Shankara: 4 things you need to do in order to attain spiritual liberation (the 4 Qualifications according to Advaita Vedanta)

There are many ways to liberation, and all true paths join together in the end. In the Advaita Vedanta framework, 4 attributes or qualities are required to be developed before one can sufficiently progress on the path of Jnana or Enquiry.

In Vivekachudamani

In Shankara’s Vivekachudamani he outlines four practices or qualifications (sadhana catustaya)  that are required in order for liberation to successfully occur. First he lists the qualifications, and then he explains each one in turn.

I’ve noticed there are a small but growing number teachers of Vedanta who claim to be traditional teachers but they change the definitions of the qualifications and so alter the meaning of the teachings to suit different ends. These teachers tend to downplay the need for prolongued meditation on the Self, whereas the actual Vedanta texts and true traditional teachers of Vedanta tend to emphasise this.

So, as always, it pays to read the source texts for yourself and learn how the teachings were originally defined if you want to understand the original intentions of the Vedanta teachings. As usual, my comments are in red:

Shankara states there are 4 things that are required to attain liberation. More than that, he states that without these 4 things, liberation will not be attained. So let us learn about these 4 qualifications and how they are defined:

18. Regarding this, sages have spoken of four means of attainment, which alone being present, the devotion to Brahman succeeds, and in the absence of which, it fails.

19. First is enumerated discrimination between the Real and the unreal; next comes aversion to the enjoyment of fruits (of one’s actions) here and hereafter; (next is) the group of six attributes, viz. calmness and the rest; and (last) is clearly the yearning for Liberation.

Traditionally the 4 Qualifications are:
(1) Viveka or discrimination
(2) Vairagya or dispassion
(3) Samadi-satka-sampatti or the six disciplines consisting of Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana in which the mind is progressively withdrawn from the sense objects and focused onto the pure sense of being (‘Sat’ or ‘Pure Brahman’)
(4) Mumuksutva or the yearning for liberation.

Shankara also adds a further qualification – the most important in his view – Bhakti, or devotion, which he defines in verse 31 as seeking or turning away from what is unreal (defined in the next verse) and turning towards one’s True Nature.

20. A firm conviction of the mind to the effect that Brahman is real and the universe unreal, is designated as discrimination (Viveka) between the Real and the unreal.

This is a clear definition of viveka that forms the foundation for the rest of the qualifications. Next Shankara defines vairagya in a very absolute way, which is essentially renunciation of all worldly objects ranging from the everyday to desires to be reborn in the heavenly realm of Brahma (the creator-deity who resides in heaven).

21. Vairagya or renunciation is the desire to give up all transitory enjoyments (ranging) from those of an (animate) body to those of Brahmahood (having already known their defects) from observation, instruction and so forth.

The notion is that because all such worldly or heavenly objects are transient, they will eventually go and therefore not lead to the eternal ever-existing peace of Brahman or Moksha.

In another text called Aparokshanunhuti, Shankara describes Vairagya as follows in verse 4: ‘The indifference with which one treats the excreta of a crow – such an indifference to all objects of enjoyment from the realm of Brahma to this world (in view of their perishable nature), is verily called pure Vairagya.’

Verses 22-25 will outline the 6 disciplines of Shama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana. We can see that the gist of the 6 disciplines is to turn away from objects and the world and turn towards the Self:

22. The resting of the mind steadfastly on its Goal (viz. Brahman) after having detached itself from manifold sense-objects by continually observing their defects, is called Shama or calmness.

In Aparokshanunhuti Shankara  in verse 6 writes: ‘Abandonment of desires at all times is called Shama‘.

23. Turning both kinds of sense-organs away from sense-objects and placing them in their respective centres, is called Dama or self-control. The best Uparati or self- withdrawal consists in the mind-function ceasing to be affected by external objects.

24. The bearing of all afflictions without caring to redress them, being free (at the same time) from anxiety or lament on their score, is called Titiksha or forbearance.

25. Acceptance by firm judgement as true of what the Scriptures and the Guru instruct, is called by sages Shraddha or faith, by means of which the Reality is perceived.

