The essence of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (A summary of Ramana Maharshi’s Teachings)

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Here are some quotes of Sri Ramana Maharshi that contain perhaps the essence of his spoken teachings:


The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything.


Be still. Apart from this the mind has no task to do or thought to think.


If one has realised, he is That which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course we loosely talk of Self-realisation for want of a better term.


That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet.


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.


Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it.

For instance, there is space in a hall (room). We are not going to create space anew. We fill up the place with various articles. If we want space, all that we need do is to remove all those articles and we get space. Similarly, if we remove all the rubbish from the mind the peace will become manifest. That which is obstructing the peace must be removed.


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


The thought ‘I am the body’ is ignorance.


Gifts, penance (tapas), sacrifice, upright conduct (dharma), self-control (yoga), devotion (bhakti), heaven (the expanse of consciousness), substance (existence), peace, truth, grace, silence, the Supreme State, deathless death, knowledge, renunciation, Liberation, bliss—know that all these are only severance of the I-am-the-body consciousness.


Peace is the only Reality. Mukti or Liberation is our Nature. It is another name for us.


Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat, making great efforts to get back into the shade, and then rejoicing ‘At last I have reached the shade, how sweet is the shade!’ We are doing exactly the same. We are not different from the Reality. We imagine we are different, i.e., we create the bheda bhava (the feeling of difference) and then undergo great sadhanas to get rid of the bheda bhava and realize the oneness. Why imagine or create the bheda bhava and then destroy it?


Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness.


Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.


It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The real is as it is, ever. How to realise it? All that is required is this: We have realise the unreal, i.e., regarded as Real what is unreal. We have to give up this attitude. That is all that is required for us to attain Jnana. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in the books is this: We dig a well and create a huge pit. The akasa (space) in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the akasa there. The akasa was there, then, and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.


Effortless and choiceless awareness is our Real State. If we can attain It or be in It, it is all right. But one cannot reach It without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the agelong vasanas (latent tendencies) carry the mind outwards and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For most people effort is necessary.


Of course, everybody, every book says summa iru (be quiet or still). But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if you find one who has effortlessly achieved the mouna (silence) or Supreme State indicated by summa iru, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been completed in a previous life. Such effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation.


People are afraid that when the ego or the mind is killed, the result may be a mere blank and not happiness. What really happens is that the thinker, the object of thought and thinking all merge into the one Source, which is Consciousness and Bliss itself, and thus that state is neither inert nor blank. I do not understand why people should be afraid of that state in which all thoughts cease to exist and the mind is killed. Every day they experience that state in sleep. There is no mind or thought in sleep. Yet when one rises from sleep one says, ‘I slept happily.’ Sleep is so dear to everyone that no one, prince or beggar, can do without it.


Dhyana [meditation], jnana [knowledge], bhakti [devotional love] and samadhi [meditative absorption] are all names for ourselves, for our Real State. Knowing one’s Self is only being one’s Self, as there is no second existence. This is Self-realisation.


Our Real Nature is Mukti. But we imagine that we are bound and are making strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the time free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something which we have always been and are.

An illustration will make this clear: A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he has gone on a world tour, is roaming over hill and dale, forest and country, desert and sea, across various continents and, after many years of weary and strenuous travel, returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the ashram and walks into the hall. Just at that moment he wakes up and finds he has not moved an inch, but was sleeping where he lay down. He has not returned to the hall after great efforts, but is and always has been in the hall. It is exactly like that. If it is asked, why being free we imagine we are bound, I answer, ‘Why being in the hall did you imagine you were on a world adventure, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea?’ It is all mind or maya.


Those alone who have found out the Real Nature of the ego have seen the Reality. They will have no more doubts or anxieties.


The body is a mental projection. The mind is the ego, and the ego rises from the Self.


The ego can have peace only when it merges back into its Source, the Self


The moral behind the story of Ashtavakra and Janaka is simply this: The disciple surrenders himself to the Master. That means there is no vestige of individuality retained by the disciple. If the surrender is complete, all sense of individuality is lost and there is no cause for misery. The Eternal Self is only happiness and that is revealed.


The whole of Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements ‘I am that I am’ and ‘Be still and know that I am God’.


