Advaita Bodha Deepika is a traditional text and a masterpiece, summarising the methods and techniques of advaita vedanta. It was a favourite text of Sri Ramana Maharshi and was often recommended by him. Here is what it says about how to attain liberation, the following is from Chapter 3:
17…Master: With complete stillness of mind, samsara will disappear root and branch. Otherwise there will be no end to samsara, even in millions of aeons (Kalpakotikala).
18. Disciple: Cannot samsara be got rid of by any means other than making the mind still?
M: Absolutely by no other means; neither the Vedas, nor the shastras nor austerities, nor karma, nor vows, nor gifts, nor recital of scriptures of mystic formulae (mantras), nor worship, nor anything else, can undo the samsara. Only stillness of mind can accomplish the end and nothing else.
19. D: The scriptures declare that only Knowledge can do it. How then do you say that stillness of the mind puts an end to samsara?
M: What is variously described as Knowledge, Liberation, etc., in the scriptures, is but stillness of mind.
D: Has any one said so before?
20 M: Sri Vasishta had said…
Beloved Ramana Maharshi says the same in Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 141:
All the jnana* scriptures that teach the way to redemption proclaim in unison that restraining and stilling the mind is the best means for liberation. This is also emphasised by jnanis*.
If, after a certain amount of study, one knows this to be the inner purport of the scriptures, one should then direct ones whole effort towards that [practice]. What is the use of continuously studying more and more scriptures without doing this?
*Jnana, literally meaning knowledge, refers to the teachings of spiritual liberation, whereas jnani, literally ‘knower’, refers to the spiritually liberated sage.
In Ramana’s ‘Who am I?’, the question as to the nature of Jnana arises and is simply answered:
Questioner: What is wisdom-insight (jnana-drsti)?
Ramana Maharshi: Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight.
The Katha Upanishad states the same, in verse 2.3.10:
When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the Supreme State [Brahman].
The Amritabindu Upanishad equates the controlled/stilled mind with Jnana (knowledge) and liberation:
2. It is indeed the mind that is the cause of men’s bondage and liberation. The mind that is attached to sense-objects leads to bondage, when unattached from sense-objects it tends to lead to liberation. So they [the sages] say.
3. Since liberation is based on the mind devoid of desire for sense objects, therefore, the mind should always be made free of such desire, by the seeker after liberation.
4. When the mind, with its attachment for sense-objects annihilated, is fully controlled within the heart and thus realises its own essence, then that is the Supreme State (Brahman is gained).
5. The mind should be controlled [made still] so that it becomes merged in the heart. This is Jnana (knowledge) and this is Dhyana (meditation). All else is argumentation and verbiage.
The Advaitic giant, Sri Gaudapada, (Shankara’s guru’s guru) writes in his Mandukya Karika:
‘The controlled mind is verily the fearless Brahman’ Chapter 3, verse 35
And in verse 37 of the same chapter he writes:
[Atman is] beyond all expression by words and beyond all acts of mind; It is all peace, eternal effulgence free from activity and fear and attainable by samadhi’ Chapter 3, verse 37
Shankara states the same multiple times, eg, in Vivekachudamani, and also in his many commentaries, eg. in his commentary upon the Kena Upanishad – in his introduction to the Kena Upanishad Shankara writes:
And [the Self] being eternal, it is not to be secured by any means other than the cessation of ignorance. Hence the only duty is to renounce all desires after the realisation of the unity of the indwelling Self and Brahman.
Q. Hey Tom. I had one question to ask, if you don’t mind. Is Mukti (liberation) even there? Is there something called Liberation? If it’s there here and now, why don’t I feel it? And when it should be the most obvious thing, that is my own existence, why don’t I experience it, or rather recognize it? And what is the purpose of the world if it exists but doesn’t exist. A complete paradox, isn’t it?
Tom: Liberation just means removal of wrong ideas/what is false. Nothing is gained, mistakes are lost. Make sense?
Q. Yes. I’m on the same page. But if it’s so evident, why am I missing it?
Tom: Who says you are missing it? The mind?
Tom. Why believe the mind? Be still my friend ❤
Q. So belief is the reason for all misery, isn’t it?
Tom: Bondage is an illusion of the mind only. Bondage = suffering.