26. Not the mere indulgence of thought (in curiosity) but the constant concentration of the intellect (or the affirming faculty) on the ever-pure Brahman, is what is called Samadhana or self-settledness.

Shama is an initial detachment from sense objects after contemplating how impermanent objects cannot give rise to (permanent) liberation. Dama is about withdrawing the sense organs from sense-objects and also reducing one’s activities in the world (‘both kinds’ refer to the sense organs and organs of action). Uparati is when the mind is no longer affected by objects at all.

We can see that Shama, Dama and Uparati represent a step-wise sequence in practicing different levels of vairagya (dispassion) which culminates in Samadhana, which is defined as constant concentration on Brahman devoid of objects as opposed to mere curiosity towards Brahman. We know that the Brahman spoken of is devoid of objects due to the above definitions of Shama, Dama and Uparati. This is further made clear by the verse quotes in Aporokshanubhuti below in which it is stated that the mind should be made to focus on ‘Sat’ (existence).

Titiksha and Shraddha are aids to this sequential process of introversion, which we could call Bhakti or svasvarupanusandhanam (see verse 31 below).

27. Mumukshutva or yearning for Freedom is the desire to free oneself, by realising one’s true nature, from all bondages from that of egoism to that of the body – bondages superimposed by Ignorance.

Shankara now talks of 3 grades of mumukshutva: low, medium and high. If the desire for liberation is low-to-medium, one is to cultivate vairagya and the 6 disciplines. Then the desire for liberation will increase:

28. Even though torpid or mediocre, this yearning for Freedom, through the grace of the Guru, may bear fruit (being developed) by means of Vairagya (renunciation), Shama (calmness), and so on.

If the desire for liberation is high, then the goal will be attained:

29. In his case, verily, whose renunciation and yearning for Freedom are intense, calmness and the other practices have (really) their meaning and bear fruit.

If the desire for liberation is low, then all this is mere superficiality and liberation will (likely) not result:

30. Where (however) this renunciation and yearning for Freedom are torpid, there calmness and the other practices are as mere appearances, like water in a desert.

Lastly Shankara extolls the magnificence of Bhakti, and defines it as ‘svasvarupanusandhanam’, which can be translated as striving to seek one’s nature or constantly turning towards one’s nature.

31. Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion.

Interestingly Sri Ramana Maharshi was asked about the nature of svasvarupanusandhanam in Talks 642, and he stated that it referred to atma vichara or Self-enquiry itself. In Aparokshanunhuti verse 11 Shankara writes: ‘Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara [ie. enquiry], just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light.


In Aparokshanunhuti

In his text Aparokshanunhuti, Shankara explains the same 4 qualifications (sadhana catustaya) in a more punchy way in verses 4-11:

4. The indifference with which one treats the excreta of a crow – such an indifference to all objects of enjoyment from the realm of Brahma to this world (in view of their  perishable nature), is verily called pure Vairagya.

5. Atman (the seer) in itself is alone permanent, the seen is opposed to it (ie., transient) – such a settled conviction is truly known as discrimination.

6. Abandonment of desires at all times is called Shama and restraint of the external functions of the organs is called Dama.

7. Turning away completely from all sense-objects is the height of Uparati, and patient endurance of all sorrow or pain is known as Titiksha which is conducive to happiness.

8. Implicit faith in the words of the Vedas and the teachers (who interpret them) is known as Shraddha, and concentration of the mind on the only object Sat (i.e. Brahman) is regarded as Samadhana.

9. When and how shall I, O Lord, be free from the bonds of this world (i.e., births and deaths) – such a burning desire is called Mumukshutva.

10. Only that person who is in possession of the said qualifications (as means to Knowledge) should constantly reflect with a view to attaining Knowledge, desiring his own good.

11. Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara, just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light.

Advertisements

The three energies (three Gunas)

There is a school of ‘Hinduism’ called Sankya, which is a yogic school, and it classifies the energies into three basic types. These are known as the three gunas. This teaching was later incorporated into other schools such as vedanta and taught in scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita. Despite its apparent overly simple nature – there are only three energies – this classification can be incredibly useful for the seeker – do not underestimate it!

This classification can be incredibly useful for the seeker – do not underestimate it!