There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until that is realised, effort is necessary. After tasting such bliss even once, one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the bliss of peace, no one would like to be out of it or engage himself otherwise. It is as difficult for a Jnani to engage in thoughts, as it is for an ajnani to be free from thought.


Any kind of activity does not affect a Jnani. He remains ever in eternal peace.


Ishta Devata (deity of one’s choice) and Guru are aids, very powerful aids on this path. But for an aid to be effective requires your effort also. Your effort is a sine qua non.


As explained in the Gita, sleep is the first obstacle for all sadhakas. The second obstacle is said to be vikshepa, or the sense objects of the world which divert one’s attention. The third is said to be kashaya or thoughts about previous experiences with sense objects. The fourth, ananda (bliss), is also called an obstacle, because in that state a feeling of separation from the source of ananda, making the enjoyer say, ‘I am enjoying ananda,’ is present. Even this has to be surmounted, and the final stage of samadhana or samadhi has to be reached, where one becomes ananda, or One with the Reality, and the duality of enjoyer and enjoyment ceases in the ocean of Satchidananda [Existence-Consciousness-Bliss] or the Self.


The power of a Jnani’s Self-Realisation is more powerful than all occult powers. To the Jnani there are no others. But what is the highest benefit that can be conferred on ‘others’ as we call them? It is happiness. Happiness is born of peace. Peace can reign only when there is no disturbance by thought. When the mind has been annihilated, there will be perfect peace. As there is no mind, the Jnani cannot be aware of others. But the mere fact of His Self-Realisation is itself enough to make all others peaceful and happy.


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

The the following talks, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi outlines a very simple but powerful teaching, that of wakeful-sleep or Jagrat-Sushupti (Jagrat means the waking state, Sushupti means deep dreamless sleep). This teaching in essence is no different to the other teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and is also no different to the great Vedanta teachings, but is just another way of expressing the same principle.

The method consists of noting that in deep dreamless sleep the mind is still and there is no suffering, but there is also no awareness of this fact at the time. In the waking state we are presently aware, but thoughts and suffering also exist.

Therefore the method is that of remaining awake but with the thoughts stilled. Ramana says this is the state of Jagrat-Sushupti, which is also the state of the Jnani (the knower of truth or the enlightened sage). Ramana states this jagrat-susupti is also called Samadhi (talks 286, 313) and that it is also Mukti (liberation, talk 311) and bliss (talks 609, 372).

I will start with an excerpt from Talk 609 as this goes into the most detail, and the opening paragraphs alone contain many gems that should be carefully contemplated on. Thereafter the talks are chronological, with bold added by myself for emphasis.

Wishing you the eternal peace that is already ever-present

Tom

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From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 609:

The incentive to realise can arise only in the waking state and efforts can also be made only when one is awake. We learn that the thoughts in the waking state form the obstacle to gaining the stillness of sleep.

“Be still and know that I AM God”.

So stillness is the aim of the seeker. Even a single effort to still at least a single thought even for a trice goes a long way to reach the state of quiescence. Effort is required and it is possible in the waking state only. There is the effort here: there is awareness also; the thoughts are stilled; so there is the peace of sleep gained. That is the state of the Jnani. It is neither sleep nor waking but intermediate between the two. There is the awareness of the waking state and the stillness of sleep. It is called jagrat-sushupti.

Call it wakeful sleep or sleeping wakefulness or sleepless waking or wakeless sleep. It is not the same as sleep or waking separately. It is atijagrat (beyond wakefulness) or atisushupti (beyond sleep).

It is the state of perfect awareness and of perfect stillness combined. It lies between sleep and waking; it is also the interval between two successive thoughts. It is the source from which thoughts spring; we see that when we wake up from sleep. In other words thoughts have their origin in the stillness of sleep. The thoughts make all the difference between the stillness of sleep and the turmoil of waking.

Go to the root of the thoughts and you reach the stillness of sleep. But you reach it in the full vigour of search, that is, with perfect awareness. That is again jagrat-sushupti spoken of before. It is not dullness; but it is Bliss. It is not transitory but it is eternal. From that the thoughts proceed. What are all our experiences but thoughts? Pleasure and pain are mere thoughts. They are within ourselves. If you are free from thoughts and yet aware, you are That Perfect Being.