Q. Be still and know that I’m God. But I know this well, I experience it, sometimes. But when problems arise, I’m carried away with it. How to recollect the Self always?
Q. What is the best way of practicing this? Apart from Self-enquiry?
Tom: See here:
Q. Okay. I will read it. But liberation itself is an idea that I have to let go to completely enjoy bliss, isn’t it?
Tom: Have a read
Q. Thanks. It was a great read.
I’ve compiled a few quotes by J. Krishnamurti on the subject of silence/stillness, and I’ve broadly arranged them so the initial quotes are more introductory and the latter quotes expand on the depth and subtleties of the teachings. Are we not blessed to have such teachings available to us? I hope you find these of use to you, with love and best wishes:
What lies beyond can be found only if the mind is still. There may be something or there may be nothing at all. So the only thing that is important is for the mind to be still.
What lies beyond can be found only if the mind is still…the only thing that is important is for the mind to be still.
Again, if you are concerned with what lies beyond, then you are not looking at what the state of actual stillness is. If stillness to you is only a door to that which lies beyond, then you are not concerned with that door, whereas what is important is the very door itself, the very stillness itself.
Therefore you cannot ask what lies beyond. The only thing that is important is for the mind to be still. Then what takes place? That is all we are concerned with, not with what lies beyond silence.
When you realize that there is no method, no system, no mantra, no teacher, nothing in the world that is going to help you to be quiet, when you realize the truth that it is only the quiet mind that sees, then the mind becomes extraordinarily quiet.
…it is only the quiet mind that sees…
It is like seeing danger and avoiding it. In the same way, seeing that the mind must be completely quiet, it is quiet.
Now, the quality of silence matters. A very small mind can be very quiet, it has its little space in which to be quiet; that little space, with its little quietness, is the deadest thing – you know what it is.
In that silence there is no observer at all.
But a mind that has limitless space and that quietness, that stillness, has no center as the ‘me’, the observer, is quite different. In that silence there is no observer at all. That quality of silence has vast space, it is without border and intensely active; the activity of that silence is entirely different from the activity which is self-centered.
If the mind has gone that far (and really it is not that far, it is always there if you know how to look), then perhaps that which man has sought throughout the centuries – God, truth, the immeasurable, the nameless, the timeless – is there.
…it is always there if you know how to look…
Without your invitation, it is there.
The Flight of the Eagle
There is no other fact but silence which has not been invited, induced, sought after, but which is the natural outcome of observation and of understanding oneself and the world about one. In this there has been no motive which has brought silence. If there is any shadow or suspicion of a motive, then that silence is directed and deliberate, so it is not silence at all.
If there is any shadow or suspicion of a motive, then that silence is directed and deliberate, so it is not silence at all.
If you can honestly say that that silence is free, then what actually takes place in that silence is our only concern. What is the quality and the texture of that silence? Is it superficial, passing, measurable? Are you aware of it after it is over, or during the silence? If you are aware that you have been silent, then it is only a memory, and therefore dead. If you are aware of the silence while it is happening, then is it silence?
If you have followed this inquiry into what is meditation, and have understood the whole process of thinking, you will find that the mind is completely still. In that total stillness of the mind, there is no watcher, no observer, and therefore no experiencer at all; there is no entity who is gathering experience, which is the activity of a self-centred mind.
In that total stillness of the mind, there is no watcher, no observer, and therefore no experiencer at all; there is no entity who is gathering experience, which is the activity of a self-centred mind.
Don’t say, “That is samadhi”, which is all nonsense, because you have only read of it in some book and have not discovered it for yourself. There is a vast difference between the word and the thing. The word is not the thing; the word door is not the door.
So, to meditate is to purge the mind of its self-centered activity. And if you have come this far in meditation, you will find there is silence, a total emptiness.
The mind is uncontaminated by society; it is no longer subject to any influence, to the pressure of any desire. It is completely alone, and being alone, untouched, it is innocent.
So, to meditate is to purge the mind of its self-centered activity…you will find there is silence, a total emptiness…The mind is uncontaminated by society;
Therefore there is a possibility for that which is timeless, eternal, to come into being. This whole process is meditation.
