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)

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Ramana Maharshi – no ignorance, no knowledge

ramana maharshi

The ‘I’ is always there.

There is no knowing it.

It is not a new knowledge to be acquired.

There is an obstruction to its knowledge called ignorance. Remove it.

But ignorance or knowledge is not for the Self. They are overgrowths to be cleared.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk 49

Ramana Maharshi: Conscious Immortality

Conscious Immortality Ramana Maharshi

The following is taken from Chapter 14 of Conscious Immortality and is instructive about the path to complete liberation. As often is the case with Ramana’s writings, there is much packed into each phrase. My comments have been interspersed in blue italics, and I pray you find these to be of assistance. If they are not, please feel free to ignore them:

The Self is like a powerful hidden magnet within us. It draws us gradually to itself, though we imagine we are going to it of our own accord.

We imagine that we are seeking, whereas actually we are being moved by the Self, as is everything else likewise being orchestrated by Oneness. Next the basic teaching is given in concise form:

When we are near enough, it puts an end to our other activities, makes us still, and then swallows up our own personal current, thus killing our personality. It overwhelms the intellect and over floods the whole being.

The teaching goes like this: first we naturally drop and turn away from outer (egoic) activities as we realise that we no longer need them. Then we become still. Lastly after having been still for some time, our personhood is ‘swallowed up’ by the self. Then all that remains is fullness, the Self. That’s all there ever was.

We think we are meditating upon it and developing towards it, whereas the truth is that we are as iron filings and it is the Atman-magnet that is pulling us towards itself. Thus the process of finding Self is a form of Divine Magnetism.

Again the notion of personal doership is being undercut here – we are all but puppets of the Lord. We take ourselves to be the orchestrator of our actions, whereas we are His instruments playing His song. So does this mean that we do not have to practice?

It is necessary to practise meditation frequently and regularly until the condition induced becomes habitual and permanent throughout the day. Therefore meditate.

You lost sight of the bliss because your meditative attitude had not become natural and because of the recurrence of vasanas. When you become habitually reflective, the enjoyment of spiritual beatitude becomes a matter of natural experience.

Ramana instructs us to practice meditation regularly, so that the meditative attitude becomes the predominant habitual way of being. How to meditate? This will be explained below:

It is not by a single realisation that “I am not the body but the Atman” that the goal is reached. Do we become high in position by once seeing a king? One must constantly enter into samadhi and realise one’s Self, and completely blot out the old vasanas and the mind, before it becomes the Self.

Here Ramana makes a central point. It is often mistakenly thought that realising who you are is a one time affair. However here Ramana emphasises that this realisation alone is insufficient for true liberation to dawn. One must time and time again sink into Samadhi and remove the habitual tendencies (vasanas) that cause us to identify as a finite body-mind entity. This simple but essential teaching is often side-stepped by those who would like the fruits of liberation without the need to actually practice and drive out the vasanas/habitual ignorance.

The example that one cannot become a king simply by seeing a king is cited by Ramana. This example is reminiscent of that given in Chapter 7 of Advaita Bodha Deepika, one of Ramana’s favourite texts, where it is repeatedly told that mere knowledge of the king by a beggar does not transform the beggar into a king. Similarly, the jiva is not so easily transformed into the Self, so to speak, by simply knowing of the Self. So, how can the jiva be ‘transformed into the Self’? Ramana will enlighten us:

If you keep to the thought of the Self, and be intently watching for it then even that one thought which is used as a focus in concentration will disappear and you will BE, the true Self. Meditation on Self is our natural state.

Only because we find it hard do we imagine it to be an arbitrary and extraordinary state. We are all unnatural.

The mind resting in the Self is its natural condition, but instead of that our minds are resting in outward objects. After the expulsion of name and form (nama-rupa) which compose the external world, and by dwelling on existence-knowledge-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), take care to prevent the re-entry into the mind of the expelled name and form.

Here the essence of spiritual practice is given: we are to rest as the self. How to do that? We are to not rest in outward objects, we are to pay no attention to name and form (nama-rupa) and instead dwell on awareness-consciousness-Being-Bliss.

We are to take care not to allow the mind to again shoot outwards into the world and dwell on the forms (that it itself projects).

We are to cultivate thought of this Self, and eventually this thought too will disappear and all that will be left is Self without any trace of jiva or the idea that I am a limited body-mind entity.

