Ramana: quoting other scriptures and the role of the Guru

Ramana Maharshi sitting

One of the many things I admire about Ramana Maharshi is that he didn’t try to re-invent the wheel. He used to frequently refer people to traditional texts if it was relevant to their path, and even translated a number scriptures into Tamil for those who were unable to read or understand classical Sanskrit.

For me this was really brought home to me when reading Ramana’s Supplement to 40 Verses on Reality. This is a collection of 40 verses that Ramana composed, except that he didn’t compose all of the verses himself. Several were taken from other scriptures, but, I assume, as they said what he wanted to convey, he just copied the verses and gave the reference of where he took them from.

Here are the first 5 verses of Ramana’s Supplement to 40 Verses on Reality. Note how he places emphasis on the role of the guru and the guru’s power to lead those around him/her into freedom through darshan:

Verse 1

In the company of sages, attachment vanishes; and with attachment, illusion. Freed from illusion, one attains stability, and thence liberation while yet alive. Seek therefore the company of sages.

from Bhajagovindam by Shankaracharya

 

Verse 2

Not by listening to preachers, nor by study of books, not by meritorious deeds nor by any other means can one attain that Supreme State, which is attainable only through association with the sages and the clear quest of the Self, 

from Yoga Vasishta

 

Verse 3

When one has learned to love the company of sages, wherefore all these rules of discipline? When a pleasant, cool southern breeze is blowing, what need is there for a fan? 

from Yoga Vasishta

 

Verse 4

Fever is overcome by the cool light of the moon; want, by the good wish-yielding tree; and sin by the Holy Ganges. Those three — fever and want and sin — all flee at the august sight of the peerless sage.

from Subhashita Ratna Bhandargara, chapter 3 verse 6

 

Verse 5.

Holy rivers, which are only water, and idols, which are made of stone and clay, are not as mighty as the sages. For while they make one pure in course of countless days, the sage’s eyes by a mere glance purify at once.

from Srimad Bhagavatam, Tenth canto, chapter 48 verse 31

 

❤ Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya ❤

 

 

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Why do so many people practice self inquiry by Ramana Maharshi incorrectly?

ramana maharshi

Q. Why do so many people practice self inquiry by Ramana Maharshi incorrectly? Ramana said the question ‘who am I’ should not be asked but one should put the attention on the “I” inner feeling. Sadhu Om and Sri Muruganar confirmed that that’s the correct way to practice.

Tom: Yes, true. Perhaps it was because Ramana gave slightly different instructions to different people. For some he said to ask the question verbally, to others he said be with the feeling ‘I’, to others he simply said ‘Summa iru’ (Be still).

A common instruction he gave was to dive into the heart…Anyway, all these methods culminate in the same place, and that is the key.

A living teacher can be very useful in finding how the living teaching interacts with the living seeker.

To confuse things more, Ramana also said there is no fixed teaching, and to some he prescribed work and chores, to others meditation, and so on.

That said, here is a collection of quotes from Ramana’s teachings that I compiled that may be helpful to some, with a brief summary at the end, best wishes:

Ramana Maharshi: the path to self-realisation

Here is one possible summary of the essence of Ramana’s teachings:

Ramana Maharshi: Self-abidance, the ‘vision of God’ and the end of suffering

The ‘ultimate means’ to liberation

om1

The following is the last few verses of Advaita Bodha Deepika, a classical vedanta text that summarises the theories and methods of vedanta. It was also a favourite text of Ramana Maharshi’s. Here is the culmination of the teaching, as stated in the last verses of Chapter 8:

Disciple: How can the mind be extinguished?

Master: To forget everything is the ultimate means. But for thought, the world does not arise. Do not think and it will not arise. When nothing arises in the mind, the mind itself is lost. Therefore do not think of anything, forget all. This is the best way to kill the mind.

To forget everything is the ultimate means

D.: Has anyone else said so before?