J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
Disciplines, renunciations, detachments, rituals, the practice of virtue, all these, however noble, are the process of thought, and thought can only work toward an end, toward an achievement, which is ever the known.
Achievement is security, the self-protective certainty of the known. To seek security in that which is nameless is to deny it. The security that may be found is only in the projection of the past, of the known.
For this reason, the mind must be entirely and deeply silent; but this silence cannot be purchased through sacrifice, sublimation, or suppression. This silence comes when the mind is no longer seeking, no longer caught in the process of becoming. This silence is not cumulative, it may not be built up through practice.
This silence comes when the mind is no longer seeking, no longer caught in the process of becoming. This silence is not cumulative, it may not be built up through practice.
This silence must be as unknown to the mind as the timeless, for if the mind experiences the silence, then there is the experiencer who is the result of past experiences, who is cognizant of a past silence, and what is experienced by the experiencer is merely a self-projected repetition. The mind can never experience the new, and so the mind must be utterly still.
The mind can never experience the new, and so the mind must be utterly still.
The mind can be still only when it is not experiencing, that is, when it is not terming or naming, recording or storing up in memory. This naming and recording is a constant process of the different layers of consciousness, not merely of the upper mind. But, when the superficial mind is quiet, the deeper mind can offer up its intimations. When the whole consciousness is silent and tranquil, free from all becoming – which is spontaneity – then only does the immeasurable come into being.
Commentaries on Living, Series I
That silence which is not the silence of the ending of noise is only a small beginning. It is like going through a small hole to an enormous, wide, expansive ocean, to an immeasurable, timeless state. But this you cannot understand verbally unless you have understood the whole structure of consciousness and the meaning of pleasure, sorrow and despair, and the brain cells themselves have become quiet. Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can reveal to you and nothing can destroy.
…the brain cells themselves have become quiet. Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can reveal to you and nothing can destroy.
Freedom from the Known
Is silence to be cultivated, carefully nurtured and strengthened? And who is the cultivator? Is he different from the totality of your being? Is there silence, a still mind, when one desire dominates all others, or when it sets up resistance against them? Is there silence when the mind is disciplined, shaped, controlled? Does not all this imply a censor, a so-called higher self who controls judges, chooses?
Is there silence when the mind is disciplined, shaped, controlled? Does not all this imply a censor, a so-called higher self who controls judges, chooses?
And is there such an entity? If there is, is he not the product of thought? Thought dividing itself as the high and the low, the permanent and the impermanent, is still the outcome of the past, of tradition, of time. In this division lies its own security.
Thought or desire now seeks safety in silence, and so it asks for a method or a system which offers what it wants. In place of worldly things it now craves the pleasure of silence, so it breeds conflict between what is and what should be. There is no silence where there is conflict, repression, resistance.
Q: Should one not seek silence?
K: There can be no silence as long as there is a seeker. There is the silence of a still mind only when there is no seeker, when there is no desire.
Q: Should one not seek silence?
K: There can be no silence as long as there is a seeker. There is the silence of a still mind only when there is no seeker, when there is no desire. Without replying, put this question to yourself: Can the whole of your being be silent? Can the totality of the mind, the conscious as well as the unconscious, be still?
Commentaries On Living Series II Chapter 50
The mind is silent only with the abundance of energy, when there is that attention in which all contradiction, the pulling of desire in different directions, has ceased. The struggle of desire to be silent does not make for silence. Silence is not to be bought through any form of compulsion; it is not the reward of suppression or even sublimation.
The struggle of desire to be silent does not make for silence. Silence is not to be bought through any form of compulsion; it is not the reward of suppression or even sublimation.
But the mind that is not silent is never free; and it is only to the silent mind that the heavens are opened. The bliss which the mind seeks is not found through its seeking, nor does it lie in faith. Only the silent mind can receive that blessing which is not of church or belief.
But the mind that is not silent is never free; and it is only to the silent mind that the heavens are opened. The bliss which the mind seeks is not found through its seeking, nor does it lie in faith. Only the silent mind can receive that blessing which is not of church or belief.
For the mind to be silent, all its contradictory corners must come together and be fused in the flame of understanding. The silent mind is not a reflective mind. To reflect, there must be the watcher and the watched, the experiencer heavy with the past.
