Tom: Yes, ego-mind-thought must die for realisation to occur. Those who are still attached to the body-mind-world and still take themselves to be the body say otherwise.
Ego is ignorance. Ego is duality. It is the ego that creates/projects the body-mind and world, like in a dream. When ego goes, everything goes, and all that remains is the Self. It cannot be put into words or understood by the mind. In truth ego never existed at all.
Objections to this such as ‘how does the sage function without ego’ only occur in ignorance of taking the sage to be the body and in the presense of ego-ignorance seeing body-mind-world.
The paradox of this cannot be explained in words, but when the mind becomes so completely and utterly still so that time and space and personhood all cease to exist, this ‘Self’ is somehow ‘known without knowing’.
Now it is true that Sri Ramana often said that we should ‘be still’ and that this is the practice, but what did he mean by ‘be still’? If we read and examine Sri Ramana’s written work ‘Who Am I?’, we will see what Sri Ramana means when he says ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’. Note that we can trust the teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ as an authentic rendition of Sri Ramana’s teachings as they were written by Sri Ramana himself.
Let us see: the first time we come across the notion of quieting the mind in ‘Who Am I?’ is as follows:
‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.’
Now on the face of it this is quite a strange statement for Sri Ramana to make: that the world will disappear when the mind is still. Clearly, when Sri Ramana states that the mind is to be quiet, he is perhaps using these words in a different way to how they are normally used. How can it be that when the mind becomes quiet the world disappears?
Well earlier in ‘Who Am I?’ Sri Ramana explains that it is the mind is a power that creates or projects the entire body, mind and world, so to ‘be quiet’ means not just to still the ordinary thinking mind, but to still this world-projecting power, ie. to remove all of Maya. Ramana repeats this, see here, also from ‘Who Am I?’:
Question: When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer
Question: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.
I have a video here which explains the importance of this teaching. It fundamentally explains why some teachings are liberating and others are not:
Whilst some teachings may encourage us to still the mind, Sri Ramana is emphasising removing the entire body-mind-world from our consciousness. We can see that Sri Ramana’s teaching is far more extreme than many others – it is this extreme teaching that is needed to remove ignorance and realise the Self.
Sri Ramana emphasises Self-Enquiry as the only sadhana that will lead us to Liberation. Again, Sri Ramana’s teaching is more narrow and prescriptive in this way, as he maintains that Self-Enquiry is the only way. Let us see what else Sri Ramana writes in ‘Who Am I?’:
Question: Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Other than inquiry [Vichara; Self-Enquiry], there are no adequate means.
We can see that Sri Ramana is stating that sadhana or self-enquiry is essential to make the mind quiet, so that when Sri Ramana is asking us to ‘be still’ or ‘keep quiet’, he is actually asking us to do Self-Enquiry.
Sometimes to those who are on the spiritual path, it can seem like those who are in full ignorance are happier. It can feel like ignorance is bliss, but it isn’t. It’s deep, deep suffering.
There are few things about spiritual seeking…First, the spiritual seeker has a certain type of sensitivity, which makes them more sensitive to suffering, because they are more aware of it often. That self-aware aspect can intensify suffering that wouldn’t bother other people so much. Some spiritual seekers have fairly nice lives outwardly. But inwardly they are suffering intently because they are more sensitive to their suffering because the awareness is there.
The other thing about the spiritual path is that it is often an isolating path, which also makes it difficult. There is no one to share it with, very few people understand this, because most people are not seekers of liberation, they are seekers of other things.
The other thing is there is nothing you can do about it. Say ignorance was bliss, probably with this there is no turning back! I’m sorry to say, you can’t go back!
Sri Ramana Maharshi did not say you have to love me, you have to devote yourself to me – that is not the essence of the teaching at all. That is actually to miss the point to what he is actually pointing towards. He said you’ve got to follow my teachings. You have to follow the Guru’s instruction.
This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das.
Tom: Sravana refers to hearing the teaching.Manana refers to reflecting upon and thinking that teaching which has been heard.Nididhyasana refers to prolonged meditation upon the Self, which culminates in Samadhi.
Here is a quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi taken from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 249:
The effects of sravana may be immediate and the disciple realises the truth all at once. This can happen only for the well-advanced disciple.
[Tom: in other places Sri Ramana explains that this means that the advanced/ripe seeker immediately goes into Samadhi, which is the same as abiding as the Self, as soon as the teaching is heard]
Otherwise, the disciple feels that he is unable to realise the truth, even after repeatedly hearing it. What is it due to? Impurities in his mind: ignorance, doubt and wrong identity are the obstacles to be removed.
(a) To remove ignorance completely, he has to hear the truth repeatedly, until his knowledge of the subject-matter becomes perfect
(b) to remove doubts, he must reflect on what he has heard; ultimately his knowledge will be free from doubts of any kind;
(c) to remove the wrong identity of the Self with the non-self (such as the body, the senses, the mind or the intellect) his mind must become one-pointed. All these things accomplished, the obstacles are at an end and samadhi results, that is, Peace reigns.
Some say that one should never cease to engage in hearing, reflection and one-pointedness. These are not fulfilled by reading books, but only by continued practice to keep the mind withdrawn.
The aspirant may be kritopasaka or akritopasaka. The former is fit to realise the Self, even with the slightest stimulus: only some little doubt stands in his way, it is easily removed if he hears the truth once from the Master. Immediately he gains the samadhi state. It is presumed that he had already completed sravana, reflection, etc. in previous births, they are no more necessary for him.
For the other all these aids are necessary; for him doubts crop up even after repeated hearing; therefore he must not give up aids until he gains the samadhi state. Sravana removes the illusion of the Self being one with the body, etc. Reflection makes it clear that Knowledge is Self. One-pointedness reveals the Self as being Infinite and Blissful.
