Ramana Maharshi: ‘Man considers himself limited and there arises the trouble’

In the following excerpt from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Ramana concisely outlines the problem (suffering), its cause (ignorance) and its remedy (self-knowledge). First Ramana says that the fact that one considers oneself to be limited is the essential problem. This arising of the notion of ‘I’ is a notion of limitation, and it is to this limited notion that ‘the world’ appears. It is this limited entity ‘I’ (ego) that then seeks various things, including self-realisation, and so suffers more.I have added bold type for emphasis and my comments are italicised in red:

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The fact is that the man considers himself limited and there arises the trouble. The idea is wrong. He can see it for himself. In sleep there was no world, no ego (no limited self), and no trouble. Something wakes up from that happy state and says ‘I’. To that ego the world appears. Being a speck in the world he wants more and gets into trouble. How happy he was before the rising of the ego!

Now Ramana prescribed the remedy, after restating that it is this limited ‘ego’ that is the cause of the ‘trouble’, ie. suffering:

Only the rise of the ego is the cause of the present trouble. Let him trace the ego to its source and he will reach that undifferentiated happy state which is sleepless sleep. The Self remains ever the same, here and now. There is nothing more to be gained. Because the limitations have wrongly been assumed there is the need to transcend them.

To illustrate the point that there is nothing to be gained, that we are already essentially whole, and that the problem is simply one of ignorance or ‘wrong assumptions’, Ramana narrates two traditional stories – ‘the tenth man’ and ‘the woman wearing a necklace’:

It is like the ten ignorant fools who forded a stream and on reaching the other shore counted themselves to be nine only. They grew anxious and grieved over the loss of the unknown tenth man. A wayfarer, on ascertaining the cause of their grief, counted them all and found them to be ten. But each one of them had counted the others leaving himself out. The wayfarer gave each in succession a blow telling them to count the blows. They counted ten and were satisfied. The moral is that the tenth man was not got anew. He was all along there, but ignorance caused grief to all of them.

Again, a woman wore a necklace round her neck but forgot it. She began to search for it and made enquiries. A friend of hers, finding out what she was looking for, pointed out the necklace round the seeker’s neck. She felt it with her hands and was happy. Did she get the necklace anew? Here again ignorance caused grief and knowledge happiness.

Similarly also with the man and the Self. There is nothing to be gained anew. Ignorance of the Self is the cause of the present misery; knowledge of the Self brings about happiness.

Ramana now provides the seeking mind/ego with some elementary logic to underpin his case. If liberation were something to be gained, it could also be lost. How so? Because logically if something can be attained, it can also be lost. Therefore something gained cannot be permanent. Liberation, or ‘salvation’ as it is written below, is permanent only because it is already totally and fully here – already! Ramana continues writing that it only seems that ‘Wisdom’ seems to be attained once the ignorance is removed, but really wisdom was already ‘ever present’:

Moreover, if anything is to be got anew it implies its previous absence. What remained once absent might vanish again. So there would be no permanency in salvation. Salvation is permanent because the Self is here and now and eternal. Thus the man’s efforts are directed towards the removal of ignorance. Wisdom seems to dawn, though it is natural and ever present.

The visitor, while taking leave, saluted the master, and said, “It is said that the victim in the tiger’s mouth is gone for ever.” The reference is to a passage in Who am I? where it is stated that a disciple can never revert to the world after he has once fallen into the field of the Guru’s gracious look as surely as the prey in the tiger’s jaws cannot escape.

Excerpt from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 63

Oh yes! Once we have felt the Guru’s gracious look, once we have felt the Presence of the Maharshi, we are already in the Tiger’s Mouth. We are already in His Clutches. There is no going back! The Self will surely reel us in and chew us (the ego or ignorance) up!

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

Ramana Maharshi – three theories of reality (shristi-dristi vada, dristi-shristi vada, ajata vada)

In classical Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta, there are three main theories or viewpoints of reality, called shristi-dristi vada, dristi-shristi vada and lastly ajata vada. Whilst these Sanskrit words may appear complex, the idea is actually very simple, and Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi explains the meaning of these terms below. 

It may be helpful to note that ‘vada’ means ‘theory’ or ‘viewpoint’, ‘shristi’ means ‘the world’ or ‘creation’, ‘dristi’ literally means ‘sight’ but in this context refers to consciousness, and ‘jata’ means ‘birth’. Adding ‘a’ as a prefix to ‘jata’ negates the meaning so that ‘ajata’ means ‘unborn’.

Therefore shristi-dristi vada is the view that the world is primary and gives rise to consciousness, dristi-shristi vada is the view that consciousness is primary and gives rise to the world appearance, and ajata vada is the view that there never was any creation at all, and that there is only The Absolute.

To explain further, here is an excerpt from Day by Day with Bhagavan from 15th March, 1946:

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[Ramana Maharshi:] I do not teach only the ajata doctrine. I approve of all schools. The same truth has to be expressed in different ways to suit the capacity of the hearer. The ajata doctrine says, “Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in [of the world], no sadhaka [no seeker], no mumukshu [no one seeking liberation], no mukta [no liberated person], no bondage, no liberation. The one unity alone exists ever.”

‘To such as find it difficult to grasp this truth and who ask. “How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?” the dream experience is pointed out and they are told, “All that you see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer, there is no seen.”

‘This is called the drishti-srishti vada, or the argument that one first creates out of his mind and then sees what his mind itself has created.

‘To such as cannot grasp even this and who further argue, “The dream experience is so short, while the world always exists. The dream experience was limited to me. But the world is felt and seen not only by me, but by so many, and we cannot call such a world non-existent,” the argument called srishti-drishti vada is addressed and they are told, “God first created such and such a thing, out of such and such an element and then something else, and so forth.” That alone will satisfy this class. Their mind is otherwise not satisfied and they ask themselves, “How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them and all knowledge be totally untrue?” To such it is best to say, “Yes. God created all this and so you see it.”’

Dr. M. said, ‘But all these cannot be true; only one doctrine can be true.’

Bhagavan said, ‘All these are only to suit the capacity of the learner. The absolute can only be one.’

In Guru Vackaka Kovai (Garland of Guru’s Sayings), Ramana says the following (with a comment by Sri Sahdu Om):

100. Although Guru Ramana taught various doctrines according to the level of understanding of those who came to Him, we heard from Him that ‘Ajata’ alone is truly His own experience. Thus should you know.

Sri Sadhu Om: ‘Ajata’ is the knowledge that nothing – neither the world, soul nor God – ever comes into existence, and that ‘That Which Is’ ever exists as IT is.

114. When the limited light [which is used to project pictures on the cinema screen] is dissolved in the bright sunlight [which enters the cinema], the pictures also will disappear instantaneously. Similarly, when the limited consciousness [chittam] of the mind is dissolved in supreme Consciousness [Chit], the picture show of these three prime entities [God, world and soul] will also disappear.

115. Thus, since the Truth of the Source is One, why do all religions [and sometimes even Sages] start their teachings by at first conceding that these three prime entities are real? Because the mind, which is tossed about by objective knowledge, would not agree to believe in the One unless the Sages condescended to teach It as three.

122. Whatever high and wonderful state of tapas one may have attained, if one still identifies oneself with an individuality, one cannot be a Sahaja-Jnani [i.e. One in the State of Effortlessness]; one is only an aspirant of, perhaps, an advanced stage.

Also see Ramana Maharshi: how to abide as the Self, the world is not real, attend to yourself

 

 

 

 

Nisarga Yoga explained (Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings summarised)

Nisargadatta Maharaj

The following text is a summary of Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teaching and was written by Maurice Frydman, the translator and editor of ‘I Am That’, Nisargadatta’s most widely read work. The text was entitled ‘Nisarga Yoga’ which, as Maurice Frydman explains below, means ‘the easy or natural yoga’, and it was originally published as an appendix to ‘I Am That’.

The text below is essentially the same as how it was originally published except for my addition of bold type for emphasis of what I felt were key points for a seeker of liberation.

I have also made a compilation of direct quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj which fully explains his method for the discerning reader.

Wishing you peace and realisation

Tom


In the humble abode of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, but for the electric lights and the noises of the street traffic, one would not know in which period of human history one dwells. There is an atmosphere of timelessness about his tiny room; the subjects discussed are timeless – valid for all times; the way they are expounded and examined is also timeless; the centuries, millennia and yugas fall off and one deals with matters immensely ancient and eternally new.

The discussions held and teachings given would have been the same ten thousand years ago and will be the same ten thousand years hence. There will always be conscious beings wondering about the fact of their being conscious and enquiring into its cause and aim. Whence am I? Who am I? Whither am I? Such questions have no beginning and no end. And it is crucial to know the answers, for without a full understanding of oneself, both in time and in timelessness, life is but a dream, imposed on us by powers we do not know, for purposes we cannot grasp.

Maharaj is not a learned. There is no erudition behind his homely Marathi; authorities he does not quote, scriptures are rarely mentioned; the astonishingly rich spiritual heritage of India is implicit in him rather than explicit. No rich Ashram was ever built around him and most of his followers are humble working people cherishing the opportunity of spending an hour with him from time to time.

Simplicity and humility are the keynotes of his life and teachings; physically and inwardly he never takes the higher seat; the essence of being on which he talks, he sees in others as clearly as he sees it in himself. He admits that while he is aware of it, others are not yet, but this difference is temporary and of little importance, except to the mind and its ever-changing content. When asked about his Yoga, he says he has none to offer, no system to propound, no theology, cosmology, psychology or philosophy. He knows the real nature – his own and his listeners’ – and he points it out. The listener cannot see it because he cannot see the obvious, simply and directly. All he knows, he knows with his mind, stimulated with the senses. That the mind is a sense in itself, he does not even suspect.

The Nisarga Yoga, the ‘natural’ Yoga of Maharaj, is disconcertingly simple – the mind, which is all becoming, must recognise and penetrate its own being, not as being this or that, here or there, then or now, but just as timeless being.

This timeless being is the source of both life and consciousness. In terms of time, space and causation it is all-powerful, being the causeless cause; all-pervading, eternal, in the sense of being beginningless, endless and ever-present. Uncaused, it is free; all-pervading, it knows; undivided, it is happy. It lives, it loves, and it has endless fun, shaping and re-shaping the universe. Every man has it, every man is it, but not all know themselves as they are, and therefore identify themselves with the name and shape of their bodies and the contents of their consciousness.

To rectify this misunderstanding of one’s reality, the only way is to take full cognisance of the ways of one’s mind and to turn it into an instrument of self-discovery. The mind was originally a tool in the struggle for biological survival. It had to learn the laws and ways of Nature working hand-in-hand can raise life to a higher level. But, in the process the mind acquired the art of symbolic thinking and communication, the art and skill of language. Words became important. Ideas and abstractions acquired an appearance of reality, the conceptual replaced the real, with the result that man now lives in a verbal world, crowded with words and dominated by words.

Obviously, for dealing with things and people words are exceedingly useful. But they make us live in a world totally symbolic and, therefore, unreal. To break out from this prison of the verbal mind into reality, one must be able to shift one’s focus from the word to what it refers to, the thing itself.

The most commonly used word and most pregnant with feelings, and ideas is the word ‘I’. Mind tends to include in it anything and everything, the body as well as the Absolute. In practice it stands as a pointer to an experience which is direct, immediate and immensely significant. To be, and to know that one is, is most important. And to be of interest, a thing must be related to one’s conscious existence, which is the focal point of every desire and fear. For, the ultimate aim of every desire is to enhance and intensify this sense of existence, while all fear is, in its essence, the fear of self-extinction.

