Ramana Maharshi: offer yourself to God and become God. This will surely result in self-liberation.

Ramana smiling

Those who have poured their minds, as a food offering to Sivam, into the surging and radiant sacrificial fire which is the discipline of true knowledge [mey jnana tavam], will truly become Siva-swarupa. Having reached this conclusion, the proper course is to worship courageously in this way and merge with the formless Sivam.

Ramana Maharshi
Guru Vachaka Kovai
Verse 353

Tom’s comments:

I chose this verse to write about because not only does it prescribe a sure footed way to the absolute, but also because I love the poetic imagery of ‘pouring your mind’ into the mouth of God in order to merge with Him. For me this ‘pouring’ invokes a sense of surrender which is effortless and complete, a total giving over of yourself to Him. And then we realise all is Him all always was Him, and what we called ‘me’ or ‘I’ was also Him.

When we merge with Him, we do not really ‘merge’ with Him, as that implies two entities becoming one. What happens is that the illusion of individuality and separation dissolves away and the reality that always was is seen for what it is.

The imagery of the verse also conjures up a sacrificial fire which envelopes and burns away the ignorance of separation, and it is this sacrifice of ego that is the real form of ‘courageous worship’. This worship is the same as ‘the discipline of true knowledge’.

The next verse drives the essential point home further:

Amongst those who have not realised that the individual-consciousness is fake, let not any of them doubt unnecessarily what state will be attained if the individual-consciousness is abandoned completely. Just as someone who lets go of a branch of a tree to which he had been clinging will automatically fall onto the ground with a thud, he who has abandoned individual-consciousness will not fail to reach the state of Self, the true consciousness

Ramana Maharshi
Guru Vachaka Kovai
Verse 354

Om shanti shanti shanti

Advertisements

Ramana Maharshi: Self-abidance, the ‘vision of God’ and the end of suffering

 ramana umbrella

If you remain still, without paying attention to this, without paying attention to that, and without paying attention to anything at all, you will, simply through your powerful attention to being, become the reality, the vast eye, the unbounded space of consciousness.

Ramana Maharshi
Guru Vachaka Kovai
Verse 647

Tom’s comments:

Guru Vachaka Kovai is argueably the most authoritative text on Ramana Maharshi’s verbal teachings. The instruction here is simply to be still. Not to be attentive to anything at all – just to be.

Ramana then uses the wording ‘through your powerful attention to being’. Give the first part of the verse which says not to be attentive to anything, this implies that through not being attentive to any particular thing and remaining still, but by remaining aware, that is ‘attention to being’. This means that being is not something to be attentive of, ie. being is not an object of attention, but ‘attention to being’ is simply the state of being aware but not have your awareness focussed on any particular thing.

What is the reward? The reward is that we ‘become the reality’. As Ramana has stated many times, there is actually no ‘becoming’ the reality. Reality is always alredy here, pure and whole, but realising this could be called ‘becoming the reality’:

There is no reaching the Self. If the Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not now and here, but that it should be got anew. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So, I say, the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already That.

Ramana Maharshi, Talk with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 251

Here are 2 other verses, also from Guru Vachaka Kovai that say essentially the same thing but using different language:

348. Having become free from concepts, which are afflicting thoughts, and with the ‘I am the body’ idea completely extinguished, one ends up as the mere eye of grace, the non-dual expanse of consciousness. This is the supremely fulfilling vision of God

349. Having restrained the deceitful senses, and having abandoned mental concepts, you should stand aloof in your real nature. In that state of Self-Abidance in which you remain firmly established in the consciousness of the Heart, Sivam will reveal itself.

In verse 348 we can see how here the emphasis is on freedom from concepts and thoughts. When the ‘I am the body’ idea has been completely extinguished, then ignorance, the cause of suffering, has been rooted out, and all that remains is Reality, which in this verse Ramana calls ‘the non-dual expanse of consciousness’ or ‘God’.

It is worth noting that this is not simply an insight teaching, but also a purification teaching in which, over time, through the repeated practice of ‘self-abidance’, the ignorance ‘I am the body’ is uprooted. Only when this is done is the vision of God fully realised.