Maha Yoga or The Upanishadic Lore in the Light of the Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana is both a profound exposition of Sri Ramana’s teachings and a lucid summary of the whole Vedantic philosophy, the ancient lore of the Upanishads.
Before an aspirant embarks upon the practice of Self-enquiry, which is the cornerstone of Sri Ramana’s teachings and the essence of the Upanishadic lore, it is extremely useful — if not essential — for him to have a clear and well-founded understanding of the theoretical background upon which the practice of Self-enquiry is based, and such an understanding is possibly not made available to aspirants anywhere so clearly as in this book, which elucidates many important aspects of Sri Ramana’s teachings.
The author of this book, Sri K. Lakshmana Sarma (‘WHO’), was amply qualified to write such an exposition, because he spent more than twenty years in close association with Bhagavan Sri Ramana and he made a deep study of His teachings under His personal guidance.
MAHA YOGA is the Direct Method of finding the Truth of Ourselves, It has nothing in common with what is commonly known as ‘Yoga’, being quite simple — free from mysteries — because it is concerned with the utter Truth of our Being, which is Itself extremely simple.
MAHA YOGA frees its follower from his beliefs, not to bind him with new beliefs, but to enable him to pursue with success the Quest of the True Self, which transcends all creeds.
MAHA YOGA has been described as a process of unlearning. Its follower has to unlearn all his knowledge, because, being in relativity, it is ignorance, and therefore a hindrance. This true Yoga is the subject-matter of the Upanishads. But the Truth that is to be found by this Yoga is eternal and needs to be testified to by living witnesses from time to time.
This book starts with the very reasonable assumption that only a living Teacher can tell us the Upanishadic Truth, not the Upanishads themselves, because they are just words and little more, while the Living Teacher is an Incarnation of the Truth we seek.
The Living Teacher of our age was the Sage of Arunachala, Bhagavan Sri Ramana, of whose life a brief sketch is given in the first Chapter. His teachings are treated in this book as the primary authority, and the Upanishadic lore as next in value — as amplifying and supplementing it. The reader need not accept anything that is set forth here, unless he finds it to be in consonance with the actual teachings of the Sage.
Q. Why do we suffer? Tom: Because we seek (something different to ‘what is’)
Q. Why do we both suffer and seek? Tom: Because we take ourself to be a separate vulnerable body-mind entity. So long as we do so we are compelled to both suffer and seek.
Q. Why do we take ourself to be a separate body-mind entity? Tom: Because we believe our thoughts that tell us so (ie. it is a belief that we are a body-mind entity – note that I call this belief ‘the ego’)
Q. What is the solution? Tom: The solution is to stop this type of thinking.
Q. How can we do that? A. We find, perhaps after much trial and error, there is only one essential method that consistently works, and that is to take one’s attention away from objective phenomena and place it upon the first person, the ‘I AM’, the Subject-Self. This practice is called Self-Enquiry. This process is explained in detail in the book The Path of Sri Ramana – Part 1
Q. My mind is too busy for this method Tom: Then try another preliminary practice such as mantra recitation, devotion, chanting, watching the breath, hatha yoga, etc, as suits you – try another calming practice first – preferably a practice you are drawn to, and then when the mind is calm go straight back to Self-Enquiry.
Q. What about other teachings or methods? Tom: You will find that other teachings methods (methods other than Self-Enquiry) at most only lead to a temporary effect that comes and goes. Don’t take my word for this, you can find out for yourself.
Q. Why do other methods not work? Tom: Other methods, which involve attending to objects (gross or subtle objects such as thoughts, feelings, the breath, or other objects) invariably give rise to egoic ‘body-based’ thinking as the ego only survives when it can think of objective phenomena. And when we attend to objective phenomena you will see that the ego always finds a way to rise and ‘take control’ or ‘take the reins’ and posit itself as the true ‘I’.
Q. Isn’t this quite an extreme practice? Tom: Yes, it is this extreme practice that is required, for most people, for the ego to end.
Q. Doesn’t this practice just perpetuate the separate ego-I? Tom: No, that too is just another belief, that all practice necessarily perpetuates the ego-I. Try it – with consistent daily application results are quickly seen.
Q. Ok thanks! Tom: You’re most welcome. Let me know how it goes!
318. By thinking of my Lord, thought waves came to a complete rest. I was freed from attachment to action I performed. I separated from potential associations that approached me. I merged everywhere with mauna, the virtuous conduct of abiding as being.
319. Because thinking of my Lord yielded bliss for me, I realised that my Lord is the very form of bliss. By experiencing my lord through the mauna-consciousness in my heart, I too became, with delight, that [bliss]
320. Because the thought of our Lord destroys completely all other thoughts, devotees will come to experience the grace that is supreme tranquillity thought that thought of our Lord. The potency of the supreme power of our Lord’s mauna will destroy the ego of true devotees, bestowing on them the experience of our Lord’s very own real nature, the Self, jnana.
313. Why seek a tapas other than true love, the melting of the mind that comes from meditating on my Lord?
314. No other tapas is required for those whose minds have dissolved by meditating on the Lord.
315. Melting within by repeatedly thinking of him in a loving way became the cord with which the Lord tied me to himself. His ultimate real nature, existing as the unique pure being, surged forth as pure consciousness, absolutely blemishless grace.
The above verses are from The Shining of my Lord by Sri Muruganar
Guru Vachaka Kovai, Verse 659:
659. Those people who lack consciousness of being, the natural light [I am], and who consequently come, through ignorance, under the spell of karma and suffer, will have their delusion ended and reach the Self, the supreme reality, through meditation on a divine form that is dear to them.