Does Jnana (or Self-Enquiry) lead to Bhakti (or Self-Surrender) or the other way round? Sri Ramana Maharshi

Some say that self-enquiry eventually culminates in surrender, and others say the opposite. Which is true? By the way, Self-Enquiry can also be referred to the path of Jnana (Knowledge or Wisdom) and Self-Surrender is also known as the path of Bhakti (love or devotion).

Ramana Maharshi has sometimes said it one way, and other times another, and other times said they are the same path. Again, which of these is true?

Let us see definitively what Sri Ramana says about this (surrender = Bhakti; Self-enquiry = jnana) in Guru Vachaka Kovai:

722. When scanned, bhakti supreme and jnana
Shine as in their essence one.
Saying that one of them is but
A means to the other is only due
To understanding neither
.

723. Even those who know may sometimes seem
To honour this saying and so prefer
One or the other of these paths.
This is in order to prevent
Some seeker half-way on one path
From giving it up and choosing the other
.

724. When one adopting self-enquiry
Reaches the journey’s end and gains
Samadhi’s bliss, it is solely due
To the grace of God
, one’s inmost Self,
Life of one’s life.

725. Unless the Self, the God within,
By power of grace pulls in the mind
,
Who has the strength through his own effort
To stop the rogue mind’s outward drift
And merge it in the Heart and so
Gain peace?

728 To tell the truth, God’s grace supreme
And the keen quest “Who am I?”,
Which means abidance in the Heart,
Will work together as mutual aids
And bring one to the state of oneness
With the Self supreme.

729 This maya world-dream will not end
Unless the Self within speaks out.
The enquiry, “Who is the dreamer
Of this dream?” is prayer addressed
To Him
to speak and wake us up.

730. It is said that meditation
On one’s own being [Tom: ie. Self-enquiry] is supreme
Devotion to all-transcending God,
Because, though spoken of as two,
They are in substance one
.

731. The way of knowledge and the way of love
Are interwoven close. Don’t tear
Asunder these inseparables
.
But practise both together holding
In the heart the two as one.

Meditation on the Self
Is devotion to the Lord

Supreme, since He abides as this,
Our very Self.
– SRI BHAGAVAN 13

Authentic living, authentic spirituality – teachings by Sri Ramana Maharshi

The following teaching verses on how to live a truly authentic life are taken from the text Guru Vachaka Kovai (The Garland of Guru’s sayings, you can download the entire text here). According to Sri Ramana Ashram, as explained in the foreward of the book ‘…[Guru Vachaka Kovai] provides the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Bhagavan’s teaching, explaining step by step the theory, the practice and the experience of jnana, the Truth supreme which is Being as Life Eternal, Pure Awareness, Perfect Bliss. Thus, the most comprehensive collection of the Maharshi’s sayings is Guru Vachaka Kovai…’

Chapter 40: Authentic Living

1089 Life you desire. But how to live
You know not. Thinking that this sinking
Deep in this void, vain, illusive
Waking-dream is ‘life’, you proudly
Claim you ‘live’. Pierce this illusion,
Go, grasp the Truth, eternal life.

Tom: Bhagavan Sri Ramana gives a radical interpretation as to what true authentic living actually is. Thinking this world to be real and living in it in this way is not authentic living at all. People who proudly strut about the world proclaiming how authentic their life is are merely dabbling in ego and illusion, so says the Ever-Living-Sage. What is authentic living then? Let us see what Bhagavan says in the following verses:

1090 Shun anger and desire; destroy
Illusions false that cause confusion,
Behave at all times with detachment
Calm. This is authentic living.
To this hold fast.

Tom: What should we hold fast to? Let us see:

1091 Abiding as Self-being, living
A life that is a steady flow
Unhindered of true love welling up
In the heart, this is the bright, joyous
Sivahood, which ends forever
The inveterate, false, deceitful ego.

Tom: we should know by now that all of Bhagavan Ramana’s teaching point to turning within to attain Self-Knowledge, to discover that which we truly are, which is the same as being that which you truly are. Here we are specifically advised to shun anger and desire, be calm and detached, and turn within to discover our true radiant being as Being, Self, Love. The discovery of what we truly are ends this false deceitful ego as well as the ‘void and illusive’ waking-dream.

