242. When we are lacking in earnestness or faith (sraddha), whatever practice (sadhana) we may take to will appear to be equally difficult. But if our earnestness is firm and one-pointed, no sadhana will be felt to be difficult, and without any aid we will be able to remain firmly established in the state of Self-abidance.
243. Where there is a will, there is a way. That is, if a sincere liking to attain something arises in one’s heart, a path whereby one can attain it will also be found, and because of that liking one’s mind will unceasingly seek the goal until it is attained. Only when the liking to attain that goal does not truly arise in one’s heart, will one experience difficulty in the practice (sadhana) or means adopted to attain it. Know that this is the secret underlying all methods of practice.
244. To the extent to which one approaches and lives close to true devotees, to that extent will the liking arise in one’s heart to attain salvation, the real goal of human life. By having more and more association with such true devotees, that liking will gradually increase until finally one will attain salvation by abiding firmly in Self.
The above are verses from the wonderfully clarifying text Sadhanai Saram, written by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. You can read the full text here.
I have not written any commentary on the above verses as hopefully the meaning of the verses are self-evident, and any lack of clarity can hopefully be remedied by simply reading the verses more slowly and reflecting upon them.
In Satsang this week some people were asking about the relationship between the breath and Self-Enquiry – this prompted me to put the following verses and videos together which hopefully gives the full context for the teachings.
The Breath and Self-Enquiry
229. If one takes to Self-attention, the practice of keenly observing only the consciousness ‘I’, then one need not perform any other practice (sadhana). But let those who cannot take to this practice of Self Attention from the very outset, practice for a short while either repetition of mantras (japa) or watching of the movement of the breath, and then let them give up all such practices and cling only to Self Attention.
231. For those who attend keenly to both the inward-going and the outward-coming movements of the breath, the length of both these movements will decrease, and within a short time the breath will be rising and subsiding only within a very slight manner. If they attain this state, it is a sufficient sign (to show that the agitated activity of the mind has decreased). (Therefore at that stage let them give up attending to the breath, and let them attend instead only to the Self.)
234. Relating to the breath, there are two suitable methods of practice (sadhana): one method is, after watching the movements of the breath for a short while, in order that the raging activity of the wavering mind may subside, to leave that breath attention and to engage in Self-attention. The other method is to attend within oneself to the one power that draws in and pushes out the breath, knowing that that one power is not other than the consciousness ‘I’. For some people these methods are appropriate.
The True Path
230. The path that Sadguru Sri Ramana was for fifty-four years repeatedly teaching to us for our salvation was only this primary practice of Self-Attention. Know that the practice of watching the breath was only one among the hundreds of thousands of other methods that He taught so as to guide on the path towards salvation even those people who were not ready to come to the path of Self-inquiry, which alone was His principle teaching.
236. For those who listen and pay heed to what Sri Ramana Bhagavan has said, the path of Self Inquiry is very easy. Only to those who ask, ‘What is this path? What is that path?’, having already confused their mind by learning so much, does it become necessary to teach all the other superficial and extroverted methods of sadhana saying, ‘First subdue the breath (by practicing pranayama), subdue the tongue (by observing silence), and subdue the mischief of the mind (by practicing meditation).’
Developing One-Pointedness through Self-Attention
238. If the mind practices any one thing incessantly, it will naturally gain one-pointedness in that one thing. However, rather than any external object, the first person consciousness ‘I’ is alone the most worthy thing for the mind to have as the target of its attention, is it not? By taking any second person object, such as the movement of the breath, or the right side of the chest, as the target of its attention, the mind will attain only a state of temporary absorption in that object.
239. The state in which the mind, by the strength of practice (abhyasa-bala), abides or immerses itself in the attention to any second person object, however exalted that object may be, is only a state of temporary absorption of the mind (manolaya). On the other hand, by abiding in the state of Self-attention, the natural state of true awakening, the state of destruction of the mind (mano-nasa) will be attained. Since this natural state of Self Knowledge alone is our goal, cling firmly only to this flawless practice (sadhana), or incessantly thinking ‘I, I’.
240. The one-pointedness of mind, which is gained by the practice of repetition of a mantra (japa) or meditation (dhyana), will also be gained by practicing Self-inquiry; but in a very easy manner without the need of any restriction or restraint, such as those that are to be observed while practicing other methods of practice (sadhana). Rather than the common existence-consciousness ‘I am’, which is always experienced by all people, what more worthy and easy target of attention (dhyana-lakshana) is now needed?
241. Whatever kind of person they may be, everyone says, ‘I am’; so what obstacle can there be for anyone to attend unceasingly to that Self- consciousness ‘I am?’ Therefore, without giving room for even an iota of doubt, attend with love and joy only to your own being.
The above verses are taken from the wonderfully clarifying text Sadhanai Saram by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. You can read the entire text here.
‘Therefore, without giving room for even an iota of doubt, attend with love and joy only to your own being.‘
‘It is mainly through enquiry (vichara) that he who is competent achieves knowledge of the Self; circumstance, time, and the grace of the Lord are but aids to the quest.’
~ Shankara (Vivekachudamani)
Tom: Some say that grace of god is required for liberation and so slacken and shy away from their sadhana. Grace of God is certainly needed, but Grace of God is always here. Shankara reminds us that it is Sadhana ie. Self-enquiry, that is the foremost factor that leads directly to liberation
Q. Hello Tom , Thank you for your efforts in helping us. I have a doubt: Sri Nisargadatta Mahraj says that YOU ARE BEYOND THE EXPERIENCER – I understand that experiences changes but the experiencer is constant, but what can be beyond the experiencer, and does that mean we avoid experiences of our lives and even spirtiual realisation is a sort of experience, as we feel more peaceful and joyful, please explain this to me.
Great question. The ego is both the experiencer AND the doer. These are both Maya (ie. illusion or fiction) or part of the waking dream. What you are, the Self, is beyond this Maya or waking dream.
Sometimes the Self is said to be the Witness, but this is not actually true, for it is the (fictional) ego that witnesses things/objects, it is also the ego that thinks, that emotes, etc.
The Self is devoid of all phenomena.
This can only really be understood fully by doing Self-Enquiry, eg. as per Sri Ramana’s instructions in the text Who Am I?
eg. See here verse 7 from the Mandukya Upanishad which explains that the Self is not the witness/observer of objects and also the Self is devoid of phenomena (note Turiya is another name for the Self (Atman means Self), as is also explained in the verse):
‘Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self in the three states, It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss and non—dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman and this has to be realised.’
Is the point of the teachings is to remove all thinking, all thought, all concepts? Is that what is meant by stilling the mind? Tom describes how we can use objects such as the breath or a picture to help us to still the mind initially or we can attend directly to the I AM, the subject, which is Self-enquiry.
This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das and put together by volunteers.