To delve into the sense of ‘I’ – so real and vital – in order to reach its source is the core of Nisarga Yoga. Not being continuous, the sense of ‘I’ must have a source from which it flows and to which it returns. This timeless source of conscious being is what Maharaj calls the self-nature, self-being, swarupa.

As to the methods of realising one’s supreme identity with self-being, Maharaj is peculiarly non-committal. He says that each has his own way to reality, and that there can be no general rule. But, for all the gateway to reality, by whatever road one arrives to it, is the sense of ‘I am’. It is through grasping the full import of the ‘I am’, and going beyond it to its source, that one can realise the supreme state, which is also the primordial and the ultimate. The difference between the beginning and the end lies only in the mind. When the mind is dark or turbulent, the source is not perceived. When it is clear and luminous, it becomes a faithful reflection of the source. The source is always the same – beyond darkness and light, beyond life and death, beyond the conscious and the unconscious.

This dwelling on the sense ‘I am’ is the simple, easy and natural Yoga, the Nisarga Yoga. There is no secrecy in it and no dependence; no preparation is required and no initiation. Whoever is puzzled by his very existence as a conscious being and earnestly wants to find his own source, can grasp the ever-present sense of ‘I am’ and dwell on it assiduously and patiently, till the clouds obscuring the mind dissolve and the heart of being is seen in all its glory.

The Nisarga Yoga, when persevered in and brought to its fruition, results in one becoming conscious and active in what one always was unconsciously and passively. There is no difference in kind – only in manner – the difference between a lump of gold and a glorious ornament shaped out of it. Life goes on, but it is spontaneous and free, meaningful and happy.

Maharaj most lucidly describes this natural, spontaneous state, but as the man born blind cannot visualise light and colours, so is the unenlightened mind unable to give meaning to such descriptions. Expressions like dispassionate happiness, affectionate detachment, timelessness and causelessness of things and being – they all sound strange and cause no response. Intuitively we feel they have a deep meaning, and they even create in us a strange longing for the ineffable, a forerunner of things to come, but that is all. As Maharaj puts it: words are pointers, they show the direction but they will not come along with us. Truth is the fruit of earnest action, words merely point the way.

Maurice Frydman


How Nisargadatta Maharaj attained self-realisation: Nisargadatta’s method and his Guru’s instructions to him

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Nisargadatta Maharaj often spoke about his own spiritual journey and practice, and how his guru’s teachings led him to his own eventual self-realisation. In his most widely read book, ‘I Am That’, Nisargadatta speaks many times of his practice and the profound effect his own guru had upon him. The following are direct quotes from I Am That focusing on what Nisargadatta spoke of his own sadhana (spiritual practice) and the teachings of his own Guru.

I have not added any commentary as I think the excepts speak for themselves, but I have added bold text to emphasize specific points I thought would be of use for seekers in terms of making the sadhana practical.

I hope you find the following quotes both instructive and inspiring for your own sadhana,

Best wishes 

Tom


It so happened that I trusted my Guru. He told me I am nothing but my self and I believed him. Trusting him, I behaved accordingly and ceased caring for what was not me, nor mine.


Questioner: Kindly tell us how you realised.

Maharaj: I met my Guru when I was 34 and realised by 37.

Questioner: What happened? What was the change?

Maharaj: Pleasure and pain lost their sway over me. I was free from desire and fear. I found myself full, needing nothing. I saw that in the ocean of pure awareness, on the surface of the universal consciousness, the numberless waves of the phenomenal worlds arise and subside beginninglessly and endlessly. As consciousness, they are all me. As events they are all mine. There is a mysterious power that looks after them. That power is awareness, Self, Life, God, whatever name you give it. It is the foundation, the ultimate support of all that is, just like gold is the basis for all gold jewellery. And it is so intimately ours! Abstract the name and shape from the jewellery and the gold becomes obvious. Be free of name and form and of the desires and fears they create, then what remains?

Q: Nothingness.

M: Yes, the void remains. But the void is full to the brim.


Q: Please tell me which road to self-realisation is the shortest.

M: No way is short or long, but some people are more in earnest and some are less. I can tell you about myself. I was a simple man, but I trusted my Guru. What he told me to do, I did. He told me to concentrate on ‘I am’ — I did. He told me that I am beyond all perceivables and conceivables — I believed.

I gave him my heart and soul, my entire attention and the whole of my spare time (I had to work to keep my family alive). As a result of faith and earnest application, I realised my self (swarupa) within three years. You may choose any way that suits you; your earnestness will determine the rate of progress.

Q: No hint for me?

M: Establish yourself firmly in the awareness of ‘I am’. This is the beginning and also the end of all endeavour.


Q: How did you come to it?

M: By my trust in my Guru. He told me ‘You alone are’ and I did not doubt him.


…my Guru too taught me to doubt — everything and absolutely. He said: ‘deny existence to everything except your self.’ Through desire you have created the world with its pains and pleasures.


Put in all and you will get all. I was doing it. All my time I was giving to my Guru and to what he told me.


Q: Still, you have a body and you depend on it.

M: Again you assume that your point of view is the only correct one. I repeat: I was not, am not, shall not be a body. To me this is a fact. I too was under the illusion of having been born, but my Guru made me see that birth and death are mere ideas — birth is merely the idea: ‘I have a body’. And death — ‘I have lost my body’. Now, when I know I am not a body, the body may be there or may not — what difference does it make? The body-mind is like a room. It is there, but I need not live in it all the time.


I trusted my Guru and he proved right. Trust me, if you can. Keep in mind what I tell you: desire nothing, for you lack nothing. The very seeking prevents you from finding.


‘One can give food, clothes, shelter, knowledge, affection, but the highest gift is the gospel of enlightenment‘, my Guru used to say. You are right, enlightenment is the highest good. Once you have it, nobody can take it away from you.


I am now 74 years old. And yet I feel that I am an infant. I feel clearly that in spite of all the changes I am a child. My Guru told me: that child, which is you even now, is your real self (swarupa). Go back to that state of pure being, where the ‘I am’ is still in its purity before it got contaminated with ‘this I am’ or ‘that I am’. Your burden is of false self-identifications — abandon them all.

My Guru told me — ‘Trust me. I tell you; you are divine. Take it as the absolute truth. Your joy is divine, your suffering is divine too. All comes from God. Remember it always. You are God, your will alone is done’.

I did believe him and soon realised how wonderfully true and accurate were his words. I did not condition my mind by thinking: ‘I am God, I am wonderful, I am beyond’. I simply followed his instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being ‘I am’, and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with, nothing but the ‘I am’ in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared — myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence.


When I met my Guru, he told me: ‘You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense ‘I am’, find your real self’. I obeyed him, because I trusted him. I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence. And what a difference it made, and how soon! It took me only three years to realise my true nature. My Guru died soon after I met him, but it made no difference. I remembered what he told me and persevered.


Q: The mind is so absolutely restless. For quieting it what is the way?

M: Trust the teacher. Take my own case. My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I am’ and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense ‘I am’, it may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it worked! Obedience is a powerful solvent of all desires and fears.

Just turn away from all that occupies the mind; do whatever work you have to complete, but avoid new obligations; keep empty, keep available, resist not what comes uninvited.

In the end you reach a state of non-grasping, of joyful non-attachment, of inner ease and freedom indescribable, yet wonderfully real.


My Guru, before he died, told me: Believe me, you are the Supreme Reality. Don’t doubt my words, don’t disbelieve me. I am telling you the truth – act on it. I could not forget his words and by not forgetting – I have realised.


I lived my life, plied my trade, looked after my family, and every free moment I would spend just remembering my Guru and his words. He died soon after and I had only the memory to fall back on. It was enough.


Q: How did you get it?

M: I found it all in the holy presence of my Guru — I did nothing on my own. He told me to be quiet – and I did it – as much as I could.


Q: You made no efforts whatsoever?

M: None. Believe it or not, I was not even anxious to realise. He only told me that I am the Supreme and then died. I just could not disbelieve him. The rest happened by itself. I found myself changing — that is all. As a matter of fact, I was astonished. But a desire arose in me to verify his words. I was so sure that he, could not possibly have told a lie, that I felt I shall either realise the full meaning of his words or die. I was feeling quite determined, but did not know what to do. I would spend hours thinking of him and his assurance, not arguing, but just remembering what he told me.

Q: What happened to you then? How did you know that you are the Supreme?

M: Nobody came to tell me. Nor was I told so inwardly. In fact, it was only in the beginning when I was making efforts, that I was passing through some strange experiences; seeing lights, hearing voices, meeting gods and goddesses and conversing with them. Once the Guru told me: ‘You are the Supreme Reality’, I ceased having visions and trances and became very quiet and simple. I found myself desiring and knowing less and less, until I could say in utter astonishment: ‘I know nothing, I want nothing.’


The path to Liberation – Sublime Teachings from the Yoga Vasistha

Behold the wondrous teachings of the Yoga Vasistha, one of the pre-eminent texts of Advaita (non-duality). Usually it is an incarnation of God that teaches mere mortals in such scriptures, but here we have a rare and sublime teaching in which a Sage is teaching God! In this case the young Lord Rama, incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is being taught the eternal teaching by the Holy Sage Vasistha.

The following teachings are taken from Chapter 3 of the Yoga Vasistha, where Sage Vasistha tells the Story of Lavana. After he has told the story to Lord Rama, he gives  the following teachings.

Note that the headings in bold are my own additions, and I have also put some text in bold type for emphasis of what I thought were some key points.

With love and well wishes

Tom

Rama Vasistha yoga

Turn away from the senses (Dispassion or Vairagya)

He who does not allow his mind to roam in objects of pleasure is able to master it. Even as one who is bound to a pillar does not move, the mind of a noble man does not move from the reality: he alone is a human being, the others are worms. He attains to the supreme being by constant meditation.

Victory over this goblin known as mind is gained when, with the aid of one’s own self-effort, one attains self-knowledge and abandons the craving for what the mind desires as pleasure. This can easily be achieved without any effort at all (even as a child’s attention can be easily diverted) by the cultivation of the proper attitude. Woe unto him who is unable to give up cravings, for this is the sole means to one’s ultimate good. By intense self-effort it is possible to gain victory over the mind; then without the least effort the individualised consciousness is absorbed in infinite consciousness, when its individuality is broken through. This is easy and is easily accomplished: they who are unable to do this are indeed vultures in human form.

Let the mind become still

Abandon your reliance on fate or gods created by dull witted people, and by self-effort and self-knowledge make the mind no-mind. Let the infinite consciousness swallow, as it were, the finite mind, and then go beyond everything. With your intelligence united with the supreme, hold on to the self, which is imperishable.

When the mind is thus conquered by remaining completely unagitated, you will consider even the conquest of the three worlds worthless. This does not involve studying the scriptures, or rising or falling – nothing but self-knowledge. Why do you consider it difficult? If this is found difficult by someone, how does he even live in this world without self-knowledge?

Self-Knowledge

One who knows the deathless nature of the self is not afraid of death. Nor is he affected by separation from friends and relations. The feelings ‘This is I’ and ‘This is mine’ are the mind; when they are removed, the mind ceases to be. Then one becomes fearless. Weapons like swords generate fear; the weapon (wisdom) that destroys egotism generates fearlessness.

