This morning, when I checked the comments on this blog, I found one asking me to explain self-enquiry. I feel I have done that many times already, so, instead, I am going to pass the buck to Robert Adams, an American devotee of Bhagavan who lived at Ramanasramam from 1947-1950. For those who know little or nothing about him, I will first give a summary, in his own words, of his early life and the story of how he came to Bhagavan. Both of these accounts come from public satsangs he gave in the US in 1990:
I usually do not talk about myself, but I received an interesting phone call today from a lady in Pennsylvania. She said, ‘Robert, if you don’t say something about yourself, nobody will know where you’re coming from. They will think you got this information from a book or from another teacher. They will not know that it comes directly from the Self.’ So I thought about this, and [decided that] for a few minutes I will discuss my life up to the age of fourteen years old. That should bore you enough.
I was born January the 21st in Manhattan, New York. From the very beginning, as far back as I can remember, when I was in my crib, a little man with a gray beard and white hair used to appear before me at the other end of the crib, about two feet tall, and speak gibberish to me. I thought this was normal, and everybody had that experience. Of course, being a child, I didn’t understand anything he said. It was only in my later years when I started to read books that I realised this person was Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He appeared before me until I was about seven years old, and then it stopped.
Then something very interesting happened to me. Whenever I wanted something, a candy bar or a toy, I would say God’s name three or four times and it would appear from someplace. For instance, if I wanted a candy bar I would say, ‘God, God, God’. Somebody would bring it to me or it would come from someplace.
When I went to school, I never used to study. When we had a test I would say, ‘God, God, God,’ and the answers would come. Once I wanted to play the violin, and my mother told me that it would be too hard for me to play, so she wouldn’t buy me one. So I said, ‘God, God, God,’ and a few hours later my uncle appeared, who I hadn’t seen in about five years, and he brought me a violin. He thought I needed a violin. This went on and on while I was going to school.
When I was fourteen years old, a strange phenomenon happened. I was in my junior high school class. There were about thirty-five children. The teacher’s name was Mrs Riley. She weighed about 300 pounds, and when she got angry she used to jump up and down. So, of course, we used to make her angry. [Laughter] What I would do was borrow a bobby pin from a girl and there was a hinge in the back of the seat. I would stick the bobby pin in the hinge and twang it and she would go crazy. She didn’t know where the noise was coming from and she’d jump up and down; a very interesting phenomenon. [laughter]
Anyway, it was the end of the term, and we were taking our final test. This was a math test. I never studied for it, so I didn’t know anything. I said, ‘God, God, God,’ and instead of the answers coming, the room became filled with light, a brilliant bright light, a thousand times more brilliant than the sun. It was like an atomic bomb, the light from the bomb, but it was not a burning light. It was a beautiful, bright, shining, warm glow. Just thinking of it now makes me stop and wonder.
The whole room was immersed in light, everybody, everything. All of the children seemed to be myriads of light particles, and then I found myself melting into radiant being, into consciousness. I merged into consciousness. It was not an out-of-body experience. An out-of-body experience is when your soul leaves your body. This was completely different. I realised that I was not my body. What appeared to be my body was not real. I went beyond the light into pure radiant consciousness. I became omnipresent. My individuality had merged into pure absolute bliss. I expanded. I became the universe. The feeling is indescribable. It was total bliss, total joy. The next thing I remember was the teacher shaking me. All the students had gone. I was the only one left in the class. The teacher was shaking me, and I returned to consciousness, human consciousness. That feeling has never left me.
The second story, also narrated by Robert, covers some of the same ground and then continues the story up to the time he ended up with Bhagavan at Ramanasramam:
Question: Robert, have you always had this realisation?
Robert: I guess. There is no telling. People have asked me about this so I will tell you a little bit about it:
When I was a small child in a crib, a little man used to be on the other side. For a long period l would lie there and he would be talking to me from the edge of the crib. And of course being a baby, I didn’t know what he was talking about. As far as I know he was talking to me ever since I was born. I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
I used to believe everybody had that experience. When I was about five or six years old, I told my parents about it, and they thought I was playing games. I told my friends, and they laughed at me. So I stopped saying anything about it. The visitations stopped when I was about seven. My father died. And all of a sudden, the little man stopped coming to me.
