Thank you for attending Satsang | Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad | Guru Vachaka Kovai

Thank you for those who attended Satsang with me yesterday. It was wonderful to be with you all 🙏

Here are some the verses that I mentioned during the Satsang that I wasn’t able to fully remember and quote verbatim at the time, plus a few extra verses at the end (the last 3 verses):

Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad, verses 211 & 212:

211. Only two paths are laid down for the aspirant to deliverance: for the valiant, the quest of one’s own Self, and for the fearful, self-surrender to God. In these two all the paths are included.

[Commentary by Lakshmana Sarma: A great many paths are known and followed, but all come under these two. The valiant one has been already described. The other is the one who is afraid of samsara, but is unable to take to the quest taught by Bhagavan as being the direct path. On this direct path all preconceived notions are dropped, as will be seen later. Self-surrender is the final step in the practice of devotion to God, which is the only other alternative to the direct path.]

212. This two-fold path has been taught by the most holy one, Ramana, thus: ‘Either seek the root of the ego-sense [the ‘I’ that rises within the body] or surrender that ego-sense to God to have it destroyed [by His grace].’

Verses from Guru Vachaka Kovai:

To say that someone practising
Sustained enquiry for the Self, the God
Who is all Awareness, suffered from
Mental derangement, would be like
Saying that some poor fellow died,
Alas, by drinking nectar.

Don’t ask in fear and doubt, “What, what
Will happen if I once for all
Give up this separate self of mine?”
Whoso lets go the bough he clings to
Lands safe on solid earth. You are bound
To reach the real Self.

Forgetfulness of Self is real death.
To overcome the fear of body’s death
We needs must constantly remember
The Self. For self-enquiry then,
There is no fixed rule of time or place.

Courageous ones who know no fear
Find and renounce the world as worthless,
And so gain wisdom true. Others
Are foolish folk by falsehood blinded.

In meditation deep, while yet
A trace of ego lingers, fear
And trembling may sometimes occur.
But when the ego dies at last
In Pure Awareness, quaking stops.
Stillness alone prevails.

Ramana Maharshi: Know the Knower

Ramana younger face

Also see: Recommended Reading: Books for Enlightenment, Liberation and Self-Realisation

It is widely accepted that the text Guru Vachaka Kovai presents the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings; following my previous post, here are some more verses for you:

Download Guru Vachaka Kovai as a PDF file here

Why do people call me learned?
What is the mark of real learning?
Learning that all garnered knowledge
Of things is empty ignorance
And that true knowledge is the search
For the Knower.

He, who by questing inward for
The Knower, has destroyed the ego
And transcended so-called knowledge,
Abides as the Self. He alone
Is a true knower, not one who has
Not seen the Self and therefore has
An ego still.

Those who, learning to forget
Completely all objective knowledge,
Turn inward firmly and see clearly
The Truth, abide serene. Those who
Try to recall forgotten things
Pine bewildered, fretting over
False phenomena.

Ramana Maharshi: The World and Self-Realisation

ramana escape the tricks of maya

Here are some verse from Guru Vachaka Kovai, perhaps the most comprehensive and accurate record of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s spoken teachings. I have used this version which contains comments from Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James. Much gratitude to them for making this wonderful text available. My comments are in italicised red:

71. Just as the goat’s beard wanders and wags for nothing, people roam about merrily but in vain, doing Karmas for the fulfillment of their worldly desires, while despising the disciplines [followed by aspirants] which lead to eternal Moksha in Self. Ah, what a pitiable spectacle is the condition of these worldly people!

Tom: Ramana states that people engaged in worldy actions (karmas; the work karma literally means ‘action’ in Sanskrit, often used to denote cause and effect, here just refers to action) are to be pitied, and notes the irony that those who are ignorant shun the very practice (ie. self enquiry) that leads to eternal Moksha (liberation)

72. Longing for a tiny grain of pleasure, people toil so hard using the mind to plough the field of the five senses, but they never wish for the flood of Bliss which is the fruit that comes by ploughing the Heart, the Source of the mind, with [simple] Self-attention. Ah, what a wonder!