Mind and Liberation defined

Towards whichever object the mind flows with intensity, in that it sees the fulfilment of its craving. Of course, there is no mind without restlessness; restlessness is the very nature of the mind. It is the work of this restlessness of the mind based on the infinite consciousness that appears as this world, O Rama, that indeed is the power of the mind. But, when the mind is deprived of its restlessness, it is referred to as the dead mind; and that itself is penance (tapas) as also the verification of the scriptures and liberation.

O Rama, mind constantly swings like a pendulum between the reality and the appearance, between consciousness and inertness. When the mind contemplates the inert objects for a considerable time, it assumes the characteristics of such inertness. When the same mind is devoted to inquiry and wisdom, it shakes off all conditioning and returns to its original nature as pure consciousness.

The psychological tendency (or mental disposition or mental conditioning) is unreal, yet it does arise in the mind. The product of ignorance is real only to the ignorant person; to the wise, it is just a verbal expression (just as one speaks of the barren woman’s son). Do not remain ignorant, O Rama, but strive to be wise by renouncing mental conditioning.

Non-doership

You are not the doer of any action here, O Rama, so why do you assume doership? When one alone exists, who does what and how? Do not become inactive, either, for what is gained by doing nothing? What has to be done has to be done. Therefore rest in the self. Even while doing all the actions natural to you if you are unattached to those actions you are truly the non-doer; if you are doing nothing and are attached to that non-doership (then you are doing nothing) you become the doer! When all this world is like the juggler’s trick, what is to be given up and what is to be sought?

The trickery of Ignorance/Mind

The seed of this world appearance is ignorance. This ignorance or mental conditioning is acquired by man effortlessly and it seems to promote pleasure, but in truth it is the giver of grief. It creates a delusion of pleasure only by the total veiling of self-knowledge. Thus it was able to make the king Lavana experience less than an hour as if it were of several years’ duration.

This ignorance or mental conditioning has but a momentary existence, yet since it flows on, it seems to be permanent like a river. Because it is able to veil the reality, it seems to be real, but when you try to grasp it, you discover it is nothing. Yet, again, it acquires strength and firmness on account of these qualities in the world-appearance, even as a flimsy fibre when rolled into a rope acquires great strength. This conditioning seems to grow, but in fact it does not. For when you try to grasp it, it vanishes like the tip of a flame. Yet, again, even as the sky appears to be blue, this conditioning also seems to have some kind of real appearance! It is born as the second moon in diplopia, it exists like the dream-objects and it creates confusion, even as people sitting in a moving boat see the shore moving. When it is active, it creates a delusion of the long dream of world-appearance. It perverts all relationships and experiences. It is this ignorance or mental conditioning throws up an endless stream of creation and perception of duality, and of division and the consequent confusion of perception and experience.

Overcoming Ignorance

When this ignorance or mental conditioning is mastered by becoming aware of its unreality, mind ceases to be – even as when the water ceases to flow, the river dries up.

O Rama, even as darkness disappears as you turn towards light, ignorance disappears if you turn towards the light of the self. As long as there does not arise a natural yearning for self-knowledge, so long ignorance or mental conditioning throws up an endless stream of world-appearance. Even as a shadow vanishes when it turns to see the light, this ignorance perishes when it turns towards self-knowledge.

The Self

O Rama, from Brahma the creator down to the blade of grass, all this is nothing but the self; ignorance is non-existent unreality. There is no second thing here known as the mind. In that self itself, the veil (that is also of itself) floats, creating the polarisation of subject – object; and infinite consciousness itself is then known as the mind. This veil is an idea, an intention or a thought in that infinite consciousness. Mind is born of this idea or thought, and mind has to vanish with the help of an idea or thought i.e., by the coming to an end of the idea or thought.

‘All is Brahman’

The firm conviction that ‘I am not the absolute Brahman’ binds the mind; the mind is liberated by the firm conviction ‘everything is the absolute Brahman’. Ideas and thoughts are bondage, and their coming to an end is liberation. Therefore, be free of them and do whatever has to be done spontaneously. Even as thought or idea ‘sees’ blueness in the sky, the mind sees the world as real.

He who does not let his mind dwell on such thoughts and ideas, by striving to be conscious of the self, enjoys peace. That which was not in the beginning does not exist even now! That which was and therefore is now, is the absolute Brahman – contemplation of this bestows peace, for that Brahman is peace. One should not contemplate anything else at any time and in any manner anywhere. One should uproot the very hope of enjoyment with one’s utmost strength, and using one’s utmost intelligence. Hopes and attachments seem to ramify on account of mental conditioning, which is ignorance. In this empty physical body, where is it that is called ‘I’? In truth, O Rama, ‘I’, ‘mine’, etc. have no existence at all; the one self alone is the truth at all times.

Why does illusion appear so real?

Is it not a great wonder, O Rama, that people forget the truth that the absolute Brahman alone is, and are convinced of the existence of the unreal and non-existent ignorance? Rama, do not let the foolish idea of the existence of ignorance take root in you; for if the consciousness is thus polluted, it invites endless suffering. Though it is unreal, it can cause real suffering! It is on account of ignorance that illusions like a mirage exist, and that one sees various visions and hallucinations (like flying in the air and flying in space) and one experiences heaven and hell. Therefore, O Rama, give up mental conditioning which alone is responsible for the perception of duality, and remain totally unconditioned. Then, you will attain incomparable preeminence over all!

Rama asked: Holy sage! It is indeed incredible that this nonexistent nescience creates such an illusion that this non-existent world appears to be very real: pray explain to me further how this is possible…

Vasistha: O Rama, it is not really true that consciousness is in any way related to this body. The body has only been fancied by the consciousness as if in a dream. When consciousness, clothed as it were, by its own energy, limits itself and considers itself jiva, that jiva, endowed with this restless energy, is involved in this world-appearance.

The embodied being who enjoys or suffers the fruits of past actions and who dons a variety of bodies is known as egotism, mind and also jiva. Neither the body nor the enlightened being undergoes suffering: it is only the ignorant mind that suffers. It is only in a state of ignorance (like sleep) that the mind dreams of the world-appearance, not when it is awake or enlightened. Hence the embodied being that undergoes suffering here is variously known as the mind, ignorance, jiva and mental conditioning, as also the individualised consciousness.

The body is inert and hence can neither enjoy nor suffer. Nescience gives rise to heedlessness and unwisdom; hence it is nescience alone that enjoys or suffers. It is indeed the mind alone that is born, weeps, kills, goes, abuses others, etc., not the body. In all the experiences of happiness and unhappiness, as also in all the hallucinations and imaginations, it is mind that does everything and it is mind that experiences all this: mind is man.

The seven steps to perfection

Vasistha: Equipped with wisdom, he who gradually ascends the seven steps to perfection in yoga attains liberation from these.

Rama: Holy sir, what are the seven steps you have referred to?

Vasistha: O Rama, there are seven descending steps of ignorance, and there are seven ascending steps of wisdom. I shall now describe them to you. To remain established in self-knowledge is liberation; when this is disturbed, there arise egotism and bondage. The state of self-knowledge is that in which there is no mental agitation, neither distraction nor dullness of mind, neither egotism nor perception of diversity.

The delusion that veils this self-knowledge is sevenfold: seed state of wakefulness, wakefulness, great wakefulness, wakeful dream, dream, dream wakefulness and sleep. In pure consciousness, when mind and jiva exist only in name, it is the seed state of wakefulness. When notions of ‘I’ and ‘this’ arise, it is known as wakefulness. When these notions get strengthened by the memory of previous incarnations, it is great wakefulness. When the mind is fully awake to its own fancies and is filled with them, it is wakeful dream. The false notions of experiences during sleep, which yet appear to be real, are dreams. In the dream wakeful state one recalls past experiences as if they are real now. When these are abandoned in favour of total inert dullness, it is sleep. These seven have their own innumerable subdivisions.

I shall now describe to you, O Rama, the seven states or planes of wisdom. Knowing them you will not be caught in delusion. Pure wish or intention is the first, inquiry is the second, the third is when the mind becomes subtle, establishment in truth is the fourth, total freedom from attachment or bondage is the fifth, the sixth is cessation of objectivity, and the seventh is beyond all these.

Why do I continue to be a fool? I shall seek holy men and scriptures, having cultivated dispassion’ – such a wish is the first state. Thereupon one engages in the practice of inquiry (direct observation). With all these, there arises non-attachment, and the mind becomes subtle and transparent: this is the third state. When these three are practised, there arises in the seeker a natural turning away from sense-pleasures and there is natural dwelling in truth: this is the fourth state.

When all these are well practised, there is total non-attachment and at the same time a conviction in the nature of truth: this is the fifth state. Then one rejoices in one’s own self, the perception of duality and diversity both within oneself and outside oneself ceases, and the efforts that one made at the inspiration of others bear fruition in direct spiritual experience.

After this there is no other support, no division, no diversity, and self-knowledge is spontaneous, natural and therefore unbroken: this is the seventh, transcendental state. This is the state of one who is liberated while living here. Beyond this is the state of one who has transcended even the body (turiyatita).

Rama, all these great ones who ascend these seven planes of wisdom are holy men. They are liberated and they do not fall into the mire of happiness and unhappiness. They mayor may not work or be active. They rejoice in the self and do not stand in need of others to make them happy.

The highest state of consciousness can be attained by all, even by animals and by primitive men, by those who have a body and even by disembodied beings, for it involves only the rise of wisdom.

They who have reached the highest planes of consciousness are indeed great men. They are adorable; even an emperor is like a worthless blade of grass compared to them, for they are liberated here and now.

How can ignorance and egotism arise in the self?

Vasistha: The self ignorantly imagines an egotistic existence, even as if gold, forgetting its goldness, might think it is a ring and weep and wail “Alas, I have lost my goldness”.

Rama: Holy sir, how can this ignorance and egotism arise in the self?

Vasistha: Rama, one should ask questions concerning the reality only, not concerning the unreal. Neither goldless ringness nor limited egotism exists in truth. When the goldsmith sells the ring, he weighs out the gold, for it is gold. If one were to discuss the existence of the ringness in the ring, and the finite form in the infinite consciousness, then one has to compare it with the barren woman’s son. The existence of the unreal is unreal: it arises in ignorance and vanishes when inquired into. In ignorance one sees silver in the mother-of-pearl, but it cannot serve as silver even for a moment! As long as the truth that it is mother-of-pearl is not seen, the ignorance lasts. Even as one cannot extract oil from sand and even as one can obtain only gold from the ring, there are no two things here in this universe: the one infinite consciousness alone shines in all names and forms.

Egotism or ignorance/nescience does not really exist

Such indeed is the nature of this utter ignorance, this delusion and this world-process: without real existence there is this illusory notion of egotism. This egotism does not exist in the infinite self. In the infinite self there is no creator, no creation, no worlds, no heaven, no humans, no demons, no bodies, no elements, no time, no existence and no destruction, no ‘you’, no ‘I’, no self, no that, no truth, no falsehood (none of these), no notion of diversity, no contemplation and no enjoyment.

Whatever is, and is known as the universe, is that supreme peace. There is no beginning, no middle and no end: all is all at all times, beyond the comprehension of the mind and speech. There is no creation. The infinite has never abandoned its infinity. That has never become this.

It is like the ocean, but without ocean’s movement. It is self-luminous like the sun, but without activity. In ignorance, the supreme being is viewed as the object, as the world. Even as space exists in space, one with space, even so what appears to be the creation is Brahman existing in Brahman, as Brahman. The notions of far and near, of diversity, of here and there are as valid as the distance between two objects in a mirror in which a whole city is reflected.

