'Sailor' Bob Adamson
Some people say there is no practice that does not reinforce the Ego. They are the No Teaching, No Guru, No Practice crew. They maintain that self realization just happens and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to make it happen faster, make it happen at all, or even prevent it.
Others say that there are many, many Practices, and when these are done the Ego will be gradually weakened and fall apart at which time you become self realized.
Yet others, like Eckhart Tolle, say "You need time until you realise that you do not need time", which loosely translated means that a Spiritual Practice is fine, until you realise that you do not need one.
Ramana Maharshi says the only 'practice' you can actually 'do' that does not reinforce the 'me' is to look for the 'me' itself. He says that all 'practices' other than that reinforce the belief in the 'me' and perpetuate the suffering. This is because they take for granted the belief in the 'me' which is supposed to carry out the practice itself. ('Be As You Are' compiled by David Godman)
Seeing who you really are is not a Practice at all - it is the pure seeing of itself by your own essential nature. That occurs only in the immediacy of the present moment where there is no past or future - only this instant.
Bob Adamson says that not knowing who we really are opens the door to us 'believing' anything that the mind comes up with on the subject of our nature.
We do too. We have been believing anything at all for years and years, and these beliefs have been woven into the conceptual 'me', the one who we think we are. The self-image, the reference point.
Rather than saying "Who am I?" - it is far better, in my direct experience, to investigate whether this personal sense-of-self exists at all?
Asking "Who Am I?" can be taken to assume the existence of something, about which we now only need to establish the details.
Asking "Does it exist at all?" cuts right to the root of the matter as it does not already assume its existence - it investigates that belief.
In the immediacy of the present moment whenever there is suffering or 'me' centered thoughts, you can carry out the inquiry.
Specifically the Self-Inquiry looks at the thoughts that refer to a 'me'. The question is - does that 'me' actually exist?
Doing this is not a one-shot wonder and is not rote. You will probably come up with your own questions. We have been believing in the 'me' hundreds of times a day for years. This is quite a habit. Quite a habit to see through.
Initially there will be plenty of things to look at where the reference to the 'me' is obvious. Things like "Why did you do that to 'me'?" and "No-one is taking notice of 'me'". You look at each of these to see if the 'me' that is referred to actually exists in any way other than as the content of thought.
After a while you will probably see the thoughts that refer to a 'me' and immediately look and find that there is no 'me' there.
Thoughts with a 'me' in them will be noticed as they happen - and seen through as they occur.
This is a looking in the immediacy of now - each time is unique and alive.
You will notice subtle or oblique references to a 'me' where it is not obvious, but nevertheless the 'me' is assumed to exist. This is very interesting, and quite exciting as you actually SEE what has been happening all these years. Each one is an identification with thought. Seeing that is incredible.
Doing the investigation whenever something comes up is the way to go. (only takes a minute or a few seconds, once you get the hang of it).
Ramana Maharshi said
"Self-enquiry .... should continue throughout one’s waking hours, irrespective of what one is doing. Sri Ramana saw no conflict between working and self-enquiry and he maintained that with a little practice it could be done under any circumstances. "
The 'feeling' associated with the suffering may hang around for awhile, or disappear immediately, but that does not matter as there is space around it now. There is no identification with it - any 'me' in it has been seen to be a falsity.. The 'feeling' very often changes from a type of suffering to something sensual - quite amazing - and nice too !!
Written by Mike Graham, 19 Jan 2008, last edited 17 Mar 2008
Huang Po, Zen Master