 

The Chandogya Upanishad: Tat Tvam Asi

Upanishad vedanta satsang

Tat Tvam Asi is one of the most famous phrases from the ancient upanishadic texts. But what does it mean?

Tat = that
Tvam = thou or you
Asi = art or are
Tat Tvam Asi = That thou art, or thou art that, or you are that

‘That’ refers to the Absolute. ‘You’ normally refers to the limited separate body-mind identity  known in advaita vedanta as the jiva, but in this aphorism from the Upanishads it is implicitly declared, via the word ‘asi’, that you are not the jiva but the Absolute. Why does this matter? Well, when you know yourself as one with the Absolute, suffering ends.

This phrase, Tat Tvam Asi, is repeatedly uttered by Uddalaka to his son Shvetaketu as recorded in the Chandogya Upanishad, and is considered one of the four Mahavakyas (great utterances) of the Upanishads. Below are just two of the teaching exampes it occurs in, taken from sections twelve and thirteen of the Chandogya Upanishad:

Uddalaka: “Bring me a fruit from the banyan tree.”
Shvetaketu: “Here is one, Father.”
Uddalaka: “Break it open.”
Shvetaketu: “It is broken, Father.”
Uddalaka: “What do you see there?”
Shvetaketu: “These tiny seeds.”
Uddalaka: “Now break one of them open.”
Shvetaketu: “It is broken, Father.”
Uddalaka: “What do you see there?”
Shvetaketu: “Nothing, Father.”
Uddalaka: “My son, you know there is a subtle essence which you do not perceive, but through that essence the truly immense banyan tree exists. Believe it, my son. Everything that exists has its self in that subtle essence. It is Truth. It is the Self, and you, Shvetaketu, are that.”
Shvetaketu: “Please, Father, teach me more.”
Uddalaka: “I will, my son,”

——-

Uddalaka: “Place this salt in water, and come back to me in the morning.”
The son did as he was told.
Uddalaka (in the morning): “Bring me the salt you put in the water last night.”
Shvetaketu (after looking): “Father, I cannot find it.”
Uddalaka: “Of course not; it has dissolved. Now taste the water from the surface. How does it taste?”
Shvetaketu: “It’s salty.”
Uddalaka: “Taste the water from the middle of the bowl. How does it taste?”
Shvetaketu: “It’s salty.”
Uddalaka: “Now taste the water from the bottom. How does it taste?”
Shvetaketu: “It’s salty.”
Uddalaka: “Go, throw it away and come back to me.”
He did so, and returned.
Shvetaketu: “But, father, although I have thrown it away, the salt remains.”
Uddalaka: “Likewise, though you cannot hear or perceive or know the subtle essence, it is here. Everything that exists has its self in that subtle essence. It is Truth. It is the Self, and you, Shvetaketu, are that.”
Shvetaketu: “Please, Father, teach me more.”
Uddalaka: “I will, my son.”

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Ramana Maharshi: Is renunciation necessary for Self-realisation?

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Visitor: Is renunciation necessary for Self-realisation?

Bhagavan: Renunciation and realisation are the same. They are different aspects of the same state. Giving up the non-self is renunciation. Inhering in the Self is jnana or Self-realisation. One is the negative and the other the positive aspect of the same, single truth.

Bhakti, jnana, yoga — are different names for Self-realisation or mukti which is our real nature. These appear as the means first. They eventually are the goal.

So long as there is conscious effort required on our part to keep up bhakti, yoga, dhyana, etc., they are the means. When they go on without any effort on our part, we have attained the goal.

There is no realisation to be achieved. The real is ever as it is. What we have done is, we have realised the unreal, i.e., taken for real the unreal. We have to give up that.  That is all that is wanted.

Visitor: How has the unreal come? Can the unreal spring from the real?

Bhagavan: See if it has sprung. There is no such thing as the unreal, from another standpoint.

The Self alone exists. When you try to trace the ego, based on which alone the world and all exist, you find the ego does not exist at all and so also all this creation.

(The above excerpt is from Day by Day with Bhagavan, page 87)

Tom’s comments:

Here in the above passage we find three central facets of Bhagavan Ramana’s teachings.

