the “me and the “not-me”

donald zolan the thinker painting


“…worshiping the formless reality by unthought thought…”



The “me” creates the “not-me”. When the feeling of “I-ness” arises, it almost instantaneously turns into the “me-thought” due to its identification with the body. When this happens a center is created and with it a periphery, which is the “not-me-thought”.

Many things are accumulated within the periphery, which is the territory of the “me”, and they all become “mine”. Me and mine divide up the entire existence. The “not-me” and “not-mine” are given less value than the “me” and the “mine”. Seldom do we realize that this view of the world is based merely on certain thought-forms that we have become accustomed to since early childhood. To think in terms of me and not-me has become so much a part of our way of life that it is like a second skin – we are not really aware of it. These grooves in our brain have been reinforced and deepened for a long, long time. Now we are asked to let go of this “me-not me” thought-form and allow our brain to regenerate – to become smooth again, like a new-born: a clean slate.

Many who have somehow realized the solid fact of the complete illusion that we are caught up in, and had a view of life free of the “me” center, have offered useful tips on how to dispel the illusion and awaken from the trance. One of them is Ramana Maharshi, as he was called by his many devotees and students (he never referred to himself at all and only recognized that name for the sake of convenience.) Ramana offered much sound advice over the years until he died in 1950. Here I am focusing on his statement: “Worshiping the formless reality by unthought thought is the best kind of worship.”  This statement gives us the sense that from his perspective we “worship” so many forms and that this is an obstruction to dispelling the illusion of “me-not me”.

In the Free Dictionary online we find the following definition (among others) for the term worship “to be devoted to and full of admiration for”. The most usual meaning of this term is related to the religious practice of devotion to God. If, however, I apply the sense of worship to affection, care, devotion and attention to the many things that I call “mine”, I can then follow Ramana’s understanding at least intellectually.  We may not think of it that way but whenever we give special significance to some “thing”, and be it only a certain ‘thought’, we could say that we are in effect worshipping it.

Seen like this we worship going to sleep at the end of the day; we worship thinking of all we desire to do as we wake up in the morning; we worship drinking our coffee or tea after arising; we worship checking our e-mail in-box, preparing our meal, or our next meeting, or a special evening with friends etc. etc.

When I consider letting these and many other ‘important’ and ‘good thoughts’ just be UNTHOUGHT, my mind goes into a kind of panic state. All these things ARE significant and they make up my very life! What is there if I let them go? I have to prepare and find the right words to make my point at the next meeting and I have to say the right things at my next presentation for it to be a success. If I let all these thoughts simply be “unthought” – I would have to trust that the formless reality will ‘take care’ of everything without me having to think about it beforehand.

He says to “worship the formless reality” as I let all these thoughts just be unthought, uncreated. But these thoughts are my babies! I conceived and brought them into being. Should I just let them be unborn? Who will fill the world with alive forms for me to interact with and realize my highest potential if I let go of thinking about things and situations beforehand?

All of these thoughts are born of the fear that something will go terribly wrong, some danger lurks in the shadows if I don’t have it all under control through my thinking, my understanding, my knowledge, my skills applied!

So thoughts are fear, and to worship means to trust, to have faith in and to rely on something – in this case: the formless reality. It is time for me, for us, to give ourselves over to that “mysterious principle” that is running the whole show anyway. The trouble only starts when we create thought-forms that are NOT in alignment with the activity of this mysterious principle that Ramana calls here “the formless reality”. We continually throw wrenches into the gears, or at least sand, by allowing the thought “me and not-me” to arise and then to feed it, to subscribe to it.

Yes, it is unconditional surrender to a life free of the attempt by our “me” center to control and understand what’s happening. It has failed completely and can close up shop. Now it, too, can go home, home to the Mother, home to the Father, home to the Self. Once reunited with the greater “I”, it has a wonderful job to perform. It has to stay completely alert to all that is happening around it in the NOW, from moment to moment to moment to moment. This alert awakeness is complete attention with every fiber of our being and this attention grows.

This attention is not narrow and pre-meditated, but rather open and vulnerable and has its sensors attuned to the information from the Whole, in 360 degrees spherically, omni-directionally. It is totally relaxed attention like when you want to take in the faint call of a bird far off in the woods, or the first sound of a deer moving through the underbrush. You have to be open like a sponge, and be able to absorb without choice all that in being transmitted to you, for you, by You.


Here is the full text from Ramana Maharshi:

“Worshiping the formless reality by unthought thought is the best kind of worship. But when one is not fit for such formless worship of God, worship of form alone is suitable. Formless worship is possible only for people who are devoid of the ego-form. Know that all the worship done by people who possess the ego-form is only worship of form.

“The pure state of being attached to grace [Self], which is devoid of any attachment, alone is one’s own state of silence, which is devoid of any other thing. Know that one’s ever abiding as that silence, having experienced it as it is, alone is true mental worship [manasika-puja].

“Know that the performance of the unceasing, true and natural worship in which the mind is submissively established as the one Self, having installed the Lord on the Heart-throne, is silence, the best of all forms of worship. Silence, which is devoid of the assertive ego, alone is liberation.”

Ramana Maharshi

Source: David Godman, Be As You Are, Chapter 7 Surrender, PDF p. 53


related article: New Earth Heartbeat – Unthought-Thought





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