O Rama, all this is ignorance! The notions of far and near, a moment and eternity, are all hallucinations. In ignorance the real appears to be unreal, and the unreal seems to be real. The individualised consciousness perceives what it thinks it perceives, on account of its conditioning.

On account of ignorance, when the notion of egotism arises, at that very moment the delusion of a beginning, a middle and an end also arises. One who is thus deluded thinks that he is an animal and experiences this. All this happens on account of accidental coincidence: just as a crow flies towards a coconut palm and as it alights on the tree, a fruit falls down as if the crow dislodged it – though, in fact, the crow did not! Similarly, by pure coincidence and in ignorance, the unreal seems to be real…

Nescience is not a real entity, even as oil in sand is not a real entity. Nescience and the self cannot have any relationship, for there can be relationship only between same or similar entities – this is obvious in everyone’s experience. Thus, it is only because consciousness is infinite that everything in the universe becomes knowable. It is not as if the subject illumines the object, which has no luminosity of its own, but since consciousness is all this, everything is self-luminous,without requiring a perceiving intelligence. It is by the action of consciousness becoming aware of itself that intelligence manifests itself, not when consciousness apprehends an inert object.

It is not correct to say that there is a mixture in this universe of the sentient and the inert, for they do not mix. All things are full of consciousness and when this consciousness comprehends itself there is knowledge.

Relationship between things

One may see a relationship between a tree and a rock, though they appear to be inert: such relationship exists in their fundamental constituents which have undergone a certain kind of change to become a tree and a rock. This is also seen in the sense of taste: the taste-buds in the tongue respond to the taste in the food, because of their similarity in constitution.

All relationship is therefore the realisation of the already existing unity: it is regarded as relationship only because of the previous false and deluded assumption of a division into subject and object.

In the middle between the sight and the seen, there is a relationship which is known as the seer. When the division between the seer, the sight and the seen is abolished, that is the supreme. When the mind travels from one country to another, between them is cosmic intelligence. Be that always. Even as you do not busy yourself with the affairs of a future village, do not get tangled with the moods of your mind, but be established in truth. Regard the mind as a foreigner or a piece of wood or stone. There is no mind in infinite consciousness; that which is done by this non-existent mind is also unreal. Be established in this realisation. I have investigated the truth concerning the mind for a very long time, O Rama, and have found none: only infinite consciousness exists.

The company of holy ones (Satsang)

This seemingly endless stream of ignorance can be crossed over only by the constant company of holy ones. From such company there arises wisdom concerning what is worth seeking and what is to be avoided. Then there arises the pure wish to attain liberation. This leads to serious inquiry. Then the mind becomes subtle, because this inquiry thins out the mental conditioning. As a result of the rising of pure wisdom, one’s consciousness moves in the reality. Then the mental conditioning vanishes and there is non-attachment. Bondage to actions and their fruits ceases. The vision is firmly established in truth and the apprehension of the unreal is weakened. Even while living and functioning in this world, he who has this unconditioned vision does what has to be done as if he is asleep, without thinking of the world and its pleasures. After some years of living like this, one is fully liberated and transcends all these states: he is liberated while living.

Overcoming Maya

When mental conditioning is overcome and the mind is made perfectly tranquil, the illusion that deludes the ignorant comes to an end. It is only as long as this illusion (Maya) is not clearly understood that it generates this great delusion; once it is clearly understood, it is seen as the infinite, and it becomes the source of happiness and the realisation of the absolute Brahman. It is only for the sake of scriptural instruction that one speaks of the self, Brahman, etc., but in truth one alone is. It is pure consciousness, not embodied being. It is, whether one knows or not, whether one is embodied or without a body. All the unhappiness you see in this world belongs to the body; the self which is not grasped by the senses is not touched by sorrow. In the self there is no desire: the world appears in it without any wish or intention on its part. Thus,

Sage Vasistha’s concluding remarks to Lord Rama

O Rama, through my precepts the false notion of a creation and its existence has been dispelled. Your consciousness has become pure, devoid of duality.

 

Yoga Vasishta Sara (The essence of the Yoga Vasishta)

One of the most amazing scriptures of Advaita (non-duality) is the Yoga Vasishta. It is, as far as I am aware, the longest Advaitic treatise in the Vedanta/Hindu scriptures, and one of the oldest and most authentic scriptures too. The text has been highly revered by all the great Advaita sages through the centuries and speaks authoritatively on all matters relating to Vedanta and Liberation. 

The Yoga Vasishta in its earliest form likely predates or is at least contemporary with Sri Shankara’s writing (neither Shankara not any of his works are mentioned a single time in any of the 32,000 couplet verses), but is consistent with it in terms of the major themes of how an apparent individual can attain enlightenment. There are very few texts that clearly explain in detail what traditional Vedanta teachings were like prior to Shankara. In Yoga Vasishta we surely have such a text, and not just any text, but an incredibly long and rich work that explains everything the seeker needs to know in detail and with such poetic ease. It clearly directs us to the True Vedanta teachings and away from falsehoods.

To my mind the Yoga Vasishta is the singular traditional scripture that is also closest to Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching. Indeed in Ramana’s Supplement to his 40 verses on reality, Ramana took several verses from Yoga Vasishta verbatim and simply included them unaltered into his work. High praise indeed. Many of Sri Ramana’s answers to questions in his various talks could easily have been chapter excerpts lifted from Yoga Vasishta.

One unusual thing about Yoga Vasishta is that the teacher, Sage Vasishta, is teaching none other than Rama, God-incarnate and avatar of Vishnu. How lucky we are to receive these teachings! While it is a very large text, it is also very accessible, with all the aspects of Vedanta clearly explained in a systematic and easy to understand way, with use of wonderful imagery and narrative throughout.

Here below we have a distillation of the text for the serious seeker, Yoga Vasishta Sara. May it help you on your way.

Blessings and best wishes

Tom

19124021

INTRODUCTION TO THE SRI RAMANASRAMAM PUBLICATION OF THE TEXT

The Brihat (the great) Yoga Vasishta or Yoga Vasishta Maha Ramayana as it is also called, is a work of about 32,000 Sanskrit couplets, traditionally attributed to Valmiki, the author of Srimad Ramayana. It is a dialogue between Sage Vasishta and Sri Rama, during which Advaita (the doctrine of non-duality) in its pure form of ajatavada (theory of non-origination) is expounded, with illustrative stories in between. This vast work was abridged some centuries ago by Abhinanda Pandita, a Kashmiri scholar, into 6,000 couplets, which go by the name of Laghu Yoga Vasishta. This is a masterpiece in itself, like the original Brihat. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi used to refer to Yoga Vasishta frequently and has even incorporated six couplets from it in His Supplement to Forty Verses (verses 21 to 27). A further condensation of this work was made long ago, by an unknown author, into about 230 couplets, divided into ten chapters, as Yoga Vasishta Sara (Essence of Yoga Vasishta), of which this translation is presented for the first time. By making this condensation the author has rendered a great service to all sadhaks. This is indeed a goldmine fit for repeated reading and meditation.

CHAPTER ONE – DISPASSION

1. Salutations to that calm effulgence which is endless and unlimited by space, time etc., the pure consciousness which can be known by experience only.

2. Neither one who is totally ignorant nor one who knows it (i.e. Truth) is eligible to study this book. Only he who thinks ‘I am bound; I must become free’ is entitled to study it.

3. Until one is definitely blessed by the Supreme Lord he will not find either a proper Guru or the right scripture.

4. Just as a steady boat, O Rama, is obtained from a boatman, so also the method of crossing the ocean of samsara is learnt by associating with great souls.

5. The great remedy for the long-lasting disease of samsara is the enquiry, ‘Who am I?, to whom does this samsara belong?,’ which entirely cures it.

6. Not a day should be spent in a place which does not possess the tree of a wise knower of Truth with its good fruit and cool shade.

7. The sages are to be approached even if they do not teach. Even their talks in a light vein contain wisdom.

8. The company of sages converts emptiness into fullness, death into immortality and adversity into prosperity.

9. If sages were concerned solely with their own happiness with whom could those tormented by the sorrows of samsara seek refuge?

10. That which is imparted, O good soul, to a worthy disciple who has become dispassionate, is the real wisdom; it is the real purport of the sacred texts and is also the comprehensive wisdom.

11. Following the customary method of teaching is only for preserving the tradition. Pure awareness results solely from the clarity of the disciple’s understanding.

12. The Lord cannot be seen with the help of the sacred texts or the Guru. The self is seen by the Self alone with the pure intellect.

13. All the arts acquired by men are lost by lack of practice, but this art of wisdom grows steadily once it rises.

14. Just as an ornament worn round the neck is considered lost through forgetfulness and is gained when the mistake is realized, so also the Self is attained (when the delusion is removed) by the words of the Guru.

15. He is indeed an unfortunate person who, not knowing his own Self, takes pleasure in sense-objects, like one who realizes too late that the food eaten by him was poisonous.

16. That perverted man who, even after knowing that worldly objects are deceptive, still thinks of them, is an ass not a man.

17. Even the slightest thought immerses a man in sorrow; when devoid of all thoughts he enjoys imperishable bliss.

18. Just as we experience the delusion of hundreds of years in a dream lasting an hour, so also we experience the sport of maya in our waking state.

19. He is a happy man whose mind is inwardly cool and free from attachment and hatred and who looks upon this (world) like a mere spectator.

20. He who has understood well how to abandon all ideas of acceptance and rejection and who has realized the consciousness which is within the innermost heart -his life is illustrious.

21. On the dissolution of the body, the ether (consciousness) limited by the heart (hridayam) alone ceases to exist. People lament needlessly that the Self is extinct.

22. When pots, etc. are broken the space within them becomes unlimited. So also when bodies cease to exist the Self remains eternal and unattached.

23. Nothing whatever is born or dies anywhere at any time. It is Brahman alone appearing illusorily in the form of the world.

24. The Self is more extensive than space; it is pure, subtle, undecaying and auspicious. As such how could it be born and how can it die?

25. All this is the tranquil, One without beginning, middle or end, which cannot be said to be existent or non-existent. Know this and be happy.

26. O Rama, it is indeed nobler to wander begging about the streets of the outcasts (chandalas), an earthen bowl in hand, than to live a life steeped in ignorance.

27. Neither disease nor poison nor adversity nor any other thing in the world causes more suffering to men than such stupidity engendered in their bodies.

CHAPTER TWO – UNREALITY OF THE WORLD

1. Just as the great ocean of milk became still when the Mandara Mountain (with which it was churned by the Devas and the Asuras) became still, even so the illusion of samsara comes to an end when the mind is stilled.

2. Samsara rises when the mind becomes active and ceases when it is still. Still the mind, therefore, by controlling the breath and the latent desires (vasanas).

3. This worthless (lit. burnt out) samsara is born of one’s imagination and vanishes in the absence of imagination. It is certain that it is absolutely unsubstantial.

4. The idea of a (live) snake in a picture of a snake ceases to be entertained when the truth is known. Similarly samsara ceases to exist (when the Truth is realized), even if it continues to appear.

5. This long-living ghost of a samsara which is the creation of the deluded mind of man and the cause of his sufferings disappears when one ponders over it.

6. O Rama, maya is such that it brings delight through its own destruction; its nature is inscrutable; it ceases to exist even while it is being observed.

7. Dear boy, wonderful indeed is this maya which deludes the entire world. It is on account of it that the Self is not perceived even though it pervades all the limbs of the body.