The silent mind is not a reflective mind. To reflect, there must be the watcher and the watched, the experiencer heavy with the past.
In the silent mind there is no centre from which to become, to be, or to think. All desire is contradiction, for every centre of desire is opposed to another centre. The silence of the total mind is meditation.
Commentaries On Living, Series III, Chapter 51
The silence of the total mind is meditation.
When you watch attentively, with diligence, there is nothing to learn; there is only that vast space, silence and emptiness, which is all-consuming energy.
Question: Tom, I never get it when you say ‘be still’. In my experience there is a contradiction between ‘Allow things to be as they are: No need to suppress or control.’ and ‘disengaging from thoughts’ because when I cease controlling, my mind just wonders so much. I definitely won’t detach from my thoughts by relaxing or even by any other means.
Tom: Yes, good point. When you set aside time to practice this you will naturally stumble upon that balance between not controlling/allowing and yet not engaging in thoughts. The secret is to practice again and again.
Q: So the technique is to be aware of thoughts but not get engaged? Then when you get caught up in thoughts, just return to watching them?
Tom: Yes. But no need to watch the thoughts… See here for more: How to meditate for spiritual enlightenment
Through the mind being increasingly more still, all is revealed, naturally and directly, non-verbally and non-conceptually, beyond any set of words or stock-phrases.
We don’t need to wrestle with ideas and questions such as:
– Is there a separate self?
– Is the world an illusion?
– Is everything really me?
– Do I survive after death?
– Am I really not the body?
– Is there free will?
– Are all these teachings actually just ramblings of self-deluded people? (It’s not impossible!)
All of the above is just ego-play, the mind perpetuating itself.
Through being still, as the thoughts lessen and lessen, the distorting veil of the ego lessens and its illusions are naturally seen through. Insight pours in all by itself, insight simply being the recognition of illusion for what it is, and the falling away of illusion.
All practices eventually take us to this stillness, so do what you need to do to be still. Often uplifting, blissfull, loving, positive and invigotating practices and techniques are needed first to root out negative tendencies (tamasic vasanas), and soothing calming practices are needed to calm passionate activated energies (rajasic vasanas) prior to allowing yourself to be still. Do what you need to do to allow stillness into your life.
Any teachings that have given you lasting benefit just bring you to this stillness, even if just momentarily. Through repeated prolongued immersion in stillness, the tendency to identify with the body-mind reduces then, after much time, eventually disappears, and with that the belief in the solidity of the world and other people also disappears, as does the notion of subject-object and time. This just happens by itself.
No need to take my word for it. Just be still and find out for yourself. Let go of belief in the ‘me’, the body, the world, the future, the past, etc, allow all thoughts to gently settle down and let go of all thinking. No need to push anything away or supress anything, just allow yourself (the ego-mind) to die…all will naturally work itself out.
Of course you will not find discover anything new or realise anything: the ego-illusion, the centre that is seeking – that will simply end. This is not about gaining new special knowledge or a new insight into reality, so if you are not getting special experiences/understanding or don’t appear to be ‘making progress’ through being still, don’t worry, that’s perfect. This is about the end of the ‘me’ that is seeking all of that.
Also, don’t underestimate the tenaciousness, endurance and pervasiveness of the ego. Even when thoughts do not appear to be consciously present, the ego is still fully there, dormant and in seed form, ready to sprout, just like in deep sleep. Therefore the stillness, even when thoughts appear not to be present, still needs to be be further deepened and the sadhana (spiritual practice) still needs to be continued until there is no individuality-duality left. A superficial absense of thoughts will not do. If this seems too difficult or daunting, don’t worry – just start, just start! What at first appears difficult or even impossible becomes easy with repeated attempts and practice. Take the example of a child learning to walk, ride a bike, swim or speak a language.
What remains when the ego/’me’ is gone can’t be put into words, and cannot be understood by the ego/mind. Thinking that this can be put into words such as ‘all is one’, or ‘Atman is Brahman’ or ‘there’s nobody here’ or any other set of words is seen to be false and just more toys for the ego. At the same time, it can be seen what these words may be trying (and failing) to point to.
So, no need to figure any of this out – that is more ego – instead be still. No need to cling to insights or words or knowledge or experiences – that too is more ego – instead be still.
