How to know God. How to see God.

ramana-maharshi.asr_12.crop

See also: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Here a seeker asks Sri Ramana Maharshi how to find or ‘see’ God. When Ramana gives his answer, the seeker objects with a very common objection, let us see. The following dialogue has been recorded in the book Conscious Immortality, page 125:

Questioner: How is God to be seen?
Ramana Maharshi: Within. If the mind is turned inwards, God manifests as the inner consciousness.
Questioner: But isn’t God in all the objects we see around us?
Ramana Maharshi: God is in everything and in the seer. Where can God be seen? He cannot be found outside. He should be felt within. To see the objects, mind is necessary, and to conceive God in them is only a mental operation. But that is not real. The consciousness within, purged of the mind, is felt as God.

We can see that Ramana states that to find God, or see God, one must turn within, away from objects and abide as the Consciousness within devoid of objects. The seeker responds with a philosophical argument that seems to make sense to the mind. The seeker’s reasoning is as follows: but if God is everywhere and everything, why must I turn within to find Him?

The problem is that while this seem philosophically correct and so makes sense (to the ego-mind!), it doesn’t work. Ramana Maharshi’s teaching is a practical guide. It actually works!

What we see around us is also God, yes, but it is God as Maya, and is therefore unreal and gives rise only to suffering and confusion. Maya/the world may make us feel we are making progress by giving us superficial temporary realisations and insights together with philosophical platitudes, but this is simply ‘Maya’s way’ of ensnaring us and perpetuating the ego and suffering.

It is only when we turn within and attend to what is Real, namely our own very Self, that we then Abide as the Self and the above is seen for oneself and the Vedanta teachings are transformed from mere concepts to firsthand Reality, and suffering finally comes to an end.

How can we know this is the only way? Try other teachings if you want! You will eventually see they don’t work – despite all the concepts, practices and words your suffering will continue! All other teachings are based upon objects, Maya (ie. they are based upon thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, mind, world, etc): they are therefore based upon that which is transient and temporary and so do not serve to be a good foundation for firm Happiness.

Until you turn within, suffering will continue! So turn within, abide as the Self! It is what you truly are, it is the only constant!

See also:

IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

and

The Path of Sri Ramana

Q. Doesn’t the notion of ‘turning within’ to find yourself create an artificial duality? All is already one! | Self-Enquiry | Atma Vichara

funny face perfect person

Q. Don’t these traditional Vedanta teachings create an artificial duality where there actually is none? Why turn away from the world towards an apparent ‘True Self’? Why create this duality in the first place? All is already one!

Tom: For most, the ego-mind keeps on habitually coming back, causing suffering and perpetuating the illusion of duality until one finally turns to Self-Enquiry and Abides as the Self. You can say ‘all is one’, or ‘this is it already’, or ‘there is no duality’, but usually it is just the ego-mind saying that (ie. it is only on the level of concepts and belief) and so suffering and the illusion of duality continue. The infinite-love-bliss of the Self is not ‘experienced’ or ‘known’.

How to remove the illusion of separation, so it, and the resultant suffering never returns? The only way I know is to abide as the pure consciousness within. This is the teaching of the Vedanta scriptures and of all effective and true spiritual teachings that I have come across.

For most, unless this is done, suffering and peace alternate, which is itself suffering.

The purpose of Satsang/teachers/teachings is only for you to turn within and Be what You already Are. Other than that, no teacher or teaching is required.

‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’

Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 219

 

 

Q. Isn’t it unhealthy and inhumane to turn away from the world? This kind of denial hasn’t worked for me. Integration is working.

lying buddha

Q. Isn’t it unhealthy and inhumane to turn away from the world and turn within? No disrespect, but denial of the world did not work for me – integration is working. Who said God loved loved us any less for embracing neurosis? God loves us maybe even more.

Tom: I know what you mean, especially with such strong language like ‘vile ways’*. It can seem inhumane and even unhealthy to deny what we consider to be an aspect of ourself. The purpose of this teaching is liberation from suffering, and this turning within is the only way I know of to attain that aim. It is also the traditional way that has been taught in various cultures for millennia – in my view, the reason this simple but radical teaching has stuck around for so long is because it works, and it is the only one that works (it goes by different names in different traditions).

