The following is taken from Chapter 14 of Conscious Immortality and is instructive about the path to complete liberation. As often is the case with Ramana’s writings, there is much packed into each phrase. My comments have been interspersed in blue italics, and I pray you find these to be of assistance. If they are not, please feel free to ignore them:
“The Self is like a powerful hidden magnet within us. It draws us gradually to itself, though we imagine we are going to it of our own accord.
We imagine that we are seeking, whereas actually we are being moved by the Self, as is everything else likewise being orchestrated by Oneness. Next the basic teaching is given in concise form:
“When we are near enough, it puts an end to our other activities, makes us still, and then swallows up our own personal current, thus killing our personality. It overwhelms the intellect and over floods the whole being.
The teaching goes like this: first we naturally drop and turn away from outer (egoic) activities as we realise that we no longer need them. Then we become still. Lastly after having been still for some time, our personhood is ‘swallowed up’ by the self. Then all that remains is fullness, the Self. That’s all there ever was.
“We think we are meditating upon it and developing towards it, whereas the truth is that we are as iron filings and it is the Atman-magnet that is pulling us towards itself. Thus the process of finding Self is a form of Divine Magnetism.
Again the notion of personal doership is being undercut here – we are all but puppets of the Lord. We take ourselves to be the orchestrator of our actions, whereas we are His instruments playing His song. So does this mean that we do not have to practice?
“It is necessary to practise meditation frequently and regularly until the condition induced becomes habitual and permanent throughout the day. Therefore meditate.
You lost sight of the bliss because your meditative attitude had not become natural and because of the recurrence of vasanas. When you become habitually reflective, the enjoyment of spiritual beatitude becomes a matter of natural experience.
Ramana instructs us to practice meditation regularly, so that the meditative attitude becomes the predominant habitual way of being. How to meditate? This will be explained below:
“It is not by a single realisation that “I am not the body but the Atman” that the goal is reached. Do we become high in position by once seeing a king? One must constantly enter into samadhi and realise one’s Self, and completely blot out the old vasanas and the mind, before it becomes the Self.
Here Ramana makes a central point. It is often mistakenly thought that realising who you are is a one time affair. However here Ramana emphasises that this realisation alone is insufficient for true liberation to dawn. One must time and time again sink into Samadhi and remove the habitual tendencies (vasanas) that cause us to identify as a finite body-mind entity. This simple but essential teaching is often side-stepped by those who would like the fruits of liberation without the need to actually practice and drive out the vasanas/habitual ignorance.
The example that one cannot become a king simply by seeing a king is cited by Ramana. This example is reminiscent of that given in Chapter 7 of Advaita Bodha Deepika, one of Ramana’s favourite texts, where it is repeatedly told that mere knowledge of the king by a beggar does not transform the beggar into a king. Similarly, the jiva is not so easily transformed into the Self, so to speak, by simply knowing of the Self. So, how can the jiva be ‘transformed into the Self’? Ramana will enlighten us:
“If you keep to the thought of the Self, and be intently watching for it then even that one thought which is used as a focus in concentration will disappear and you will BE, the true Self. Meditation on Self is our natural state.
Only because we find it hard do we imagine it to be an arbitrary and extraordinary state. We are all unnatural.
The mind resting in the Self is its natural condition, but instead of that our minds are resting in outward objects. After the expulsion of name and form (nama-rupa) which compose the external world, and by dwelling on existence-knowledge-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), take care to prevent the re-entry into the mind of the expelled name and form.
Here the essence of spiritual practice is given: we are to rest as the self. How to do that? We are to not rest in outward objects, we are to pay no attention to name and form (nama-rupa) and instead dwell on awareness-consciousness-Being-Bliss.
We are to take care not to allow the mind to again shoot outwards into the world and dwell on the forms (that it itself projects).
We are to cultivate thought of this Self, and eventually this thought too will disappear and all that will be left is Self without any trace of jiva or the idea that I am a limited body-mind entity.