Do not try to be still – that is just more activity, more ego. Seeing this, just allow everything to be as it is, not in order to get something, as that too is more ego.
Seeing the ego is always trying to gain, and intuitively non-verbally seeing this is just an unnecessary waste of energy, the ego can spontaneouly be let go of, for no reason, and not supressed, but just allowed, and in that the egoic drive has been removed, and this is being still. You need to try it and experiment to find this out for yourself.
Just like unplugging an electric fan, the blades of the ego-fan may appear to turn for a while, a good while, but no need to try to stop the blades rotating – that is more ego-effort and causes more issues – just be still and the ego-thoughts will naturally slow down when it is ready, just like the electric fan blades eventually stop by themselves when the power is taken away.
The other thing is don’t get stuck in a trance, a static feel-good state of mind. That is also another play of the mind looking for escape and pleasure. Stillness is not a trance, it’s much gentler than that – it’s the natural state. Try, experiment and practice and you will find the way, not by sitting on the sidelines thinking about it, but by actually doing it.
In summary: be still, all will be revealed.
Which means nothing will really be revealed, just the illusion/illusory seeker will die. The illusion-free state, the egoless state, the non-dual state, which of course is not a state, is the natural state.
If this is confusing, don’t worry. The words are never it. Instead just be still. Actually do it. Again and again forget everything, let go of your thoughts and thinking, bring yourself back to stillness, become nothing, let go of it all, be still.
This is the natural path to the natural state.
Wishing you peace.
The mere understanding that ‘there is no person’ is not by itself enough. The mere understanding/seeing or knowledge ‘there is no separation’, ‘there is no doer’, ‘there is no separate self’ is by itself not enough.
For suffering to end, the self-referential habitual tendencies (vasanas) which originally arose from the belief in separation, these vasanas must also end. These vasanas are those addictive tendencies which aim to seek fulfillment in experiences and things (ie. in objects).
Seeing ‘there’s nobody here’ is seeing through the illusion of separation. However the functioning of self-referential addictive vasanas may continue due to the deeply established force of habit, and so the suffering resulting from these on the phenomenal level continues.
Once the illusion of (separate) self is seen as an illusion*, one must still remove the vasanas**. How? We are advised simply to ‘be still’.
…one must still remove the vasanas. How? We are advised simple to ‘be still’.
There is an apparent contradiction here, for if the separate self is seen through and seen to be false, then who or what is being still? Well, when the vasanas arise, it is really the sense of/belief in separate self that arises, out of habit, which means that although the individual person has intellectually been seen to be non-existent, it is actually the person who knows this. The person is the ignorance, which means that the ignorance has not been fully rooted out. ie. ignorance is still present.
So, insight (into no-self) having been attained (in the mind), now we are advised to be still in order to purify our minds of the vasanas. Shankara famously wrote: vasana kshaya moksham, which means ‘destruction of the vasanas is Moksha (liberation).’
-Can the ego make the ego still?
-Can thought still thought?
-Can we become effortless through effort?
The answer is no. Knowing this, be still.
Allow what comes to come, allow what goes to go. See there is nobody here. As the vasanas/ego/sense of ‘me’ arise, allow them to fall again.
Note that being still is not doing something. It is not trying hard to be still – that is just more effort. Rather ‘be still’ means not adding to this, or rather to stop seeking and grasping, letting things be as they are, no longer looking for fulfillment in objects.
Being still is not doing something
The above reasoning and this last sadhana (spiritual practice) of stillness is beautifully expressed in the classic Advaita text Advaita Bodha Deepika, which was recommended by Ramana Maharshi as a manual for Advaita. The text takes the seeker through all aspects of the path. see here for a short excerpt:
Similarly in Buddhism and Zen we see the same teachings. See here for an example:
*traditionally the Vedanta path is threefold. Firstly the teachings are heard (sravana), then they are comtemplated upon (manana) and their truth is realised/ignorance is removed. Then lastly the vasanas or habitual tendencies which originally arose due to ignorance are purified (nididhyasana).