The three energies/gunas are:

1. Tamas (dull/negative)
2. Rajas (passionate/active)
3. Sattva (peaceful/intelligent)

1. If your energy is predominantly tamasic, you will, generally, feel negative, tired, and low. Your motivation and energy levels may be low, you may be lazy and lack direction. You may find it hard to understand things clearly, be confused, and lack clear On the positive side of tamasic energy, you may find it easier to rest, relax and sleep. Tamas is the lowest of the three energies.

2. If your energy is predominantly rajasic, then you will tend to be more active, eg. constantly doing things and achieving things, be much quicker at thinking, but you may perhaps have too many thoughts. (2a) On the positive side of rajasic energy you may achieve many things and do much good in your environment, whatever that may be. You may be dynamic, social, extroverted and a ‘mover and shaker’. (2b) On the negative side of rajasic energy, there can be much anxiety and stress, your mind may become exhausted from-over thinking, and your body may be exhausted too. You may find it difficult to find peace of mind, rest, calm and contentment. Rajas is the second lowest of the three energies.

3. If your energy is predominantly sattvic, then your mind is happy and calm, not low in energy, but not phrenetic like rajas. The mind is calm and clear, and gives rise to seeing things clearly, with less bias. Both tamasic and rajasic energies distort perceptions, which in turn leads to poor judgement and greater suffering, but sattva is pure, clear, harmonious and intelligent. Sattva is the highest of the three energies.

What does this have to do with spiritual practice, you may ask? Well, knowing what energy predominates can help you understand what spiritual practice you need and vastly speed up your spiritual journey. It can also help you understand why different people are attracted to different paths at different times, and accordingly help you be more open and compassionate towards others on their path, as well as be more open and understanding towards other spiritual paths in general.

If you would like to learn more, see this article here.

Ramana Maharshi: ‘The only worthy occupation’

ramana escape the tricks of maya

This post was originally posted here: https://www.facebook.com/tomdas.nd/posts/595152794243523

I have taken the following teaching statements of Sri Ramana Maharshi from the wonderful text Guru Vachaka Kovai. My advice is to stick to Sri Ramana’s teachings to keep your path straight:

🙏❤️🙏

175. The only worthy occupation is to thoroughly absorb the ego by turning Selfward and, without allowing it to rise, to thus abide quietly, like a waveless ocean, in Self-Knowledge, having annihilated the delusive mind-ghost, which had been wandering about unobstructed.

186. O miserable and extroverted people, failing to see the seer, you see only the seen! To dissolve duality by turning inwards instead of outwards is alone Blissful.

187. O mind, it is not wise for you to come out [in the form of thoughts]; it is best to go within. Hide yourself deep within the Heart and escape from the tricks of Maya, who tries to upset you by drawing you outwards.

189. Since it is only the notion of duality that spoils Bliss and causes misery, to avoid yielding to the attractions of that notion and to thus arrest all chitta vrittis is alone worthwhile.

190. O people, not knowing that Shiva is dwelling within you, you fly about like birds from one holy place to another [seeking His Darshan]. Consciousness, when abiding still in the Heart, is the Supreme Shiva.

191. The ship would be destroyed by the storm if its sails were spread outside, but it is safe when its anchor is sunk deep into the sea. Similarly, if the mind were sunk deep in the Heart instead of being spread outside, that would be Jnana.

192. To arrest the mind – which tries to rush outwards – securely within, is the truly heroic act of the ripe aspirant who wants to see the Supreme Lord in the Heart.

193. When the mind [i.e., the ego’s attention] which wanders outside, knowing only other objects [2nd and 3rd persons] – begins to attend to its own nature, all other objects will disappear, and then, by experiencing it’s own true nature [i.e. Self], the pseudo-‘I’ will also die.

204. A peaceful attitude, together with a ‘silent-flow’ of mind towards undeviating abidance in Self, Sat-Chit, is the best worship of Shiva.

205. Saint Markandeya survived death by conquering even Yama, and lived beyond his destined time. Know, therefore, that death can be overcome by worshipping Shiva, the death-killer.

291. If one wants to be saved, one is given the following true and essential advice: just as the tortoise draws all its five limbs within its shell, so one should draw the five senses within and turn one’s mind Selfward. This alone is happiness.