Then I asked my mother, ‘What am I doing here? I don’t belong here.’ I didn’t understand what I was saying but I felt that I was out of place. My mother thought I was crazy, and so did a lot of other people. She took me to the doctor, and the doctor told her it would go away.
When I was going to school I never really fit in because I was always daydreaming. I had strange experiences. I used to sit in the class and become swallowed up in consciousness. I became omnipresent. I had out-of-body experiences. I just merged with consciousness. I couldn’t understand what was happening.
Then when I was about fourteen years old, I went to the library to do a book report. I passed the philosophy section and saw a book on yoga masters. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. I opened the book to a page, and there was a picture of Ramana Maharshi. My hair stood on end, because it was the same person who appeared to me when I was a baby in my crib! Since then I have never been the same.
Question: That is what led you to Ramana Maharshi?
Robert: Later on, yes. I actually went to the Self Realisation Fellowship in Encinitas. I went to see [Paramahamsa] Yogananda. I was initiated and was going to become a monk, but after Yogananda talked to me, he said ‘Robert you don’t belong here, you’ve got your own path. Go to India.’
So I did. I went to the Ramana Ashram. That was 1947 or 1948. I confirmed my feelings. Ever since I was born I had never believed I was a body.
I went back to school and made believe I was normal, whatever that is.
Question: When you first saw Ramana Maharshi, did he remind you of the person you had communication with as a baby?
Robert: Definitely, yes.
Question: Did you speak of this later with him?
Robert: No, I never did. We just smiled at each other. I had some personal conversation with him, but even at the end of 1947 he was sick. He couldn’t walk very well and had to be assisted by his devotees. He had a cane. He could hardly walk.
I usually never go into these things, because, number one, it can’t really help you, and … [pause]
I forgot what number two is! [Laughter]
In the following talk, which also comes from 1990, Robert Adams refers to ‘four principles’. This is a reference to an earlier satsang in which he recounted a vision he had had in which he found himself giving a dharma talk to some Buddhists. He said that he found himself expounding on these four principles in the vision.
Robert: Good evening. It’s good to see you again. Who ever is here again. Please do not be shocked at some of the things I may say. I am not a teacher, nor am I a lecturer, nor am I a minister. I am merely a looking glass so that you can see your own reflection. What you think of yourself you see in me. I may say certain things you’re not used to. Bear with me. You should not accept anything I say nor should you believe anything I say until you’re able to prove it to yourself. I simply give my confession, that I am not the body, nor the mind, nor the phenomenal world, that I am pure intelligence, absolute reality, sat-chit-ananda, divine mind, unborn, emptiness. When I use the word ‘I am’ I am not referring to Robert. I am referring to ‘I AM THAT I AM’, omnipresence, the infinite.
I get lots of phone calls from people asking me all kinds of questions. One question that most people keep asking again and again is, ‘What can I do to resolve my problems? Can you give me an affirmation, a mantra, a meditation, a breathing exercise, something I can use?’
These things have their place, but they will not awaken you to your true Self. In all of the higher scriptures it is written that the path of advaita Vedanta or jnana marga is only for mature souls.
Now what does that mean? It is for those who in a previous lifetime have already practised sadhanas, breathing exercises, yoga techniques, etc., and now they’re ready to awaken through this type of teaching. And the Buddhist scripture declares that those who want to do yogas, or breathing exercises are the simple minded and ignorant [he chuckles]. Now what do they mean? They don’t mean to insult you but they are referring to those who are attached to the world, those who believe the world is real and who feel the pull of the world. They want to use all kinds of gimmicks to free themselves from their problems but not to be totally free.
Now, what does jnana marga teach? We teach simply this: not to accept anything unless you can demonstrate it. Not to believe anything unless you can use it for yourself, and you can see it’s true. To do affirmations, mantras, yoga exercises and so forth, will not awaken you. You start from the beginning. You simply admit to yourself that you exist. This is the truth. You do exist, don’t you? So you say to yourself, ‘I exist. I know that for sure. I exist. I exist. That’s all I know. I’m ignorant of everything else, but I do know that I exist because here I am.’
And, as you keep saying this to yourself, ‘I exist’, you begin to put more space between ‘I’ and ‘exist’. ‘I … exist’. Say that to yourselves: ‘I … exist…, I … exist’.