The strong language is only to encourage you to turn within. There are many other aspects of life, and integration as you put it can be wonderfully healing and positive, and that is good of course, but my experience is that positive and healing as it is, it is not ultimately liberating – that is, it improves the prison but does not free one from suffering in its totality. For that Self-Enquiry or Abiding as the Self is required, and that means to turn within to find the divine within. We do not need to suppress neurosis – that is unhealthy – but just allow it and all things to be, but turn our attention away from them and all other objects towards our self – then we discover the Kingdom of Heaven within – only then can we truly say that all is one, and it not be a belief or concept in the ego-mind. Only then does suffering end.

*A version of this question was originally asked after I posted the following verses on Facebook; they are teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi taken from the wonderful text Guru Vachaka Kovai:

75. Only mad folk perplexed because
They deem the false world to be real
Find joy in this illusion.
The truly wise find joy in nothing
But Awareness which is Being.

76. Those well established in the Self,
True Being, will never pursue the world’s
Vile ways. For such descent into
The false allurements of the world
Is yielding to the animal weakness
For sense-pleasure.

77. What does one gain, you well may ask,
By giving up the wealth immense
Of worldly pleasure and seeking only
Mere Awareness?
The benefit of true Awareness
Is the unbroken prevalence
Of peace within the heart, the bliss
Of one’s own natural being.

Turn Within? Really? Isn’t this dualistic and doesn’t this just strengthen the ego? | Self-Enquiry | Atma Vichara | Awareness Watching Awareness

om1

The symbol Om represents the Self, the eternal Truth Within

Also see: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Some people, when they hear of the true teachings of Self-Enquiry, they attend to it straight away and realise the Self, the eternal happiness and bliss that is devoid of misery and suffering, the Kingdom of Heaven that is found within.

Others spend time roaming and suffering in the arid desert of other ways (or ‘non-ways’) and teachings first, teachings that pertain to gross and subtle objects (ie body, mind and world, thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, etc). Only later do they realise that despite all their knowledge and insights and experiences, despite their proclamations of oneness, etc, their suffering still continues, and maybe they then find the motivation to try something else and turn within.

OBJECTION: WHY TURN WITHIN? ISN’T THAT DUALISTIC?

Q .But if all is one or non-dual, why turn within at all? Is this not creating an artificial duality between the inner and the outer, and do not all practices strengthen the ego?

A. Because only then is suffering removed and the bliss of the self realised. Without this practice of turning within, suffering continues. See this for yourself in your own experience – has your suffering ended? If not, turn within and abide as the Self. Suffering is the hallmark of ego/ignorance.

WHY IS THIS THE CASE?

Q.Why is it so?

A. Because without this specific practice, objects are continually attended to, and this nurtures the notion ‘I am a body-mind entity living in a world’. Or rather it doesn’t attack or destroy this ignorance, which is deep rooted, habitual and strong (seemingly). The habitual ignorance ‘I am the separate body-mind entity’ continues to intermittently rise and cause suffering. Out of habit, ignorance continues, and with it suffering too.

‘The ego-thief pretends to be the policeman who catches the thief’.

Without this practice of attending to the Self or pure consciousness within, ignorance and suffering both continue, in spite of superficial proclamations such as ‘all is one’ or ‘nothing needs to change’. Similarly, other practices which involve attending to gross or subtle objects also do not sever this ignorance, although they may weaken it (or strengthen it).

OBJECTION: DOES THIS PRACTICE NOT STRENGTHEN THE EGO?

A. This is the only practice that does not strengthen the ego. All practices, except Self-Enquiry or Self-Attention, need the identity ‘I am the body-mind’, ie. the ego, to practice them. In Self-Enquiry it is not accepted that you are the body-mind from the outset.

The mind, when attending to gross and subtle objects, is called the mind. When this same mind attends to the Subject, itself, it is no longer the mind but is simply Consciousness or Awareness Being Consciousness or Awareness, ie. Self Being Self. (Ramana Maharshi states In Day by Day with Bhagavan: ‘The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world’. The traditional Advaita text Yoga Vasishta states: ‘Consciousness, which is undivided, imagines to itself desirable objects and runs after them. It is then known as the mind.’ )

This practice, unlike all others, is not a doing (ie. not an act by the body-mind entity), but BEING SELF.