This is a beautiful and instructive post from Robert Adams outlining a wonderful path to Self-Realisation. It was originally put together and posted by someone else on Facebook but I thought is was such a nice post that I’ve blogged it here for the benefit of you all.
The essential points below are:
1. Do not attempt to change whatever is happening.
2. Instead adopt an attitude of love, forgiveness and mercy throughout your daily life
3. Don’t worry too much about the body, mind and world or whatever experiences arise. No need to suppress either, just let things be and occur by themselves as much as you are able to. Allow life to take care of life.
4. When you are filled with love and forgiveness and mercy, perform self-enquiry again and again. This practice is emphasised below with instructions on how to do this.
5. Rest in the resultant Silence and allow yourself to ‘become’ That, watch yourself become more joyful and less concerned about thoughts and the world. Soon you will realise there is only That
Now read the words from Robert Adams below. Take your time to read it properly as there are some beautiful variations of the teachings which are very potent. I think it’s really worth spending a few days or weeks just reading this, absorbing the message and actually practicing it. But, as always, do what feels right for you.
You come under the law of karma […] when you believe you’re not awakened, you’re not free, you’re not liberated when you react to person, place or thing. […] I know there are many people in Advaita Vedanta who tell me, “Well you know Robert karma does not exist. Only the Self exists. Only effortless pure awareness exists. So why are you telling us about karma?” In truth you have to look at yourself and ask yourself, “Have I experienced pure awareness? Have I experienced absolute reality? I can’t afford to put on an act. It will only go against me.” […] So while we’re on the path to liberation we have to be very careful what we do with our lives. Every little thing is karmic. It is only when you awaken, when you are liberated that none of this exists. This is why I tell you so often, “Do not fool yourself.” Look at how many times a day you become angry. You feel cheated, you feel exploited. You feel something is wrong someplace. You feel depressed. You go and do something to cause this condition to stop and whatever you do you’re accruing karma. There is only one way to overcome this. And that is to forget about the world, forget about your body, forget about situations and go deep within yourself inquiring, “To whom does this come? Who is experiencing karma?”
Karma seems to be real and you’re affected with it all day long. Whatever you do, wherever you go you’re always affected by karma. It is karma that moves your body. It is karma that makes you do things. It is karma that causes situations to come into your life. Do not try to change a condition. Do not intend to change the situation. For you may appear to change it but this is only an appearance. It will come back again in full force. There is only one way to get rid of it and that is to transcend it by forgiveness, mercy and love. And as you practice forgiveness, mercy and love you inquire,
“To whom all this is coming to?
Who is experiencing these things?
Who is going through all these things?”
And again you will discover the I-thought,
“I am. I am going through all of these things. I appear to be going through karma. I appear to be suffering. I appear to want to get even with someone.”
You’re beginning to realize it’s not you. It is the I. Which is only a thought. Just knowing this alone makes you feel good. For you begin to see that you are free. You are bright and shining. You are sat-chit-ananda, nirvana, ultimate oneness.
It is the I that appears to have the problems. You separate yourself from the I, by self-inquiry. And then you can go further by inquiring,
“Where did the I come from?”
You never answer that question. By inquiring that is sufficient. And you will find that you’re in the silence, the void. Just by going this far you will feel better than you’ve felt in years. You will feel such joy and such peace. This has nothing to do with enlightenment. But you’re going to feel joy and peace. More so than you ever felt before. Just by inquiring,
“Where does the I come from?”
The reason that you feel such joy and peace is because you begin to realize that you are not the I. You have absolutely nothing to do with the problems of the I. It is the I that feels anger. It is the I that feels pain. It is the I that feels rejection. But you ask yourself,
“What have I got to do with I? I have absolutely nothing to do with the I.”
Therefore again you ask,
“Then where did the I come from? Who gave it birth? What is its source?”