1092 The seers who have placed at Siva’s Feet
All their life’s burdens and now live
Lives sublime of calm detachment
And shine in radiant purity,
They alone possess true beauty,
They alone enjoy true bliss.

Tom: Surrender life’s burdens to Shiva, the Self Supreme

1093 That Heart which truly knows the Self
Is full of love whence Bliss supreme
Wells up forever. There desire,
And its shadow, sorrow, have no place.
Such a life whose nature pure,
From Being flows serenely calm.

Tom: with self-knowledge, desire and sorrow naturally fall away, there being no ‘place’ for them to sustain themselves and exist. Here is the next verse Sri Ramana makes the teaching especially clear. What is authentic living? It is simply to Be or Abide As the Self.

1094 The only goal worth seeking is
The bliss supreme of Self-Awareness
.
Constant remembering and abiding
As That within the heart amounts
To plenitude of life.

Tom: Sri Ramana drives the point home that living a worldly life in the waking dream, which is a false illusion, is not at all the truly authentic life at all. Rather it is maya, illusion, with all its suffering and seeming-separation.

1095 Such a life of Grace alone
Is life lived in full, real Being.
This worldly life of false phenomena
Full of fear is sinking deeper
In illusion, not authentic living.

Tom: In the next verse that which was previously implied but not stated is now stated: the senses are turned within, no longer seeing the world, no longer interested in that which is not at all real or existent.

1096 Those whose five senses turn no longer
Towards the world which once seemed real,
Those who have learned to live without
Their minds being moved by the illusive
Universe of forms, they need
Perform no penance.

Tom: Revelling only in the Self Supreme, total Bliss, Love and Peace. This is the only authentic life – eternal life.

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

Exposing a false belief & the importance of Self-Enquiry | Sri Ramana Maharshi | Ending the ego

Some say that everything the ‘ego-me’ does simply perpetuates the ego-me, and thus the sense of separation and suffering that comes with the ego-me continues. If this is true, then there is nothing you can do to for ‘liberation to occur’ and for suffering to end. Note that this is a belief. Note that this is a conceptual view. Ask yourself: how do you even know this is true?

In order to know this is true, one would have to try every single practice in the world. It is a bit like saying no action can ever take you to the moon, as no action I’ve done so far has ever taken me to the moon. But it is possible to go to the moon!

Saying everything the ego does simply perpetuates the ego, is a bit like saying everything the body does simply perpetuates the body.

Just as there is a certain action the body can do that ends the body (ie. suicide), there is a certain effort of the ego-me that ends the ego-me (ie. self-enquiry).

Self-enquiry is ego suicide!

This is why Bhagavan Sri Ramana emphasised the need for practice and self-enquiry; see these teachings from Sri Ramana taken from Guru Vachaka Kovai (the second verse quoted summarises my points above, namely that there is a practise the ego can undertake that ends the ego):

385 When with the keen, unceasing quest
Of “Who am I?”
one penetrates
The centre of oneself, the body-bound
Ego fades away, true Being
Rises clear as I, as I,
And puts an end to all diversity,
Illusive as the blueness of the sky.

388 The jiva searching “Who in truth am I?”
Subsides as the true Self without an ‘I’.

[Tom: jiva means the (conceiving of oneself as a) separate body-mind entity. Jiva essentially refers to the ego ie. the false sense of being a body-mind entity]

391 Those who do not dive into the Heart
And there confront the Self in the five sheaths hid
Are only students answering out of books
Clever questions raised by books,
And not true seekers of the Self.

402 Delusive thought now like a cloud
Conceals the boundless bright awareness
Of the Self. Enquiring “Who am I?”
Dispels the darkness and the splendour
Of the sky of Self shines clear.

403 As a ball of iron heated in the fire
Glows like a ball of fire, the jiva
Once impure is now ennobled
By self-enquiry
and acquires
The very nature of the Self.

404 When the suffering fool turns inward,
Enquiring “Who am I?”
the radiant
Truth is seen, confusion cleared,
And silence wells up as the bliss of peace.

405 The jiva’s terrible suffering is
The turbid folly of the mind
Unschooled and ignorant of the Self.
Practise unceasingly within the wise
Enquiry, “Whose is this dire suffering?
Who am I?”