293. Having known for certain that everything which is seen, without the least exception, is merely a dream, and that it [the seen] does not exist without the seer, turn only towards Self – Sat-Chit-Ananda – without attending to the world of names and forms, which is only a mental conception.

294. Attention to one’s own Self, which is ever shining as ‘I’, the one undivided and pure Reality, is the only raft with which the jiva, who is deluded by thinking “I am the body”, can cross the ocean of unending births.

296. Having annihilated the delusive mind which always dwells upon worldly things, having killed the restless ego, and having completely erased the worldly vasanas, shine as Shiva, the pure Consciousness Itself.

297. Do not wander outside, eating the scorching sand of worldly pleasures, which are non-Self; come home to the Heart where Peace is shining as a vast, everlasting, cool shade, and enjoy the feast of the Bliss of Self.

319. One’s merging into the Heart – through the enquiry into the nature of the ego, which is a delusion in the form of mind – is the right worship of the Lotus-Feet of the supreme Mouna-Guru, who is beyond the mind.

❤️ Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya Om ❤️

🙏🙏🙏

Ramana Maharshi: a quick and simple method to self-realisation

ramana umbrella

In the deep sleep state we lay down our ego [ahankara],
our thoughts and our desires.

If we could only do all this while we are conscious,
we would realise the Self.

(excerpted from Conscious Immortality, Chapter 13)

For more on this topic see the following links:

Ramana Maharshi: Conscious Immortality
Ramana Maharshi – limitation is only in the mind
The key to nonduality and yoga

Robert Adams outlining a wonderful path to Self-Realisation

This is a beautiful and instructive post from Robert Adams outlining a wonderful path to Self-Realisation. It was originally put together and posted by someone else on Facebook but I thought is was such a nice post that I’ve blogged it here for the benefit of you all.

The essential points below are:

1. Do not attempt to change whatever is happening.

2. Instead adopt an attitude of love, forgiveness and mercy throughout your daily life

3. Don’t worry too much about the body, mind and world or whatever experiences arise. No need to suppress either, just let things be and occur by themselves as much as you are able to. Allow life to take care of life.

4. When you are filled with love and forgiveness and mercy, perform self-enquiry again and again. This practice is emphasised below with instructions on how to do this.

5. Rest in the resultant Silence and allow yourself to ‘become’ That, watch yourself become more joyful and less concerned about thoughts and the world. Soon you will realise there is only That 

Now read the words from Robert Adams below. Take your time to read it properly as there are some beautiful variations of the teachings which are very potent. I think it’s really worth spending a few days or weeks just reading this, absorbing the message and actually practicing it. But, as always, do what feels right for you.

 

RA.jpg

Robert Adams:

You come under the law of karma […] when you believe you’re not awakened, you’re not free, you’re not liberated when you react to person, place or thing. […] I know there are many people in Advaita Vedanta who tell me, “Well you know Robert karma does not exist. Only the Self exists. Only effortless pure awareness exists. So why are you telling us about karma?” In truth you have to look at yourself and ask yourself, “Have I experienced pure awareness? Have I experienced absolute reality? I can’t afford to put on an act. It will only go against me.” […] So while we’re on the path to liberation we have to be very careful what we do with our lives. Every little thing is karmic. It is only when you awaken, when you are liberated that none of this exists. This is why I tell you so often, “Do not fool yourself.” Look at how many times a day you become angry. You feel cheated, you feel exploited. You feel something is wrong someplace. You feel depressed. You go and do something to cause this condition to stop and whatever you do you’re accruing karma. There is only one way to overcome this. And that is to forget about the world, forget about your body, forget about situations and go deep within yourself inquiring, “To whom does this come? Who is experiencing karma?”

[…]

Karma seems to be real and you’re affected with it all day long. Whatever you do, wherever you go you’re always affected by karma. It is karma that moves your body. It is karma that makes you do things. It is karma that causes situations to come into your life. Do not try to change a condition. Do not intend to change the situation. For you may appear to change it but this is only an appearance. It will come back again in full force. There is only one way to get rid of it and that is to transcend it by forgiveness, mercy and love. And as you practice forgiveness, mercy and love you inquire,

“To whom all this is coming to?