1. Firstly the non-self must be given up or let go of. By non-self, it is meant everything that is perceived. This includes the entire mental realm of thoughts, feelings and imaginings as well as the so-called physical world of the body and objects – i.e all experiences. This is the way the term is used in classical advaita vedanta. By given up it is meant do not be attached, or let go of all appearances. Allow all to come and go in your being.

Initially this renunciation or letting go is something you do, a practice, or as he states above, ‘the means’. Eventually this becomes natural as the habitual tendency (vasana) to identify with the non-self is dissolved through the practice (sadhana). At this point, when the vasanas have been removed, this is realisation.

2. Secondly Bhagavan then reminds us that realisation is not something to be attained. Realisation is who we are, it is our very nature, it is always and already here, so why do we need to attain that which we already are? (We don’t!). We just have to give up the wrong ideation we have, namely the fixation on the non-self and taking ourself to be the body-mind. When we give up everything, the only thing we lose is our illusions, that which is false. That which is real, the Self, can never be lost, and it is ever-realised.

3. Thirdly, when Bhagavan is asked about how the unreal can come from the real, bhagavan states in reality the unreal never was. The self alone is. Here he briefly describes his teaching of self-enquiry, namely that when you try to find the ego, you cannot find it. He then, in very concise form, states that the appearance of the world is dependent upon the false belief in ego. When the ego cannot be found and has been seen to be non-existent, you also realise that the world too is non-existent, that the entire thing is an illusion. This too is realisation! This too is renunciation of non-self! This too is jnana, bhakti and yoga!

Of note, the first point I mentioned above dealing with removal of vasanas is the purification part of the teaching, in which we let go of non-self or ‘the world’ (including the mind and body) through spiritual sadhana (practice), at least initially. Points two and three refer to what I call the insight aspect of the teachings in which the unreal is seen to be false or non-existent. These two aspects of the teachings go together beautifully, with insight naturally leading to renunciation (letting go of non-self/abiding as self) and sadhana enhancing insight and abiding as self and removing the vasanas (habitual tendencies) towards ignorance (of self) and taking hold of non-self.

 

Life’s purpose

robert adams ramana maharshi

The following is by Robert Adams:

…you have not come to this earth to struggle, to fight, to become anything, to hurt anyone, to be hurt, you are here merely to be. Not to be this or to be that just to be. You allow this beingness to function properly when you get yourself out the way, that is your thoughts, your preconceived ideas.

When you keep the mind still, perfectly still and calm then you will always find that you are in the right place going through those experiences that are necessary for your unfoldment and your fulfillment.

“…you will always find that you are in the right place going through those experiences that are necessary for your unfoldment and your fulfillment”

Do not worry about the future or the past. Do not concern yourself with events in the present. Just be! Be the Self that you are. You will be satisfied. Everything will be okay.

“Be the Self that you are….
Everything will be okay”

There is nothing that wants to hurt you, cause you pain or give you any problems. It is only because you keep thinking continuously, constantly that you have this belief that somebody wants to hurt you, cause you problems, upset you.

There is only one. There are not two or three. There is only one Self and you are that

Does Karma really exist?

Robert Adams Advaita

The following is by Robert Adams:

Does Karma really exist? I know that you can say, “No it doesn’t.” But as long as you believe that you are a body and mind, as long as you feel the world to be real, you cannot fool yourself. Do not lie to yourself. If the world perturbs you, if people bother you, if things annoy you, if you are reacting to conditions this means that you believe you are a body going through these experiences. And as long as you are going through experiences you are in karma. You are experiencing the karma that put you here as a body. It is only  when you have realized the self that there is no karma.

Therefore do not go around telling people that there is no karma, it will give them license to do anything they like. Feeling there is no retribution, there is no effect for their deeds. This is not true as long as you believe you are a body. For there are laws of the universe that respond to your actions. Karma means action. And as long as you believe you are the actor you will have to experience the results of the karma.

So in this particular life you are experiencing the results of not only the karma of this experience but of previous lives. Previous lives also come into effect whenever you believe you are the body.

There are only two ways to destroy the karma.

One is to inquire, “To whom the karma comes? Who is experiencing this karma?”

And the other way is to surrender completely to God. Totally surrender your life to God. God is within you as you. You therefore surrender everything to the self. Thy will be done. You begin to see that as long as you have God to surrender to, you need not worry, you need not fear. Everything will be alright.