Tom: Simple self-attention is all that is needed instead of chasing all these pleasures which not only takes so much effort, but also causes so much suffering.

73. The moon-like jiva [the mind], ever wedded to the sun-like Self, should always remain in her home, the Heart; to forsake the Bliss of Self and go astray for worldly pleasures, is like the madness of a wife who spoils her precious chastity.

Tom: note the seeker’s job here is to discern the teaching rather than be side-tracked by whether or not this verse is politically correct in today’s social landscape. Ramana equates seeking wordly pleasures with infidelity. Instead we are to remain faithful to ourselves and abide as the Self in the Heart.

74. Only when the world’s allurement is lost will true Liberation be possible [and its allurement cannot be lost unless it is found to be unreal]. Hence, to try to foist reality upon this world is to be just like an infatuated lover who tries to foist chastity upon a prostitute.

Sadhu Om: A lover foists chastity upon a prostitute only because of his infatuation with her, and similarly some schools of thought argue and try to insist upon the world’s reality, only because of their immense desire for the enjoyment of this world. Therefore Liberation, which is the fruit of desirelessness, is absolutely impossible for them. 

75. Only for the mad folk who are deluded, mistaking this fictitious world as a fact, and not for the Jnani, is there anything to revel in except Brahman, which is Consciousness.

Tom: There is only Consciousness

76. Will those who are rooted in the Knowledge of Truth stray to worldly ways? Is it not the base and weak nature of animals that descends to the sensual pleasures of this unreal world?

77. If you ask, “What is the benefit of sacrificing the innumerable sensual pleasures and retaining mere Consciousness?”, [we reply that] the fruit of Jnana is the eternal and unbroken experience of the Bliss of Self.

Sadhu Om: Any experience of worldly pleasure is small and interrupted, whereas the Bliss of Self attained through Jnana is eternal and unbroken, and is therefore the greatest benefit.

78. Truly there is not the least happiness in any single worldly objects, so how then is the foolish mind deluded into thinking that happiness comes from them?

79. Fools are now so proud and happy of the wealth and pleasure of this world, which may at any time abandon them in disappointment and distress.

80. Suffering from the heat of the three-fold desires, all living beings wander in the empty and arid desert of this dream-world, which is created by the whirl of past tendencies. The shade of the Bodhi-tree which can completely cool this heat is only Self, which shines as Turiya [the fourth state].

Michael James: The three-fold desires are for women, wealth and fame.

Tom: do not wander into the arid desert of the world, or ‘dream-world’ as is written above, instead be still, abide as the Self, That which you already are in your very Being.

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

essential teachings of sri ramana maharshi

Guru Vachaka Kovai is widely considered to be the most authoritative, reliable and comprehensive collection of the verbal teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. I have selected the following verses, as recorded by Sri Muruganar, using the version translated by Michael James. 

Bold text has been added by myself for emphasis, and I have included a few comments from Sri Sadhu Om when further explanation may be helpful. As usual my own comments are added in italicised red – I hope they are of benefit.

May these verses illuminate the path for earnest seekers of realisation!

I prostrate to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, from whose lips these teachings graciously fell, and also to Dearest Muruganar who faithfully recorded these jewels

I bow to Sri Ramana, the Lord Himself, whose Grace is ever-present everywhere

I give myself unto dear Bhagavan, whose light shines as the Self within our Heart, whose true form is Pure Consciousness, Silence, the Sadguru (True Teacher) within and without

! Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana Om !


The Self is ever-attained:

8. The benefit of this Light of Supreme Truth is the understanding that there is not the least thing such as ‘attainment’, since the Supreme Self is the Ever-Attained One Whole. Thus the mental wanderings caused by striving towards Dharma, Artha, and Kama are also removed.

Sri Sadhu Om: Up till now the shastras [scriptures] have prescribed, as the rightful goals of human life, the following four aims:

-Dharma: the practice of righteous social duties.
-Artha: the acquisition of wealth through righteous means.
-Kama: the satisfaction of desires within righteous limits.
-Moksha: liberation, the natural state of abiding as Self.

