Satsang discourse, May 17, 2009
Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT) www.satramana.org
Nome in Tiruvannamalai, 2005
What is the nature of your very existence? If only this is known, deeply, happiness and peace are complete and without end. The fruitfulness of any spiritual experience, spiritual practice is found in the shining of your own existence, that is it is due to the knowledge essence, the knowledge of your own being. Subtract the knowledge essence from any experience, from any practice, and what is left of it? But with the knowledge essence, all of it becomes fruitful.
The knowledge is the shining of ones own nature, or pure consciousness. For this reason, the Veda-s, specifically an Upanisad, say, “Prajnanam Brahma, Supreme Knowledge is Brahman,” in which Brahman indicates the immeasurably vast, indivisible Absolute, absolute existence. What kind of knowledge is this when it is referred to as supreme knowledge? It is without the usual triadic divisions found in perceptions and mental conceptions, that is, the knower, the knowing and the known. It is that knowledge of oneself in which the knower, the knowing and the known are identical. It transcends sensory perception and transcends mental conceptions, but is realizable within you.
Because it is Self-knowledge, another Upanisad declares another Mahavakya, great saying, “Ayam Atma Brahma, This Self is Brahman.” That which is knowledge, that which is consciousness, that which is illimitable, is your very existence, and you are not truly otherwise. If it seems as if otherwise in your experience, then you ought to inquire and know your existence as it truly is, and then you find what all the wise have found. This is to be realized by experiential knowledge, that which is beyond sensation and conception.
The experience has been described in another Upanisad as “Aham Brahmasmi, I am Brahman.” It indicates not the thought, “I am Brahman,” but the realization of your very existence, directly experienced as it is, without any superimposed limitation – superimposed through imagination, the imagination that we commonly call, “ignorance.”
Knowledge puts an end to ignorance. Nothing else does so, and therefore, it is that which makes spiritual practice fruitful. In his text Atma-Bodhah, Self Knowledge, Adi Sankara says that knowledge alone is the means to liberation. It is the meaning, and it is the end. Where you start is where you end. Start with your own self, your own existence. And inquire deeply within yourself to know the existence as it is. It is not apart from you, so you cannot set it aside from yourself as if it were an object. Nor can you truthfully set yourself aside from it as if you were a separate subject.
The fourth Mahavakya is, “Tat tvam asi, That you are,” indicating the identity of you and yourself, you and Brahman, that is, the true self is the only self that you are, and you are not the limited embodied individual that you might imagine yourself to be.
The Maharshi gave as instruction for the purposes of liberating oneself from all the imagined bondage, the inquiry, “Who am I?” Put the question to yourself, not so much the words of it, but the meaning of it. Begin with your own sense of existence. You have a continuous uninterrupted knowledge of existence. Although it evades your sense perception, it does not depend on any sense perception. Without see, hearing, touching, etc., you still know that you exist. And you exist the same way when seeing, hearing or touching appear. The existence remains the same, regardless of the sense perception, regardless of the changes of your body from birth to death, and before and after.
What is this existence that is always the same? You are and you know that you are. How is it that you know that you are? It does not depend on the body or the senses, nor does it depend on the thought, “I am.” With or without that thought, you still are, and you know that you are. The knowledge of your existence is something intrinsically doubtless. Even if intellectually you would consider the doubt, “Maybe I exist, maybe I don’t?” you would still be assuming your own existence to consider the question. You are, and you know that you are, and this knowledge that you are is indivisible from the existence itself. That is, the knowledge and the being are the same thing.
You are. That much is true. You are some thing. That has good reason to be doubted. Whatever is objective to you cannot actually be you. For, if you come to know yourself as you are, infinite and eternal, there is nothing apart from you, but you are not a thing.
Casting aside all that is perceived as objective, all that is conceived as also objective, what is your nature? That which has beginning and end, is sporadic, is objective, has a coming and going, cannot be you, and therefore cannot be real. To know reality, to know Brahman, know your own existence.