Who is experiencing these things?

Who is going through all these things?”

And again you will discover the I-thought,

“I am. I am going through all of these things. I appear to be going through karma. I appear to be suffering. I appear to want to get even with someone.”

You’re beginning to realize it’s not you. It is the I. Which is only a thought. Just knowing this alone makes you feel good. For you begin to see that you are free. You are bright and shining. You are sat-chit-ananda, nirvana, ultimate oneness.

.

It is the I that appears to have the problems. You separate yourself from the I, by self-inquiry. And then you can go further by inquiring,

“Where did the I come from?”

You never answer that question. By inquiring that is sufficient. And you will find that you’re in the silence, the void. Just by going this far you will feel better than you’ve felt in years. You will feel such joy and such peace. This has nothing to do with enlightenment. But you’re going to feel joy and peace. More so than you ever felt before. Just by inquiring,

“Where does the I come from?”

The reason that you feel such joy and peace is because you begin to realize that you are not the I. You have absolutely nothing to do with the problems of the I. It is the I that feels anger. It is the I that feels pain. It is the I that feels rejection. But you ask yourself,

“What have I got to do with I? I have absolutely nothing to do with the I.”

Therefore again you ask,

“Then where did the I come from? Who gave it birth? What is its source?”

And you keep quiet. A feeling of total love will overpower you. For you’re learning to sit in the silence.

.

That’s the most important point. You want to get to the place where thoughts do not bother you, where things do not annoy you. Where there are no problems and there are no solutions. Where there is no good and there’s no bad. You want to get beyond duality and rest in the silence. Many of you are getting a glimpse of what I’m talking about right now, as you rest in the silence. You’re not thinking about it, you’re not trying to analyze it, you’re not trying to make it happen, you’re just resting in the silence. Perfectly still. All of a sudden thoughts come up again. You start over again. You begin again. You inquire,

“To whom do these thoughts come?

Who is thinking these thoughts?

I am?

If I is thinking these thoughts then it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It appears to me as if everything is attached to the I. All of the emotions, the fears, the frustrations, it’s all attached to the I.”

Again you say,

“Where did the I come from?

What is the source of I?

Who gave it birth?”

You never attempt to answer. You sit in the silence.

.

Some of you are beginning to feel how good it is to sit in the silence right now. The mind is completely empty. The fears are gone. There is nothing left to tell you anything. You are quiet, still. Thoughts pop up again. It makes no difference if they’re good thoughts, bad thoughts or in-between. The whole idea is to empty the mind of all thoughts. You inquire again,

“Who is thinking these thoughts?

I am?

Who am I?

What is the source of I?

Who gave it birth?

Where does this I come from that is giving me all this trouble and keeps thinking and thinking?

And bringing up to me all these morbid thoughts, all sorts of happy thoughts, all sorts of thoughts.

Where did this I come from?

What is its source?”

And again you enter the silence. Where everything is totally still. Where there is no movement. The vasanas have disappeared. There is just perfect stillness. You’re beginning to discover something very interesting. You’re beginning to discover that you´re able to sit in the silence for longer and longer periods without thought. It’s taking longer and longer before a thought comes to you.

.

Yet you are not falling asleep. You’re feeling a peace that you’ve never felt before. You’re beginning to feel an all encompassing love. You begin to experience that the whole universe is an emanation of your own mind. And what you have done is you have pulled the entire universe into your heart, everything! All of the galaxies, the milky ways, the planets, the earth with all of it’s manifestations, everything has vanished. That’s total silence. […] […] When you’re sitting in the silence and the world is still available to you that is not silence. That’s a false silence. The true silence is when the whole world, the whole universe, people, places and things have all disappeared. You have pulled them back into the heart centre. That is the true silence. For there is no longer anything to think about. Everything is gone. There is just the void. The beautiful precious void. And you’re beginning to sit in that void, in that silence for longer and longer periods. When you come out of it the world appears to you again but it’s different. It begins to be different for you. You no longer look at the world in the same way. You no longer see the universe in the same way. You begin to feel everything as an image. You see images on the screen of life. The images keep changing, changing, changing but the screen is always the same. And something begins to tell you that you are that screen. You have always been the screen. Unchanging, absolute pure reality.