It is only through BEING SELF and not through attending to various gross and subtle objects that the egoic vasanas/ignorance can be rooted out and suffering ended at its source. See for yourself how suffering continues otherwise, how without this practice the ego continues itself.

A TRUE TEACHING

This is why Sri Ramana Maharshi taught this teaching. This is why Shankara taught this teaching. This is why Buddha taught this teaching. This is why Krishna and Vasishta taught this teaching. This is why Shiva taught this teaching. Why else has this teaching been taught for millennia?

Hence this is the true teaching of Vedanta that has been handed down, generation to generation, for millennia, and it is the true teaching of all genuine and effective spiritual paths.

My gratitude to Sri Ramana Maharshi for revitalising this ancient teaching, purifying it of all dross and superstition and making it easily accessible for all.

DO NOT ALLOW THOUGHT/THE EGO TO PHILOSOPHISE THIS TEACHING AWAY

Discover this yourself, not with intellectualising or philosophising, but by trying and seeing for yourself. Do not reject this teaching saying – ‘all is already one’, or ‘what is needed to be yourself?’ or ‘This is It, already – what practice is required and for who?’. This is the ego’s way of avoiding its own destruction. You will know this is the case as suffering is the sign of the ego. Are you still suffering? If so, attend to the Self, the pure consciousness, the subject, within. If you do not, suffering will continue until you do.

Sri Ramana Maharshi states:

‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’ (Talks 219)

JUST A LITTLE PRACTICE MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Whilst practice gradually increases over time an infiltrates into your entire being and all of the three states (waking, dreaming, deep sleep), even a small amount of practice, even when NOT performed with great skill, leads to immense reduction in suffering and egotism. What may take years through mental philosophising is cut through quickly with devoted practice. This will build your faith in the teachings and take you home.

So start small and allow the momentum to gradually build, like a snowflake becoming an avalanche.

THE METHOD

Also see: IN BRIEF: HOW TO ATTAIN LIBERATION (MOKSHA)

Another quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi, this time from the Sri Ramana Gita, a small text that outlines the entire teaching of Ramana in concise form:

Q. What in brief is the means to know one’s own real nature? What is the effort that can bring about the sublime inner vision?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective [ie. subjective] enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone bring about the sublime inner vision.

Sri Ramana Gita, Chapter 3, verses 4-6

Here are some other quotes for you:

Nisargadatta focus on your Self

Shankara meditates on that which never changes

Vasistha the supreme meditation

🕉Om Guru Ramana 🕉

🙏🙏🙏

Ramana Maharshi: Know the Knower

Ramana younger face

It is widely accepted that the text Guru Vachaka Kovai presents the most precise, systematic and authoritative exposition of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings; following my previous post, here are some more verses for you:

Download Guru Vachaka Kovai as a PDF file here

132.
Why do people call me learned?
What is the mark of real learning?
Learning that all garnered knowledge
Of things is empty ignorance
And that true knowledge is the search
For the Knower.

133.
He, who by questing inward for
The Knower, has destroyed the ego
And transcended so-called knowledge,
Abides as the Self. He alone
Is a true knower, not one who has
Not seen the Self and therefore has
An ego still.

134.
Those who, learning to forget
Completely all objective knowledge,
Turn inward firmly and see clearly
The Truth, abide serene. Those who
Try to recall forgotten things
Pine bewildered, fretting over
False phenomena.

Self-Enquiry (Vichara Sangraham) by Sri Ramana Maharshi – Ramana’s first spiritual writing

Sri Ramana Maharshi 1902
 The earliest known photo of  Sri Ramana Maharshi, taken in 1902 on Arunachala when he was 22 years old

To download the full text of Self Enquiry by Sri Ramana Maharshi in PDF format click here

The following is the introduction to the text as found in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi published by Sri Ramanasramam:

Self-enquiry is the first work the Maharshi ever wrote. It was written about 1901, that is, when he was a young man of about twenty-two. He was already a Jnani (Sage) in perfect realization of the Self, in the resplendent bliss of Divine Knowledge. At that time he was living in Virupaksha Cave on the hill of Arunachala. A number of disciples had already gathered round him. Although he had not actually taken a vow of silence, he seldom spoke, and so wrote his replies to certain questions put to him by Gambhiram Seshayya, one of the earliest devotees. The latter copied them in his diary. After his death this diary was obtained from his brother. The questions and answers were edited by Natanananda and published with Bhagavan’s approval under the name of Vichara Sangraham, or Self-Enquiry. Subsequently they were changed into the form of an essay. The original form has been adopted in the present work.