The end is the beginning, say the wise, so the Maharshi has us inquire, “Who am I?” And whatever else you may do in regards to your spirituality, if you adhere to this knowledge essence, well, … just find out for yourself.
Abandon the tendency to misidentify with a body or with a mind, which is just a collection of thoughts. Cease to regard anything that appears within a waking, dreaming or sleeping state of mind, as your self, and question the very assumption of existing as an individual of any kind. Where ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are, such is illusion. The I-less, the mine-less, is said to be liberation.
That which is now called liberation, or realization of the Self, is, in truth, the ever-existing Reality.
This much is indicated. Determine the truth of it for yourself, inside. Inquire within yourself to know your self.
Nome is an American spiritual teacher of Advaita Vedanta, in the tradition of 20th Century Indian sage Ramana Maharshi.
Nome was born on January 23, 1955 in Long Island, New York, and spent most of his childhood in New Jersey. His family was opposed to all religions.
Early Spiritual Experiences and Practice
Despite having no training in any religious tradition, Nome’s first spiritual experience, of nirvikalpa samadhi, occurred at age 15 spontaneously in a park in New Jersey. At age 16, without graduating from high school, he left his home and family in New Jersey and traveled to California in search of enlightenment.
In San Francisco Nome met Swami Swanandashram, who introduced him to the traditional scriptures of Hinduism such as the Upanisads, the Avadhuta Gita, and the Astavakra Gita, and to the teachings of Adi Sankara and Sri Ramana Maharshi.
After three years of intense spiritual practice (Ramana’s Self-inquiry), on May 14, 1974, at 19 years of age, Nome gained Self-Realization.
For several years Nome was mainly silent, and sometimes answered questions from spiritual seekers.
In 1978, a group of spiritual seekers, first called “The Avadhut Ashram,” formed around Nome. He held satsang in Boulder Creek, Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Later, the Society of Abidance in Truth was created from this group, and a temple, dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharshi, was built in Santa Cruz, CA, USA, and opened in 1989. Satsang and retreats have been offered in this temple since that time.
Books – Translations, commentaries and original works
Although he had no formal education in Hinduism, Nome dedicated himself to reading and studying the classical scriptures and the Sanskrit language. From 1988 to 2001, Nome worked with Dr. H. Ramamoorthy, a scholar of Hinduism and the Sanskrit and Tamil languages, to translate classic Advaita Vedanta works into English (many for the first time). This work encompassed about 20 manuscripts, and continued until the death of Dr. Ramamoorthy in 2001.
Many works have been published, including classics of Hindu thought such as both the Sanskrit and the Tamil versions of the Ribhu Gita, and Sankara’s Svatmanirupanam. There are more manuscripts still to be published. This collaboration produced the only complete English translation of the Tamil-language Ribhu Gita, titled Song of Ribhu. This work has been reprinted in India by Ramanasramam, and has been translated into Hindi and Italian.
Original written works by Nome include Timeless Presence and Self-Knowledge. A commentary on Sri Ramana’s “Self-Inquiry,” Essence of Inquiry has also been published and is available from the Ramanasramam bookstore, Ramana Centre for Learning in Bangalore, and SAT.
Since the founding of SAT
Nome was invited by Sri Ramanasramam to participate at the 1996 centenary celebration of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s arrival at Arunachala. He has also spoken at The Ramana Centre for Learning in Bangalore, by request of A.R. Natarajan. Both Ramanasramam and The Ramana Centre for Learning have published books written or translated by Nome.
New books continue to be published each year, including original material, and collections and translations of important work of advaita Vedanta.
More about SAT can be found at www.satramana.org. More about Nome is on Wikepedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nome,_Spiritual_Teacher.
A series of discourses from Nome’s book, Self Knowledge can be found at the advaita.org.uk site. They start with this url http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/teachers/self1_nome.htm.