I seldom read spiritual books anymore but a few days ago I ran across a mention of John Grimes and for some reason, I can’t remember why, decided to read his book on Ramana. All I knew was that he is a retired professor of philosophy who specialized in Advaita Vedanta.
The book turned out to be extremely well written in an academic sort of way, the kind of book that’s based on other books and not the author’s experiences. Then, two-thirds of the way through the book, in the chapter on Ramana’s method (which is excellent), I got pulled up short by the words I’ve highlighted in the quotation below. I’ll print the whole paragraph because it won’t hurt anybody to read the entire thing and might even help someone:
When a practitioner begins the process of Self-enquiry, it starts as a mental activity. The mind commences its enquiry into the “I”-thought again and again, but is often distracted by other habitual thoughts that arise throughout the day. As the practice deepens and the seeker is able to hold onto its investigation into the source of the “I”-thought, there arises a subtle subjectively experienced feeling of “I” that persists. When this feeling ceases to connect and identify with thoughts and objects, even this feeling subsides. Then, what remains is direct experience of Being in which all sense of individuality temporarily ceases to operate. At first, this feeling will be intermittent, but with repeated effort it gradually becomes easier and easier to maintain. At this level, Self-enquiry has become as effortless awareness in which individual effort is no longer possible since the “I” who makes effort has temporarily ceased to exist. This is not yet full and complete Self-realization since the “I”-thought periodically reasserts itself. When this experience is repeated as often as is necessary, it begins to weaken, and often destroy, the latent mental tendencies that were causing the “I”-thought to reappear. Finally, when the latent tendencies are sufficiently weakened, the power of the Self destroys them all and, being destroyed, they will never rise again. This is complete Self-realization.
Why was I astonished? Because I know from my experience that the words are true but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them written anywhere before. They should be written, because they are incredibly important, but I don’t remember seeing them. It is exactly this sort of experiential description of Ramana’s method which is almost entirely lacking in the Ramana literature. If my memory is correct (never trust a 70-year-old person’s memory) then John Grimes knows this from experience.
Let me emphasize what I’ve highlighted because it’s very important. “There arises a subtle subjectively experienced feeling of ‘I’ that persists.” (I would describe the experience a little differently but I’m sure we’re talking about the same thing. For me, that ‘I’ isn’t subtle and I would say not that it arose but that the ability to focus on it developed. This ‘I’ is the goal of Self-enquiry in its initial stages.)
Suddenly I was curious about John Grimes. I could find only one video of him on the Internet. I also read another book of his, his autobiography. Nowadays I seldom have much interest in people’s biographies but I found his life to be extremely interesting. Also turns out that both these books contain long passages with extremely interesting accounts of his spiritual experiences. Links below.