What helped the most?

A friend asked by email:

What has really worked for you?

Different things helped at different times. It’s hard to know what helped the most, but if I had to recommend a single practice, I’d say the most important thing was destroying vasanas, especially painful vasanas, by seeing them as fully as possible without any effort to change them and by abandoning resistance to them.

When I say “vasanas” I mean memories and facts and thoughts that haunt us, that arise repeatedly.

I don’t think I’ve ever discussed vasanas on this blog, not a single time, so this answer may be surprising, but I didn’t realize the importance of destroying vasanas till the last two years and I never got around to writing about it.

The technique that worked for me was to look at the vasana as calmly and objectively and completely as possible. I remembered the painful memories and events, reviewed how I feel about them, etc. I faced all that and admitted to myself, “These things are part of ‘me’ and part of my life and I hate them. I hate them, but they are there and that’s the reality.”

I didn’t try to stop hating them. I didn’t try to stop regretting them. I didn’t try to change my feelings. I didn’t try to change anything. I only tried to see everything about the vasana as completely and objectively as possible with all my intelligence. When I say “intelligence”, I mean my ordinary intelligence. My ordinary life experience.

The key was that I stopped resisting them. Whatever fact or memory they are based on, so what?

Vasanas are the fuel of the mind. When the vasanas are gone, the mind becomes quiet.

When I get time I want to write about one particular vasana that I destroyed this way. It will be a good example.

9 thoughts to “What helped the most?”

  1. Hi Freddie

    Was reading this last night and it is key as the vasanas re-emerge and cloud insight and understanding until they are removed at the root. This is what happened with me. Would really help to hear about your example when you have time. Much love xxx

    1. Dear Louise,

      Can you say anything more about how your vasanas got removed at the root? Have you written an article about it?

      Thanks for encouraging me to write the article about my example. I’ll try. Lately there’s been no motivation to write anything.



      1. Hi Freddie

        I meant the vasanas re-emerged. I had succeeded in getting them to subside so there was no evidence for a year or so, but I think they had not been removed at the root, so was hoping to learn from your example ūüôā

  2. When there is understanding, the thought or the brain begins to identify more with the physical reality, the physical world, than with the psychological world. So when thoughts appear in the absence of continuity, they dissolve. This understanding is nothing but logic, it has nothing to do with god or mystical experiences. I think that is the only important thing, attention. But it can not be achieved through the will, it is the thought that has to observe itself.
    Sorry for my bad english.

  3. Hey Freddie, I resonate a lot with seeing through vasanas. Were there any books/materials that shaped in formulating your technique that it worked for you? I’m experimenting with my own, sometime it works, sometimes it doesn’t but would love to devote more attention to it.

    1. The only books that I can recall that might have influenced me in that regard were those that describe Freud’s theory of abreaction, which is a little bit similar.

      The main influence was that Shiva once said to me, “Nothing can withstand consciousness.” In the context in which he said it, I knew he meant that consciousness is an absolute power that can dissolve anything including vasanas.

      I remember also my friend Prakriti telling me that her main sadhana before realization had been something like walking down a long dark hall, a sort of hall of vasanas, and as she came to each one, she turned the light on, until eventually the hall was brightly lit from one end to the other. I can’t remember whether she told me this before or after I dissolved a vasana for the first time.

      P.S. With this sort of thing, I wonder if it’s better to hear only the general idea from other people, and work out the details for yourself, rather than trying to follow more detailed instructions.

  4. Freddie I’ve been interested in Bhagavan’s teachings for many decades and have assiduously tried to practice the Vichara. I am an Indian but I don’t like Hinduism at all, but Bhagavan strictly speaking is not a Hindu at all. He didn’t subscribe to any of the atrocious and horrific beliefs of the Hindus. That’s why I believe he was India’s only genuine(enlightened) guru besides the Buddha I suppose. Bhagavan however tended to think that one had to be vegetarian to realize the self. Nisargadatta from what I know was not a vegetarian. I think Bhagavan was maybe right in thinking that a vegetarian diet helped in our spiritual quest for enlightenment. I am 71 years old and I’ve always been very much into eating meat because I detest vegetarian food. Eggs are vegetarian nowadays because they are not fertilized and I think mushrooms too taste like meat. I am trying to wean myself away from eating meat. Even though I am not enlightened Bhagavan has taken excellent care of me. I have no regrets. I think Nisargadatta’s books also help but Bhagavan is my guru and God if you like. Are you a meat-eater? Thank you, Freddie! I’ve been following your blog for years now.

    1. Hi  Alakeshwar,

      I’m delighted by your letter and happy to learn that you’ve been following the blog. You’ve compressed many interesting things into your comment.¬† ¬†I feel the same way as you about Ramana.

      Your letter inspires me to state some of my opinions very bluntly and forcefully. I’m not sure that my opinions are correct, but I’ll state them that way anyway. Caveat lector.

      As you probably know from reading this¬†blog, Ramana is very special to me too.¬† I say this partly for personal reasons (which I’ll talk about in a moment) but also for public reasons, for example, his teachings.¬† Anyone who takes the time to read Ramana’s writings (the most accurate English translations are the ones by Michael James) will easily see that (1) Ramana’s teachings are not what most people think they are and (2) they are consistent with traditional teachings but go beyond them.¬† Ramana’s version of Self-enquiry is not what most people think it is.¬† ¬†But almost nobody takes the time to read and understand Ramana’s writings. They are a secret lying in plain sight.¬†

      To anyone who finds the previous paragraph intriguing, please note, I’m talking about Ramana’s writings (e.g. Nan Ar, Ulladu Narpadu) not books by other people who tried to paraphrase what Ramana said (e.g. Talks With Ramana Maharshi which is not a collection of transcripts even though it appears to be.). Ramana’s teachings were often misunderstood by his followers who tried to write them down. Go to the source, Ramana’s own writings. Muruganar is an exception — his writings are accurate. Michael James’s videos and commentaries can be very helpful although they go only so far.