.

But you are not free yet. This comes and it goes. Little by little the thoughts come back again. You begin to feel anger again but less than you did before. You begin to have less interest in your body. The things about your body that used to bother you stop bothering you, stop annoying you. People no longer make you angry or frustrated. This happens little by little. And you can’t wait to practice again. When you are by yourself and you’re not disturbed you sit down in your favorite chair and you begin to inquire,

“To whom do these thoughts come?

Why they come to me. I still feel thoughts. Maybe less than I did before but I still feel things,”

you further inquire,

“who is the I that feels these things?

Where did the I come from?

Who gave birth to this feeling I?

What is its source?”

And now you begin to feel that the I is only a thought. It is one of the thoughts that you’ve been thinking about all these years called the I-thought. Yet everything is attached to it and you keep seeing it and thinking about it. But now you’re inquiring,

“To whom does it come?

Who’s feeling it?

What is its source?”

.

And you go back into the silence. Now every time you get into the silence you feel better and better. You feel lighter and lighter. The world again, the universe they’re getting sucked into your heart. The whole universe has gone. All existence has disappeared. Including yourself. There is nothing but the silence.

(long silence)

(…)

Om … shanti, shanti, shanti, peace.

— The above is taken from Robert Adams Collected Works, Talk 136: The True Silence

 

3 stories of awakening: no path vs sudden path vs gradual paths to enlightenment

Here are 3 stories for you:

Story 1

One morning God wakes up. She realises, non-verbally, intuitively, that she is whole-complete and lives happily ever after.

Story 2

One morning God wakes up. God thinks he is small, separate and vulnerable. This leads him to fear for his survival and desire security and relief from his fear (pleasure).

He meets a friend of his called Spiritual Seeker. Spiritual Seeker tells him to visit Guru.

God visits Guru and Guru says all is well, you are already whole and complete. Separation and the ‘small me’ are illusions.

God resonates with this teaching, intuitively sees what is being pointed at is already the present-reality, and the sense of inadequacy associated with the belief in separation dissolves. God realises that the separation between God, Guru and Life are themselves illusory. There is no teacher or teaching.

He lives happily ever after

Story 3

It is the same as story 2, except for the last line:

Once God’s meeting with Guru ends, due to the force of the momentum of past beliefs which have been so deeply ingrained over a lifetime, God quickly starts to re-believe that she is a separate ‘me’.

Every time she meets Guru, the ‘me’ temporarily collapses and great relief is experienced, but after sometime the false beliefs keep on rising up. The belief in the false me seems to have a mind of its own, rising up choicelessly, seemingly wreaking havoc and destruction.

Guru gives God some practices for her to do: chanting, devotion, meditation, being still, letting go, relaxing, mindfulness. Guru says pretend everything is an illusion, pretend everything is consciousness, pretend everything is God, have gratitude for everything that comes your way. Be still. Follow your heart and let your heart guide you Home, to Love and Peace.

Over time God’s mind becomes peaceful, happier and less interested in and addicted to thoughts and beliefs. The habitual tendency to believe in a ‘me’ is lessened.

Guru has also all the time has been saying all is well, you are already whole and complete. Separation and the ‘small me’ are illusions.

Now when God is away from Guru, the old beliefs in ‘me’ no longer arise. God sees that all practices are for the illusory ‘me’ and they perpetuate the illusory ‘me’, but they were still part of her apparent journey.

The sense of inadequacy associated with the belief in separation dissolves. God realises that the separation between God, Guru and Life are themselves illusory. There is no teacher or teaching.

She lives happily ever after.

Q. What is the best spiritual practice for a busy mind?

Q. What is the best spiritual practice for a busy mind?

Tom: I don’t know exactly which practice is right for you. That is for you to find out.

What do you feel drawn to?

As we have already spoken about this before, the main thing for you is that you try something for a significant amount of time to see if it has a beneficial effect before dismissing it.

For an especially busy mind I would recommend trying physical exercise, singing, dancing, chanting a mantra, praying and devotion to God/something.

Also stay away from TV/media and adopt a diet that is as plant-based as possible.

These are all suggestions, not directives.