This work, The Light of Supreme Truth shows us now that the first three worldly aims are futile and transitory, and thus it removes our wandering mental efforts to attain them. We may however still think, “Is not mental effort at least needed to obtain Moksha?” but again this Light shows us the meaninglessness of striving to ‘attain’ Self, which is ever-attained, and instead it recommends the cessation of all mental activity, thereby fixing us in the eternal, motionless and ever-attained State of Self.

The unreality of the world

The world does not exist:

23. The Realised who do not know anything as being other than Self, which is absolute Consciousness, will not say that the world, which has no existence in the view of the Supreme Brahman, is real.

28. O aspirants who hide yourselves away fearing this world, nothing such as a world exists! Fearing this false world which appears to exist, is like fearing the false snake which appears in a rope.

87. Self appearing as the world is just like a rope seeing itself as a snake; just as the snake is, on scrutiny, found to be ever non-existent, so is the world found to be ever non-existent, even as an appearance.

The world only appears to exist due to ignorance/maya/mind:

34. The deceptive I-am-the-body idea alone makes the world, which is an appearance of names and forms, seem real, and thereby it at once binds itself with desires [for the world].

35. Since this world of dyads and triads appears only in the mind, like the illusory ring of fire formed [in darkness] by whirling the single point of a glowing rope-end, it is false, and it does not exist in the clear sight of Self.

Another way of stating the above is that the world/ego/ignorance only exists due to a lack of self-enquiry/self-attention:

156. The reason for our mistake of seeing a world of objects in front of us is that we have risen as a separate ‘I’, the seer, due to our failure to attend to the vast perfection of Self-Consciousness, which is our Reality.

‘Dyads’ refers to seer/seen or perceiver/perceived, ie. subject/object; ‘triads’ refers to seer/seeing/seen or perceiver/perceiving/perceived, ie. subject/verb/object. Ramana is stating that this division of the world into dyads or triads only appears due to ‘the mind’, ie. ignorance.

36. O worldly-minded man who is unable to understand the wise reasoning and the teachings of Sages about the Supreme Knowledge, if properly scrutinised, this big universe of delusion is seen to be nothing but the illusive play of the vasanas [mental tendencies] within you.

ie. like a dream, the world is merely a projection of the mind and is unreal, also see below:

84. All that is perceived by the mind was already within the heart. Know that all perceptions are a reproduction of past tendencies now being projected outside [through the five senses].

40. How does this false and villainous vast world, that cheats and ravages the minds of all people [except the wise], come into existence? Because of no reason other than our own mistake in falling away from, instead of clinging to, Self-attention.

ie. the world is created through ignorance, ie. it is maya, see below:

55. The appearance of this world, like the illusory appearance of a dream, is merely mental and its truth [therefore] can be known correctly only by the Supreme Consciousness that transcends Maya, the mind.

Ignorance is not real and never existed:

86. Do not ask, “Why does Self, as if confused, not know the Truth that It is Itself which is seen as the world?” If instead you enquire, “To whom does this confusion occur?”, it will be discovered that no such confusion ever existed for Self!

87. Self appearing as the world is just like a rope seeing itself as a snake; just as the snake is, on scrutiny, found to be ever non-existent, so is the world found to be ever non-existent, even as an appearance.

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.

The body

The body, being part of the world, is also a non-existent illusion:

97. The body exists only in the view of the mind, which is deluded and drawn outwards by the power of Maya. In the clear view of Self, which is a single vast Space of Consciousness, there is no body at all and it is therefore wrong to call Self ‘Dehi’ or ‘Kshetrajna’ [the owner or knower of the body]

Kshetra means ‘field’ and ‘jna’ is the root of the verb ‘to know’, so kshetrajna means ‘knower of the field’. These terms were used by Sri Krishna in Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita when he explains to Arjuna that the body is the ‘kshetra’ or field but what we really are is the knower of the body/field, kshetrajna. Here Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi goes one step further by stating that the idea of kshetra and kshetrajna or deha (body) and dehi (owner of the body) are too just dualistic ideas of the mind. Whilst they are useful teachings at one level, these dualistic notions are ultimately more ignorance.