If you’re doing this correctly, you’ll soon find that ‘I’ and ‘exist’ are two separate words. In other words you’ll come to the conclusion that you exist as ‘I’.
You’ll have to ask yourself, ponder, ‘Who is this “I” that exists? What is I?’
You never answer. It will come to you of its own accord. When you sleep and you awaken, you say, ‘I slept’. When you dream you say, ‘I had a dream’. And when you’re awake, of course, you say, ‘I am awake’. But that ‘I’ is always there.
You start to enquire within yourself, ‘What is this “I” that exists at all times? It exists when I’m asleep, when I’m awake, when I dream. Who is this “I”?’
And now the enquiry starts. ‘Where does this “I” come from? From whence cometh the “I”?’
You ask yourself. The answers are within yourself. And you keep asking yourself over, and over, and over again, ‘From whence cometh the I? Where does the I come from?’ Or, ‘Who am I?’
And you wait a little while, and you repeat the same question, ‘Where does the “I” come from?’
While you’re doing that, you follow the ‘I’ deep, deep within. You keep following the ‘I’. You go deeper and deeper into the ‘I’.
‘Where does this “I” come from? Who is this “I”?’
Whatever answer comes to you is the wrong answer. Do not accept it but do not deny it. You simply put it aside. And you continue with the self-enquiry. ‘Who am I?’
And you wait. And you ask again, ‘Who am I?’ It is not a mantra.
‘Where did the “I” come from? How did it get there? Who gave it birth? What is the source of the “I”?’
You continue to abide in the ‘I’.
As you continue this process someday something will happen. To some people it comes like an explosion within, where all your thoughts are wiped away. For you see, ‘I’ is the first pronoun, and every thought that you have in the world is attached to the ‘I’. They are secondary. Think about that. Whatever you have to say about yourself has ‘I’ in it. Everything in the world is about yourself.
‘I’ am going to the movies. ‘I’ am going bowling. ‘I’ feel like crying. ‘I’ feel terrible. ‘I’ feel wonderful. ‘I’ feel sick. ‘I’ feel well. There’s always an ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. What is this ‘I’, and what is it all about? Everything is attached to the ‘I’. Subsequently, when the ‘I’ is wiped out, everything else is wiped out and the troubles are over. All thoughts go with the ‘I’.
Now, there’s no answer to ‘Who am I?’ When you get to the answer there will be emptiness, a void. You will be of the unborn. But it is not a void like you think. It is not emptiness like you think. For want of a better word you can call it godliness, nirvana, sat-chit-ananda, bliss, consciousness, absolute reality. It doesn’t matter what name you give it. You will become that, and there will be no explanation. You will just become that, and you will feel a profound peace that you have never felt before. You will feel a bliss that is unqualified. You will try to explain it to yourself and to your friends, but you cannot. For the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. There are no words.
That’s the method you use. Self-enquiry. You follow the ‘I’ thought to its source. How long does it take? It depends on yourself. How sincere you are, what else you’re doing with your life. If you’re using this like you do everything else.
For instance, if you say, ‘Well today I’m going to practice the “I” thought, then I’m going to go to a movie, then I’m going to go bowling, then I’m going to watch TV, then tomorrow I’ll do the same thing’.
What’s going to happen in a case like that? Very little. But if you put your energy into it, and you practise it every chance you get, and you put this first in your life, you will see amazing results. Amazing results. But you have to put it first in your life.
Think right now. What is first in your life? Don’t tell me but just think. What comes first in your life? Can you take it with you when you die? Don’t you see by now that you live in a world of constant change? That the only thing permanent in life is change. All facts change. Only truth is real. And truth is personal. You have to find it for yourself. A sincere devotee or student will put this first in their life, and then he or she will start seeing results. But if you’re still worrying and fearing something, and you think other duties come first, then you’ve got to work on yourself.
That’s why, with great compassion, I give you certain things you can do before you get into Self-realisation. Just before you become Self-realised you begin to feel certain things. And those are the four principles I gave you last week. They come to you automatically. But, as I mentioned last Sunday and Thursday, you have to, upon awakening, become aware of these principles. You cannot think of them at your leisure. But you sort of have to coax the mind. You have to coax your mind to think upon the four principles as soon as you open your eyes in the morning.