      I sometimes think Ramana is to spiritual teachers as Tolstoy is to novelists or Newton is to physicists: an extraordinary genius who was, to an incomprehensible extent, more gifted than everyone else we know of.

      Ramana’s teachings are not just about losing the ego. If that’s all that happens, what would be the big deal? Losing something that never existed, by itself, can’t be terribly¬†significant.¬† ¬†The big deal is not the loss but rather that which may be found. ¬†Ramana’s teachings are about recognizing sat-chit-ananda, recognizing it as our own Self, letting the ego merge with it, obtaining eternal happiness. That the purpose of Self-enquiry is to obtain permanent happiness, that the truth of Self-realization, the proof of Self-realization, is permanent happiness, he explained in the most obvious possible place, in the first paragraph of his textbook on Self-enquiry, which is called Nan Ar. Anyone¬†who says enlightenment is only loss — and there are many such people — has not found what Ramana found.¬† They have not found what Ramana tries to help us find.

      have assiduously tried to practice the Vichara.

      Do you put it that way from modesty or have you not gotten very far?¬† I did it for many years before I really began to see what he was talking about.¬†The instructions should be taken literally;¬† I-ness is the key to the whole thing. Awareness plays a role, the illusoriness of the ego plays a role, but subjectivity, which is reflexivity, which is knowing knowing, which is Reality, which is that which makes I possible, is the divine doorway to the Self. It is utterly different from phenomena. It has nothing to do with phenomena. It is orthogonal to phenomena. I used to often say here (there’s a famous Rumi quote to the same effect) that no matter which way you look you’re seeing God. This is true but it has nothing to do with Ramana’s teachings. Ramana’s teachings are a recipe for not seeing God. As he says in his writings, Realization is beyond ego, world and God. For Ramana, the world and God are mental fabrications. They appear and disappear along with the ego. (He uses the word “God” in different ways in different places. Indeed, he does that with many words. Unfortunately this makes his writing difficult to understand.)

      You say you don’t like Hinduism and call some of its ideas horrific.¬† I’d like to hear more about that if you feel¬†like telling me.¬† I was raised in the US by atheist Jewish parents so I have no deep personal knowledge or childhood feelings about any religion.¬†But I have to acknowledge the fact that certain elements of Hinduism altered¬†my life in miraculous ways.¬† I’ve hinted here on this blog (but probably never explained it in detail) that the reason the blog is here, the reason I’m here writing this, the reason I became a seeker, is because in 1985, when I went to India as a tourist, knowing nothing whatsoever about Hinduism or enlightenment, I walked into Meenakshi Temple in Madurai as a tourist.¬†The moment I entered¬† the Goddess put me in a sort of trance for two days and initiated me.¬† ¬†

      That experience could have happened anywhere on the planet but it happened in a very old, very large, very famous Hindu temple.¬† That can’t be an accident.¬† Nor is it an accident that Meenakshi Temple is a few hundred meters from the house where Ramana realized the self.¬† It is the temple where he used to go after school when he was a teenager, during the six weeks after his realization, where he stood before the statues of Nataraja and the 63 Tamil saints and cried.¬† During those two days in 1985, I stood in front of those same statues and stared at them.¬† I even took a photo of the¬†Nataraja although it was against the rules but I couldn’t help myself.¬† ¬†I didn’t know what those statues were.¬† I had never heard of Ramana.¬† But I stood where he stood and stared.¬† This is not an accident.¬† I don’t know what exactly happened to me in connection with Ramana.¬† But something happened.¬† This is what I meant when I said above that there are personal reasons why Ramana is special to me.

      Are you a meat-eater?

      I was a vegetarian for years but a few months ago I stopped and have been eating meat.¬† I’ll probably return to vegetarianism soon.¬† I stopped for health reasons.¬† ¬†One of the reasons I thought it was okay to eat meat for a while is that Julia and I feed meat to our cats every day, because they are what biologists call obligate carnivores.¬† Even if we don’t feed them meat, they also¬† eat birds and mice outdoors.¬† We put brightly colored floppy collars on them to scare birds away from them, so they kill fewer birds, and this helps, but they do it anyway.¬† This is God’s doing not mine.¬† Living with these cats has changed my ideas about killing and eating meat.¬† It’s part of the divine plan.¬† Everything dies yet everything is divine.¬† ¬†Despite these thoughts I’ll probably go back to vegetarianism soon.

      Eggs are vegetarian nowadays because they are not fertilized

      That’s an interesting point.¬† I hadn’t thought of that or if I had I’ve forgotten.¬†¬†

      Thanks again for writing.¬† Your letter delighted me.¬† ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

    2. P.S. Alakeshwar, I forgot to reply to this:

      Bhagavan strictly speaking is not a Hindu at all.

      I agree but of course as you know he often used Hindu ideas and terminology in writing and speech. In the same way, he often used Advaitin ideas and terminology but in my opinion, he was just as much a Tantrika as he was an Advaitin. This statement would probably horrify a lot of his devotees but it seems obviously true to me. Does what he said about the “avesam” in 1896 really sound Advaitin to them? Do they y think the Mother’s Temple that he built was about Azhagammal (his mother)? Why then did he name it “Mathrubuteswaralayam” (“the temple of God in the form of the Mother”)?

      The only reason I distinguish Advaita and Tantra is to address a misconception. This distinction is a matter of concepts not reality. The map is not the terrain. Reality is equally both of them and neither of them. The Reality to which Bhagavan has guided me is both consciousness and energy.

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