B1. Give up thinking that the loathsome body is ‘I’. Know Self, which is eternal Bliss. Cherishing the ephemeral body as well as trying to know Self is just like using a crocodile as a raft to cross a river.

[Tom – compare to: ‘Whoever seeks to realise the Self by devoting himself to the nourishment of the body, proceeds to cross a river by catching hold of a crocodile, mistaking it for a log.’ Shankara, Vivekachudamani, verse 84]

126. Instead of attending to Sat-Chit-Ananda, the subtlest, which is beyond the reach of speech or mind, to spend one’s life attending merely to the welfare of the gross body is just like drawing water with great difficulty from a well in order to water some useless grass [instead of paddy].

127. Those who take to the petty life, mistaking the body as ‘I’, have lost, so to speak, the great life of unlimited Bliss in the Heart, which is ever waiting to be experienced by them.

The ego

The ego is another illusory phenomena, a ‘picture on the screen’:

159. The life of the filthy ego, which mistakes a body both as ‘I’ and as ‘my place’, is merely a false imagination seen as a dream in the pure, real, Supreme Self.

160. This fictitious jiva, who lives as ‘I [am the body]’, is also one of the pictures on the screen.

Happiness is not in the world

We all want to be happy; the easy way is to attend to the Self, ie. self-attention, which is the noble path of self-enquiry; the difficult way (that doesn’t work) is to attend to the world, ‘the field of the five senses’:

72. Longing for a tiny grain of pleasure, people toil so hard using the mind to plough the field of the five senses, but they never wish for the flood of Bliss which is the fruit that comes by ploughing the Heart, the Source of the mind, with [simple] Self-attention. Ah, what a wonder!

Do not seek happiness in the world – you will ‘drown’ in maya:

128. Not knowing that the world in front of them brings only great harm, those who take it to be real and a source of happiness will drown in the ocean of birth and death, like one who takes hold of a floating bear as a raft.

74. Only when the world’s allurement is lost will true Liberation be possible [and its allurement cannot be lost unless it is found to be unreal]. Hence, to try to foist reality upon this world is to be just like an infatuated lover who tries to foist chastity upon a prostitute.

Note, the above notion that we have to lose our allurement with the world may seem difficult, but by merely attending to the Self, as outlined below, dispassion (vairagya) towards the world and love for Self/Bhagavan will naturally develop:

The only true practice/teaching

The only true way is to attend to the Self. This means to turn within, away from phenomenal objects and towards the Subject-Self. This is Jnana (knowledge), this is Dhyana (meditation), this is Bhakti (devotion/love):

175. The only worthy occupation is to thoroughly absorb the ego by turning Selfward and, without allowing it to rise, to thus abide quietly, like a waveless ocean, in Self-Knowledge, having annihilated the delusive mind-ghost, which had been wandering about unobstructed.

Do not attend to objects – attend to the subject!

186. O miserable and extroverted people, failing to see the seer, you see only the seen! To dissolve duality by turning inwards instead of outwards is alone Blissful.

Do not attend to objects – how? By attending to the Subject-Self!

187. O mind, it is not wise for you to come out [in the form of thoughts]; it is best to go within. Hide yourself deep within the Heart and escape from the tricks of Maya, who tries to upset you by drawing you outwards.

189. Since it is only the notion of duality that spoils Bliss and causes misery, to avoid yielding to the attractions of that notion and to thus arrest all chitta vrittis is alone worthwhile.