There is no youthfulness or immaturity in the work. The Master wrote with the authority of full spiritual knowledge, just as in his later years. Like all his expositions, verbal as well as written, this is concerned with practical questions of the path to realization of the Self, never with barren theory. However, it does differ from later expositions in one important respect: that is, that it describes not only the path of Self- enquiry but others also; meditation on one’s identity with the Self and a yogic path based on breath-control. He himself prescribed only Self-enquiry or submission to the Guru. He would say: “There are two ways: ask yourself `Who am I?’ or submit.”

Why did he include the mention of less direct and more elaborate methods in this first exposition? The obvious contingent reason is that the disciple for whom it was written had been reading books about these various methods and asked questions about them. Perhaps also, in a wider sense, it is appropriate that there should first be a general exposition of various methods before the lifelong instruction in that which he prescribed. Certainly the other methods, although described, are scarcely recommended.

The breath control that is described is, of course, not mere physical exercise. It is the spiritual significance of the exercise that makes it an elaborate science. `Science’ is indeed the right word for it, for it is a traditional Indian science of self- purification. This makes it abstruse for the Western reader who has no previous grounding in it, especially as, like all sciences, it has its technical vocabulary which does not permit adequate translation without lengthy notes. One has to remember that in writing this exposition the Maharshi knew that he could count on a technical knowledge of the science in question in the person for whom he wrote. The consolation for Western readers is to remember that he neither recommended nor prescribed this path and in his later works scarcely mentioned it. It is not necessary for them to learn its technicalities.

To download the full text of Self Enquiry by Sri Ramana Maharshi in PDF format click here

 

 

Ramana Maharshi: Encouragement for Self-Enquiry

ramana maharshi

The following are teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi taken from the text Guru Vachaka Kovai, a text which is widely considered to be the most precise, systematic and authoritative collection of Sri Ramana’s spoken teachings.

I have arranged them in an order with the aim of encouraging Self-Enquiry.

I hope these verses are of help to you,

best wishes

Tom

755.

If without wasting time one starts
And keeps up steady self-enquiry,
One’s life becomes at once ennobled,
One is no more this wretched body,
And there wells up within one’s heart
A sea of bliss supreme.

644.

Those who do not keenly seek
And recognise the Being Awareness
Shining incessant in the heart
Sink deep into delusive maya,
Thanks to the denotative knowledge
Piled up by the mounting ego.

393.

One who has wisely chosen the straight path
Of self-enquiry can never go astray;
For like the bright, clear Sun, the Self
Reveals itself direct to whoso
Turns towards it.

77.

What does one gain, you well may ask,
By giving up the wealth immense
Of worldly pleasure and seeking only
Mere Awareness?
The benefit of true Awareness
Is the unbroken prevalence
Of peace within the heart, the bliss
Of one’s own natural being.

71.

How piteous is the spectacle
Of people wandering in the world’s ways
Aimless, frisky like a goat’s beard
And chafing at the discipline
That leads to permanent freedom.

756.

Barring fruitful self-enquiry
There is, for real mind-control,
No other sadhana whatsoever.
The mind may seem to be controlled
By other methods. But after a while
It will spring up again.

692.

Since it was one’s own past effort
That now has ripened into Fate,
One can with greater present effort
Change one’s Fate.

1186.

Uninterrupted and whole-minded
Concentration on the Self,
Our true, non-dual Being, this
Is mouna, pure, supreme, the goal;
Not at all the lazy mind’s
Inertia which is but a state
Of dark illusion.

186.

Poor seer, who suffers endlessly
Because you still perceive the object,
Not the subject, please look inward,
Not without, and taste the bliss
Of non-duality

878.

