“I” is The Obstacle


"I" is The Obstacle

What is the obstacle to discovering Ultimate Truth?

There is a beautiful Sūfi poem in Hindī:

Ek Bastu, Ek Biṁb Hai
Main Dono Ke Bīc (Beech)
Jab Main, Main Se chūṭ Gayā
Sāhib Rahyo Samīj


Everything is one. All matter is the same. When we look behind all matter, still, existence is one.
Because I am here surrounded by all matter, when “I” look at it, everything looks different,
But when I come out of the grip of the “I” (ego)
Only God, pure existence, remains there in front of me.

What exactly is this poet talking about?

We can’t see the forest for the trees!
There is only one truth. Everything else in the world is just “matter”. Matter; that, quite frankly, doesn’t matter. Essentially, all matter is the same. Things may look, smell, taste, sound, or feel different from one another, but that is just because our senses are limited. When everything is distilled down to its pure essence, everything is exactly the same. To put it simply, everything is energy.
Because we are surrounded by matter and we depend on our senses and mind to experience our surroundings, everything we see around us seems to be unique. Even when we try to look more closely, dissect what we see, and examine the components of our surroundings, everything looks different. Through our senses we cannot identify the oneness that surrounds us. It is only when we allow ourselves to separate ourselves from our mind and our senses and experience the world through our TRUE self, the Ātman, self, that we can see that everything is part of the same oneness. And it is at that time that we can see and understand that this Oneness, this same existence, is God; Ānand ; Bliss; Truth.
The mind doesn’t even have the ability to register Oneness, because the mind can only see things in parts. The mind is just like a computer screen. It actually creates thoughts and images in a similar way to putting together millions of pixels. So because of this, the mind is always dissecting everything that it gets from the senses into pieces, labeling those pieces, and filing them in our database for future reference. This is the job of the mind, and it serves a very useful purpose in our day-to-day existence!
What we all need to remember is that fact that you are NOT your mind. Every person is a unique soul, a pure soul that is temporarily occupying a particular body and mind. When you can learn to separate your true Ātman self from your body and mind, you can begin to experience this Oneness.
This is what is meant by removing the “I”. This is in reference to the “I” that we imagine ourselves to be; our ego. When we remove the ego, remove the mind, and remove the body, then all that remains is the observer, the experiencer, the pure soul: the Ātman self.
Therefore, everything that you think of as “yours” is not yours. If you are holding “your pen,” you are not “a pen”; you are yourself, and you possess a pen which is a separate entity. The same is true when you talk about your mind and body! So when you remove everything that can be declared as “yours” (which as we’ve seen is not synonymous with “you”), then you are left with the Ātman self. This is your true ‘I’. It’s simple deductive reasoning!
So what the author is saying in his poem is that everything is one, but being entrenched in the worldly matter that surrounds him, he interprets everything as being different. But when he removes the ego and mind from his true existence, all that remains is the Oneness that is God or Ultimate Truth.