And you keep quiet. A feeling of total love will overpower you. For you’re learning to sit in the silence.
That’s the most important point. You want to get to the place where thoughts do not bother you, where things do not annoy you. Where there are no problems and there are no solutions. Where there is no good and there’s no bad. You want to get beyond duality and rest in the silence. Many of you are getting a glimpse of what I’m talking about right now, as you rest in the silence. You’re not thinking about it, you’re not trying to analyze it, you’re not trying to make it happen, you’re just resting in the silence. Perfectly still. All of a sudden thoughts come up again. You start over again. You begin again. You inquire,
“To whom do these thoughts come?
Who is thinking these thoughts?
If I is thinking these thoughts then it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It appears to me as if everything is attached to the I. All of the emotions, the fears, the frustrations, it’s all attached to the I.”
Again you say,
“Where did the I come from?
What is the source of I?
Who gave it birth?”
You never attempt to answer. You sit in the silence.
Some of you are beginning to feel how good it is to sit in the silence right now. The mind is completely empty. The fears are gone. There is nothing left to tell you anything. You are quiet, still. Thoughts pop up again. It makes no difference if they’re good thoughts, bad thoughts or in-between. The whole idea is to empty the mind of all thoughts. You inquire again,
“Who is thinking these thoughts?
Who am I?
What is the source of I?
Who gave it birth?
Where does this I come from that is giving me all this trouble and keeps thinking and thinking?
And bringing up to me all these morbid thoughts, all sorts of happy thoughts, all sorts of thoughts.
Where did this I come from?
What is its source?”
And again you enter the silence. Where everything is totally still. Where there is no movement. The vasanas have disappeared. There is just perfect stillness. You’re beginning to discover something very interesting. You’re beginning to discover that you´re able to sit in the silence for longer and longer periods without thought. It’s taking longer and longer before a thought comes to you.
Yet you are not falling asleep. You’re feeling a peace that you’ve never felt before. You’re beginning to feel an all encompassing love. You begin to experience that the whole universe is an emanation of your own mind. And what you have done is you have pulled the entire universe into your heart, everything! All of the galaxies, the milky ways, the planets, the earth with all of it’s manifestations, everything has vanished. That’s total silence. […] […] When you’re sitting in the silence and the world is still available to you that is not silence. That’s a false silence. The true silence is when the whole world, the whole universe, people, places and things have all disappeared. You have pulled them back into the heart centre. That is the true silence. For there is no longer anything to think about. Everything is gone. There is just the void. The beautiful precious void. And you’re beginning to sit in that void, in that silence for longer and longer periods. When you come out of it the world appears to you again but it’s different. It begins to be different for you. You no longer look at the world in the same way. You no longer see the universe in the same way. You begin to feel everything as an image. You see images on the screen of life. The images keep changing, changing, changing but the screen is always the same. And something begins to tell you that you are that screen. You have always been the screen. Unchanging, absolute pure reality.
But you are not free yet. This comes and it goes. Little by little the thoughts come back again. You begin to feel anger again but less than you did before. You begin to have less interest in your body. The things about your body that used to bother you stop bothering you, stop annoying you. People no longer make you angry or frustrated. This happens little by little. And you can’t wait to practice again. When you are by yourself and you’re not disturbed you sit down in your favorite chair and you begin to inquire,
“To whom do these thoughts come?
Why they come to me. I still feel thoughts. Maybe less than I did before but I still feel things,”
you further inquire,
“who is the I that feels these things?
Where did the I come from?
Who gave birth to this feeling I?
What is its source?”
And now you begin to feel that the I is only a thought. It is one of the thoughts that you’ve been thinking about all these years called the I-thought. Yet everything is attached to it and you keep seeing it and thinking about it. But now you’re inquiring,
“To whom does it come?
Who’s feeling it?
What is its source?”
