Losing my head, finding my heart - Francis Answers - 77

Francis Lucille

Subject: Atmabodha

Dear Francis,

I’ve been contemplating your rendition of Atmabodha over the past 2 weeks or so and a couple of questions have arisen. [Very good rendition, by the way!]

Both questions essentially relate to the following ‘logion’ or statement:

“67. When Atman, the sun of understanding, rises in the space of the heart, it disperses darkness; permeating all and sustaining all, it shines, and all is light.”

  1. Above, you’ve used the expression ‘the sun of understanding’ rather than, say, ‘the sun of all being’ or some equivalent expression. Perhaps this was deliberate, I’m not sure? For me, the term ‘understanding’ has connotations with ‘mental’ and ‘intellectual’, etc. Deconstructing the word a bit yields ‘standing’ and ‘under’ implying that ‘understanding’ stands under something which is more direct, so to put it. In this context, understanding, I would say, stands under direct non-conceptual Apperception, so to express it - where Apperception is akin to a percept but in the other direction, as it were. [Language being dualistic is always problematical in nondual contexts, but you perhaps catch my drift.] Anyway, the question here is did you use the term ‘understanding’ deliberately and if so, why?

  2. It seems to me that the separate self sense has 2 essential aspects:

    1. Cognitive - of the mind or intellect

    2. Deeper ‘felt’ sense - less apparent and of or in the heart

Now some thorough enquiry and analysis can relatively easily deconstruct the notion or idea of being a person, i.e. there can be a clear recognition that ‘self’ does not refer to a body or a mind or to anything objective. Furthermore, in consequence it can in due course be clearly ‘seen’ (popular word these days in certain circles!) that what we are is ever-present timeless awareness, etc. Now this is all fine and good, of course, but to assume (as many seem to) that this significant and worthwhile realisation constitutes Self-Realisation in its true proper sense does not seem accurate to me.

What’s missing, I feel, is this deeper aspect. And the reason the deeper aspect is missed is that it simply isn’t apparent; it’s buried quite deep, you could say. And this lack of apparentness of the deeper aspect is especially the case as the “Wow!” phase of the less deep ‘cognitive realisation’, so to call it, takes centre stage with its own particular euphoria. Now in due course, things settling, should there be further atma-vichara (self-enquiry) and a healthy dose of perceptive honesty (maybe!), the enquiry might begin to reveal this deeper aspect of the separate self sense hidden in the heart, so to put it. In fact, I would say that it does! And this seems to be confirmed by Ramana who clearly indicates that enquiry has its resolution and conclusion in the heart. [Dissolution of the ‘knot’ of or in the heart.] Also, Douglas Harding in his own particular way suggests this, too. To paraphrase, the ‘seeing’ gravitates to the heart-centre. He equates Enlightenment (Self-Realisation) with ‘I find my heart’ in his 8x8-fold plebian ‘map’. [The immediate prior stage Kensho or ‘I see my Original (No) Face’ he characterises as ‘I lose my head, but have yet to find my heart’ - signifying the less deep ‘cognitive realisation’, I would say.]

So, in brief, we can say in regard to the deeper aspect that the jiva-self is replaced by (or perhaps expanded to) the Brahman-Self. And this arising happens in the ‘cave of the heart’ as the Upanishads have it, as it is here that the (obscuring) deeper aspect of the separate self sense is resident. So as the ‘sun’ of the Brahman-Self rises the separate self sense in consequence dissolves and dissipates. Atmabodha also confirms this as we can see from the above ‘logion’ which states, “When Atman ….. rises in the space of the heart, it disperses darkness ….. etc.”

Now my question here (finally!) is, would you agree with this distinction between the 2 aspects of the separate self sense? The more surface aspect being essentially cognitive (of the mind) and the deeper being a deeper ‘felt’ sense having its root in the heart. [This is all said in an experiential empirical sense, by the way.]

In addition, please feel free to comment on the above as you see fit, should you be so inclined.