M.: Vasishta said so to Rama thus: ‘Efface thoughts of all kinds, of things enjoyed, not enjoyed, or otherwise. Like wood or stone, remain free from thoughts.

Rama: Should I altogether forget everything?

Vasishta: Exactly; altogether forget everything and remain like wood or stone.
Rama: The result will be dullness like that of stones or wood.

Vasishta: Not so. All this is only illusion. Forgetting the illusion, you are freed from it. Though seeming dull, you will be the Bliss Itself. Your intellect will be altogether clear and sharp. Without getting entangled in worldly life, but appearing active to others remain as the very Bliss of Brahman and be happy.

Unlike the blue colour of the sky, let not the illusion of the world revive in the pure Ether of Consciousness-Self. To forget this illusion is the sole means to kill the mind and remain as Bliss.

Though Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahman Himself should instruct you, realisation is not possible without this one means. Without forgetting everything, fixity as the Self is impossible. Therefore altogether forget everything.’

…altogether forget everything and remain like wood or stone….Though seeming dull, you will be the Bliss Itself. Your intellect will be altogether clear and sharp.

D.: Is it not very difficult to do so?

M.: Though for the ignorant it is difficult, for the discerning few it is very easy. Never think of anything but the unbroken unique Brahman. By a long practice of this, you will easily forget the non-self. It cannot be difficult to remain still without thinking anything. Let not thoughts arise in the mind; always think of Brahman.

In this way all worldly thoughts will vanish and thought of Brahman alone will remain. When this becomes steady, forget even this, and without thinking ‘I am Brahman’, be the very Brahman. This cannot be difficult to practise.

Now my wise son, follow this advice; cease thinking of anything but Brahman. By this practice your mind will be extinct; you will forget all and remain as pure Brahman.

Never think of anything but the unbroken unique Brahman…When this becomes steady, forget even this, and without thinking ‘I am Brahman’, be the very Brahman. This cannot be difficult to practise.

 

Clarifications on Self-Enquiry

Q. ​Hi Tom, when Ramana says in the book  ‘Who am I’ ‘cultivate the constant and deep contemplative ‘remembrance’ (smrti) of the true nature of the Self’ – would this be like repeatedly bringing the attention back to what is here now with the understanding that the Self is all that is?

Tom: Not quite, although that can be part of it. It means to know:

(1) the essence of who you are, experientially, is unchanging and is also unaffected by gross and subtle objects

(2) there is no lasting fulfillment in objects, which are all transient

(3) the essence of you does nothing (the self is not a doer)

(4) it means to lose interest in objects as sources of pleasure, happiness or fulfillment as we bathe in the bliss of simply being (ourselves).

All this is captured by the words sat-chit-ananda, which indicate the nature of the Self.

Turn away from the gross and subtle world-objects.

Not allowing the concept/thought ‘I’ to rise up, wielding the weapon ‘who am I’ to strike down any such thoughts, remain as the Self.

Ramana Maharshi: Silent power

ramana maharshi

Ramana Maharshi rarely left Arunachala for over 50 years and did not seek crowds of people to teach. One time someone asked him:

Question: Why does not Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi] go about and preach the Truth to the people at large?
Ramana Maharshi: How do you know I am not doing it?*

Another time Ramana was asked:

Question: How can silence be so powerful?
Ramana Maharshi: A realised one sends out waves of spiritual influence, which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence. We may listen to lectures upon truth and come away with hardly any grasp of the subject, but to come into contact with a realised one, though he speaks nothing, will give much more grasp of the subject. He never needs to go out among the public. If necessary he can use others as instruments.**

❤️   ❤️

*quote taken from Maharshi’s gospel
**quote taken from Conscious Immortality

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’. Give the first part of the verse which says not to be attentive to anything, this implies that through not being attentive to any particular thing and remaining still, but by remaining aware, that is ‘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 focussed 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 alredy 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 throught 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 ourwardly 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.