I’d like to briefly discuss some thoughts I’ve been having lately on morality. If all is one, and everyone is yourself, how can there be any moral accountability?
I think this is based on a misunderstanding. All moral problems seem to stem from thought processes rooted in ego and false identification with the body. Take basic things. We’re told not to steal. You wouldn’t steal from yourself, so if you view others as yourself, you won’t steal from them. It’d be like taking something from your own bedroom and placing it in another room. It makes no sense. Or how about jealousy? You’re never jealous with yourself. You get jealous at what someone else has, but if there are no others, this can’t happen. How about pride? You can’t be prideful if there’s nobody else to be superior to. What about murder? If you see everyone as yourself, like the entire world is an extension of your own body, who would cut off their own finger? Chop off their own toes? In the same way, you’d never inflict pain and suffering on others. How about greed? When we eat food, it is broken up in our digestive system and the nourishment is delivered throughout the entire body. If we came under a condition where no nourishment was making it to say your right hand, we’d call it a disease. In the same way, if the entire world is viewed as yourself, you’re not going to pollute the waters, or hoard things you don’t need, or overlook people in need of assistance. If you see someone else suffering, it’s your suffering. It’s all one and the same. Seeing someone in pain is like having stubbed your own toe. You’ll do all you can to alleviate the pain.
Ego is the problem, primarily our false identification with our bodies, thinking we’re separate individuals when we are not. Ramana Maharshi believes this ego to be the cause of all madness, delusion, and demonic qualities.
Though the nature of Self ever exists as bliss, one is scorched by the burning sunheat of the misery of birth [and death] solely on account of the rising of the ego and its functioning mischievously with the madness of dense delusion.
The ego, the vile attachment to the body [as ‘I am this’], is the base of all demonic qualities [asura sampat]. For those whose illusory ego [Mayaahankara] is waxing through contact with the binding ‘mine’-ness [mamakara], it is indeed impossible to achieve peace.
– Ramana Maharshi
People don’t perceive the divine Oneness within them and everything else. They get caught up in race, gender, political party affiliations, national pride, class, education, and those sorts of illusion, and that’s just on the human level. They don’t see their Oneness with the animals, the environment, and the entire cosmos. They don’t see themselves as the divine awareness looking back at Itself, aware of Itself. They’re little islands unto themselves, caught up in a confused idea of “mine-ness”, as if everything isn’t already theirs.
And here’s another thing. As Ramana Maharshi points out, as one rids themselves of this ego, they’re rewarded with inner peace and bliss that’s not based on circumstances. It comes entirely from within. People who are happy and at peace generally do not treat others badly.
The deeper I go on this journey, feeling Oneness with everyone and everything, I feel this inner peace and tranquility, and my actions are just naturally kind, thoughtful, and empathetic. Thoughts to exploit, cheat the system, or harm others don’t even enter my mind. In fact, my awareness becomes more and more hypersensitive to the “stench” of selfish, nasty behavior, and the like. I perceive it more clearly, yet it bothers me less and less because I already have my peace within.
People who have truly tasted this inner peace no longer crave the things of this world.
The discriminative person [viveki], having once suffered in the hot sunshine, will not like to go again into the sunshine from the shade. Likewise, those who have suffered in the three-fold heat [of desire for wealth, women and fame] which scorches this world, should not again turn worldwards, leaving the Heart [Self].”
– Ramana Maharshi
I remember chasing this inner peace and could never find it. I looked for it by changing my career, pursuing relationships, immersing myself in all kinds of distractions, and I could go on. But I made huge changes in my job and I didn’t feel any different inside. I met really nice women but it didn’t change me deeply on the inside. I played every sort of video game, involved myself in hobbies, and every other distraction, and this inner feeling that something was missing was always there, leaving me depressed. But then I learned I can have peace and inner contentment by going within, finding something I’ve always had but had just covered up in my own delusive thinking, and now I think to myself, “Why would I ever go back to that rat-race maze of misery?”