8. Whatever is seen does not truly exist. It is like the mythical city of Gandharvas (fata morgana) or a mirage.

9. That which is not seen, though within us, is called the eternal and indestructible Self.

10. Just as the trees on the bank of a lake are reflected in the water, so also all these varied objects are reflected in the vast mirror of our consciousness.

11. This creation, which is a mere play of consciousness, rises up, like the delusion of a snake in a rope (when there is ignorance) and comes to an end when there is right knowledge.

12. Even though bondage does not really exist, it becomes strong through desire for worldly enjoyments; when this desire subsides bondage becomes weak.

13. Like waves rising up from the ocean the unstable mind rises out of the vast and stable expanse of the Supreme Self.

14. It is because of that which always, of its own accord, imagines (everything) quickly and freely that this magical show (of the world) is projected in the waking state.

15. This world, though unreal, appears to exist and is the cause of life-long suffering to an ignorant person, just as a (non-existent) ghost (is the cause of fear) to a boy.

16. One who has no idea of gold sees only the bracelet. He does not at all have the idea that it is merely gold.

17. Similarly towns, houses, mountains, serpents, etc. are all in the eyes of the ignorant man, separate objects. From the absolute point of view; this objective (world) is the subject (the Self) itself; it is not separate (from the Self).

18. The world is full of misery to an ignorant man and full of bliss to a wise man. The world is dark to a blind man and bright to one who has eyes.

19. The bliss of a man of discrimination, who has rejected samsara and discarded all mental concepts, constantly increases.

20. Like clouds which suddenly appear in a clear sky and as suddenly dissolve, the entire universe (appears) in the Self and (dissolves in it).

21. He who reckons the rays as non-different from the sun and realizes that they are the sun itself is stated to be nirvikalpa (the undifferentiating man).

22. Just as the cloth, when investigated, is seen to be nothing but thread, so also this world, when enquired into, is (seen to be) merely the Self.

23. This fascinating world rises like a wave in the ambrosial ocean of consciousness and dissolves in it. How then can it be different from it (i.e. consciousness) in the middle (i.e. when it appears)?

24. Just as the foam, the waves, the dew and the bubbles are not different from water, even so this world which has come out of the Self is not different from the Self.

25. Just as a tree consisting of fruits, leaves, creepers, flowers, branches, twigs and roots, exists in the seed of the tree, even so this manifest world exists in Brahman.

26. Just as the pot (ultimately) goes back to mud, waves into water and ornaments into gold, so also this world which has come out of the Self (ultimately) goes back to the Self.

27. The snake appears when one does not recognise the rope; it disappears when one recognises the rope. Even so this world appears when the Self is not recognised; it disappears when the Self is recognised.

28. It is only our forgetfulness of the invisible Self which causes the world to appear just as (the ignorance of the) rope (causes the) snake to appear.

29. Just as the dream becomes unreal in the waking state and the waking state in the dream, so also death becomes unreal in birth and birth in death.

30. All these are thus neither real nor unreal. They are the effect of delusion, mere impressions arising out of some past experiences.

CHAPTER THREE – THE MARKS OF A LIBERATED PERSON (JIVANMUKTA)

1. The knowledge of the Self is the fire that burns up the dry grass of desire. This indeed is what is called samadhi, not mere abstention from speech.

2. He who realizes that the whole universe is really nothing but consciousness and remains quite calm is protected by the armour of Brahman; he is happy.

3. The yogi who has attained the state which is beyond everything and remains always cool as the full moon is truly the Supreme Lord.

4. He who reflects in his innermost heart upon the purport of the Upanishads dealing with Brahman and is not moved by joy and sorrow, is not tormented by samsara.

5. Just as birds and beasts do not take shelter on a mountain on fire, so also evil (thoughts) never occur to a knower of Brahman.

6. Wise men also, like foolish men, (occasionally) make others angry, (but they do so only) in order to test their ability to control their innate feelings (that is to say to see how far the anger of other persons will affect them).

7. Just as the trembling (of the body) caused by the (imaginary) snake persists (for some time) even after realising that there is no snake, so also the effect of delusion persists (for some time) even after getting rid of all delusions.

8. Just as a crystal is not stained by what is reflected in it, so also a knower of truth is not really affected by the result of his acts.

9. Even while he is intent on outward actions (the knower of Truth) always remains introverted and extremely calm like one asleep.

10. Firmly convinced of non-duality and enjoying perfect mental peace, yogis go about their work seeing the world as if it were a dream.

11. Let death come to him (the knower of truth) today or at the end of aeons; he remains untarnished like gold buried in mire.

12. He may cast off his body at Kashi or in the house of an outcaste (lit. one who cooks dog’s flesh). He, the desireless one, is liberated at the very moment he attains knowledge (of Brahman).

13. To one who is desireless, the earth, O Rama, is (as insignificant as) the hoof-print of a cow, Mount Meru, a mound, space as much as contained in a casket and the three worlds a blade of grass.

14. Like an empty vessel in space (the knower of Truth) is empty both within and without, while at the same time he is full within and without like a vessel immersed in the ocean.

15. He who neither likes nor dislikes the objects seen by him and who acts (in the world) like one asleep, is said to be a liberated person.

16. He who is free from the knots (of desires) and whose doubts have been set at rest is liberated even when he is in the body (jivan mukta). Although he may seem to be bound, he is free. He remains like a lamp in a picture.

17. He who has easily (lit. as if in sport) cast off all his egoistic tendencies and has abandoned even the object of meditation, is said to be liberated even when he is in the body.

18. He who does not, like one blind, recognise (lit. leaves far behind) his relatives, who dreads attachment as he would a serpent, who looks upon sense-enjoyments and diseases alike, who disregards the company of women as he would a blade of grass and who finds no distinction between a friend and a foe, experiences happiness in this world and the next.

19. He who casts away from his mind all objects of perception and, attaining perfect quiescence, remains still as space, unaffected by sorrow, is a liberated man; he is the Supreme Lord.

20. The noble-hearted man whose desires of the heart have come to an end is a liberated man; it does not matter whether he does or does not practise meditation or perform action.

21. The idea of Self in the non-Self is bondage. Abandonment of it is liberation. There is neither bondage nor liberation for the ever-free Self.

22. If, by perceiving that the objects of perception do not really exist, the mind is completely freed (from those objects) there ensues the supreme bliss of liberation.

23. Abandonment of all latent tendencies is said to be the best (i.e. real) liberation by the wise; that is also the faultless method (of attaining liberation).

24. Liberation is not on the other side of the sky, nor is it in the nether world, nor on the earth; the extinction of the mind resulting from the eradication of all desires is regarded as liberation.

25. O Rama, there is no intellect, no nescience, no mind and no individual soul (jiva). They are all imagined in Brahman.

26. To one who is established in what is infinite, pure consciousness, bliss and unqualified non-duality, where is the question of bondage or liberation, seeing that there is no second entity?

27. O Rama, the mind has, by its own activity, bound itself; when it is calm it is free.

CHAPTER FOUR – DISSOLUTION OF THE MIND

1. Consciousness which is undivided imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.

2. From this omnipresent and omnipotent Supreme Lord arose, like ripples in water, the power of imagining separate objects.

3. Just as fire born out of wind (fanned into a flame) is extinguished by the same wind, so also that which is born of imagination is destroyed by imagination itself.

4. The mind has come into existence through this (imagination) on account of forgetfulness. Like the experience of one’s own death in a dream it ceases to exist when scrutinised.

5. The idea of Self in what is not the Self is due to incorrect understanding. The idea of reality in what is unreal, O Rama, know that to be the mind (chittam).

6. ‘This is he’, ‘I am this’, ‘That is mine’, such (ideas) constitute the mind; it disappears when one ponders over these false ideas.

7. It is the nature of the mind to accept certain things and to reject others; this is bondage, nothing else.

8. The mind is the creator of the world, the mind is the individual (purusha); only that which is done by the mind is regarded as done, not that which is done by the body. The arm with which one embraces the wife is the very arm with which one embraces the daughter.

9. The mind is the cause of (i.e. produces) the objects of perception. The three worlds depend upon it. When it is dissolved the world is also dissolved. It is to be cured (i.e. purified) with effort.

10. The mind is bound by the latent impressions (vasanas). When there are no impressions it is free. Therefore, O Rama, bring about quickly, through discrimination, the state in which there are no impressions.

11. Just as a streak of cloud stains (i.e. appears to stain) the moon or a blotch of ink a lime-plastered wall, so also the evil spirit of desire stains the inner man.

12. O Rama, he who, with in-turned mind, offers all the three worlds, like dried-grass, as an oblation in the fire of knowledge, becomes free from the illusions of the mind.

13. When one knows the real truth about acceptance and rejection and does not think of anything but abides in himself, abandoning everything, (his) mind does not come into existence.

14. The mind is terrible (ghoram) in the waking state, gentle (santam) in the dream state, dull (mudham) in deep sleep and dead when not in any of these three states.

15. Just as the powder of the kataka seed, after precipitating the dirt in water, becomes merged in the water, so also the mind (after removing all impressions) itself becomes merged (in the Self ).

16. The mind is samsara; the mind is also said to be bondage; the body is activated by the mind just as a tree is shaken by the wind.

17. Conquer your mind first, by pressing the palm with the palm, grinding the teeth with the teeth and twisting the limbs with the limbs.

18. Does not the fool feel ashamed to move about in the world as he pleases and talk about meditation when he is not able to conquer even the mind?

19. The only god to be conquered is the mind. Its conquest leads to the attainment of everything. Without its conquest all other efforts are fruitless.

20. To be unperturbed is the foundation of blessedness (Sri). One attains liberation by it. To human beings even the conquest of the three worlds, without the conquest of the mind, is as insignificant as a blade of grass.

21. Association with the wise, abandonment of latent impressions, self-enquiry, control of breathing -these are the means of conquering the mind.

22. To one who is shod with leather the earth is as good as covered with leather. Even so to the mind which is full (i.e. undivided) the world overflows with nectar.

23. The mind becomes bound by thinking ‘I am not Brahman’; it becomes completely released by thinking ‘I am Brahman’.

24. When the mind is abandoned (i.e. dissolves), everything that is dual or single is dissolved. What remains after that is the Supreme Brahman, peaceful, eternal and free from misery.

25. There is nothing to equal the supreme joy felt by a person of pure mind who has attained the state of pure consciousness and overcome death.

CHAPTER FIVE – THE DESTRUCTION OF LATENT IMPRESSIONS (VASANAS)

1. O Rama, this enquiry into the Self of the nature or ‘Who am I?’ is the fire which burns up the seeds of the evil tree which is the mind.

2. Just as the wind does not affect the creepers in a picture, so also afflictions do not affect one whose understanding is fortified by firmness and (always) reflected in the mirror of enquiry.

3. The knowers of truth declare that enquiry into the truth of the Self is knowledge. What is to be known is contained in it like sweetness in milk.

4. To one who has realized the Self by enquiry Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are objects of compassion.

5. To one who is fond of enquiring (constantly), ‘What is this vast universe?’ and ‘Who am I?’ this world becomes quite unreal.

6. Just as in a mirage the idea of water does not occur to one who knows (that it is a mirage), even so latent impressions do not rise in one whose ignorance has been destroyed by realizing that everything is Brahman.

7. By the abandonment of latent impressions or by the control of breathing, mind ceases to be the mind. Practise whichever you like.