And you go back into the silence. Now every time you get into the silence you feel better and better. You feel lighter and lighter. The world again, the universe they’re getting sucked into your heart. The whole universe has gone. All existence has disappeared. Including yourself. There is nothing but the silence.
Om … shanti, shanti, shanti, peace.
— The above is taken from Robert Adams Collected Works, Talk 136: The True Silence
Many people find it difficult to engage in spiritual practices during the ups and downs of daily life. In the following dialogue recounted by Devaraja Mudaliar, a questioner asks Ramana Maharshi 5 questions related to this:
Mr. Joshi put five questions. I give below the questions and Sri Bhagavan’s answers:
Question 1: Should I go on asking ‘who am I?’ without answering? Who asks whom? Which bhavana (attitude) should be in the mind at the time of inquiry? What is ‘I’, the Self or the ego?
Answer: In the inquiry Who am I? ‘I’ is the ego. The question really means, ‘what is the source or origin of this ego?’ You need not have any bhavana in the mind. All that is required is, you must give up any bhavana that you are the body, of such and such description, with such and such a name, etc., There is no need to have a bhavana about your real nature. It exists as it always does. It is real and no bhavana.
Question 2: I cannot be always engaged in this inquiry, for I have got other work to do, and when I do such work, I forget this quest.
Answer: When you do other work, do you cease to exist? You always exist. Do you not?
Question 3: Without the sense of doership, – the sense ‘I am of doing’ – work cannot be done.
Answer: It can be done. Work without attachment. Work will go on even better than when you worked with the sense that you were the doer.
Question 4: I don’t understand what work I should do and what not.
Answer: Don’t bother. What is destined as work to be done by you in this life, will be done by you, whether you like it or not.
Question 5: Why should I try to realize? I will emerge from this state, as I wake up from a dream. We do not make an attempt to get out of a dream during sleep.
Answer: In a dream, you have no inkling that it is a dream and so you don’t have the duty of trying to get out of it by your own effort. But in this life, you have some intuition, by your sleep experience, by reading and hearing, that this life is something like a dream, and hence the duty is cast on you to make an effort and get out of it. However, who wants you realize the Self if you don’t want it? If you prefer to be in the dream, stay as you are.
With reference to question 4, Mrs. P.C. Desai quoting the Bhagavad Gita asked Bhagavan: If (as Arjuna was told) there is a certain work destined to be done by each and we shall eventually do it however much we do not wish to do it or refuse to do it, is there any freewill?
Bhagavan said: ‘It is true that the work meant to be done by us will be done by us. But it is open to us to be free from the joys and pains, pleasant and unpleasant consequences of the work, not identifying ourselves with the body or that which does the work. If you realize your true nature, and know that it is not you, that does any work, you will be unaffected by the consequences of whatever work the body may be engaged in according to destiny or past karma or divine plan, however you may call it. You are always free and there is no limitation of that freedom.’
(The above excerpt is from Day by Day with Bhagavan, pages 88-90)
Here we can distill several key points:
1. You always exist, regardless of whether you are thinking about it or not, regardless of what you are doing.
2. The issue is that you take yourself to be the body-mind and therefore you take yourself to be a doer who has to choose what actions to do and suffer the consequences thereof. Instead relinquish the idea that you are the body-mind, and don’t take yourself to be the doer of any actions or receiver of pleasure/pain.
3. When you don’t take yourself to be the body-mind-doer-receiver, life still continues and the body-mind appearance still is able to fulfil its responsibilities – in fact it becomes more efficient in doing so.
4. Whatever is destined to happen will happen regardless of your desires about this.
5. Effort must be made to cast off the ignorance ‘I am the body-mind-doer-receiver’.
6. You are, in truth, always ever free. You are the Self. Know this and remain naturally unaffected by the life-appearance. In this way sadhana is in no way opposed to daily life.
Om Guru Ramana!
Visitor: Is renunciation necessary for Self-realisation?