Again, in verse 349, a similar concept is explored in a slightly different way. The senses here are termed ‘deceitful’ meaning that they promise pleasure and fulfillment when really pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment throught the senses actually leads only to the perpetuation of the cycle of suffering. Therefore we turn away from objects as sources of fulfillment and also we ‘abandon mental concepts’. Once we have done this, we are already standing ‘aloof in our real nature’. Standing in our real nature is not something we have to do, but it naturally arises once we stop attending to objects and thoughts (which are subtle objects).

The latter part of verse 349 says we should ‘remain firmly established’ in this stillness. Here, this state is also called ‘the Heart’. The ‘remain firmly’ implies the importance of practice, ie. remaining in this state for sometime. Only then will it have it effect of God-realisation or ‘Sivam revealing itself’, which is when the ignorance of the false ‘I’ has been rooted out through repeated practice.

Again, it is worth noting that unlike insight teachings which simply point out the presence of awareness/consciousness, this teaching goes further and asks us to ‘remain in that awareness’ in order for ignorance to be uprooted. In this context, remain in awareness is just a phrase to mean that we don’t seek ourwardly through objects such as sense objects (gross objects) or thoughts and concepts (ie. subtle objects).

This is the path to ending suffering, as the next verse, also taken from Guru Vachaka Kovai, states. The word mauna refers to the state of silence or stillness beyond words and the word jiva refers to the apparent individual:

350. The true vision of reality that is free from veiling ignorance is the state in which one shines in the Heart as the ocean of bliss, the inundation of grace. In the mauna experience that surges there as wholly Self, and which is impossible to think about, not a trace of grief or discontent exists for the jiva.

Krishnamurti: meditation, Indian temples, Vedanta

154552

The following is an excerpt from ‘The Only Revolution’ by Jiddu Krishnamurti:

Meditation is not an escape from the world; it is not an isolating self-enclosing activity, but rather the comprehension of the world and its ways. The world has little to offer apart from food, clothes and shelter, and pleasure with its great sorrows.

Meditation is wandering away from this world; one has to be a total outsider. Then the world has a meaning, and the beauty of the heavens and the earth is constant. Then love is not pleasure. From this all action begins that is not the outcome of tension, contradiction, the search for self-fulfillment or the conceit of power.


The room overlooked a garden, and thirty or forty feet below was the wide, expansive river, sacred to some, but to others a beautiful stretch of water open to the skies and to the glory of the morning. You could always see the other bank with its village and spreading trees, and the newly planted winter wheat. From this room you could see the morning star, and the sun rising gently over the trees; and the river became the golden path for the sun.

At night the room was very dark and the wide window showed the whole southern sky, and into this room one night came – with a great deal of fluttering – a bird. Turning on the light and getting out of bed one saw it under the bed. It was an owl. It was about a foot-and-a-half high with extremely wide big eyes and a fearsome beak. We gazed at each other quite close, a few feet apart. It was frightened by the light and the closeness of a human being. We looked at each other without blinking for quite a while, and it never lost its height and its fierce dignity. You could see the cruel claws the light feathers and the wings tightly held against the body. One would have liked to touch it, stroke it, but it would not have allowed that. So presently the light was turned out and for some time there was quietness in the room. Soon there was a fluttering of the wings – you could feel the air against your face – and the owl had gone out of the window. It never came again.


It was a very old temple; they said it might be over three thousand years old, but you know how people exaggerate. It certainly was old; it had been a Buddhist temple and about seven centuries ago it became a Hindu temple and in place of the Buddha they had put a Hindu idol. It was very dark inside and it had a strange atmosphere. There were pillared halls, long corridors carved most beautifully, and there was the smell of bats and of incense.

The worshipers were straggling in, recently bathed, with folded hands, and they walked around these corridors, prostrating each time they passed the image, which was clothed in bright silks. A priest in the innermost shrine was chanting and it was nice to hear well-pronounced Sanskrit. He wasn’t in a hurry, and the words came out easily and gracefully from the depths of the temple. There were children there, old ladies, young men. The professional people had put away their European trousers and coats and put on dhotis, and with folded hands and bare shoulders they were, with great devotion, sitting or standing.