8. O pure soul, cherish the association of sages and the true scriptures; you will attain the state of Supreme Consciousness not in the course of months but days.

9. Latent impressions cease to be active when one associates with sages, discards all thoughts of samsara and remembers that the body has to die.

10. O Raghava, even ignorant persons convert, by the firmness of their conviction, poison into nectar and nectar into poison.

11. When this body is taken to be real it serves the purpose of a body, but when it is seen to be unreal it becomes like space (i.e. unsubstantial).

12. O Rama, while lying on a soft bed you wander about in all directions with a dream body; but now (in this waking state) where is that body?

13. Just as a respectable man avoids contact with an outcast woman carrying dog’s flesh, so also one should discard the thought ‘I-am-the-body’, even if everything were to be lost.

14. When the aspirant (sadhu) thinks only of Brahman and remains calm and free from sorrows his egoity dies of itself.

15. If one realizes the unity of things everywhere, one always remains tranquil, inwardly cool and pure like space without the sense of ‘I’.

16. If inwardly one is cool the whole world will be cool, but if inwardly one is hot (i.e. agitated) the whole world will be a burning mass.

CHAPTER SIX – MEDITATION ON THE SELF

1. I, the pure, stainless and infinite Consciousness beyond maya, look upon this body in action like the body of another.

2. The mind, the intellect, the senses, etc. are all the play of Consciousness. They are unreal and seem to exist only due to lack of insight.

3. Unmoved by adversity, a friend of all the world in prosperity, without ideas of existence and nonexistence, I live free from misery.

4. Inactive am I, desireless, clear as the sky, free from hankering, tranquil, formless, everlasting and unmoving.

5. I have now clearly understood that the five elements, the three worlds and I myself are pure Consciousness.

6. I am above everything; I am present everywhere; I am like space; I am that which (really) exists; I am unable to say anything beyond this.

7. Let imaginary waves of universe rise or fall in me who am the ocean of infinite Consciousness; there is no increase or decrease in me.

8. How wonderful that in me, the infinite ocean of consciousness, waves of jivas (individual souls) rise, sport for a while and disappear according to their nature.

9. The world which has come into existence on account of my ignorance has dissolved likewise in me. I now directly experience the world as supreme bliss of consciousness.

10. I prostrate to myself who am within all beings, the ever-free Self abiding as inner Consciousness.

CHAPTER SEVEN – METHOD OF PURIFICATION

1. O Raghava, be outwardly active but inwardly inactive, outwardly a doer but inwardly a non-doer, and thus play your part in the world.

2. O Raghava, abandon all desires inwardly, be free from attachments and latent impressions, do everything outwardly and thus play your part in the world.

3. O Raghava, adopt a comprehensive view, characterised by the abandonment of all objects of contemplation, live in your innate Self, liberated even while alive (jivan-mukta), and thus play your part in the world.

4. Burn the forest of duality with the fire of the conviction, ‘I am the one pure Consciousness’ and remain happy.

5. You are bound firmly on all sides by the idea, I am the body’. Cut that bond by the sword of knowledge ‘I am Consciousness’ and be happy.

6. Discarding the attachment to non-Self, regarding the world as a partless (whole), concentrated and with attention turned inward, remain as pure Consciousness.

7. Remain always as pure Consciousness which is your constant (i.e. true) nature beyond the states of waking, dream and deep sleep.

8. O mighty-armed, be always free from mental concepts like the heart of a rock though not insentient like it.

9. Do not be that which is understood, nor the one who understands. Abandon all concepts and remain what you are.

10. Eliminate one concept by another and the mind by the mind and abide in the Self. Is this so difficult, O holy man?

11. Sever the mind, which has on account of its cares become red hot, with the mind which is like iron sharpened by the study of scriptures.

12. O Raghava, what have you to do with this inert and dumb body? Why do you feel helpless and miserable by joys and sorrows on account of it?

13. What a vast difference between the flesh, blood, etc. (composing the body) and you, the embodiment of consciousness! Even after knowing this why do you not abandon the idea of Self in this body?

14. The mere knowledge that this body is like a piece of wood or a clod of earth enables one to realize the Supreme Self.

15. How strange that, while the real Brahman is forgotten by men, the unreal called avidya (nescience) appears very real to them (lit. struts about before them).

16. It is again strange that while the Supreme Brahman is forgotten by men, the idea ‘this is mine’ called avidya is firmly held by them (lit. strongly confronts them).

17. When you do your work do it without attachment even as a crystal which reflects the objects before it (but is not affected by them).

18. The conviction that everything is Brahman leads one to Liberation. Therefore reject entirely the idea of duality which is ignorance. Reject it entirely.

CHAPTER EIGHT – WORSHIP OF THE SELF

1. If you separate yourself from the body and abide at ease in Consciousness you will become one (the sole Reality), everything else appearing (insignificant) like grass.

2. After knowing that by which you know this (world) turn the mind inward and then you will see clearly (i.e. realize) the effulgence of the Self.

3. O Raghava, that by which you recognise sound, taste, form and smell, know that as your Self, the Supreme Brahman, the Lord of lords.

4. O Raghava, that in which beings vibrate, that which creates them, know that Self to be your real Self.

5. After rejecting, through reasoning, all that can be known as ‘non-truth’ what remains as pure Consciousness – regard that as your real Self.

6. Knowledge is not separate from you and that which is known is not separate from knowledge. Hence there is nothing other than the Self, nothing separate (from it).

7. ‘All that Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra and others always do is done by me, the embodiment of Consciousness’ – think in this manner.

8. ‘I am the whole universe. I am the undecaying Supreme Self. There is neither past nor future apart from me’ – reflect in this manner.

9. ‘Everything is the One Brahman, pure Consciousness, the Self of all, indivisible and immutable’ reflect in this manner.

10. ‘There is neither I nor any other thing. Only Brahman exists always full of bliss everywhere.’ – meditate on this calmly.

11. The sense of perceiver and perceived is common to all embodied beings, but the Yogi worships the One Self.

CHAPTER NINE – EXPOSITION OF THE SELF

1. When this assemblage of body, senses, etc. acts of its own accord there arises an idea ‘I am this.’ This is the jiva (ego) stained by the dirt of ignorance.

2. When the conviction that everything is the space-like (i.e. all pervasive) Consciousness becomes firm the jiva comes to an end like a lamp without oil.

3. Like a misguided Brahmin, who abandons his own nobility, and adopts the life of a Sudra, the Lord assumes the role of the jiva.

4. Just as a child sees an apparition (created by its own fancy), so also the stupid jiva creates, on account of delusion, this unreal body and sees it (as separate from him).

5. A child superimposes a (real) elephant on a clay elephant and plays with it; even so, an ignorant man superimposes the body, etc., on the Self and carries on his activities.

6. The picture of a snake does not cause fear of a snake when it is realised to be only a picture. Similarly when the jiva-snake is clearly understood there is neither misery nor the cause of misery.

7. The snake superimposed on a garland merges in it; so also the sense of separateness rising from the Self merges in the Self.

8. Although bracelets, etc. appear to be many, as gold they are one. Similarly although the adjuncts are many, the Self is really one.

9. Like the organs of the body and modifications of clay (i.e. vessels of clay) non-duality appears as duality (i.e. multiplicity) in the form of the moving and unmoving objects.

10. Just as a single face is reflected as many in a crystal, in water, or in ghee or in a mirror; so also the (one) Self is reflected in the (many) intellects (or minds).

11. Just as the sky is (i.e. appears to be) stained by dust, smoke and clouds, so also the pure Self in contact with the qualities of maya is (i.e. appears to be) soiled by them.

12. Just as metal in contact with fire acquires the quality of fire (namely heat), so also the senses, etc. in contact with the Self acquire the quality of the Self.

13. Just as the invisible Rahu becomes visible when it is seized by the moon (i.e., comes in contact with the moon), even so the Self is known by experiencing objects of perception.

14. When water and fire come together they acquire the qualities of each other. Even so when the Self and the inert body come together the Self looks like the non-Self and the non-Self looks like the Self.

15. Just as fire thrown into a large sheet of water loses its quality, so also Consciousness in contact with the unreal and the inert seems to lose its real nature and becomes inert.

16. The Self is realised in the body only with effort, like sugar from the sugarcane, oil from sesame seeds, fire from wood, butter from a cow and iron from stones (i.e. ore).

17. Like the sky seen in an unbroken crystal, the Supreme Lord of the nature of consciousness is seen (i.e. exists) in all objects.

18. Just as a big lamp kept inside a vessel made of precious stones illumines by its light both outside and inside, so also the one Self illumines (everything).

19. Just as the sun’s reflection in a mirror illumines (other things), so also the reflection of the Self in pure intellects illumines (other things).

20. That in which this wonderful universe appears like a snake in a rope is the eternal luminous Self.

21. The Self is without beginning or end. It is immutable Existence and Consciousness. It manifests space, it is the source of the jiva and higher than the highest.

22. The Self is pure Consciousness, eternal, omnipresent, immutable and self-effulgent like the light of the sun.

23. The omnipresent Self, the substratum of all, is non-different from the effulgent Consciousness like heat from fire. It can only be experienced (not known).

24. Pure Consciousness without intellect, the Supreme Self, the illuminator of all, the indivisible, pervading (everything) within and without, is the firm support (of all).

25. The Self is absolute Consciousness. It is pure awareness, undecaying, free from all ideas of acceptance or rejection and not limited by space, time or genus.

26. Just as the air in the universe pervades everything, so also the Self, the Lord, abides bodiless (in everything).

27. The Consciousness which exists in the expanse of earth, in the ornaments, in the sky and in the sun, exists also inside the worms lying in their shells under the earth.

28. There is neither bondage nor liberation, neither duality nor non-duality. There is only Brahman always shining as Consciousness.

29. Awareness is Brahman; the world is Brahman; the various elements are Brahman; I am Brahman; my enemy is Brahman; my friends and relatives are Brahman.

30. The idea of a consciousness and an object of consciousness is bondage; freedom from it is liberation. Consciousness, the object of consciousness and everything else is the Self; this is the gist of all systems of philosophy.

31. There is only consciousness here; this universe is nothing but consciousness; you are consciousness; I am consciousness; the worlds are consciousness – that is the conclusion.

32. That which exists and that which shines (i.e. is known to exist) are all the Self; anything else which seems to shine does not (really) exist. Consciousness alone shines by itself. Ideas of knower and known are idle postulates.

CHAPTER TEN – NIRVANA

1. Supreme Bliss cannot be experienced through contact of the senses with their objects. The supreme state is that in which the mind is annihilated through one-pointed enquiry.

2. The bliss arising from the contact of the senses with their objects is inferior. Contact with the sense objects is bondage; freedom from it is liberation.

3. Attain the pure state between existence and nonexistence and hold on to it; do not accept or reject the inner or the outer world.

4. Depend always on that true reality between the sentient and the inert which is the infinite space-like heart.

5. The belief in a knower and the known is called bondage. The knower is bound by the known; he is liberated when there is nothing to know.

6. Abandoning the ideas of seer, seen and sight along with latent desires (vasanas) of the past, we meditate on that Self which is the primal light that is the basis of sight.

7. We meditate on the eternal Self, the light of lights which lies between the two ideas of existence and non-existence.

8. We meditate on that Self of consciousness, the bestower of the fruits of all our thoughts, the illuminator of all radiant objects and the farthest limit of all accepted objects.

9. We meditate on that immutable Self, our reality, the bliss of which arises in the mind on account of the close contact between the seer and the seen.