406 By the transmuting touch of daily,
Methodical, untiring self-enquiry
,
The base metal jiva shines forth clear
As Siva, freed from the mental rust,
The demon ego.

407 The jiva, son of God, forgetting
His real Being, cries “Alas” in anguish.
Then when he searches yearning inwards
He by experience knows the glory
Of oneness with the Self, his Father.

Please read the above verses carefully and slowly in order to fully gain their benefit.

Let us therefore first understand the proper technique of self-enquiry, and then let us be inspired and devoted to its practice.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om

🙏🙏🙏

Except by the Lord’s Grace (Sri Ramana Maharshi | Tips for Self-Enquiry | Guru Vachaka Kovai)

‘Except by the Lord’s Grace, which begins to function when one surrenders oneself completely to His Feet with sincere devotion, It [The Reality] cannot be cognised merely by the skill of the mind of the jiva [the apparently individual person]. So subtle is the reality.’

~Sri Ramana Maharshi (Guru Vachaka Kovai, Verse 648, translated by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James)


Here is the same verse 648 translated by T.V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman:

‘Know that reality is so extremely subtle, it cannot be known and realised through the exertions of the jiva‘s intellect, but only through the Grace of God, which manifests when you offer yourself up with love at His Feet’


Here is the next verse, verse 649 translated by T.V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman:

‘Do not wander and search, having failed to find the Abiding State in spite of receiving tuition in all the arts and sciences, and thoroughly mastering them. The Supreme State is to abide wholly as the Reality that remains enshrined as the form of Love’

Unity admidst diversity? No! This is not true! (Sri Ramana Maharshi refuting the view of Bheda-Abedha)

Also see:

How can the sage function with NO THOUGHTS? Sri Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi Quotes: Nobody here/ the jnani is not a person

In verse 931 of Guru Vachaka Kovai, Sri Ramana Maharshi says:

931. “The mukta [‘liberated sage’] like the rest of us perceives the world in all its vast variety and yet he sees non-difference in it”, so people say. This is not true.

Tom: the idea that the liberated sage still perceives differences ‘like the rest of us’ but perceives an underlying unity despite various objects being seen is here being refuted. Let us see Sri Sadhu Om’s commentary on Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 931:

Sri Sadhu Om: People have many wrong conceptions about the state of a Jnani or Jivanmukta, and one such misconception is refuted here. “What people see as water, the Jivanmukta also sees as water, and what they see as food, He also sees as food. Therefore, in His experience of sense-objects, the Jivanmukta is the same as other people. But even while the Jivanmukta thus sees these differences, He sees the non-difference in them” – are there not many pandits and lecturers who talk and write thus, even though they themselves have no experience of Advaita but have only read about it in books?

But who is the proper authority to say what is the actual experience of a Jivanmukta? Only a real Jivanmukta! Thus Bhagavan Sri Ramana, who has actually experienced the reality and who is the true Loka Maha Guru, declares in this verse that such statements are wrong, and in the next verse He explains how and why they are wrong.’

~Sri Sadhu Om

Tom: Let us see the next verse:

932. Those who mistakenly perceive the variegated universe believe the mukta [‘liberated sage’] too is a perceiver like them. But he is not the perceiver.

Tom: ie. Taking yourself, in ignorance, to be a perceiver and doer, one also, in ignorance, takes the sage to be a perceiver and doer. The sage is not a perceiver! The sage is not a doer! It is just a projection of ignorance that views ‘a sage’ in this way, as a human being or individual person. Again let us see Sri Sadhu Om’s comments:

Sri Sadhu Om: Verse 119 of this work should again be read here. So long as one sees oneself as an individual who sees the world of differences, one cannot but see the Jnani likewise as an individual who sees differences. But since the jnani is in fact nothing but the bodiless and individuality-less Jnana Itself [Tom: ie. in reality we not a human being or body-mind entity at all – we are in fact Spirit, or the Bodiless Atman-Brahman], to see Him as a seer and to believe that even He is seeing differences like oneself, is true only in the outlook of ajnanis.

