Allow yourself to be happy
The Truth of Vedanta (Ramana Maharshi, Guru Vachaka Kovai)
In the text Guru Vachaka Kovai are recorded some of the most important teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Here are verses 148 and 149 which come under the heading ‘The Truth of Vedanta’ in the text. I have also included commentary from Sri Sadhu Om, a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s:
The Truth of Vedanta
148. Those who know nothing but sense-pleasure,
To ruin and destruction doomed,
Resent transcendence of the senses
And call this fresh and fruitful wisdom
Tom’s comments: many seekers often resent the idea of turning away from sense pleasures, saying this is a dry or repressive path that is ‘anti-life’. Here Ramana calls this path ‘fresh and fruitful’ instead!
149. The experience of Vedanta comes
Only to those who are utterly
Without desire. Far, far it is
From those who still retain desires.
For such the penance is prescribed
Of longing for the Lord who knows
No desire, so as to end
Forever all desire.
Commentary from Sri Sadhu Om:
The term Vedanta is commonly understood to mean a particular system of philosophy, but its true meaning is the experience of Jnana which is gained as the conclusion [anta] of the Vedas.
The desire for sense objects, which are all 2nd or 3rd persons, is directly opposed to the desire for God, and so it is quite clear that God is not merely one among the many 2nd and 3rd personal objects, but that He must be the Reality of the 1st person. Therefore, we should understand that discarding all desires for 2nd and 3rd personal objects and having love for Self alone is the true devotion towards God.
Verse B 13 [which comes after verse 731] also asserts this same point.
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.
SRI BHAGAVAN 13: Meditation on the Self
Is devotion to the Lord
Supreme, since He abides as this,
Our very Self.
The only way suffering can end
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Ramana Maharshi: The World and Self-Realisation
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.
Divine grace flow ceaselessly
Divine grace flows ceaselessly in silence, when the ego-mind is quiet and inactive.
When thoughts quieten, and the identification as being a body-mind is no longer active, that is BEING: waves of bliss-peace-grace emanate from the spiritual heart, all consuming, all healing, all purifying, self-enlightening.
When it is deeply realised that true peace does not come from worldly things including experiences and knowledge, and that our very essence is pure unalloyed happiness, the seeking mind naturally quietens as it no longer is seeking happiness outside of itself. Then what else shall we do but remain but as our Self, BEING, pure consciousness, overflowing in bliss?
Seeking pleasure ‘outside’, that is seeking pleasure and fulfilment in objects, including subtle objects such as experiences and knowledge, only means you have not realised that happiness, love and grace are your essential nature and naturally manifest when the mind is still.
Even though I understand the teachings, why do I suffer?
Krishnamurti: meditation is not an escape from the world
Meditation is not an escape from the world; it is not an isolating self-enclosing activity, but rather the comprehension of the world and its ways. The world has little to offer apart from food, clothes and shelter, and pleasure with its great sorrows.
Meditation is wandering away from this world; one has to be a total outsider. Then the world has a meaning, and the beauty of the heavens and the earth is constant. Then love is not pleasure. From this all action begins that is not the outcome of tension, contradiction, the search for self-fulfillment or the conceit of power.
Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from his book ‘The Only Revolution’
Transforming pleasure into joy
Please click here to read my second article for naturalhealthstar.com. It’s called ‘Transforming pleasure into joy’.
[Update – the above link no longer works so I have posted the article below in full; the first article called ‘The Two types of Happiness’ can be read here.]
In a previous article I wrote about joy as opposed to pleasure. Joy, as I defined it, is a natural feeling of warmth and connectedness we feel when we are with someone we love, when we are doing something we love, or when we are with nature. Pleasure on the other hand, I defined as being to do with acquisition, such as acquiring possessions, or even more subtle ‘objects’ such as acquiring pride, power, sex, certain experiences or respect.
With joy, our sense of self or ego is dimished and so we feel whole. The barrier and resistance of the ego is lessened allowing joy to emerge. With pleasure our sense of self is reinforced and strengthened, and whilst this feels initially positive, it is actually trying to cover up a deeper sense of lack or emptiness and it ultimately destructive and self-isolating. Pleasure becomes addictive whilst joy is deeply soothing.