Life’s no longer some maze. I no longer have some complex puzzle I have to solve, searching for all the right pieces. I try to tell people this, but they just sort of look at me like, “Well that’s nice Jason. Good for you.” This isn’t magic or something. Rid yourself of false identifications, this stupid ego, this non-existence “self”. I tell them I could now work any job, even hard physical labor outdoors in the heat and cold, and I’d be just fine. I see all these layoffs at the university due to budget cuts and I have zero worries. What does it matter? I’ll feel the same regardless of how I have to earn my living. I don’t even desire a relationship anymore, but strangely the women I meet now love me. I’m no longer needy, or depressing to be around, or timid and shy. Now I’m extremely attentive and supportive. I’m told I’m more confident now, but really it’s moreso an inner peace that doesn’t come from her reaction to anything I do or say. I’m not trying to impress anyone anymore. As corny as this sounds, when you view others as yourself, your only concern is their happiness and seeing them smile. Their smile is your smile. My body and emotions is just one set of things I perceive, but they’re there too. They’re just as much “there” as my body, and how they’re feeling, and their happiness is just as important as mine. I might not know how to fix their problems, in the same way I might not know how to stop my stubbed toe from hurting, or end a headache, but I do what I can.
My nature now is to observe and listen and give encouragement. It comes out of me naturally. Without ego, that’s just what flows out of you. I also no longer need distractions. Just last night I spent the entire evening sitting on the front porch, watching my cat swing its tail back and forth as it slept on the ledge. I watched the birds fly overhead, listened to the crickets chirping, and exchanged glances with a small kitten who timidly made its way on the porch. If I’d been caught up in distractions, caught up in this false world of “me me me”, trying to satisfy all these illusory, incessant inner deficits, I wouldn’t have even noticed or had the time to take care of a hungry stray kitten. But now I’m open. I’m free. I’m finally present in reality once again. I’m actually aware of what’s going on in my front yard, of my neighbors, or my community. There’s room for something other than this false “me”. And strangely, I had a BETTER evening than I ever did when I was playing video games all night, or watching movies, and all the other things I used to do.
Jesus taught these things, the Buddah taught these things, great Yogis like Ramana Maharshi taught these things, but I don’t know, I just never got it. Something about the way Maharshi put it clicked with me. When reading books with his teachings, some ding, ding, ding bell went off in my head and I found myself exclaiming, “Of course! Of course!”
My mind today is still a mismatch of this non-egoic, non-dual way of seeing the world, and my old ways of seeing things that I had built up over nearly forty years of living on this planet. I’m constantly having to undergo Self-inquiry, and place all thoughts under that process, and try to ascertain what causes them. And guess what? It’s just as Maharshi says. Pretty much all of my stray thoughts which caused me misery were rooted in ‘I am the body’ or ‘I am my thoughts’ identifications. Because I want to rid myself of this stuff, I sit in silence, observe these sensations, these thought patterns, these emotional flows, and watch them come and go from this point of the immovable Self. Then I noticed, Ah Ha! I’m grasping at this! I’m grasping at that! I’m averting my attention from this or that. Ah ha! And as time goes on, I find myself more and more silent.
For those who can scrutinize [enquire into] and know the subtlest thing [Self], what benefit is there by the research on and knowledge of gross objects? Worthier than the research done [by the mind] through the eye and so on, is the indestructible research done within [that is, Self-enquiry or Self-attention].
– Ramana Maharshi
When you are dissatisfied with your life, with your job, with your partner, with society, with the world, whatever it is, the answer isn’t “more”, the answer isn’t “escape”, nor is the answer “change”. The answer you’re seeking has NOTHING to do with what’s going on out there. Leave it alone for now. Seek mental peace. Seek stillness of mind. Come to a place where you want nothing and lack nothing. Have you accomplished this? Ok. The things the world needs will be what you’ve developed within yourself. What needs to be done will now be clear to you. The right actions will naturally flow out of you. But if you’re caught up in the same madness the world is in, you’re not going to help anything.
O foolish mind who is suffering due to the desire for the petty pleasures of this world and of the next, if you remain quiet [i.e. without desire] you will certainly attain that State of Bliss which surely transcends the pleasures of these two.
– Ramana Maharshi