at
night. We may even be engaged in our I-thought during dreaming while we are
asleep. We can't seem to get away from it, except
in deep dreamless sleep. We use the phrase "I-thought" instead of "I" to
bring clarity to the fact that the "I" is a thought, and not the subject or
true observer in anything we do. Yet, it is common the
common denominator in everything we think,
feel and do. A little inquiry reveals this to be so. Who
is it that is thinking, feeling, and doing this right now? It is I. It is
the I-thought. It always comes down to that. So this is where we start in
the sutra. In
finding the source of the I-thought,
we find the source of all.
The second part of the
sutra is "Who am I?" which needs little explanation, except to say we are
not responsible to find any answer to this question in our mind. The inquiry
is part of a sutra. We pick up the faint feeling of "I-thought Who am I?"
let go in
15 seconds, and repeat.
With this sutra, we are
taking the I-thought, and inquiring its source in stillness. We are
beginning to penetrate the "I" that is behind everything we think, feel and
do all day long, dissolving the illusion of our false sense of self. In
structured samyama practice, this process carries on irrespective of
anything we may be thinking or feeling, just as will be the case with any
other sutra. We favor the procedure over any experience that may come up. We
do not analyze the sutras or anything that may result from their use during
practice. Later on, after our practice, we can analyze all we'd like. In
fact, we may find that our attempts at self-inquiry in normal daily activity will
be taking on a deeper quality of knowing after using this additional sutra
for a few weeks or months. By that we mean, the answer to the inquiry gradually comes
What is the answer? Is
it an idea? A pronouncement or an affirmation? An
"Aha!" in the mind? Not
really. It is the condition of our own Self emerging
in everyday activity. The answer is not in the mind at all. It cannot be
known there. It is beyond the I-thought itself. The answer is in the
condition of the Self.
We become That,
and That is
unknowable by the mind or the I-thought.
The process is similar
to the rise of inner silence (the witness) we are familiar with from our
daily deep meditation practice, with one significant difference. With
effective self-inquiry, the I-sense, the I-thought, recedes into the
witness, and along with it, the perception of a dual condition of witness
and witnessed. It is going beyond the witness stage. The subject-object
relationship becomes transparent, going from two to One.
The mind and the I-thought are left behind, though they appear to continue
functioning more or less normally. This is the paradox of enlightenment.
Everything changes for us and our surroundings, though nothing may appear to
be changing much at all. This is what knowing the unknown is like.
While we may be able to
intellectually understand that our sense of "I" is only a thought, the root
thought of all other thoughts, this
practice will take it much further. Self-inquiry in structured
samyama practice dissolves
the I-thought deep
within us, at
its source, beyond
the mind and the intellect, which is where all self-inquiry must go. When
we get up from practice and go out into the world, we begin to see things
differently. The I-thought and all of its illusions will be fading away,
being replaced with peace and divine love, which have always been there just
beneath the confusion of ego-driven life.
This addition to samyama
practice will not conflict with any other kind of self-inquiry we may doing
during the day. It is likely to enhance it. We may find our perspective
shifting in life, and
in how we regard the world, with a greater sense of freedom coming up. Our
self-inquiry during the day will shift
to deeper insight. It is always our choice, of course. We will be choosing
from a deeper place. Ultimately, we will be choosing from no place at all.
Yet, life goes on. We will know it from the perspective of outpouring divine
love and stillness in action, and not even that, for these are experiences
in time and space also. The Self is
beyond all that, beyond any divine process the mind can imagine or perceive.
It should be mentioned
that this is a powerful addition to samyama practice, and like any other
practice, it can be overdone. So it will be good to start out slow, being
prudent in self-pacing our practice according to our experiences in daily
activity, as always. If we find ourselves getting a bit frayed and frazzled
during the day, it will be good to back off a bit until things smooth out.
Much better to be moderate in practice, relax and enjoy the ride, than to
get into uncomfortable delays from overdoing and having to spend valuable
In addition to the
normal energy issues that can come up from overdoing practices, there can be
some doubts occurring as duality dissolves into non-duality. We may question
whether we are really ready to give up our ego, and live the full
consequences of that. It is freedom of the highest order, but it cannot be
lived by maintaining the status quo of I, me and mine. A shift occurs that
relies on our surrender. It does not mean we will change our lifestyle
dramatically. It only means that our point of view on life will shift. It
will take some courage to let the old self-identified
go. This samyama addition will lead directly to that transformation, and
some trepidation along the way will be normal. We will be wise to self-pace
for that also. We'd like to have good progress with comfort and safety. If
given the choice, we will take the smooth ride over the bumpy one. We
always have a choice.
So practice wisely, and
The guru is in
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Samyama Related Lessons Topic Path
Self-Inquiry Related Lessons Topic Path
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Note: For detailed
instructions on samyama practice, covering multiple applications and
self-directed research, see the
AYP Samyama book and the
AYP Liberation book,
and AYP Plus.