It’s worth pointing out that in different situations joy goes by different names. When we feel joy whilst looking at a piece of art or listening to music we call it Beauty. When we are with someone we call it Love. When it is through our work we call it Service or Vocation. It is all Joy. It is all Love. These all happen when the sense of self is no longer at play.
So if you want to explore this further I suggest the first thing to do is to simply notice this. Not change it, but just gently notice it. Notice what pleasure feels like, notice how it comes about, notice your thoughts, notice how your body feels, notice the circumstances that gave rise to it, notice how you feel afterwards – you get the idea. The same with joy. Don’t accept my descriptions, but discover for yourself what these two types of experience are like.
The tendency when hearing a teaching like this is to shun pleasure and try to do more joyous things. Whilst this is on the one hand commendable, I would also advise caution. The very desire to maximise joy is actually the same drive for pleasure only in a different guise. Now joy has become an object to be acquired, and this acquisitive desire is the characteristic of pleasure. If you have spent time exploring what joy and pleasure actually feel like in your body you will get an immediate sense of this. So in trying to seek joy, the naturalness of joy is transformed into seeking pleasure. Notice how subtle this is.
On the other hand, if you don’t try to seek or repress pleasure, and instead just look at it, just being with the feeling is actually a form of love, self-love. We can love ourselves, embrace ourselves and not judge or chastise ourselves for seeking pleasure. We can embrace and be with our pleasure seeking. We can accept ourselves for who we are right now, just as we may accept a child or pet animal who is playing up. We are no longer trying to acquire something, we are no longer trying to be joyous. We are also no longer judging ourselves as being good or bad. Instead we are loving ourselves as we are, we are being tender with ourselves and our emotions, and in doing so we transform pleasure into Joy.
Experiment with this if you want, and let me know how it goes.
Love and blessings to you
Two types of Happiness: Joy and Pleasure
I was invited to contribute a few articles for naturalhealthstar.com. The first one was published today and is on the two types of happiness, which I have called Joy and pleasure.
If you are interested please click here to read more.
[Update: the above link no longer works so I have reproduced the article below:]
Imagine strolling barefoot along a sandy tropical beach watching the sunset. Can you imagine what it feels like? Now imagine winning the lottery, and what that feels like. These two scenarios, whilst both pleasant, feel different don’t they? Take a few moments to feel both these imaginary scenarios in turn and get a sense for how they each feel.
For me with the sunset the feeling is more peaceful, connected, warm and gentle. With the lottery there is more excitement at the sense of gain. If you explore your feelings and sensations further, you can see that with the sunset the sense of self is diminished, perhaps even absent, and in its place is a sense of wholeness or connectedness. With the lottery the sense of self is reinforced and strengthened.
Here’s another example: imagine how it feels to interact with a young child, perhaps one you know, laughing and playing with them. Now contrast this with a situation when someone respected you or admired you and how that felt. You could take it one step further perhaps and remember how it felt when you were in a position of power over someone, when you were in control. Again, whilst these feelings are probably all positive feelings, interacting with a child is gentler and there is more of a sense of connection. When you are being respected or dominating someone there is a sense of self-aggrandisement.
So why am I pointing out this distinction? Because genuine fulfillment always comes when the sense of self lessens. I call this Joy. When this happens we feel more at ease, more connected, gentler and more loving. It is how we feel when we are with our loved ones, when we are following our hearts desire and when we are with nature. It is a completely natural unlearnt emotion. We feel it more with the heart and abdomen – this may sound strange, but look for yourself where you feel the emotion in your body.
The positive feelings that come from self-reinforcement on the other hand are relatively short lived and actually fuel a sense of emptiness or lack that keeps us unfulfilled. I call this pleasure. We feel it more in the mind. It is ego-based, driven by a sense of lack, and something that has to be taught to us. We have to be conditioned through our society and upbringing to value social status, good grades, cheap-thrills and domination over others.
So, reflect on your life. How much time is spent chasing pleasures and thrills, and how much time is spent experiencing Joy? Pleasure comes though acquisition. Acquiring things, titles, sensations and experiences. It is essentially addictive in nature and leads to more suffering. Joy comes through letting go, through being with something, through playing, and through giving and service. It is a natural expression of who we really are deep down.