From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 286:

Sushupti continues in this state also. We are ever in sushupti. That should be consciously gone into and realised in this very state. There is no real going into or coming from it. Becoming aware of that is samadhi.


From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 290:

Bring sleep into the waking state (jagrat sushupti) and you will be all right.


From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 311:

The Self who was undifferentiated in sleep is differentiated in the present state, and sees the diversity. The Real Existence is the only One devoid of objective knowledge. That is absolute consciousness. That is the state of happiness, as admitted by all of us. That state must be brought about even in this waking state. It is called jagrat sushupti. That is mukti.


From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 313:

Take another example: A passenger in a cart has fallen asleep. The bulls move or stand still or are unyoked on the journey. He does not know these occurrences, but finds himself in a different place after he wakes up. He has been blissfully ignorant of the occurrences on the way, but his journey has been finished.

Similarly with the Self of the person. He is asleep in the body. His waking state is the movement of the bulls, his samadhi is their standing still (because samadhi = jagrat sushupti) i.e., to say, he is aware of but not attached to actions. So the bulls are in harness but do not move. His sleep is the unyoking of the bulls, for there is complete suspension of activities corresponding to the release of the bulls from the yoke.


From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 372:

D.: Sleep state is said to be the experience of Bliss, yet, on recollecting it the hairs do not stand on end. Why should they do so, if the samadhi state is recollected?

M.: Samadhi means sleep in waking state (jagrat sushupti). Bliss is overpowering and the experience is very clear, whereas it is different in sleep.


From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 601:

Someone: The limitation (upadhi) of being a man cannot be got rid of.

M.: How were you in deep sleep? There was no thought of being a man.

Another: So, the state of sleep must be brought about even when one is awake.

M.: Yes. It is jagrat-sushupti.

Ramana Maharshi: Non-duality and how to be Self-Realised (Atma-Jnana)

Ramana Maharshi sitting.jpg

In the following excerpts, Ramana Maharshi is telling us that we are already free, totally and completely. Can you accept this? Can you allow these words to move you? Can you intuit the truth to which they point?


If we talk of knowing the Self, there must be two selves, one a knowing self, another the self which is known, and the process of knowing. The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, one is that which alone is and which alone has always been. One cannot describe that state. One can only be that.


Questioner: How long does it take to reach mukti (liberation)?
Maharshi: Mukti is not to be gained in the future. It is there for ever, here and now.
Q: I agree, but I do not experience it.
M: The experience is here and now. One cannot deny one’s own Self.


Questioner: How shall I reach the Self?
Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now and that it is yet to be obtained. 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. The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance supervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self which is bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance which is merely wrong knowledge. The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains. Therefore realization is for everyone; realization makes no difference between the aspirants. This very doubt, whether you can realize, and the notion `I-have-not-realized’ are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.


Q: There must be something that I can do to reach this state.
M: The conception that there is a goal and a path to it is wrong. We are the goal or peace always. To get rid of the notion that we are not peace is all that is required.
Q: All books say that the guidance of a Guru is necessary.
A: The Guru will say only what I am saying now. He will not give you anything you have not already got. It is impossible for anyone to get what he has not got already. Even if he gets any such thing, it will go as it came. What comes will also go. What always is will alone remain. The Guru cannot give you anything new, which you don’t have already. Removal of the notion that we have not realized the Self is all that is required. We are always the Self only we don’t realize it.


Q: When a man realizes the Self, what will he see?
M: There is no seeing. Seeing is only being. The state of Self-realization, as we call it, is not attaining something new or reaching some goal which is far away, but simply being that which you always are and which you always have been. All that is needed is that you give up your realization of the not-true as true…At one stage you will laugh at yourself for trying to discover the Self which is so self-evident.


Q: But how to do this and attain liberation?
M: Liberation is our very nature. We are that. The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is to get rid of the false notion that we are bound. When we achieve that, there will be no desire or thought of any sort. So long as one desires liberation, so long, you may take it, one is in bondage.