Dear Alan,

You asked two questions:

  1. Did you use the term ‘understanding’ deliberately and if so, why?

The answer is yes. That which stands under is the foundation, the substance, (from Latin: sub = under + stans = standing). We could use the words intelligence, or awareness, or substance, or presence, or being, all pointing at the same reality. The word understanding was chosen perhaps to challenge our usual perspective, a perspective according to which understanding is less real than thoughts, thoughts are less real than feelings, and feelings less real than physical objects perceived through the senses. We usually don’t see understanding or awareness as the ultimate reality of the world, the body, and the mind. Awakening is the recognition of the eternity, omnipresence and substantiality of awareness. This recognition could be redefined as the understanding of understanding.

It would be a gigantic mistake to assume that this understanding is “intellectual”, meaning “takes place in the human mind”. Another word for understanding would be perhaps “knowing”. We understand a thought, a feeling or a sense perception when we know it completely as it dissolves into its substance. The understanding of the thought is intelligence, of the feeling, love, and of the sense perception, beauty. Understanding is vastly misunderstood :-) and, as a result, underrated in spiritual circles. We have to see that not only intelligence, but also love and beauty are various aspects of understanding. There is no intelligence without love and beauty. That leads us to your second question:

  1. Would you agree with this distinction between the 2 aspects of the separate self sense, the more surface aspect being essentially cognitive (of the mind) and the deeper being a deeper ‘felt’ sense having its root in the heart?

Yes and no.

Yes, there are these two aspects. The former is comprised of belief systems rooted in the belief that we are a separate consciousness, the latter of feeling systems at the somatic level that conspire to create the impression of an embodied consciousness.

No, the latter is not deeper (if deeper means more fundamental) than the former. They are both equally important as they relate to the extent to which this “understanding of understanding” permeates respectively the realm of thoughts and the realm of bodily sensations. No stabilization in the peace of our true nature can be achieved without the dissolution of all or most of the residues of ignorance. A complete glimpse of our true being has a deep impact at both levels, and sets into motion the self realization process that leads to the abidance in our natural state of freedom. An incomplete glimpse is one that liberates us from a specific belief system or feeling system, but fails to eliminate the central knot of separation. Using the metaphor of the snake and the rope, a partial glimpse is one in which it is seen that there is no snake, but the underlying reality (the rope) has not been ascertained; a complete glimpse is the recognition of the rope. Such a glimpse (nirvikalpa samadhi) will be followed by the progressive stabilization in the natural state of freedom (sahaja samadhi), as the body-mind realigns itself with the new direction that was revealed in this apperception.

I am bringing this up is because a partial glimpse, being still tainted with objectivity, can be legitimately qualified as “intellectual” or “felt”. Such a glimpse cannot be qualified as “absolute”. Too often, partial glimpses of either kind are misconstrued by truth seekers as satori, or awakening, or nirvikalpa samadhi, all synonym terms. The result is a premature calling off of the quest. The seeker seems to formulate clearly his understanding of the Truth (provided the fine prints are not scrutinized), but the perfume, the essential power behind the mantra, is missing, and too often the preacher who so preaches the dharma fails to do the karma. Such a realization, no matter how worthwhile it may be, doesn’t constitute Self realization or even awakening in its true proper sense. There is however a parallel, equally depth lacking realization, in which there is a surrender at the feeling level, at the heart level, but the intellectual attachment to the concept of a separate consciousness remains. This second type of “half baked” seekers is mostly found among those on the path of devotion.

In the complete glimpse of our true Self, the losing of one’s intellectual identity and of one’s felt identity are concomitant. Both are the result of the revelation of our true identity, and most certainly the heart is part of it. Lets put it bluntly: any realization that is not the revelation of our immortality, of our absolute freedom, and the experience of absolute happiness, absolute love and absolute beauty, is not the experience of which and from which the Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Ma Ananda Mai, Jean Klein and many other sages spoke. There is no such a thing as discounted, partial, second class enlightenment. It is absolute or it is not.

A you can see, my answer doesn’t contradict the statements you made and I understand the concerns of superficiality and intellectualism implied in your question.