‘Chitta’ means mind or consciousness and ‘vritti’ means ‘wave’. Chitta vrittis are therefore the various waves or modulation of our consciousness such as thoughts and perceptions. The famous phrase ‘yoga chitta vritti nirodha’ occurs in Verse 2 of Chapter 1 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Here Patanjali, the so-called Father of Yoga defines what yoga is. It roughly translates as ‘Yoga means stilling the modulations of consciousness’ or ‘Yoga means to still the mind’

190. O people, not knowing that Shiva is dwelling within you, you fly about like birds from one holy place to another [seeking His Darshan]. Consciousness, when abiding still in the Heart, is the Supreme Shiva.

This above verse refers to those spiritual seekers who, not realising that the True Teacher, Shiva, is within us, go from one teacher to another, from one holy place to another, instead of simply Being Still/Being What You Are/Attending to the Self.

Now Ramana will tell us how we can protect ourselves from the clutches of Maya:

191. The ship would be destroyed by the storm if its sails were spread outside, but it is safe when its anchor is sunk deep into the sea. Similarly, if the mind were sunk deep in the Heart instead of being spread outside, that would be Jnana.

What is true heroism?

192. To arrest the mind – which tries to rush outwards – securely within, is the truly heroic act of the ripe aspirant who wants to see the Supreme Lord in the Heart.

In the above verse ‘securely within’ implies that the mind has turned within towards the Self and is made to rest ‘securely’ there. This is further made clear in the next verse:

193. When the mind [ie. the ego’s attention] which wanders outside, knowing only other objects [2nd and 3rd persons] – begins to attend to its own nature, all other objects will disappear, and then, by experiencing its own true nature [ie. Self], the pseudo-‘I’ will also die.

The above verses described the path using the language of the path of Knowledge (Jnana). Below we will see this is also the path of devotion and love (Bhakti):

204. A peaceful attitude, together with a ‘silent-flow’ of mind towards undeviating abidance in Self, Sat-Chit, is the best worship of Shiva.

205. Saint Markandeya survived death by conquering even Yama, and lived beyond his destined time. Know, therefore, that death can be overcome by worshipping Shiva, the death-killer.

The message here that in worshipping Shiva we can overcome our karma and destiny just as Saint Markandeya overcame Yama, the Lord of Time and Death

291. If one wants to be saved, one is given the following true and essential advice: just as the tortoise draws all its five limbs within its shell, so one should draw the five senses within and turn one’s mind Selfward. This alone is happiness.

Here, once again, the method to attain Self-Realisation, which is perfect infinite eternal Happiness, is made clear:

293. Having known for certain that everything which is seen, without the least exception, is merely a dream, and that it [the seen] does not exist without the seer, turn only towards Self – Sat-Chit-Ananda – without attending to the world of names and forms, which is only a mental conception.

The ‘only raft’, meaning the only way:

294. Attention to one’s own Self, which is ever shining as ‘I’, the one undivided and pure Reality, is the only raft with which the jiva, who is deluded by thinking “I am the body”, can cross the ocean of unending births.

297. Do not wander outside, eating the scorching sand of worldly pleasures, which are non-Self; come home to the Heart where Peace is shining as a vast, everlasting, cool shade, and enjoy the feast of the Bliss of Self.

Pay homage to the Guru, to Bhagavan Ramana! How? Let us see:

319. One’s merging into the Heart – through the enquiry into the nature of the ego, which is a delusion in the form of mind – is the right worship of the Lotus-Feet of the supreme Mouna-Guru, who is beyond the mind.

Here the path of enquiry and devotion are shown to be the same One Path

Conduct in the world

The advice given is to live your life as a normal and ethical person in the society you find yourself in:

82. It is not right for the Wise One to behave improperly, even though He has known all that is to be known and attained all that is to be attained. Therefore, observe the code of conduct which is befitting to your outward mode of life.


296. Having annihilated the delusive mind which always dwells upon worldly things, having killed the restless ego, and having completely erased the worldly vasanas, shine as Shiva, the pure Consciousness Itself.

In Self-realisation there is no sense of being a separate individual:

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.

Duality, or ‘the world’, which is ignorance and maya, disappears upon realisation of the Self:

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.

If the above is true, why do religions talk of these three (ie. God, the world and the individual soul)?