The absolute truth, however, is that the Jnani is not a seer and that He never sees any differences, for as Sri Bhagavan says in verse 13 of Ulladu Narpadu, “Knowledge of multiplicity is only ignorance [ajnana]”. Thus in the above two verses Sri Bhagavan clearly refutes the wrong idea expressed in the note at the end of the introduction to Sat-Darshana-Bhashya, 6th ed. pp. 35 to 38, namely the idea that a Jnani or liberated soul retains His individuality in spite of the destruction of the ego, and that He “perceives diversity in unity and experiences unity in diversity”.

Regarding this erroneous theory of bheda-abheda or unity in diversity, Sri Bhagavan used to say that if the least difference or diversity is perceived, it means that the ego or individuality is there, so if difference is experienced, non-difference or unity would merely be a theoretical proposition and not an actual experience.

~ Sri Sadhu Om

Deep Sleep and Self-Realisation | Falling asleep during Self-Enquiry

Also see:

Deep sleep is Brahman – the three states according to the Birhadaranyaka Upanishad with commentary by Shankara

Ramana Maharshi: the method of wakeful sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) to attain liberation

Tom: In the following quotes Sri Ramana Maharshi gives us a teaching on the correct relationship between Deep Sleep & Self-Realisation or Jnana:

Questioner: Sushupti [deep sleep] is often characterised as the state of ignorance.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: No, it is the pure state. There is full awareness in it [deep sleep] and total ignorance in the waking state. It is said to be ajnana [ignorance] only in relation to the false jnana prevalent in jagrat [the waking state].

Really speaking jagrat [the waking state] is ajnana [ignorance] and sushupti [the sleep state] prajnana [wisdom]. If sushupti is not the real state where does the intense peace come from to the sleeper?

It is everybody’s experience that nothing in jagrat can compare with the bliss and well-being derived from deep sleep, when the mind and the senses are absent. What does it all mean? It means that bliss comes only from inside ourselves and that it is most intense when we are free from thoughts and perceptions, which create the world and the body, that is, when we are in our pure being, which is Brahman, the Self. In other words, the being alone is bliss and the mental superimpositions are ignorance and, therefore, the cause of misery. That is why samadhi is also described as sushupti in jagrat [sleep in the waking state]; the blissful pure being which prevails in deep sleep is experienced in jagrat, when the mind and the senses are fully alert but inactive.

~ Guru Ramana, pp. 112-13

Tom: Here are some verses from Sri Ramana Maharshi taken from Guru Vachaka Kovai that make similar points, namely that deep sleep is not actually ignorance at all but actually the Self. It is only our belief that the waking state is Reality (and that we are the body-mind) that makes us feel that Deep Sleep is a state of total ignorance. It is actually Pure Knowedge:

455.

Having experienced fully the great bliss of the sublime state of sleep where no other object exists, it is sheer ignorance not to value that state and to regard it as one’s salvation, but instead to desire something else, imagining it to be one’s defence against the misery one experiences.

457.

The ignorance of forgetfulness which makes you say that the waking state is a state of illumination makes you [also] declare that sleep is a sheath [kosa] of ignorance. If the belief that the waking state is the illustrious and unique state of truth goes, then sleep will become, and shine as, pure non-duality.

461.

Only in an intellect that has developed a desire for the waking state will the eminent state of deep sleep, which is all bliss, be classified as a state of ignorance: ‘I did not know anything during sleep.’ By failing to enquire into and realise the true experience that exists and shines in the same way forever, one becomes deluded and thinks, ‘I am the one who woke up’. If that powerful sheath of the intellect, the ignorance that is experienced in the waking state, is destroyed by the sword of vichara [that leads to the knowledge] ‘I am not the one who woke up’, then the eminent state of sleep will shine, remaining as pure bliss, its ignorance destroyed.

Tom: We see the same teaching in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. The following is from talk number 314:

Again, sleep is said to be ajnana [ignorance]. That is only in relation to the wrong jnana prevalent in the wakeful state. The waking state is really ajnana [ignorance] and the sleep state is prajnana [full knowledge].

Tom: Here Bhagavan Ramana explains that the waking and dream states are mere projections of the minds habitual tendencies (vasanas), and when these are removed, only Deep Sleep remains, and this Deep Sleep is nothing but the Self (here called Turiya, the ‘forth’ state.):

460.