Bhagavan: Renunciation and realisation are the same. They are different aspects of the same state. Giving up the non-self is renunciation. Inhering in the Self is jnana or Self-realisation. One is the negative and the other the positive aspect of the same, single truth.
Bhakti, jnana, yoga — are different names for Self-realisation or mukti which is our real nature. These appear as the means first. They eventually are the goal.
So long as there is conscious effort required on our part to keep up bhakti, yoga, dhyana, etc., they are the means. When they go on without any effort on our part, we have attained the goal.
There is no realisation to be achieved. The real is ever as it is. What we have done is, we have realised the unreal, i.e., taken for real the unreal. We have to give up that. That is all that is wanted.
Visitor: How has the unreal come? Can the unreal spring from the real?
Bhagavan: See if it has sprung. There is no such thing as the unreal, from another standpoint.
The Self alone exists. When you try to trace the ego, based on which alone the world and all exist, you find the ego does not exist at all and so also all this creation.
(The above excerpt is from Day by Day with Bhagavan, page 87)
Here in the above passage we find three central facets of Bhagavan Ramana’s teachings.
1. Firstly the non-self must be given up or let go of. By non-self, it is meant everything that is perceived. This includes the entire mental realm of thoughts, feelings and imaginings as well as the so-called physical world of the body and objects – i.e all experiences. This is the way the term is used in classical advaita vedanta. By given up it is meant do not be attached, or let go of all appearances. Allow all to come and go in your being.
Initially this renunciation or letting go is something you do, a practice, or as he states above, ‘the means’. Eventually this becomes natural as the habitual tendency (vasana) to identify with the non-self is dissolved through the practice (sadhana). At this point, when the vasanas have been removed, this is realisation.
2. Secondly Bhagavan then reminds us that realisation is not something to be attained. Realisation is who we are, it is our very nature, it is always and already here, so why do we need to attain that which we already are? (We don’t!). We just have to give up the wrong ideation we have, namely the fixation on the non-self and taking ourself to be the body-mind. When we give up everything, the only thing we lose is our illusions, that which is false. That which is real, the Self, can never be lost, and it is ever-realised.
3. Thirdly, when Bhagavan is asked about how the unreal can come from the real, bhagavan states in reality the unreal never was. The self alone is. Here he briefly describes his teaching of self-enquiry, namely that when you try to find the ego, you cannot find it. He then, in very concise form, states that the appearance of the world is dependent upon the false belief in ego. When the ego cannot be found and has been seen to be non-existent, you also realise that the world too is non-existent, that the entire thing is an illusion. This too is realisation! This too is renunciation of non-self! This too is jnana, bhakti and yoga!
Of note, the first point I mentioned above dealing with removal of vasanas is the purification part of the teaching, in which we let go of non-self or ‘the world’ (including the mind and body) through spiritual sadhana (practice), at least initially. Points two and three refer to what I call the insight aspect of the teachings in which the unreal is seen to be false or non-existent. These two aspects of the teachings go together beautifully, with insight naturally leading to renunciation (letting go of non-self/abiding as self) and sadhana enhancing insight and abiding as self and removing the vasanas (habitual tendencies) towards ignorance (of self) and taking hold of non-self.
Following a post here:
I received several questions like this, here:
I recently got into an online conversation with someone about whether or not Ramana’s realisation when he was 16 years old (often written as being in his 17th year) was final, or if his realisation evolved and matured in the subsequent years in which he spent much time in silence.
I think I read an article, I think by David Godman, some years ago on this which from memory stated that Ramana was insistent that his realisation was final and complete when he was a boy, and that unusually no sadhana (spiritual practice) was required for him. I’ve tried to find the article and I think this is it:
Below are some quotes from it and the link to the article. I want to add that while I quite enjoy learning more about Bhagavan Ramana, in a way all of this discussion can be a detour from the essence of the teaching, so apologies if this kind of minutiae is not that interesting to you. Now, with that said, here are some quotes from the above mentioned article:
‘In answer to a question once put by D. S. Sarma, Bhagavan definitely said that in his case, there was no special sadhana, at any rate in this life, leading to Self-realisation, but that in his 17th year, while he was still a student at Madurai, enlightenment, jnana, came to him, suddenly, in the course of a few minutes, not as a result of laboured ratiocination but as a sudden flash of intuition, and that that jnana has remained with him ever since.’
