One elegant, and very intuitive argument, from Michael James’s Happiness and the Art of Being: An Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of the Spiritual Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana is worth sitting with:
Only practice [in atma vicara, i.e., self-inquiry, self-investigation, or self-abidance] can make perfect. By repeated and persistent practice of turning our attention back on itself to discover what this consciousness ‘I am’ really is, we will gradually refine our power of attention, making it more subtle, clear and penetrating, and thus we will gain a steadily increasing clarity of knowledge of the real infinite and non-dual nature of our consciousness ‘I am’. Finally, when our power of attention has been perfectly refined or purified – that is, when it has become freed from its present strong attachment to attend only to thoughts and objects – we will be able to know with perfect clarity our essential consciousness ‘I am’ as it really is, devoid of even the least superimposition of any limitation or identification with any other thing.James, p. 322.
It’s surprising, I think, that few teachers or Sages speak of the process of “refinement” through diligent practice. For my part anyway, rarely, if ever, have I come upon such statements despite the fact that it’s so obviously true to one engaged deeply in practice.
Truly, diligent daily practice involving self-abidance does indeed “refine our power of attention.” It is easier and easier and more and more natural to simply abide as “I am.” Where once this seemed as if it required herculean efforts to turn from “extroversion” to “introversion” (NB: there were no such efforts in actuality; all along it’s been “unefforting”), the clarity of “I am,” which is at once the peace of “I am,” is a natural draw, a naturally placeless place to rest.
In this, as James also states, there is love as much as, and none other than, knowledge: love of Truth goes hand in hand with the deepening of knowledge such that they are not really two. To know is to surrender; to surrender to know. Whereas at first the Truth seems distant and opaque, the gradual refinement of our power of attention does place one–who has never been such a one–squarely and more firmly in the Seat of Truth.
So that “[f]inally, when our power of attention has been perfectly refined or purified… we will be able to know with perfect clarity our essential consciousness ‘I am’ as it really is, devoid of even the least superimposition of any limitation or identification with any other thing.” Amen.