Swarūpa- Your Inner Form


Swarūpa- Your Inner Form

Your inner form is called swarūpa. Nothingness is the true form of our nature as human beings. Because our nature is nothingness, it means that there is nothing there. Our true form is always in a very peaceful, or paramaśānt, state. Vices are all a result of thought. We need a tool that can help us manage and control our thoughts. That tool is meditation. If we did not need to learn how to control our thoughts, we wouldn’t need meditation. Meditation is a system that can help you rediscover your true form, your true swarūpa. How can this be done?
You unknowingly lost your swarūpa. This is because of ignorance. Let’s investigate these concepts more deeply.
Because of ignorance, you live in a state of “doing” rather than a state of “being”, and because of this, your ego comes into play. Because of ego comes attachment, because of attachment comes greed, and because of greed comes anger, and as a result, we wrap ourselves in negative layers like a cocoon. Your paramaswārūpa, your true form, gets covered by all of these layers, and this is the root of suffering.
Because of ego, there exists duality. You perceive Nature and Creator as different, while in actuality they are one. Nature is the body of the creator. Everything that you see, you see as nature, or as matter. But you need to see the pure existence behind the matter! But you don’t know how to see nature as a pure existence. Rather, you see things as separate, confined by names and forms. Because of this approach of looking at things, all forms of the same true existence appear differently. The question is: How does one go back and recognize their own True form? Somehow, we have become detached from our true form. How do you mentally shift from a “doer” state to a “viewer” state?
The connection we have to our minds is the main limitation. The mind by nature is limited because it is matter; because it is matter, it has no capacity to unite with a limitless state. Mind, in the sense used here, is the same as the “ego”. We understand our mind through thoughts, thoughts produced by our ego ‘I’. This is what creates confusion. You are considering your ego ‘I’ as your real ‘I’, your real Self, True Self, or ātman Self. But this is false. That eternally peaceful divine Self that you want to experience is there, but you have to make an effort to come out from the ‘I’ that is ego. One way to do this is through deductive reasoning. By removing everything that you are NOT, you can isolate the True you. I am not the body. I am not the mind. I am not ‘thoughts’. I am not ‘breath’. Whatever you can say is “mine” can not be the True Self.
Just like a tree, the True form may be obscured behind all of the branches and leaves. All of these little branches and leaves will shed and regrow and change, but they are not the Real tree. You have to look at what is behind everything.
It’s as if you are learning and playing tabla compositions in Teentāl / Tīntāl (16 beats). If you just learn the compositions, your focus will only be on the mechanics of the music and you will not understand what is behind them. If you want to have a deeper experience, you will understand that there is one continuous nāda behind it. [pure sound] That is the True beauty of teentaal. The composition is like a movie playing on the screen that is nāda. We have a habit of focusing on the moving pictures projected on the screen rather than the actual screen itself. The screen is what is real. This habit is due to ignorance. If you learn to see the screen, your mental confusion will lessen. The films may change––today’s Tīntāl is tomorrow’s rūpak taal (7 beat rhythm cycle)––but the screen always remains the same.
The screen that remains the same is akin to your True Self. However, we focus all of our attention on our thoughts which are always changing. Often, we are not even aware that there is a screen! The mind is like a factory of mass produced thoughts. These thoughts have you running here and there in search of worldly pleasures. And because of ignorance, you perceive your thoughts as part of a sequence. But thoughts are not actually moving in sequence. Rather, they are still frames played in sequence. In between all of these thoughts, or all of these still frames, are small spaces of nothingness. That gap is where you need to focus. If you focus on these gaps, you can see the screen. This is the place where your Self is sitting forever. As you learn to focus on the gaps rather than on the illusion of a continuous sequence, over time, you’ll no longer focus on the moving pictures. If there are no pictures, then you are in a paramaśānt state.
It is only because of habit that we look at the pictures and fail to see the gap or the screen. Once you can train yourself to have a habit of focusing on the gap, you will no longer see the pictures. This is the process for coming out from the grip of the mind and reconnecting with the True Self.
When you come out from the grip of your Ego I state, you will immediately connect with the True I state that is a viewer state, not a doer state. The viewer state is there by default, but the cloud of your Ego ‘I’ is covering it with a dark shadow. This prevents you from seeing your True ‘I’. As you remove that cloud, you will be showered in the light of your True Existence, your True Self. And the nature of that True Self is ānand . This is where you find pure bliss.
When we do the experiment of neti, which means the deductive reasoning of what you are not, what do we find? When we take away everything that is not I, it allows us to find the True I. But it can never take you farther than “I am not my breath”. Why will it never take it beyond your breath? Because our intellect cannot go further than the breath. The process of neti is dependent on your intellect which is what is saying “I am not this, I am that.”
So with your intellect, you can deny everything that is not “you” until you get to your breath. But when you state that you are not your breath, the ‘I’ that makes that statement is the Ego, and that Ego will remain. The thought of your Ego ‘I’ is the first thing that corrupted you when you began in your True Form. That must be the first thought of your Ego ‘I’. And from that Ego ‘I’ come all your other thoughts. When you reach the last level of your Ego ‘I’, what needs to be done? You have to understand where that ego came from.
So we know that only the Ego ‘I’ remains, so how do we get rid of that? In order to do that we need to understand where it came from and how it was created.
Was it created in the brain? No. It was born in your heart. The first thought always comes from the heart – not the physical heart, but the Mind Heart. Today’s science is beginning to speak a lot about the Mind Heart. So the first thought of your Ego ‘I’ was born in your Mind Heart. We get confused by words and semantics, and because of words, we don’t know how to see things properly. You may think that Existence is Truth and that the world is māyā . At the same time, you say that whatever exists has existence and is Truth. This means that the whole concept of your māyā came from nothing. If you just see each and every creature as a being with Existence, then it is no longer māyā. If you see each creature as matter, then it remains as māyā. This duality comes from ignorance. Otherwise there is no point to have two names for the same things. Everything is pure existence; Oneness. But because of ignorance, you have made everything into two; Duality.