And there was a pool full of water – a sacred pool – with many steps leading down to it and pillars of carved rock around it. You came into the temple from the dusty road full of noise and bright, sharp sunshine, and in here it was very shady, dark and peaceful. There were no candles, no kneeling people about, but only those who made their pilgrimage around the shrine, silently moving their lips in some prayer.


A man came to see us that afternoon. He said he was a believer in Vedanta. He spoke English very well for he had been educated in one of the universities and had a bright, sharp intellect. He was a lawyer, earning a great deal of money, and his keen eyes looked at you speculatively, weighing, and somewhat anxious. He appeared to have read a great deal, including something of western theology. He was a middle-aged man, rather thin and tall, with the dignity of a lawyer who had won many cases.

He said: “I have heard you talk and what you are saying is pure Vedanta, brought up to date but of the ancient tradition.” We asked him what he meant by Vedanta. He replied: “Sir, we postulate that there is only Brahman who 5 creates the world and the illusion of it, and the Atman – which is in every human being – is of that Brahman. Man has to awaken from this everyday consciousness of plurality and the manifest world, much as he would awaken from a dream. Just as this dreamer creates the totality of his dream so the individual consciousness creates the totality of the manifest world and other people. You, sir, don’t say all this but surely you mean all this for you have been born and bred in this country and, though you have been abroad most of your life, you are part of this ancient tradition. India has produced you, whether you like it or not; you are the product of India and you have an Indian mind. Your gestures, your statue-like stillness when you talk, and your very looks are part of this ancient heritage. Your teaching is surely the continuation of what our ancients have taught since time immemorial.”

Let us brush aside whether the speaker is an Indian brought up in this tradition, conditioned in this culture, and whether he is the summation of this ancient teaching. First of all he is not an Indian, that is to say, he does not belong to this nation or to the community of Brahmins, though he was born in it. He denies the very tradition with which you invest him. He denies that his teaching is the continuity of the ancient teachings. He has not read any of the sacred books of India or of the West because they are unnecessary for a man who is aware of what is going on in the world – of the behaviour of human beings with their endless theories, with the accepted propaganda of two thousand or five thousand years which has become the tradition, the truth, the revelation.

To such a man who denies totally and completely the acceptance of the word, the symbol with its conditioning, to him truth is not a secondhand affair. If you had listened to him, sir, he has from the very beginning said that any acceptance of authority is the very denial of truth, and he has insisted that one must be outside all culture, tradition and social morality. If you had listened, then you would not say that he is an Indian or that he is continuing the ancient tradition in modern language. He totally denies the past, its teachers, its interpreters, its theories and its formulas.

Truth is never in the past. The truth of the past is the ashes of memory; memory is of time, and in the dead ashes of yesterday there is no truth. Truth is a living thing, not within the field of time.

So, having brushed all that aside, we can now take up the central issue of Brahman, which you postulate. Surely, sir, the very assertion is a theory invented by an imaginative mind – whether it be Shankara or the modern scholarly theologian. You can experience a theory and say that it is so, but that is like a man who has been brought up and conditioned in the Catholic world having visions of Christ. Obviously such visions are the projection of his own conditioning; and those who have been brought up in the tradition of Krishna have experiences and visions born of their culture. So experience does not prove a thing. To recognise the vision as Krishna or Christ is the outcome of conditioned knowledge; therefore it is not real at all but a fancy, a myth, strengthened through experience and utterly invalid. Why do you want a theory at all, and why do you postulate any belief? This constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear – fear of everyday life, fear of sorrow, fear of death and of the utter meaninglessness of life. Seeing all this you invent a theory and the more cunning and erudite the theory the more weight it has. And after two thousand or ten thousand years of propaganda that theory invariably and foolishly becomes “the truth”.