(My Recollections, p. 135, by Devaraja Mudaliar)
Here Ramana says his vasanas (likes and dislikes) were removed as a teenager (removal of the vasanas implies a full enlightenment):
‘When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realised that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards, having neither likes nor dislikes.’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 22nd November 1945)
From David Godman, who states his sadhana was over in that single ‘death experience’ when he was 16 years old:
‘When he [Ramana] went to Arunachala, it was not because he was spiritually incomplete in any way. His sadhana was over at the end of the death-experience.’
Some further quotes from Ramana Maharshi:
‘In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realised that it was that awareness that we call “I”, and not the body. This Self-awareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous. Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realised on that very day so clearly that that was “I”.’
(Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 22nd November, 1945)
‘They say I gained realisation in twenty-eight minutes, or half an hour. How can they say that? It took just a moment. But why even a moment? Where is the question of time at all?’ I then asked Bhagavan if there was ever any change in his realisation after his experience in Madurai. He said ‘No. If there is a change, it is not realisation.’
As recorded by Balaram Reddy in My Reminiscences. p. 75
Over the years I have heard some people say things such as ‘the Buddha was enlightened, but he was not self-realised’ or ‘the Buddha only had an insight into no-self, but he never discovered the Self’. Both of these imply somehow that the Self-Realisation of the Upanishads is somehow of higher status and fundamentally different to the Nirvana of the Buddha, and that the Buddha was not truly enlightened.
I have noticed that usually this view is put forwards either by academics who have analysed various texts but not fully embraced the traditions, or by religious teachers who teach that their way is the best or only way and tend to be attached to their methodology over and above others.
I remember that when I first came across this view I was quite shocked, as it always seemed obvious to me that both Buddhist and Vedic traditions were pointing at the same things in different ways. In fact all the great self-realised masters I had come across also said the same. Impurities naturally, and perhaps inevitably, creep into traditions as without a genuine realisation, the ego co-opts the teachings and slowly slowly dogma and beliefs form. Therefore teachings naturally reinvent themselves in each culture and age, and we can clearly see this if we study the history of the development of both Vedanta and Buddhism. In fact, there has been so much cross-fertilisation between these two traditions, with each tradition borrowing from the others at some point, it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart!
The key thing for me is to realise that there exist various different methods by which the Supreme is approached. And, of course, some say there are no methods (you could say this is the method of directly pointing out what is already fully here). When the method has served its purpose, then why cling to the method? The main issue is for ignorance to be removed, and the various teachings serve various ways of doing this:
There is nothing to realise. There is nothing new to gain…On the other hand a man must lose his ignorance. That is all.
Ramana Maharshi, Talks 104
By the way, in the above quote, I assume that by ‘man’, he means any human. Here is what Ramana said about the Buddha and Self-Realisation:
568. Guru [Ramana] has said that the state of nirvana that was taught by Buddha to be the state in which samsara and suffering are ended is the same as remaining in the supreme state, having discarded all the sheaths.
He reaffirms this in the following verses:
345. The sage Buddha taught this truth; also the great teacher Sankara taught the same; our own Guru [Ramana] also tells us the same; and this is also the essence of the Vedanta.
284. The Buddhas call that the state of right awareness. In it there is neither knowledge nor ignorance. That is the highest state, in which there is nothing, whether sentient or insentient, other than the Self.
So, there you have it: according to Ramana Maharshi, Nirvana = Self-Realization. What’s your view?