In Memory of RasBhai


In Memory of RāsBhāi

Today, I received unfortunate news about the death of my friend and colleague Srī Rās Bihārī Desāī, whom I called Rāsbhāi.
When I heard the news, my mind immediately went back to a morning long ago when I received a phone call at 5am.
It was Rāsbhāi on the other end.
“Divyāng bhāi, please listen to this. I know I’ve woken you up, but you must listen to this. We’ll talk after,” he said. Before I could really say anything, I heard the sound of drumming on the line. The patterns were set in miśra jāti.
After about 50 seconds, he came back on the phone.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“It is a bird. It is on the water bowl for birds. It’s actually dancing on it. I’ve been watching him for the last 40 minutes. I was thinking that I must call something and realized that I had to share it with you. That is why I called you so early in the morning.”
He actually recorded the bird dancing that day. I told him when we met next that I wanted to hear the whole thing. We met several times soon after that, but never at his home. Time, as it always does, passed by and today when I heard of his passing, I recall our agreement to listen to the bird dancing together and how that never came to be.
Rāsbhāi and I shared many memories together. He was one of my favourite Gujarātī singers. He was a good-hearted and knowledgeable person with a deep interest in philosophy. For the last 30 years, he has been using my students as his tabla player whenever possible. He was always a supporter of my work and I of his.
I pray to God that his soul will have the greatest place in heaven.

To be a Master of Indian Music

To be a Master of Indian Music

I am amazed at how many students I get who want to be a master of Indian music or Tablā. The desire is commendable, but the effort these students make to achieve this aim does not reflect this goal. The world has changed. There was a time not long ago when music students would practice 7, 8, 10 hours a day. They did nothing other than practice! There were no weekends, no days off. They kept single-pointed focus on becoming a master. There were no birthday parties and movies, no social commitments. For a period of time, they left behind the world in order to achieve greatness. And once that level is attained, a beautiful world opens up that cannot be described in words.

Today, I believe that there are great distractions and more ways that a person can have their attention diverted, but the human capacity for focus and determination still exist. And without fully utilizing them, greatness cannot be attained. I am not speaking of greatness in terms of becoming a star; being a “star” and having true mastery are two different things and don’t necessarily go hand in hand. To be a master requires the same qualities it did centuries ago, decades ago, and a few years ago: focus, devotion and ability to leave everything. While the world may change, these qualities don’t change over time.

Here is a wonderful poem by Brahmānand that summarizes what a classical musician must do if they truly want to realize God through their music. Note that this can be applied to any field or work, if one desires to reach that level of mastery in it. This poem has been sung beautifully by Bhimsenji, who is a great model of a true sādhak.

Jo bhaje hari Ko sadā
Wohi param pad pāyegā
choḍ duniyā ke maze sab
baiṭh kar ekānt mein
Dhyān dhar gurū ke charaṇ ka
To prabhu mil jāyegā

Literal translation:

The one who remembers/praises God always
Will attain the Ultimate goal.
Leave the pleasures of the world,
Sit alone (in meditation),
Meditate upon the feet of your gurū,
And you will realize God.

The actual meaning of the poem is:

The one who always and fully engages in one’s work (this can be any work)
Attains the highest aim.
Leave behind worldly pleasures,
Sit alone with full concentration,
Aspire to follow the path your gurū(’s feet) have walked (upon),
And you will realize God