But if you do not postulate any dogma, then you are face to face with what actually is. The “what is”, is thought, pleasure, sorrow and the fear of death. When you understand the structure of your daily living – with its competition, greed, ambition and the search for power – then you will see not only the absurdity of theories, saviours and gurus, but you may find an ending to sorrow, an ending to the whole structure which thought has put together.

The penetration into and the understanding of this structure is meditation. Then you will see that the world is not an illusion but a terrible reality which man, in his relationship with his fellow man, has constructed. It is this which has to be understood and not your theories of Vedanta, with the rituals and all the paraphernalia of organized religion. 7

When man is free, without any motive of fear, of envy or of sorrow, then only is the mind naturally peaceful and still. Then it can see not only the truth in daily life from moment to moment but also go beyond all perception; and therefore there is the ending of the observer and the observed, and duality ceases.

But beyond all this, and not related to this struggle, this vanity and despair, there is – and this is not a theory – a stream that has no beginning and no end; a measureless movement that the mind can never capture.

When you hear this, sir, obviously you are going to make a theory of it, and if you like this new theory you will propagate it. But what you propagate is not the truth. The truth is only when you are free from the ache, anxiety and aggression which now fill your heart and mind. When you see all this and when you come upon that benediction called love, then you will know the truth of what is being said.

Ranjit Maharaj: use a thorn to remove a thorn, then throw them both away

Ranjit Maharaj

This passage below is taken from ‘Illusion vs. Reality’ (page 6) by Shri Ranjit Maharaj. Shri Ranjit’s guru (Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj) was also the Guru of Nisardagatta Maharaj, making Ranjit and Nisargadatta ‘guru-brothers’, ie. contempories in the same teaching lineage.

The address is false but when you reach the goal, it is Reality. In the same way, all the scriptures and the philosophical books are meant only to indicate that point, and when you reach it they become non-existent, empty.

…For example, to remove a thorn in your finger you use another thorn; then you throw both of them away. But if you keep the second thorn which was used to remove the first one, you’ll surely be stuck again.

To remove ignorance, knowledge is necessary, but finally both must dissolve into Reality. Your Self is without ignorance, without knowledge.

…If you keep the second thorn, which means knowledge, even if it is a golden thorn, you’ll be stuck [by the second thorn].

…Knowledge is a great thing but it must be only a remedy. When the fever goes off thanks to the medicine you take, you must stop taking it. Don’t prolong the treatment or you will create more problems.

Knowledge is necessary only to remove the disease of ignorance. The doctor will always prescribe a limited dosage!

Buddha: How to approach the teachings

buddha

Going back to the Pali suttas, the Buddha also repeatedly warned against being attached to any particular teaching or teaching tradition:

‘Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of texts, by logic, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of a speaker, or because you think, ‘This ascetic is our teacher.’
AN 3.65 Kesaputti [Kālāma] Sutta

This really is quite a stark warning, and we could see this as a very ‘modern’ and scientific way of approaching this search for freedom from suffering.

The above text is an except taken from a larger article: Buddhism: How enlightenment happens

How yoga leads to Enlightenment

yoga.jpg
An illustration dated from the early 20th century, drawn to accompany Yoga Yajnavalkya, an imporant foundational text on yoga from the 12th century CE.

In my previous two posts (here and here) I’ve described the aims of the of yoga as being twofold:

  1. Knowledge: to see/know/realise that the notion of being a separate doer-entity is an illusion
  2. Peace: to become peaceful (sattvic) and remove compulsive desires

Each of these two aims of yoga are there to solve a basic problem. First, as long as you take yourself to be a doer, you suffer. This is corrected with Knowledge as defined above. Note that this Knowledge is not knowledge of something new (additive or positive knowledge) but it is realising something is false (negative knowledge).

And second, as long as you are a slave to compulsive desires, right action (ethical and intelligent action in accordance with natural law or dharma) will not fully manifest, and the flow of the innate natural intelligence will be impeded and distorted by these addictive and compulsive tendencies (vasanas). This is corrected by becoming sattvic (peaceful).

