Ramana Maharshi: how to abide as the Self
The need to turn within according to Advaita Vedanta
‘We must see Brahman in everything and everywhere’ is also not quite correct
The following is from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 244:
Question: How is God to be seen?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Within. If the mind is turned inward God manifests as inner consciousness.
Tom: here Bhagavan Sri Ramana gives us the essential teaching – God is to be found within – not outside, meaning not in the body, mind or world, but within, meaning in the non-conceptual Self that is the Subject. As Ramana himself wrote in the text ‘Who Am I?’:
Question: When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Answer: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.
And in the same text, Who Am I?, in the answer to question 16 it is written:
‘the Self itself is God’
However, the questioner poses a seemingly logical question, namely that if God is everywhere, why cannot be see God everywhere? Why the need to look within when we can just as easily look outside at ‘God’s creation’, through our senses and see God there? Let us see:
Q: God is in all – in all the objects we see around us. They say we should see God in all of them.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: God is in all and in the seer. Where else can God be seen? He cannot be found outside. He should be felt within. To see the objects, mind is necessary. To conceive God in them is a mental operation. But that is not real. The consciousness within, purged of the mind, is felt as God.
Tom: here Sri Ramana is stating that to see God outside is merely to see a projection of the mind, for according to Sri Ramana, as we shall see shortly, all objective phenomena are mere thoughts, or projections of the mind, much like a dream objects are projection of the mind. An alternative explanation is that to see God in objective phenomena is actually a subtle act of the mind, a conceptual framework we are overlaying onto objects.
However, the questioner persists in pursuing their line of enquiry by challening Sri Ramana – are not various objects beautiful? Are not colours lovely to look at? Can we not see God in these objects too? Let us see:
Q: There are, say, beautiful colours. It is a pleasure to watch them. We can see God in them.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: They are all mental conceptions.
Q: There are more than colours. I mentioned colours only as an example.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: They are also similarly mental.
Tom: the questioner states that we can see God in objects and through the senses, but Sri Ramana dismisses this as mere concepts. The questioner, having raised objective qualities such as colour, then having raised other senses, not just colour now goes onto the body and the mind:
Q: There is the body also – the senses and the mind. The soul makes use of all these for knowing things.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The objects or feelings or thoughts are all mental conceptions. The mind rises after the rise of the I-thought or the ego. Wherefrom does the ego rise? From the abstract consciousness or Pure intelligence.
Tom: Here Sri Ramana again states that the body, senses and mind are all mental conceptions (or mental projections), as are all objects, feelings and thoughts.
He then goes on to give a teaching given in the aforementioned text ‘Who Am I?’, that the first though is the ‘I-thought’ also known as the ego, and only once this has risen can other thoughts or objective phenomena arise such as the body, the mind and the world. In this way Bhagavan Sri Ramana is repeating his teaching, a teaching also taught in the Upanishads and by Sri Shankara, that the body-mind-world is actually a projection of ego or ignorance.
What is the source of this ego or I-thought? It is the Self, or Pure Consciousness as he refers to it here. The word ‘pure’ denotes the absence of arisising objective phenomena, which is consistent with the teaching explained in my above paragraph.
Later in the same dialogue (Talk 244) Sri Ramana explains that the ego or ‘I-thought’ gives rise to (or projects out) the mind, and the mind then projects out a body:
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sense of body is a thought; the thought is of the mind, the mind rises after the ‘I-thought’, the ‘I-thought’ is the root thought. If that is held, the other thoughts will disappear. There will then be no body, no mind, not even the ego.
Q: What will remain then?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Self in its purity.
Tom: We can see that Sri Ramana is re-iterating that the body and mind are both projections of thought, and that their root is the ego, also known as the I-thought. When this ego-root (ie. ignorance) is cut down, by self-enquiry, all thoughts cease and the Self remains in its purity. As the body, mind and ego are all thoughts, Bhagavan Sri Ramana here explicitly states that in Self-Realisation there is no body, mind or ego. All that remains is the pure Self, again ‘pure’ denoting the lack of objective phenomena such as body, mind, world, feelings, sensations, etc.
As always, please do not simply accept teachings at face value. It is always good to read teachings in their proper context, so I encourage you to not just accept my commentary above, but to read the full talk for yourself so you can see it in its context. You will find many other valuable teachings in this talk too, such as Sri Ramana’s exposition of the three states and how he equates deep sleep with the Self, how he says that the world is a mere dream, his insistence that Self-Enquiry is the easiest path, and that Happiness or Pleasure or God can only truly be found Within.