If the beginningless, impure vasanas that remain as the cause for waking and dream leave and perish, the state of sleep [previously perceived as] void-like and dull, and which led us into a state of ignorance and suffering, will become the transcendent state of turiya.

Tom: What about if we fall asleep during Self-Inquiry, what then? Bhagavan Ramana reassures us as follows:

462.

If the illumination that is awareness of your being exists so firmly that it remains unshaken until sleep overpowers you, then there will be no need to feel jaded and disheartened, lamenting, ‘Oh, the forgetfulness of nescient sleep has come and unsettled me!’

Tom: Note that the word nescience in the above verse is just a synonym for ignorance, the root meanings of the words being the same, ie. not-knowing. Ignorance negates the Greek word ‘gnosis’, which means knowledge, and nescience negates the Latin word ‘scientia’ which also means knowledge.

The above verses allow us to more fully understand the somewhat cryptic but important verse in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, verse 69. It also reveals to us the depth of knowledge present in the Bhagavad Gita:

What all [ignorant] beings consider as night, is the day for the wise,

And what all [ignorant] beings see as day, is the night for the sage.

Tom: We can see that the above verse from the Bhagavad Gita is saying that most people consider deep sleep as being total darkness and ignorance, whilst the Sage considers this to be Knowledge, ie The Self. Conversely, what most people consider to be the ‘waking state’ is actually considered by the Sage to be a state of pure ignorance and delusion.

The waking state is considered by most to be a state in which we know things (other objects) and in which we ‘live our life’ as a human being – this is the meaning of ‘day’ for most people. The sage considers this ‘day time’ or ‘waking state to be pure illusion and delusion, or ‘maya’.

Because most people identify as being the body-mind in the waking state, and because most people consider the waking state to be a worthy state in which we experience ‘real life’ and gain ‘worthy life-experiences’, they therefore consider deep dreamless sleep as being a dull dark state full of ignorance. However the sage, who has lost the ego-identification as body-mind, sees Deep Dreamless Sleep only as the Pure Self in which there is only Perfect Love-Being-Bliss devoid of space, time, creation, body, mind, thoughts and concepts.

This same teaching that Bhagavan Ramana has made so clear to us above is also given in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, see here for details

Also see: Ramana Maharshi: the method of wakeful sleep (Jagrat Sushupti) to attain liberation

Let us give thanks and gratitude to Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi for his wonderfully clarifying teachings!

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om!

Ramana Maharshi: ‘Those crazy-minded people…’ | The importance of dispassion towards sense-objects

Those crazy-minded people who do not know as real anything other than the objects of the senses, and who are thereby ruined, will term the jnana that flourishes luxuriantly through dispassion towards sense-objects ‘dry Vedanta’

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 148

Tom’s comments:

The way to the Truth Within (ie. jnana, meaning wisdom or knowledge), which, for practical purposes, is within each and everyone of us, has always meant we have to turn away from sense-objects, as well as mind-objects (ie. turn away from both gross and subtle objects).

However, for those tamasic and rajasic ones, who are attached to the sensory world of objects, they would call this type of teaching ‘dry’ or ‘life-opposing’ or ‘life denying’. However it is these so-called ‘life-affirming’ teachings that actually keep one in Maya-Samsara-Suffering, for the ‘life’ that is affirmed is simply ‘Maya’ (illusion) and continued suffering.

They who only know the sense-objects, and they who consider these as being real, they betray their underlying attachment to body-mind. How so? It is this underlying attachment to body-mind, and thinking body-mind to be real, that actually causes the world to also appear to be real, and for the sense-objects to thereafter gain so much importance.

These people are ‘crazy-minded’ and ‘thereby ruined’ according to Sri Ramana, his somewhat harsh tone driving the point home emphatically in a compassionate attempt to reveal the true path to liberation.

Let us take heed, and turn away from body-mind-world and discover the Treasure that lies deep within us. Let us reject the small, temporary life of Maya-suffering and instead let us come upon and merge into Life Eternal Within, wherein we become One with Him, Our Beloved.

The path of the Brave and Fearful | 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 is a video from the meeting:

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:

745.
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.

354.
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.

394.
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.

834.
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.

174.
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.