The Self alone is the true Eye.
Only of the Self one has
Direct immediate knowledge.
But minds averted from the Self
Look through the senses at a world
Other than the Self and think it can
Be known directly.

190.

You pilgrims, who without discovering
What is within, proceed from place
To place, ever hovering bird-like,
Know Siva supreme is but Awareness,
Absolutely still, abiding
Centred in the Heart.

529.

The jiva’s thirst will vanish only
When the vasanas of the frenzied mind
Die and direct experience comes
Of Pure Awareness.
If mirage water could quench thirst
Then only would knowledge indirect
Satisfy the jiva’s longing.

921.

None can confront and overcome
The mind. Ignore it, then, as something
False, unreal. Know the Self
As the real ground and stand firm-rooted
In it. Then the mind’s movements will
Gradually subside.

694.

Even in this worldly life one’s labours bear
No fruit without abundant faith.
Hence till one merges in the bliss
Supreme and boundless, one’s strong zeal
In sadhana should never slacken.

695.

However great one’s former sins, if one
Repines not, sighing “A sinner am I”
But plunges straight into one’s own Being,
One reaches quick the ocean of bliss
And sports in it.

192.

For the man of dharma seeking
Experience of the state supreme,
The heroic action needed is
To draw in the outward-darting mind
And fix it firmly in the Heart.

193.

If the mind, turned outward and distracted,
Starts observing its own being,
Alienation ends, the vestige ego
Merges in the light of true
Awareness shining in the Heart.

697.

They say that Fate can never bind
Those heaven-bound. What does this mean?
Not an iota of the past can touch
Those who dwell unceasingly
In the firmament of Self-Awareness,
Vast, boundless, frontierless and full.

1059.

The Self, the home of blissful Awareness,
Is an ocean vast of peace serene.
And he whose mind turns inward and dives
Deep within it, gains the infinite treasure
Of its grace.

1062.

The ever-present Self, the radiant
Gem, this is the rarest, richest
Treasure. Look within and find
And hold it fast. Your penury,
The grand illusion, source of every
Trouble on earth, will vanish forthwith.

343.

Those who, diving deep within,
Have found the Self have nothing else
To know. And why? Because they have gone
Themselves beyond all forms and are
Awareness without form.

763.

Only a mind one-pointed, inward turned,
Succeeds in self-enquiry. Weak,
Faltering minds, like green banana trees,
Are not fit fuel to feed this fire.

531.

From questing inward in the heart
Comes knowledge which destroys
All false illusions. Searching books
For pure, clear wisdom is like trying
To cook and eat the picture of a gourd.

532.

Can hunger be appeased by eating
Food cooked over a painted flame?
The end of pain, the bliss of peace,
Results from egoless awareness,
And not at all from verbal wisdom.

533.

Never through argument, but only
By abiding in the heart as pure
Awareness, which lights up and shines
Within the mind, can one enjoy
The thrill, the throb, the bliss supreme
Of being the Self.

612.

Undeluded by whatever else
May come and go, unwinking watch
The Self, because the little fault
Of forgetting for one moment one’s true Being
As Pure Awareness brings tremendous loss.

750.

What we incessantly think of,
That we become. Hence, if we
Keenly seek the Self and think
Of nothing else, the malady
Of birth will cease and all thoughts end.

1029.

Bliss is the very nature of the Self.
Self is the infinitude of Bliss.
All Being is but Bliss.
Knowing this firmly, in the Self
Abide enjoying Bliss forever.

You should not go into Laya (trance)! Annamalai Swami | Ramana Maharshi

Here are some very important teachings from Annamalai Swami regarding some dangers of meditation and entering into laya, a trance-like state:

annamalai swami final talks

A foreign woman came to see Annamalai Swami. While she was prostrating to him she seemed to become unconscious of her surroundings and she remained lying on the floor at his feet for about ten minutes. This was not the first time that she had fallen into this state while in Annamalai Swami’s presence. After watching her for some time, he shouted at her:

Annamalai Swami: You should not go into laya [a trance-like state] like this! It is becoming a habit with you. It may give you some kind of temporary happiness, but it is not a happiness that helps you spiritually. It is the same as sleep. Even worldly activities are better than this laya. Get out of this habit!

