In the following excerpts, Ramana Maharshi is telling us that we are already free, totally and completely. Can you accept this? Can you allow these words to move you? Can you intuit the truth to which they point?
If we talk of knowing the Self, there must be two selves, one a knowing self, another the self which is known, and the process of knowing. The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, one is that which alone is and which alone has always been. One cannot describe that state. One can only be that.
Questioner: How long does it take to reach mukti (liberation)?
Maharshi: Mukti is not to be gained in the future. It is there for ever, here and now.
Q: I agree, but I do not experience it.
M: The experience is here and now. One cannot deny one’s own Self.
Questioner: How shall I reach the Self?
Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now and that it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self, you are already that. The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance supervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self which is bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance which is merely wrong knowledge. The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains. Therefore realization is for everyone; realization makes no difference between the aspirants. This very doubt, whether you can realize, and the notion `I-have-not-realized’ are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.
Q: There must be something that I can do to reach this state.
M: The conception that there is a goal and a path to it is wrong. We are the goal or peace always. To get rid of the notion that we are not peace is all that is required.
Q: All books say that the guidance of a Guru is necessary.
A: The Guru will say only what I am saying now. He will not give you anything you have not already got. It is impossible for anyone to get what he has not got already. Even if he gets any such thing, it will go as it came. What comes will also go. What always is will alone remain. The Guru cannot give you anything new, which you don’t have already. Removal of the notion that we have not realized the Self is all that is required. We are always the Self only we don’t realize it.
Q: When a man realizes the Self, what will he see?
M: There is no seeing. Seeing is only being. The state of Self-realization, as we call it, is not attaining something new or reaching some goal which is far away, but simply being that which you always are and which you always have been. All that is needed is that you give up your realization of the not-true as true…At one stage you will laugh at yourself for trying to discover the Self which is so self-evident.
Q: But how to do this and attain liberation?
M: Liberation is our very nature. We are that. The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is to get rid of the false notion that we are bound. When we achieve that, there will be no desire or thought of any sort. So long as one desires liberation, so long, you may take it, one is in bondage.
Q: Is not the realization of one’s absolute being, that is, Brahma-jnana, something quite unattainable for a layman like me?
M: Brahma-jnana is not a knowledge to be acquired, so that acquiring it one may obtain happiness. It is one’s ignorant outlook that one should give up. The Self you seek to know is truly yourself.
Q: How to realize the Heart?
M: There is no one who even for a moment fails to experience the Self. For no one admits that he ever stands apart from the Self. He is the Self. The Self is the Heart.
Q: How can I attain Self- realization?
M: Realization is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought `I have not realized’. Stillness or peace is realization. There is no moment when the Self is not. So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-realization, the attempt should be made to rid oneself of these thoughts. They are due to the identification of the Self with the not-Self. When the not-Self disappears, the Self alone remains. To make room, it is enough that objects be removed. Room is not brought in from elsewhere.
Q: However often Bhagavan teaches us, we are not able to understand.
M: People say that they are not able to know the Self that is all pervading. What can I do ? Even the smallest child says, `I exist; I do; this is mine.’ So, everyone understands that the thing `I’ is always existent. It is only when that `I’ is there that there is the feeling that you are the body, he is Venkanna, this is Ramanna and so on. To know that the one that is always visible is one’s own Self, is it necessary to search with a candle ? To say that we do not know the atma swarupa (the real nature of the Self) which is not different but which is in one’s own Self is like saying, `I do not know myself.`
Q: But how is one to reach this state?
M: There is no goal to be reached. There is nothing to be attained. You are the Self. You exist always. Nothing more can be predicated of the Self than that it exists. Seeing God or the Self is only being the Self or yourself. Seeing is being. You, being the Self, want to know how to attain the Self. It is something like a man being at Ramanasramam asking how many ways there are to reach Ramanasramam and which is the best way for him. All that is required of you is to give up the thought that you are this body and to give up all thoughts of the external things or the not-Self.
Q: It is cruel of God’s leela (play) to make the knowledge of the Self so hard.
M: Knowing the Self is being the Self, and being means existence, one’s own existence. No one denies one’s existence any more than one denies one’s eyes, although one cannot see them. The trouble lies with your desire to objectify the Self, in the same way as you objectify your eyes when you place a mirror before them. You have been so accustomed to objectivity that you have lost the knowledge of yourself, simply because the Self cannot be objectified. Who is to know the Self ? Can the insentient body know it? All the time you speak and think of your `I’, yet when questioned you deny knowledge of it. You are the Self, yet you ask how to know the Self. Where then is God’s leela and where is its cruelty ? Because of this denial of the Self by people the sastras speak of maya, leela, etc.
Q: Yes, I still understand only theoretically. Yet the answers are simple, beautiful and convincing.
M: Even the thought `I do not realize’ is a hindrance. In fact, the Self alone is. Our real nature is mukti. But we are imagining we are bound and are making various, strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the while free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something which we have always been and are.
Q: Is mukti the same as realization?
M: Mukti or liberation is our nature. It is another name for us. Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade, voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat there, making great efforts to get back into the shade and then rejoicing, `How sweet is the shade! I have reached the shade at last!’ We are all doing exactly the same. We are not different from the reality. We imagine we are different, that is we create the bheda bhava [the feeling of difference] and then undergo great sadhana (spiritual practices) to get rid of the bheda bhava and realize the oneness. Why imagine or create bheda bhava and then destroy it?
Q: Since realization is not possible without vasana-kshaya (destruction of mental tendencies/habits), how am I to realize that state in which the tendencies are effectively destroyed?
M: You are in that state now.
Q: Does it mean that by holding on to the Self, the vasanas (mental tendencies) should be destroyed as and when they emerge?
M: They will themselves be destroyed if you remain as you are.
Q: Is one nearer to pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?
M: The sleep, dream and waking states are mere phenomena appearing on the Self which is itself stationary. It is also a state of simple awareness. Can anyone remain away from the Self at any moment ? This question can arise only if that were possible.
Q: Is it not often said that one is nearer pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?
M: The question may as well be `Am I nearer to myself in my sleep than in my waking state?’ The Self is pure consciousness. No one can ever be away from the Self. The question is possible only if there is duality. But there is no duality in the state of pure consciousness.