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Advanced Yoga Practices
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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 398 - Is Self-Inquiry Necessary for Enlightenment?  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
398.1 - Is it Necessary to Do Structured Self-Inquiry?
  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: May 4, 2010

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 This Discussion?"


Q1: Since, as a consequence of regular daily long term practice of the core practices of AYP, all doubts we might have regarding the "Truth" will eventually get cleared intuitively, is there any real need to actively engage in "Self-Inquiry" formally?

If self-inquiry is practiced, and if, as indicated in your writings, self-inquiry is effective only if it is "relational," and done after the "dawn of the witness," would it not be better to do it after Deep Meditation and during Samyama formally? I do understand that questions for self-inquiry can also arise any time, and one should not have to wait until one sits for practices to address them.

A1: If a serious meditator using an effective daily practice never gives self-inquiry a second thought, it will happen anyway, because it is perceptual naturally seeing all objects from the point of view of rising inner silence (the witness) more and more, seeing clearly that no object of perception can be the subject. Who or what then is the subject? When that kind of perception is happening, one "notices," and that is automatic inquiry. Noticing the objects of perception in stillness is enough to advance the process of non-dual enlightenment. It may become structured self-inquiry, or not, depending on the background and inclination of the practitioner.

This is why, in the AYP writings, a particular mode of self-inquiry is not put forth as "the method." Once the witness is coming up, perception will become relational (in stillness), and from there the approach will be quite personal, depending on the practitioner's ishta (chosen ideal) and resonance found with one or more approaches to self-inquiry, or no structured approach at all. This range of possibilities for self-inquiry was covered in Lesson 350, on the various ways one may move beyond the witness/object relationship into direct experience of non-duality.

Regarding structured practice, Lesson 351 provides an easy and effective way to engage in structured relational self-inquiry as part of our daily samyama practice, just as you suggest, with no mess and no fuss. It is a good place to start self-inquiry if we are well-established in core samyama practice. It gets right down to it releasing the most basic inquiry in stillness: "I-thought Who am I?"

In time, this practice leads to an intuitive sense of relational self-inquiry during daily activity, without accumulating a lot of non-relational mental baggage to be carried around all day long. We become the automatic inquiry in motion, which is stillness in action, the non-dual condition.

Q2: Thank you. I just a did a quick first reading of the Self-Inquiry book. It is amazing how "logical" the whole thing looks now. I do not know whether this is covered anywhere in our Indian scriptures like this, but you have done a terrific job of clarifying how all the eight limbs of Yoga can be connected in practice. How did we miss this?

A2: AYP is a fresh look at venerable spiritual approaches across the board, minus the traditional boundaries and limitations. Someone had to do it sometime. Why not us? And why not now?

If we dig into jnana and advaita teachings, we find that meditation and yoga have always been regarded as preparations for self-inquiry. It can be found in the teachings of both Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, two 20th century giants of jnana/advaita, though hardly at all in the teachings of their many successors.

It has been a bit of a shadow game the great advaita teachers played, speaking and writing of the uncompromising immutability of the non-dual nature of existence, while at the same time looking the other way, or outright encouraging practitioners to engage in the systematic methods of yoga. This contradictory approach has been confusing for many practitioners, often misleading them to believe that they must "walk the talk" of non-duality before they really can. It leads to what we have called "non-relational self-inquiry," lacking abiding inner silence (witness), and a formula for building thought-form castles in the air.

While the truth of the interconnectedness of yoga and advaita has always been there, it has been obscured, perhaps because the methods of practice have not been very effective on either side of the dual versus non-dual philosophical divide for large numbers of people.

The very few who manage to make it through this contradictory approach are the ones who are ripe and ready to fall off the tree anyway. Then, generally, they teach from that perspective of ripeness, with few, if any, systematic yoga practices recommended, which does not reach the vast majority of people who are yet to become ripe. This is essentially a denial of what is, in favor of the teacher's perspective: The proverbial forgetful mountain climber (see Lesson 84).

The more flexible advaita teachers do get this in time, and end up teaching meditative practices of one kind or other in an attempt to fill in the gap between the majority of their followers and the condition of ripeness (abiding witness) necessary for engaging in effective non-dual self-inquiry. Less flexible advaita teachers just keep hammering away at their followers with non-duality concepts, sometimes accompanied by bursts of shaktipat energy, which can be a rather chaotic approach.

In AYP, we put the entire process in the practitioner's hands, with lots of tools and self-pacing guidelines available. By utilizing effective daily practices and the unique experiential track of the practitioner, where the regulation of practices and measure of progress are according to direct experience rather than arbitrary external guidelines, we are finding many people experiencing the natural emergence of relational self-inquiry, with results that are quite fruitful. With effective tools, each will find it for themselves. Spiritual unfoldment on that basis is real, as many have verified.

And why not? Yoga has always been an integrated experience-based (scientific) approach. It is the unruly mind that has tended to dis-integrate it into conceptualizations of little value. Yoga is very smart about taking us beyond the mental mish-mash to ripeness, and beyond...

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed discussion on the practical utilization of self-inquiry on our path, see the Self-Inquiry book and the Liberation book, and AYP Plus.

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