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.

True Knowledge vs intellectual knowledge

133. Enquiring, “Who is this ‘I’ that has learnt all these arts and sciences?”, and thereby reaching the Heart, the ego vanishes along with all its learning. He who knows the remaining Self-Consciousness is the true Pandit; how can others who have not realised It be Pandits?

Pandit is a word often used to describe a scholar who is well versed in all of the scriptures and in interpreting them in a logical way, but who does not necessarily Know the Self. Here Ramana redifined the word Pandit to be only he who Abides as the Self.

134. Those who have learnt to forget all that was learnt, and to abide within, are alone the Truth-Knowers. Others, who remember everything, will suffer with anxiety, being deluded by the false samsara.

141. After knowing that the purport at the heart of all scripture is that the mind should be subdued in order to gain Liberation, what is the use in continuously studying them? Who am I?

144. To be freed from ignorance by mere studies is as impossible as the horns of a horse, unless by some means the mind is killed and the tendencies are thus completely erased by the blossoming of Self-Knowledge.

145. For the jiva’s weak and unsteady mind, which is ever wavering like the wind, there is no place to enjoy bliss except the Heart, its Source; the study of scriptures is, for it, like a noisy shandai [a cattle fair].

Desire and security

149. The experience of Vedanta is possible only for those who have completely given up all desires. For the desirous it is far away, and they should therefore try to rid themselves of all other desires by the desire for God, who is free from desires.

150. The Wise, who know that all worldly experiences are formed by prarabdha alone, never worry about their life’s requirements. Know that all one’s requirements will be thrust upon one by prarabdha, whether one wills them or not.

Prarabdha refers to one’s destiny, which Ramana says will play out regardless of what one wills. Therefore worry not.

Summary verses

293. Having known for certain that everything which is seen, without the least exception, is merely a dream, and that it [the seen] does not exist without the seer, turn only towards Self – Sat-Chit-Ananda – without attending to the world of names and forms, which is only a mental conception.

294. Attention to one’s own Self, which is ever shining as ‘I’, the one undivided and pure Reality, is the only raft with which the jiva, who is deluded by thinking “I am the body”, can cross the ocean of unending births.

297. Do not wander outside, eating the scorching sand of worldly pleasures, which are non-Self; come home to the Heart where Peace is shining as a vast, everlasting, cool shade, and enjoy the feast of the Bliss of Self.

296. Having annihilated the delusive mind which always dwells upon worldly things, having killed the restless ego, and having completely erased the worldly vasanas, shine as Shiva, the pure Consciousness Itself.

! Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana Om !

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

Ramana Maharshi: How to ‘become the reality’ | Self-abidance | The ‘vision of God’ | 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’. Given the first part of the verse which says not to be attentive to anything, this implies that not being attentive to any particular thing and remaining still and aware is synonymous with ‘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 focused 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 already 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 through 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 outwardly 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.





Ramana Maharshi: Be still

buddha silver

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.

Ramana Maharshi (from Who Am I)

One of the problems of Ramana’s teachings is that they are so simple. Most people do not want to be still and keep the mind quiet. They want to avoid themselves by discussing and understanding the concepts.

Now conceptual discussion has its place, but once one has understood the import of the teachings, namely silence, then it is time to sit down and shut up. Muruganar, who is regarded as Ramana’s closest and most influential devotee, says the same about Ramana’s teachings in his masterpiece Guru Vachaka Kovai:

What our Master clearly teaches by way of great, good, powerful tapas (spiritual effort) is only this and nothing more
Apart from this the mind has no task to do or thought to think

Guru Vachaka Kovai
(verse 773)

And in case you still haven’t got the message, here’s another quote from Who Am I, which is the publication that Ramana had issued at his Ashram as an introduction to his teachings. Note that the Sanskrit word ‘Jnana’ below literally means ‘knowledge’ and in a spiritual context refers to Self-Knowledge/Realisation or Liberation itself:

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

Ramana Maharshi (from Who Am I)