10. If one meditates on that state which comes at the end of the waking state and the beginning of sleep, he will directly experience undecaying bliss.

11. The rock-like state in which all thoughts are still and which is different from the waking and dream states, is one’s supreme state.

12. Like mud in a mud pot the Supreme Lord who is existence and space-like consciousness and bliss exists everywhere non-separate (from things).

13. The Self shines by itself as the one boundless ocean of consciousness agitated by waves of thought.

14. Just as the ocean is nothing but water the entire world of things is nothing but consciousness filling all the quarters like the infinite space.

15. Brahman and space are alike as to their invisibility, all-pervasiveness and indestructibility, but Brahman is also consciousness.

16. There is only the one waveless and profound ocean of pure nectar, sweet through and through (i.e. blissful) everywhere.

17. All this is truly Brahman; all this is Atman. Do not cut up Brahman into ‘I am one thing’ and ‘this is another.’

18. As soon as it is realised that Brahman is all-pervasive and indivisible this vast samsara is found to be the Supreme Lord.

19. One who realises that everything is Brahman truly becomes Brahman; who would not become immortal if he were to drink nectar?

20. If you are wise you would become this (Brahman) by such conviction; if not, even if you are repeatedly told it would be (useless like offerings) thrown on ashes.

21. Even if you have known the real truth you have to practise always. Water will not become clear by merely uttering the word kataka fruit.

22. If one has the firm conviction ‘I am the Supreme Self called the undecaying Vasudeva’ he is liberated; otherwise he remains bound.

23. After eliminating everything as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, the Supreme Being (lit. state) which cannot be eliminated remains. Think ‘I am That’ and be happy.

24. Know always that the Self is Brahman, one and whole. How can that which is indivisible be divided into ‘I am the meditator’ and ‘the other is the object of meditation’?

25. When one thinks ‘I am pure consciousness’ it is called meditation and when even the idea of meditation is forgotten it is samadhi.

26. The constant flow of mental concepts relating to Brahman without the sense of ‘I’ achieved through intense practice of Self Enquiry (jnana) is what is called samprajnata samadhi (meditation with concepts).

27. Let violent winds which characterise the end of aeons (kalpas) blow; let all the oceans unite, let the twelve suns burn (simultaneously), still no harm befalls one whose mind is extinct.

28. That consciousness which is the witness of the rise and fall of all beings, know that to be the immortal state of supreme bliss.

29. Every moving or unmoving thing whatsoever is only an object visualised by the mind. When the mind is annihilated duality (i.e. multiplicity) is not perceived.

30. That which is immutable, auspicious and tranquil, that in which this world exists, that which manifests itself as the mutable and immutable objects -that is the sole consciousness.

31. Before discarding the slough the snake regards it as itself, but when once it has discarded it in its hole it does not look upon it as itself any longer.

32. He who has transcended both good and evil does not, like a child, refrain from prohibited acts from a sense of sin, nor does he do what is prescribed from a sense of merit.

33. Just as a statue is contained in a pillar (i.e. block) even if it is not actually carved out, so also the world exists in Brahman. Therefore the Supreme State is not a void.

34. Just as a pillar is said to be devoid of the statue when it has not actually been carved out, so also Brahman is said to be void when it is devoid of the impression of the world.

35. Just as still water may be said to contain or not contain ripples, so also Brahman may be said to contain or not contain the world. It is neither void nor existence.

Q. I’ve had an awakening but now I often feel anxious, overwhelmed or disorientated about there being ‘no me’. What can I do?

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Pulling the rug out from under the ego

In my article Roadmap to enlightenment: a (fairly) comprehensive guide to spiritual practices I discuss the inter-relationship between insight and purification and liberation, so I won’t go into that here – please see that article for more information on this, but I would like to comment on one thing I often see in people who attend my meetings or who contact me for 1 to 1 meetings. It’s when the ego has the rug pulled out from underneath it but it still trying to regain its balance, tottering from left to right, sometimes disorientated, sometimes overwhelmed, lacking stability – in short – suffering.

This occurs when the mind is exposed to non-dual insight/knowledge teachings, ie. the radical teachings on no-self/no-person/no-free will, before the mind has achieved a degree of sattva (peace) and stability. When this happens, freedom is seen but the mind’s tendencies are now unleashed as if the ‘foot has been taken off the brake’. All the pre-existing egoic tendencies, previously held in check somewhat by notions of the ego, are now left to roam free, sometimes with riotous consequences.

Now, in a fundamental sense there is no problem in this, but from the point of view of the ego, which is still actually functioning out of habit (ie. the vasanas or egoic habitual tendencies are still at play), this is quite troubling and can be very tumultuous. It can lead to much suffering – both for the seeker and for those around them.

If the ego-mind is stable and sattvic (peaceful) with a health positive self-concept prior to being exposed to the radical non-dual teachings, when the teachings are seen, the sattvic qualities are naturally allowed to express themselves, namely love, peace, happiness, compassion, intelligence, clear thinking, clear seeing.

This was in essence what happened to me. I was lucky in that I had unwittingly spent many years purifying my mind through a combination of spiritual practices from a young age, readings spiritual books, being in a loving relationship and various forms of self-help to name a few factors. Awakening for me was not a difficult or tumultuous process. In retrospect I can see this was the case as my mind was already for the most part sattvic. The awakening was peaceful and gradual, permeated by love and light, so gradual I did not even realise it was happening. It was only when I started sharing this teaching with others that I realised how difficult the awakening process can sometimes be, when I saw how it affected others. Because I had read and studied traditional texts that spoke about about the energies whilst I was seeking, I was able to utilise these teachings for the benefit of those who came to me and my meetings.

If the mind is riddled with tamasic (negative) and rajasic (passionate) energy, addictive vasanas (habitual tendencies) and a negative self-concept, these aspects of the mind can flourish. Depending on the vasanas present, this can sometime cause much suffering. It can result in family/relationship problems, divorce, panic attacks and career and financial issues. Unconscious psychological insecurities that were not previously known can all surface at once leading to a crisis of confidence, disorientation and feeling overwhelmed. Tamasic impulses can increase, rajasic tendencies can increase, addictive tendencies can increase.

The general advice here is to not worry, remain calm and at peace, something that is easier to do if a degree of sattva has already been cultivated and most of the rajasic and tamasic energies have already been somewhat subdued. In time, these vasanas (tendencies) will naturally express themselves. If they are allowed to rise up, be experienced and felt (ie. not suppressed) withoutacting them out, then they will naturally purify themselves in time and the balance of sattva will naturally arise. However, if the vasanas are indulged in, then they may continue indefinitely, and the freedom-realisation may even be lost (apparently). Just knowing this information can make a huge difference (apparently).

It is for this very reason that most traditional approaches stress a period of purification prior to being introduced to the ‘higher’ non-dual teachings. Shankara often advised that seekers purify themselves with devotion to God and developing certain qualities prior to reading/listening to the higher teachings of Vedanta.

But what seeking ego wants to wait? And why should it, right! Most teachings are no longer guarded behind the secret screens of a religious patriarchy and are freely available on YouTube and Facebook, something which is largely good as far as I can see, but it is useful to be aware of the downsides and potential negative consequences.

This article is an excerpt taken from a longer article, click here to read it.

Yoga Vasistha: HOW CAN IGNORANCE AND EGOTISM ARISE IN THE SELF?

Vasistha: The self ignorantly imagines an egotistic existence, even as if gold, forgetting its goldness, might think it is a ring and weep and wail “Alas, I have lost my goldness”.

Rama: Holy sir, how can this ignorance and egotism arise in the self?

Vasistha: Rama, one should ask questions concerning the reality only, not concerning the unreal. Neither goldless ringness nor limited egotism exists in truth. When the goldsmith sells the ring, he weighs out the gold, for it is gold. If one were to discuss the existence of the ringness in the ring, and the finite form in the infinite consciousness, then one has to compare it with the barren woman’s son.

The existence of the unreal is unreal: it arises in ignorance and vanishes when inquired into. In ignorance one sees silver in the mother-of-pearl, but it cannot serve as silver even for a moment! As long as the truth that it is mother-of-pearl is not seen, the ignorance lasts. Even as one cannot extract oil from sand and even as one can obtain only gold from the ring, there are no two things here in this universe: the one infinite consciousness alone shines in all names and forms.

Such indeed is the nature of this utter ignorance, this delusion and this world-process: without real existence there is this illusory notion of egotism. This egotism does not exist in the infinite self. In the infinite self there is no creator, no creation, no worlds, no heaven, no humans, no demons, no bodies, no elements, no time, no existence and no destruction, no ‘you’, no ‘I’, no self, no that, no truth, no falsehood (none of these), no notion of diversity, no contemplation and no enjoyment. Whatever is, and is known as the universe, is that supreme peace.

There is no beginning, no middle and no end: all is all at all times, beyond the comprehension of the mind and speech. There is no creation. The infinite has never abandoned its infinity. That has never become this. It is like the ocean, but without ocean’s movement. It is self-luminous like the sun, but without activity.

In ignorance, the supreme being is viewed as the object, as the world. Even as space exists in space, one with space, even so what appears to be the creation is Brahman existing in Brahman, as Brahman. The notions of far and near, of diversity, of here and there are as valid as the distance between two objects in a mirror in which a whole city is reflected.

The essence of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (A summary of Ramana Maharshi’s Teachings)

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Here are some quotes of Sri Ramana Maharshi that contain perhaps the essence of his spoken teachings:


The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything.


Be still. Apart from this the mind has no task to do or thought to think.


If one has realised, he is That which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course we loosely talk of Self-realisation for want of a better term.


That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet.


All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading.


Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it.

For instance, there is space in a hall (room). We are not going to create space anew. We fill up the place with various articles. If we want space, all that we need do is to remove all those articles and we get space. Similarly, if we remove all the rubbish from the mind the peace will become manifest. That which is obstructing the peace must be removed.


Questioner: What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?
Ramana Maharshi: Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight.


The thought ‘I am the body’ is ignorance.


Gifts, penance (tapas), sacrifice, upright conduct (dharma), self-control (yoga), devotion (bhakti), heaven (the expanse of consciousness), substance (existence), peace, truth, grace, silence, the Supreme State, deathless death, knowledge, renunciation, Liberation, bliss—know that all these are only severance of the I-am-the-body consciousness.


Peace is the only Reality. 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, making great efforts to get back into the shade, and then rejoicing ‘At last I have reached the shade, how sweet is the shade!’ We are doing exactly the same. We are not different from the Reality. We imagine we are different, i.e., we create the bheda bhava (the feeling of difference) and then undergo great sadhanas to get rid of the bheda bhava and realize the oneness. Why imagine or create the bheda bhava and then destroy it?


Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness.


Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.


It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The real is as it is, ever. How to realise it? All that is required is this: We have realise the unreal, i.e., regarded as Real what is unreal. We have to give up this attitude. That is all that is required for us to attain Jnana. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in the books is this: We dig a well and create a huge pit. The akasa (space) in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the akasa there. The akasa was there, then, and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.


Effortless and choiceless awareness is our Real State. If we can attain It or be in It, it is all right. But one cannot reach It without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the agelong vasanas (latent tendencies) carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For most people effort is necessary.


Of course, everybody, every book says summa iru (be quiet or still). But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if you find one who has effortlessly achieved the mouna (silence) or Supreme State indicated by summa iru, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been completed in a previous life. Such effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation.