Q: Is not the realization of one’s absolute being, that is, Brahma-jnana, something quite unattainable for a layman like me?
M: Brahma-jnana is not a knowledge to be acquired, so that acquiring it one may obtain happiness. It is one’s ignorant outlook that one should give up. The Self you seek to know is truly yourself.


Q: How to realize the Heart?
M: There is no one who even for a moment fails to experience the Self. For no one admits that he ever stands apart from the Self. He is the Self. The Self is the Heart.


Q: How can I attain Self- realization?
M: Realization is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought `I have not realized’. Stillness or peace is realization. There is no moment when the Self is not. So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-realization, the attempt should be made to rid oneself of these thoughts. They are due to the identification of the Self with the not-Self. When the not-Self disappears, the Self alone remains. To make room, it is enough that objects be removed. Room is not brought in from elsewhere.


Q: However often Bhagavan teaches us, we are not able to understand.
M: People say that they are not able to know the Self that is all pervading. What can I do ? Even the smallest child says, `I exist; I do; this is mine.’ So, everyone understands that the thing `I’ is always existent. It is only when that `I’ is there that there is the feeling that you are the body, he is Venkanna, this is Ramanna and so on. To know that the one that is always visible is one’s own Self, is it necessary to search with a candle ? To say that we do not know the atma swarupa (the real nature of the Self) which is not different but which is in one’s own Self is like saying, `I do not know myself.`


Q: But how is one to reach this state?
M: There is no goal to be reached. There is nothing to be attained. You are the Self. You exist always. Nothing more can be predicated of the Self than that it exists. Seeing God or the Self is only being the Self or yourself. Seeing is being. You, being the Self, want to know how to attain the Self. It is something like a man being at Ramanasramam asking how many ways there are to reach Ramanasramam and which is the best way for him. All that is required of you is to give up the thought that you are this body and to give up all thoughts of the external things or the not-Self.


Q: It is cruel of God’s leela (play) to make the knowledge of the Self so hard.
M: Knowing the Self is being the Self, and being means existence, one’s own existence. No one denies one’s existence any more than one denies one’s eyes, although one cannot see them. The trouble lies with your desire to objectify the Self, in the same way as you objectify your eyes when you place a mirror before them. You have been so accustomed to objectivity that you have lost the knowledge of yourself, simply because the Self cannot be objectified. Who is to know the Self ? Can the insentient body know it? All the time you speak and think of your `I’, yet when questioned you deny knowledge of it. You are the Self, yet you ask how to know the Self. Where then is God’s leela and where is its cruelty ? Because of this denial of the Self by people the sastras speak of maya, leela, etc.


Q: Yes, I still understand only theoretically. Yet the answers are simple, beautiful and convincing.
M: Even the thought `I do not realize’ is a hindrance. In fact, the Self alone is. Our real nature is mukti. But we are imagining we are bound and are making various, strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the while free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something which we have always been and are.


Q: Is mukti the same as realization?
M: Mukti or liberation is our nature. It is another name for us. Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade, voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat there, making great efforts to get back into the shade and then rejoicing, `How sweet is the shade! I have reached the shade at last!’ We are all doing exactly the same. We are not different from the reality. We imagine we are different, that is we create the bheda bhava [the feeling of difference] and then undergo great sadhana (spiritual practices) to get rid of the bheda bhava and realize the oneness. Why imagine or create bheda bhava and then destroy it?


Q: Since realization is not possible without vasana-kshaya (destruction of mental tendencies/habits), how am I to realize that state in which the tendencies are effectively destroyed?
M: You are in that state now.
Q: Does it mean that by holding on to the Self, the vasanas (mental tendencies) should be destroyed as and when they emerge?
M: They will themselves be destroyed if you remain as you are.


Q: Is one nearer to pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?
M: The sleep, dream and waking states are mere phenomena appearing on the Self which is itself stationary. It is also a state of simple awareness. Can anyone remain away from the Self at any moment ? This question can arise only if that were possible.
Q: Is it not often said that one is nearer pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?
M: The question may as well be `Am I nearer to myself in my sleep than in my waking state?’ The Self is pure consciousness. No one can ever be away from the Self. The question is possible only if there is duality. But there is no duality in the state of pure consciousness.