Ramana Maharshi: the world is not real, attend to yourself

essential teachings of sri ramana maharshi

The following verses are teaching statements of Sri Ramana Maharshi as recorded by Sri Muruganar in his wonderful work Guru Vachaka Kovai. I have used the version translated by Michael James for this selection, bold text has been added by myself for emphasis, and I have left a few comments from Sri Sadhu Om when further explanation may be helpful:

Introduction

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 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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Turn away from the world

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!

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.

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.

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].

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.

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]

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Discard 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?

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].

Turn away from the non-existent imaginary world

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 [destiny] 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.

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.

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.

The only true practice/teaching

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

193. When the mind [i.e., 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 it’s own true nature [i.e. Self], the pseudo-‘I’ will also die.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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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: 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’. 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.

OM NAMO

BHAGAVATE

SRI RAMANAYA

OM

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
BE STILL
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:

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