There are many forms of yoga and some can be very technical and detailed. However in general, some yogas work upon the body, others on the breath/voice, and some focus more on the mind. However the main purpose of yoga is to affect the mind, as this is where the core problems described above lie.  Those yogas that work primarily upon the body, voice or breath do so in order to directly or indirectly effect the mind to which they are connected.

Each type of yoga strives to achieve the two points mentioned above in a slightly different way. Often there is a conceptual framework within which the yoga operates. When the aim of the yoga has been achieved (ie. by achieving the two points above), then the conceptual framework within which the yoga operated can be dismantled and left behind.

buddha.jpg
(1) Knowledge and (2) Peace, personified here by a visual and stylised  image of the Buddha

Improving your posture

Let’s give a simple example of how concepts, even when false, can aid us. If you want to improve your posture an expert may recommend you imagine a length of string attached to the crown of your head, pulling the top of your head upwards towards the sky/ceiling. When you imagine this, you naturally straighten your posture in line with the visualised imaginary piece of string.

After practicing this for sometime, your posture improved and now you no longer have to imagine a piece of string. At no point did you actually thinks there was a piece of string actually there, but you can see how this concept was useful to correct your posture.

Concepts in Yoga

Lets take a look at some of the main traditional forms of yoga to see how this works. In the sections below there are many aspects of the yoga I have not gone into, as the purpose of this text is to demonstrate how yoga can use concepts to achieve the two goals mentioned above, and then the concepts can be thrown away, to be picked up again only when this needs to be taught to someone else.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana means knowledge in Sanskrit, and Jnana Yoga is the Yoga of Knowledge.

In this yoga the concept of Brahman is introduced and is initially equated as being being-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda). Brahman is initially defined as being our basic sense of presence-awareness and the teachings show this to be (apparently) Unchanging, Ever-Present/Permanent, Eternal, Infinite and Indestructible. This is stark contrast to the subtle and gross objects that appear within it which are ever-changing, temporary, transient, limited and subject to creation and destruction.

The Jnana yogi is taught to identify him/herself as that Unchanging Absolute Brahman and not to identify as the ephemeral objects. Through this process of de-identification with the body-mind and identification with that which does not change, insight into experience occurs.

We start to realise that the body-mind entity that we formerly took ourself to be actually is not us at all. We thought that we we responsible for our thoughts and action, whereas from the point of view of Brahman or Absolute Consciousness, it is seen that there is no doer and the body-mind-entity functions by itself. At this point the doer-entity is seen to be non-existant, and Knowledge as defined above in objective (1) arises.

At this point the essential job of jnana yoga has been completed, and the concepts of Brahman as being an unchanging essence can then be dropped and life goes on, living itself. There is no attachment to concepts such as the relative and absolute or concepts of the infinite, all of which are ultimately unverifiable in our experience.

Incidentally, once the doer has seen to be non-existent, sattva tends to arise over time as the processes that fuel compulsive desires are slowly wiped away, and so objective (2) is also indirectly achieved.

We can see that in Jnana yoga the concept of an Absolute Brahman has been useful to us to serve a purpose. However ultimately we cannot know for sure from our experience alone that there is such as thing as the Absolute Unchanging Brahman. Because Knowledge, ie. seeing through the doer, has occurred, Freedom is innately realised, and concepts are not clung to, and no beliefs are required.

Karma Yoga

Karma means action in Sanskrit, and Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action.

There are a few ways karma yoga can be performed according to the traditional scriptures, but one of them is to set up the concept of a personal God, an all-powerful entity that is responsible for everything and every action in the universe. The Karma yogi is taught to realise that it is this God that ultimately has control and not the limited body-mind that it thinks itself to be.

The karma yogi therefore practices gladly accepting everything that comes his or her way as a gift from God, working to the best of their ability, but not being attached to the results of their actions.

As the Karma yogi starts to learn to be happy regardless of what is happening, this has the direct result of eroding away compulsive desires, converting them into non-compulsive desires, and so eventually objective (2) is achieved.