People are afraid that when the ego or the mind is killed, the result may be a mere blank and not happiness. What really happens is that the thinker, the object of thought and thinking all merge into the one Source, which is Consciousness and Bliss itself, and thus that state is neither inert nor blank. I do not understand why people should be afraid of that state in which all thoughts cease to exist and the mind is killed. Every day they experience that state in sleep. There is no mind or thought in sleep. Yet when one rises from sleep one says, ‘I slept happily.’ Sleep is so dear to everyone that no one, prince or beggar, can do without it.


Dhyana [meditation], jnana [knowledge], bhakti [devotional love] and samadhi [meditative absorption] are all names for ourselves, for our Real State. Knowing one’s Self is only being one’s Self, as there is no second existence. This is Self-realisation.


Our Real Nature is Mukti. But we imagine that we are bound and are making strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the time 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.

An illustration will make this clear: A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he has gone on a world tour, is roaming over hill and dale, forest and country, desert and sea, across various continents and, after many years of weary and strenuous travel, returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the ashram and walks into the hall. Just at that moment he wakes up and finds he has not moved an inch, but was sleeping where he lay down. He has not returned to the hall after great efforts, but is and always has been in the hall. It is exactly like that. If it is asked, why being free we imagine we are bound, I answer, ‘Why being in the hall did you imagine you were on a world adventure, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea?’ It is all mind or maya.


Those alone who have found out the Real Nature of the ego have seen the Reality. They will have no more doubts or anxieties.


The body is a mental projection. The mind is the ego, and the ego rises from the Self.


The ego can have peace only when it merges back into its Source, the Self


The moral behind the story of Ashtavakra and Janaka is simply this: The disciple surrenders himself to the Master. That means there is no vestige of individuality retained by the disciple. If the surrender is complete, all sense of individuality is lost and there is no cause for misery. The Eternal Self is only happiness and that is revealed.


The whole of Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements ‘I am that I am’ and ‘Be still and know that I am God’.


There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until that is realised, effort is necessary. After tasting such bliss even once, one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the bliss of peace, no one would like to be out of it or engage himself otherwise. It is as difficult for a Jnani to engage in thoughts, as it is for an ajnani to be free from thought.


Any kind of activity does not affect a Jnani. He remains ever in eternal peace.


Ishta Devata (deity of one’s choice) and Guru are aids, very powerful aids on this path. But for an aid to be effective requires your effort also. Your effort is a sine qua non.


As explained in the Gita, sleep is the first obstacle for all sadhakas. The second obstacle is said to be vikshepa, or the sense objects of the world which divert one’s attention. The third is said to be kashaya or thoughts about previous experiences with sense objects. The fourth, ananda (bliss), is also called an obstacle, because in that state a feeling of separation from the source of ananda, making the enjoyer say, ‘I am enjoying ananda,’ is present. Even this has to be surmounted, and the final stage of samadhana or samadhi has to be reached, where one becomes ananda, or One with the Reality, and the duality of enjoyer and enjoyment ceases in the ocean of Satchidananda [Existence-Consciousness-Bliss] or the Self.


The power of a Jnani’s Self-Realisation is more powerful than all occult powers. To the Jnani there are no others. But what is the highest benefit that can be conferred on ‘others’ as we call them? It is happiness. Happiness is born of peace. Peace can reign only when there is no disturbance by thought. When the mind has been annihilated, there will be perfect peace. As there is no mind, the Jnani cannot be aware of others. But the mere fact of His Self-Realisation is itself enough to make all others peaceful and happy.


Ramana Maharshi: The path to Self Realisation (includes teachings on the Self, the mind, rajas and tamas, vasanas and Samadhi)

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I have selected this talk (talk 141 from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi) as there are so many gems for the seeker of liberation in such a short space. I will try to unpack some of these gems for you and have provided a summary of the teachings at the end. All comments in red are my own and any bold text has been added by myself for emphasis. Ramana’s words are in black.

First Ramana states that objects are nothing but the ‘modes’ or projection of the mind, and that there is a light that illumines these objects. The light he refers to is the light of awareness or consciousness:

Ramana Maharshi: The modes of mind take shape as external objects and the light reflected on the modes illumines the objects. Now neglecting the modes of mind, look for the light illumining them. The mind becomes still and the light remains self-shining. The undulating mind (i.e., the mind associated with rajas = activity and tamas = darkness) is commonly known as the mind. Devoid of rajas and tamas, it is pure and self-shining. This is Self-Realisation. Therefore the mind is said to be the means for it.

Note how densely packed the spiritual discourse is here! First Ramana advises we ignore the objects, or ‘neglect the modes of mind’ as it is put above. Then follows a beautiful line: ‘the mind becomes still and the light remains self-shining’. Here we can see that Ramana is describing the thought-free awareness in which the mind is still but remains awake and aware. Ramana sometimes refers to this state as being called Jagrat Sushupti (click on the link to learn more about what Ramana says about this). 

Ramana then restates the above in a different way and further defines the word ‘mind’. He states the the mind associated with rajas (ie. the active, passionate and grasping mind) or with tamas (ie. the mind afflicted with fear, negativity, depression and lethargy) is what is meant by the word mind. Put more simply, the word ‘mind’ refers to the mind in movement that is either grasping (rajas) or pushing away (tamas). When rajas and tamas are no longer present, or when the mind is still and no longer grasping or pushing away, the mind becomes pure (this is usually known as sattva – for a more in-depth discussion of rajas, tamas and sattva see here). This totally pure mind is no longer the mind as previously defined, as it is now still, and this stillness in which movement of ego (rajas and tamas) no longer occurs is known as Self-Realisation.

The questioner proceeds:

D.: What is moksha (liberation)?

M.: Moksha is to know that you were not born. “Be still and know that I am God.” To be still is not to think. Know, and not think, is the word.

Ramana now indicates that our true nature is never born, unlike the numerous objects we appear to experience including the body-mind that we erroneously take ourselves to be. Ramana then reiterates the basic instruction to still the mind and explains again what this means – not to think. Ramana says ‘know, and not think’. I interpret this word ‘know’ to mean ‘be aware’, which again chimes with the beautiful line in the previous paragraph:’ the mind becomes still and the light remains self-shining’. 

Now Ramana further explains the main points of the teaching and how to attain Realisation:

Jnana, once revealed, takes time to steady itself. The Self is certainly within the direct experience of everyone, but not as one imagines it to be. It is only as it is. This Experience is samadhi. Just as fire remains without scorching against incantations or other devices but scorches otherwise, so also the Self remains veiled by vasanas [habitual egoic tendencies] and reveals itself when there are no vasanas. Owing to the fluctuation of the vasanas, jnana takes time to steady itself. Unsteady jnana is not enough to check rebirths. Jnana cannot remain unshaken side by side with vasanas. True, that in the proximity of a great master, the vasanas will cease to be active, the mind becomes still and samadhi results, similar to fire not scorching because of other devices. Thus the disciple gains true knowledge and right experience in the presence of the master. To remain unshaken in it further efforts are necessary.

Jnana, which literally means knowledge, is a synonym for Self-Realisation in which there is no suffering. Ramana states that even once we have had a glimpse of That Reality, it takes time for Jnana to stabilise or ‘steady itself’.

How can this be? Is not Reality non-dual and ever-present already? Is our True Nature not already one with the Reality and beyond the limitations of body, time and space? If so, how can it take time for Realisation to steady itself and if Reality is already whole and one without a second, and therefore ‘stable in itself’, how can we even dare speak of stabilisation of Reality or Jnana?

Ramana gives us a practical answer: it is due to the habitual egoic tendencies, or vasanas to use the Sanskrit word. Whist these are present, ‘the Self remains veiled’, and the Self only ‘reveals itself when there are no vasanas’. It is because of these habitual vasanas that take time to die down that ‘Jnana takes time to steady itself’. Ramana goes on to emphasise the point: ‘Jnana cannot remain unshaken side by side with vasanas’ he says. Shankara says the same – see here.

If we compare this section with what was said earlier about mind and rajas and tamas, we can see that stilling the mind means the mind being totally devoid of rajas and tamas. When the mind is still in this way, this is the Self. ie. from a practical point of view, when the mind is active, it is called mind, and when still, it is called Self.

This mind, or rajas and tamas, therefore can be seen to be the same as the vasanas described in this section above. In both cases, when the mind is still or with no vasanas, meaning when there is no habitual birth of the ‘I-concept’ (ego) together with  egoic desire and egoic fear, then the Self is automatically realised.

What about the role of the Guru? Ramana here states the mere proximity to the Guru can still the mind and remove the vasanas, thus revealing the Self in Samadhi, giving a true authentic experience of Self to the seeker. However for this Samadhi, which is unsteady, to become steady, Ramana states ‘further efforts are necessary’.

Ramana now tells us more about Samadhi:

He will know it to be his real Being and thus be liberated even while alive. Samadhi with closed eyes is certainly good, but one must go further until it is realised that actionlessness and action are not hostile to each other. Fear of loss of samadhi while one is active is the sign of ignorance. Samadhi must be the natural life of everyone.

Ramana states that the Samadhi in which there is awareness but no objects whatsoever is pleasing and wholesome, but if we fear the intrusion of objects, that is not really the Samadhi he speaks of. The Samadhi Ramana speaks of doesn’t mind the absence or presence of objects, and so activity in daily living is no impediment to this natural Samadhi (Sahaja Samadhi).

There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until it is realised effort is necessary. After tasting such Bliss, even once one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the Bliss of Peace no one would like to be out of it or engaged himself otherwise. It is as difficult for a Jnani to engage in thoughts as it is for an ajnani to be free from thought.

When fully realised, who can talk of effort or lack of effort? The Self is beyond both effort and non-effort, and is also one with effort and non-effort. However, as long as vasanas or mind is present, effort needs to be made. Once one has the taste of the bliss and peace of Samadhi, one desires it. When this desire outweighs the desire for external objects, one naturally makes effort towards Samadhi. One must repeatedly enter into this Samadhi – see here for what Ramana says about this or see here for what Shankara says about Samadhi and the mind. Eventually it becomes an effort not to be in Samadhi, Ramana stating ‘It is as difficult for a Jnani to engage in thoughts as it is for an ajnani to be free from thought.’

The common man says that he does not know himself; he thinks many thoughts and cannot remain without thinking.

Any kind of activity does not affect a Jnani; his mind remains ever in eternal Peace.

Talks 141

The True State is beyond any kind of activity and thought. It cannot be lost or gained, it can never be defiled and was and is always whole and complete. It is ever-lasting Peace, beyond birth and death. It is all there is.


A Practical Summary:

  1. Allow the mind to become still
  2. When this stillness is firm and one remains fully aware (ie. one does not fall asleep) in daily life it is called Self-Realisation.
  3. One way this can be done is by ignoring objects and when the mind becomes still all we are left with is the luminescent consciousness which is ever pure and undefined. This is our essence or true nature (Swarupa in Sanskrit).
  4. This state is known as Samadhi and is initially temporary due to latent habitual tendencies (vasanas or rajas and tamas) which habitually sprout the ‘I-concept’ along with notions of ‘the world’ and this gives rise to samsara or suffering.
  5. Proximity to a guru can bring about Samadhi and guide us home.
  6. Once Samadhi has been attained and the desire for worldly objects is outweighed, the Self will draw you in by its own blissful power and repeated Samadhi eventually results in the natural state when the vasanas/egoic mind has been obliterated. This is Sahaja Samadhi which is the same as self-realisation or Jnana or what Ramana calls here ‘eternal Peace’.