So you have two things to do. When you open your eyes you can either ask yourself, ‘Where did the “I” come from? Who am I that slept last night? Who am I that has just awakened? Who am I that exists now?’
Or you can think about the four principles. Whatever is convenient for you. But, if you want Self-realisation, and you want to become free, and you want to be free from the ocean of samsara, worldliness, and become blissful, then it’s up to you. I can share these things with you but I can’t make you do them. It’s just like I can bring you to the gold mine but you’ve got to do your own digging. What comes first in your life again? Whatever comes first in your life, that’s what you become. In the end you’re going to have to leave your body, your thoughts, your possessions, your loved ones. Everything is going to be left in the end. So the wise person searches for truth now, and tries to become free now.
The four principles that Robert referred to are:
- You have a feeling, a complete understanding, that everything you see, everything in the universe, in the world, emanates from your mind
- You have to have a strong feeling, a deep realisation, that you are unborn. You are not born, you do not experience a life, and you do not disappear, you do not die.
- You are aware, and you have a deep understanding, of the egolessness of all things; that everything has no ego
- You have a deep conviction, a deep understanding, a deep feeling of what Self realization of noble wisdom really is.
As soon as you open your eyes in the morning (I’ll speak in the first person) you have to say to yourself, ‘I feel, and realise, and understand, that everything, everything, say everything twice, is a projection of my mind.’ And think about what that means. Forget about the other three. Work on that.
‘Everything! Everything! I feel that, I realise that, I understand that, that everything is a projection of my mind.’
And then you may think of the problems you have, if you have any, and you say to yourself, ‘If everything is a projection of my mind, where do these problems come from?’
You then realise, ‘Why, they came from me. I projected them. I created them.’
And then you say, ‘Who is this “I” that created them?’
See? Now you’re getting to the meaty part, to the substance.
‘Who is the “I” that created all this illusion in my life? Where did the “I” come from? Who gave it birth? My mind. Where did my mind come from? The “I”. Why, they’re both the same! The “I” and my mind are the same.’
And it’s all a revelation.
You think along these lines. ‘Where does the mind/”I” come from and to whom does it come?’
And you follow it deep, deep within yourself. If you do it correctly, you will realise there is no “I”, there is no mind, so there are no problems, and it’ll be over, and you’ll start laughing. You’ll actually start laughing at yourself.
You’ll say, ‘To think, I feared this and I feared that’. And once you get into that consciousness something will happen to actually physically relieve you of the problem, or what you think is a problem.
As long as you believe in your mind that there’s a problem, whether it’s little or big doesn’t matter, they’re both the same, but as long as you believe you’ve got a problem, you’ll have a problem, and it’ll grow. You won’t be able to change it. It may appear that you change it, but, when you try to work with the problem itself, it turns into something else of a worse nature. Never try to work with the problem. Ask instead where the problem came from.
‘How did I get it? How did I get this birth? Where did it come from?’
That’s the problem. The birth’s the problem. Because you believe you were born you have the problem, and you can go on and on and on.
That’s how you work with the principles.
‘Everything! I feel and understand that everything is a projection, a manifestation, of my mind.’
‘Who’s “my”, “mine”, “my”? “I” am “my”. Who am “I”? Who am “I” who has this problem?’
And as you ask yourself this question, you will begin to feel better, and better, and better. You will actually begin to feel better, and as you feel better, the problem becomes less and less important, and it will vanish. This is great psychotherapy. It works. If psychiatrists gave this to patients they wouldn’t have to give them any drugs.
So you understand, you feel, that everything is an emanation of your mind, or it wouldn’t exist. All existence, from the smallest atom to the greatest cosmic galaxy, it all comes out of your mind. But even if I tell you this, you still feel that something is real, don’t you? You feel that something is real.
You may say, ‘The sun is real’.
You may say, ‘Well, God is real’.
You may say, ‘An atom is real,’ but you do not comprehend that you are creating these things. They’re all a projection of your mind. If you didn’t have a mind, you would not have these concepts. That’s why we are told to annihilate the mind, to kill the mind. No mind, no concepts. All these ideas come as you begin to realise that everything is a projection of your mind.
Papaji reading out Robert Adams teachings in Lucknow, 1994
This is a brief talk I gave on Robert’s life in 2004