Thereafter, over time, the sense of identification with the body-mind entity loosens and is seen through. It can become apparent to the Karma yogi that actions happen by themselves: thoughts happen by themselves, but there is no thinker, just a spontaneous thought occurring, one by one, in quick succession. Similarly actions happen by themselves: limbs move, lips speak in the same way that dogs bark, leaves rustle and clouds float by – all happens spontaneously, and there is no doer. Here Knowledge arises.

Now the yoga has completed its aims: Freedom has been realised and we are seen to be free from suffering – we are seen to have always been free from suffering and the world. Now we no longer have to worry about concept of an infinite all-powerful personal God that is ultimately unknowable and unverifiable.

Again, the concept of the infinite God, as with the concept of the Unchanging Indestructible Brahman for Jnana yoga, can be seen to have been a useful tool, aiding the seeker to attain Liberation, but now no longer needs to be believed in.


So here are just two examples of how concepts are utilised in yoga to achieve a greater end than perhaps could have been achieved without them.

Remember, don’t cling to concepts, beliefs and ideas. Use them by all means, but when you no longer need them, let them go. Ultimately, stay with what you know, stay with what’s true, question your beliefs, be unafraid to admit if you’re wrong, and don’t pretend to know something you don’t. Keeping to these guidelines will safeguard you from dogma, and the suffering that results from it.

Also see:
How spiritual teachings work
The essence of yoga
The paradox of yoga
Can you know something is infinite?

Zen Master Huang Po: how to remove our illusions

Q: Illusion can hide from us our own mind, but up to now you have not taught us how to get rid of illusion.

zen circle

A: The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory. Illusion is not something rooted in Reality; it exists because of your dualistic thinking.

If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, illusion will cease of itself. And then if you still want to destroy it wherever it may be, you will find that there is not a hairsbreadth left of anything on which to lay hold.

This is the meaning of: ‘I will let go with both hands, for then I shall certainly discover the Buddha in my mind’.

The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory…If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as “ordinary” and “Enlightened,” illusion will cease of itself.

Q: If there is nothing on which to lay hold, how is the Dharma [The Teaching, Enlightenment] to be transmitted?

A: It is a transmission of Mind with Mind.

Huang Po Zen Teachings

Q: If Mind is used for transmission, why do you say that Mind too does not exist?

A: Obtaining no Dharma whatever is called Mind transmission. The understanding of this implies no Mind and no Dharma.

Q: If there is no Mind and no Dharma, what is meant by transmission?

A: You hear people speak of Mind transmission and then you talk of something to be received. So Bodhidharma [the first Zen patriarch, the ‘founder of zen’] said:

The nature of the Mind when understood,
No human speech can compass or disclose.
Enlightenment is naught to be attained,
And he that gains it does not say he knows.

If I were to make this clear to you, I doubt if you could stand up to it.

Taken from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po (Chun Chou record no. 32)

Ramana Maharshi: just ‘lose’ the ego

Ramana smiling

Be what you are…All that is needful is to lose the ego, That what is, is always there. Even now you are That…
…The thought ‘I have not seen’, the expectation to see and the desire of getting something, are all the working of the ego.
You have fallen into the snares of the ego. The ego says all these and not you. Be yourself and nothing more!

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
Talk 183

See also:
Ramana Maharshi on non-doership and self-realisation
Ramana Maharshi: Self-inquiry (atma vichara) and doership

J. Krishnamurti: The beauty of listening

krishnamurti

‘The beauty of listening lies in being highly sensitive to everything about you: to the ugliness, to the dirt, to the squalor, to the poverty about you, and also to the dirt, to the disorder, to the poverty of one’s own being.
When you are aware of both, then there is no effort, that is, when there is an awareness which is without choice, then there is no effort.’
Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Collected Works, Vol. XV, page 61 ‘Choiceless Awareness’

Tom’s Comments:
Not trying to avoid the bad and ugly, not striving to reach the good and beautiful, the ego is no longer at play. We come into contact with things as they are, reality, the living truth. We are no longer afraid of what is, we are no longer trying to escape ourselves.

Then we can see that which already is, and always has been. How can this be put into words? Try it and see for yourself, then you too will be beyond the need for these pathetic words.