[Addressing the other people present]

People occasionally went into states like this in front of Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi]. He never encouraged them, even the ones who appeared to be in deep meditation. I remember one occasion when Bhagavan noticed a man who had been sitting motionless in the hall for at least an hour, apparently in a deep meditation. Bhagavan was not fooled. He called to Kunju Swami and others who were present, ‘Shout at him, shake him, and when he wakes up, take him on giri pradakshina This is no better than sleep. This state is not good for him. He is just wasting his time sitting like this.’

Bhagavan warned us about this state, and he often cited stories of sadhus who had been stuck in this state for years. One of the most frequently told was a story about a sadhu who asked his disciple for a glass of water. While he was waiting for the man to return, he went into a deep laya state that persisted for many, many years. He was in this state so long, his disciple died, the river changed its course, and different rulers came and went. When he opened his eyes, his first comment was, ‘Where is my glass of water?’ Before he went into laya, this thought was uppermost in his mind, and decades later, this thought was still there.

Bhagavan’s comment on this story was, ‘These states are not helpful. They are not samadhi.’

[The woman who had been in laya then asked the next question:]

Question: Whenever I start meditating, soon after I start, I fall into these states. How can I prevent these laya states from coming and taking me over?

Annamalai Swami: Keep practising self-enquiry. This is the way to avoid laya. The mind usually has two habits; either it is occupied with many thoughts and engaged in activities, or it goes back to sleep. But for some people, there is this third option, falling into this laya state. You should not indulge in it because once it becomes a habit, it becomes addictive.

[Tom – note the habitual nature of going into laya which becomes familiar to the mind and so becomes a familiar state of consciousness:]

It is a pleasant state be in, but if you fall very deeply into it, it becomes very hard to get out of it. You know what this state is like because you have been in it many times. As soon as you feel the first symptoms of an approaching trance, get up and walk around. Don’t remain sitting or lying. Walk around or do some work, and above all, keep up the practice of self-enquiry.

If you practise self-enquiry constantly, you will never find yourself falling into laya. You can conquer this habit. You just need to be attentive and to do self-enquiry. 

[Tom – we see the same teachings in traditional Advaita texts too, eg. in Gaudapada’s commentary on the Mundakya Upanishad – see verse 3.44.]


Here Annamalai Swami gives a similar teaching, this time from the book Living by the Words of Bhagavan, page 345:

Questioner: It is clear that vasanas are not destroyed during sleep. Are they destroyed by nirvikalpa samadhi, or does this state have no effect on them?

Annamalai Swami: Bhagavan taught that we should aim for sahaja samadhi, not nirvikalpa samadhi. He said that it was not necessary to experience nirvikalpa samadhi prior to enjoying sahaja samadhi.

One form of nirvikalpa samadhi is like laya, like deep sleep. There is peace while the samadhi persists, but when the experience is over the mind rises and the vasanas become just as active as before.

Laya [temporary suspension of all mental faculties in a trance-like state] is virtually the same as sleep. Experiencing this state is not helpful to your sadhana. Laya is not meditation, it is unconsciousness; it is tamo-guna in a very strong form. Meditation needs an awake mind, not an unconscious one.

Sleep and laya increase the identification with the mind. You may feel a little peace during laya, but when you wake up from this state the mind becomes very active again and the peace is all lost.

In Ramana Maharshi’s own words: How to do Self Enquiry | Self Enquiry in daily life| Atma Vichara |

I have taken and arranged the following quotes from Ramana Maharshi’s two works Who Am I? (Nan Yar?) and Self Enquiry (Vichara Sangraham) with a focus on Self Enquiry and how to actually put the method into practice.

In order to do this, we will also look at some of the underpinning theory and also some practical points as to how this can be put into practice in daily life. Bold type and headings have been added by myself

Best wishes

Tom

42-reclining-on-the-sofa-h-563x400

Enquiry is the way

Ramana Maharshi: As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one’s self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one’s nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one’s self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form ‘Who am I?’, is the principal means.

Disciple: Master! What is the means to gain the state of eternal bliss, ever devoid of misery?