This allows the mind’s positive and negative energies to balance and for peace to arise, which in turn facilitates stillness and deep insight.

Was Ramana Maharshi’s self-realistion final and complete when he was a teenager?

I recently got into an online conversation with someone about whether or not Ramana’s realisation when he was 16 years old (often written as being in his 17th year) was final, or if his realisation evolved and matured in the subsequent years in which he spent much time in silence.

I think I read an article, I think by David Godman, some years ago on this which from memory stated that Ramana was insistent that his realisation was final and complete when he was a boy, and that unusually no sadhana (spiritual practice) was required for him. I’ve tried to find the article and I think this is it:

http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/more-on-bhagavans-death-experience.html

Below are some quotes from it and the link to the article. I want to add that while I quite enjoy learning more about Bhagavan Ramana, in a way all of this discussion can be a detour from the essence of the teaching, so apologies if this kind of minutiae is not that interesting to you. Now, with that said, here are some quotes from the above mentioned article:

‘In answer to a question once put by D. S. Sarma, Bhagavan definitely said that in his case, there was no special sadhana, at any rate in this life, leading to Self-realisation, but that in his 17th year, while he was still a student at Madurai, enlightenment, jnana, came to him, suddenly, in the course of a few minutes, not as a result of laboured ratiocination but as a sudden flash of intuition, and that that jnana has remained with him ever since.’
(My Recollections, p. 135, by Devaraja Mudaliar)

Here Ramana says his vasanas (likes and dislikes) were removed as a teenager (removal of the vasanas implies a full enlightenment):

‘When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realised that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards, having neither likes nor dislikes.’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 22nd November 1945)

From David Godman, who states his sadhana was over in that single ‘death experience’ when he was 16 years old:

‘When he [Ramana] went to Arunachala, it was not because he was spiritually incomplete in any way. His sadhana was over at the end of the death-experience.’

Some further quotes from Ramana Maharshi:

‘In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realised that it was that awareness that we call “I”, and not the body. This Self-awareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous. Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realised on that very day so clearly that that was “I”.’

(Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 22nd November, 1945)

‘They say I gained realisation in twenty-eight minutes, or half an hour. How can they say that? It took just a moment. But why even a moment? Where is the question of time at all?’ I then asked Bhagavan if there was ever any change in his realisation after his experience in Madurai. He said ‘No. If there is a change, it is not realisation.’

As recorded by Balaram Reddy in My Reminiscences. p. 75

Is there anything you can do to become enlightened?

meditation moon prayer

Q. Hi Tom. Thanks for your blogs posts. Ever since I stumbled across your site I’ve been trawling through your writings and videos and found them to be quite insightful. I wanted to ask if you think there is anything you can do to become enlightened? I’ve heard it said that there is nothing you can do, it either happens or it doesn’t, but that feels kinda hopeless to me. I know hope is not the arbiter of truth but I’d like to know what you think.

Tom: Hi _____. It’s a tough one to answer as depending on how you look at it, you could either say there is nothing you can do, because there is no ‘I’, and whatever happens will happen, which is true. Similarly all seeking implies the existence of ignorance, and all paths are for the ego and so can serve to reinforce the sense of ‘I’ or ‘me’.

But you can also talk on the level of the apparent seeker and give teachings that apparently help the apparent seeker realise that there is no separate seeker at all. The essence of these teachings is to relax, still thoughts and look, and then it can be more easily seen that the ‘me’ is an illusion, and that it always was an illusion, and then it is obvious that all paths are also a part of this grand illusion too, although they seemed apparently useful at the time.

Even when this is seen, the habitual force of ignorance can be so strong that it keeps on reasserting its hold and so a post-realisation practice or sadhana can be practiced, either formally, or often it naturally happens by itself over time.

So in summary I tend to do both, sometimes radically pointing out there is no ‘separate me’, other times meeting the apparent seeker where they are, depending on whom I’m taking to and where they are at with respect to the teachings. This tends not to be something I deliberate much over, but it’s just how the interaction tends to manifest itself when I am talking with someone seeking.

Here’s a more straightforward response I gave someone else to this question:

https://tomdas.com/2018/01/15/is-there-anything-i-can-do-to-become-enlightened/