Ramana Maharshi: Apart from the statement in the Veda that wherever there is body there is misery, this is also the direct experience of all people; therefore, one should enquire into one’s true nature which is ever bodiless, and one should remain as such. This is the means to gaining that state.

Disciple: What is meant by saying that one should enquire into one’s true nature and understand it?

Ramana Maharshi: Experiences such as “I went; I came; I was; I did” come naturally to everyone. From these experiences, does it not appear that the consciousness ‘I’ is the subject of those various acts? Enquiry into the true nature of that consciousness, and remaining as oneself is the way to understand, through enquiry, one’s true nature

How to perform Self-Enquiry – The Theory

Disciple: How is one to enquire: ‘Who am I?’

Ramana Maharshi: Actions such as ‘going’ and ‘coming’ belong only to the body. And so, when one says “I went, I came”, it amounts to saying that the body is ‘I’.

But, can the body be said to be the consciousness ‘I’, since the body was not before it was born, is made up of the five elements, is non-existent in the state of deep sleep, and becomes a corpse when dead? Can this body which is inert like a log of wood be said to shine as ‘I-I’? Therefore, the ‘I’ consciousness which at first arises in respect of the body is referred to variously as self-conceit (tarbodham), egoity (ahankara), nescience (avidya), maya, impurity (mala), and individual soul (jiva) .

Can we remain without enquiring into this? Is it not for our redemption through enquiry that all the scriptures declare that the destruction of ‘self-conceit’ is release (mukti)?

Disciple. Who am I ?

Ramana Maharshi: The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz. the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz. sound, touch, colour, taste, and odour, I am not; the five cognitive senseorgans, viz. the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functioning’s, I am not.

Disciple. If I am none of these, then who am I?

Ramana Maharshi: After negating all of the above-mentioned as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, that Awareness which alone remains – that I am

Disciple: What is the nature of the Self?

Ramana Maharshi: What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it. like silver in mother-of-pearl, these three appear at the same time, and disappear at the same time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no ‘I’ thought. That is called ‘Silence’ The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is ‘I’; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.

Disciple: Is it not possible for God and the Guru to effect the release of a soul?

Ramana Maharshi: God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of release.

Disciple: Is it any use reading books for those who long for release?

Ramana Maharshi: 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.

In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within oneself what one’s Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one’s Self with one’s own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.

How to perform Self-Enquiry – The Method

Therefore, making the corpse-body remain as a corpse, and not even uttering the word ‘I’, one should enquire keenly thus: ‘Now, what is it that rises as ‘I’’. Then, there would shine in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of the form ‘I’ ‘I’. That is, there would shine of its own accord the pure consciousness which is unlimited and one, the limited and the many thoughts having disappeared. If one remains quiescent without abandoning that (experience), the egoity, the individual sense, of the form ‘I am the body’ will be totally destroyed, and at the end the final thought, viz. the ‘I’-form also will be quenched like the fire that burns camphor [ie. without leaving any sediment]. The great sages and scriptures declare that this alone is release.

Disciple: How will the mind become quiescent?

Ramana Maharshi: By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.

Disciple What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought ‘Who am I?’

Ramana Maharshi: When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, ‘To whom has this thought arisen?’. The answer that would emerge would be ‘To me’. Thereupon if one inquires ‘Who am I?’, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent.

With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source.

When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense-organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called ‘inwardness’ (antarmukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as ‘externalisation’ (bahir-mukha).

Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine.

Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity ‘I’. If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).

Even if one thinks constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be led to that place.

The mind should not be allowed to wander towards worldly objects and what concerns other people.

The world should be considered like a dream.

Disciple: How long should inquiry be practised?

Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry ‘Who am I?’ is required.

As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry.

If one resorts to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self is gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.

But thoughts still arise…

Disciple: When one enquires into the root of ‘self conceit’ which is of the form ‘I’, all sorts of different thoughts without number seem to rise; and not any separate ‘I’ thought.

Ramana Maharshi: …Whatever thoughts arise as obstacles to one’s sadhana (spiritual discipline) – the mind should not be allowed to go in their direction, but should be made to rest in one’s self which is the Atman; one should remain as witness to whatever happens, adopting the attitude ‘Let whatever strange things happen, happen; let us see!’ This should be one’s practice. In other words, one should not identify oneself with appearances; one should never relinquish one’s self.

This is the proper means for destruction of the mind (manonasa) which is of the nature of seeing the body as self, and which is the cause of all the aforesaid obstacles.

This method which easily destroys egoity deserves to be called devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana), concentration (yoga), and knowledge (jnana).

Disciple: The residual impressions (thoughts) of objects appear wending like the waves of an ocean. When will all of them get destroyed?

Ramana Maharshi: As the meditation on the Self rises higher and higher, the thoughts will get destroyed.

Disciple: Is it possible for the residual impressions of objects that come from beginningless time, as it were, to be resolved, and for one to remain as the pure Self?

Ramana Maharshi: Without yielding to the doubt “Is it possible, or not?”, one should persistently hold on to the meditation on the Self. Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep “O! I am a sinner, how can I be saved?”; one should completely renounce the thought “I am a sinner”; and concentrate keenly on meditation on the Self; then, one would surely succeed.

Disciple: Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?

Ramana Maharshi: Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains controlled, and when the breath resumes the mind also will again start moving and will wander as impelled by residual impressions.

Can we do enquiry in daily life in the world?

Disciple: Is the aforesaid Self-experience possible, even in the state of empirical existence, for the mind which has to perform functions in accordance with its prarabdha (the past karma which has begun to fructify)?

Ramana Maharshi: A Brahmin may play various parts in a drama; yet the thought that he is a Brahmin does not leave his mind. Similarly, when one is engaged in various empirical acts there should be the firm conviction “I am the Self”, without allowing the false idea “I am the body, etc.” to rise.

If the mind should stray away from its state, then immediately one should enquire, “Oh! Oh! We are not the body etc.! Who are we?” and thus one should reinstate the mind in that (pure) state. The enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is the principal means to the removal of all misery and the attainment of the supreme bliss. When in this manner the mind becomes quiescent in its own state, Self-experience arises of its own accord, without any hindrance. Thereafter sensory pleasures and pains will not affect the mind. All (phenomena) will appear then, without attachment, like a dream. Never forgetting one’s plenary Self-experience is real bhakti (devotion), yoga (mind-control), jnana (knowledge) and all other austerities. Thus say the sages.

Disciple: When there is activity in regard to works, we are neither the agents of those works nor their enjoyers. The activity is of the three instruments (i.e., the mind, speech, and body). Could we remain (unattached) thinking thus?

Ramana Maharshi: After the mind has been made to stay in the Self which is its Deity, and has been rendered indifferent to empirical matters because it does not stray away from the Self, how can the mind think as mentioned above? Do not such thoughts constitute bondage? When such thoughts arise due to residual impressions (vasanas), one should restrain the mind from flowing that way, endeavour to retain it in the Self-state, and make it turn indifferent to empirical matters. One should not give room in the mind for such thoughts as: “Is this good? Or, is that good? Can this be done? Or, can that be done?” One should be vigilant even before such thoughts arise and make the mind stay in its native state. If any little room is given, such a (disturbed) mind will do harm to us while posing as our friend; like the foe appearing to be a friend, it will topple us down.

Is it not because one forgets one’s Self that such thoughts arise and cause more and more evil? While it is true that to think through discrimination, “I do not do anything; all actions are performed by the instruments”, is a means to prevent the mind from flowing along thought vasanas, does it not also follow that only if the mind flows along thought vasanas that it must be restrained through discrimination as stated before?

Can the mind that remains in the Self-state think as ‘I’ and as ‘I behave empirically thus and thus’? In all manner of ways possible one should endeavour gradually not to forget one’s (true) Self that is God. If that is accomplished, all will be accomplished. The mind should not be directed to any other matter. Even though one may perform, like a mad person, the actions that are the result of prarabdha-karma, one should retain the mind in the Self-state without letting the thought ‘I do’ arise. Have not countless bhaktas (devotees) performed their numerous empirical functions with an attitude of indifference?

Is there any way of adoring the Supreme which is all,
except by abiding firmly as that!

Om Tat Sat

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