**Many people stop after manana, once the truth has been understood and realised (in the intellect). The scriptures warn us that whilst this realisation can bring great peace and relief, and can be mistaken for full realisation/enlightenment, this is not the end of the journey, for the belief in a jiva/limited entity is still intact. Even without trusting the scriptures, by simply being aware of and open to what is happening, it can be seen that unless the addictive self-referential vasanas are allowed to arise in stillness, then without being taken up and acted on, allowed to then dissolve and die, the self-created suffering and self-centred (potentially destructive) behaviours on the phenomenal experiential level continue. Being still is simply a natural way of allowing the ignorance-based conditioning to naturally arise and fall away of its own accord.
Robert Adams (1928-1997), who I think I can rightly call a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, taught in his later years in the USA. From what I’ve read of his teachings, they are incredibly similar to the verbal teachings of Ramana Maharshi, and also have a sense of openness, precision and clarity.
I’ve trawled through a few of his writings and put together some excerpts that I hope will be of benefit to the seeker of spiritual enlightenment. This is not meant to represent the complete scope of Robert Adam’s teachings, but just to highlight some key points that leapt out to me as I read through. I particularly concentrated on the role of thought in Robert Adam’s teachings.
I have bolded some phrases that seemed important to me and also interspersed some very brief comments in red. Again, I hope this is of benefit to you.
Firstly, some teachings about ‘no thoughts’, which will be expanded upon later on. In the initial quotes Robert says ‘no thoughts’, but in the later quotes he explains exactly what this means.
Sitting here quietly, peaceful, without thoughts then you are the unblemished Self. The ultimate reality, this is you right now. As soon as you start thinking about it, it goes away, it changes, it’s not you any longer, it’s your humanhood. So when I say to adore your Self I am referring to adoring yourself as God, as the ultimate reality which is really you. But if you think of yourself as a human being with problems who makes mistakes you cannot adore yourself at all. You condemn yourself you put yourself down.
Liberation means that you’re totally and completely free, without thoughts. There are no thoughts in the Self. If there were thoughts in the Self, it wouldn’t be the Self. For the Self is only one and all-pervading. When you become absorbed in the Self, it’s completely different than what you ever believed. It’s not explainable. But as far as you’re concerned, you become totally free, happy, peaceful. There is no longer anyone to argue with or become upset over. This is the Self.
It’s very simple, no thoughts and you’re free.
Now a bit about a method of creating a state in which there are no thoughts:
See what you’re doing now. You’re thinking. That spoils it. Learn to stay without thought. Even if for a few seconds. It’s hard isn’t it. This is the reason you have to ask yourself, “To whom do these thoughts come?” It’s only a modality to cause you to stop thinking. (slight pause)
Some of you are beginning to feel what I’m talking about. No thoughts. Nothing to remember. Nothing to do. When thoughts come to you about your affairs, about your predicament, realize that you have surrendered your affairs and your predicament to the Self and all is well.
In other words there should be no situation that appears strong enough to set you off. Feeling miserable or feeling too happy. No thing should have that power. It’s called the thoughtless state.
It’s really not that hard. Let go. Close your eyes, it’ll help. If you have to do something, observe your breath. But if you can’t, forget about your breath. After all, to whom does the breath come? To the body. Since there is no body there is no breath. Then what is? I-am. What is I-am? Silence. Open your heart, let go. There is no past, no future. No thing can ever harm you. You exist in eternity. Be still. The breath does not exist any longer. There never was a body.
There is only that. Silence.
Your job is to stop thinking. To remove the thoughts. The thoughts are your Master now. That make you feel sad or happy, good or bad. Why do you feel this way? For your thoughts since you were a little kid have been impressed by the world conditions, by your parents, by your school, by your church and they have convinced you and programmed you to believe this is good, this is bad, this is right, this is wrong. Only when you have this are you successful. If you don’t have certain things you are a failure. It is the thoughts that tell you these things. Again if there are no thoughts there is noone left to tell you anything. This is called liberation, moksha, freedom. You begin where you are now. You begin with yourself. You question yourself. You inquire, “Who am I?” You sit in the silence. If thoughts come you inquire, “To whom do they come? You become still.”
When the mind is quiet the thoughts subside. When there are no thoughts there is the self. So all these practices are really to quieten the mind, not for any other purpose. No matter what form of sadhana you’re practicing. Whether you’re a Jnana or bhakta or karmic yoga or anything else they’re really the same. All of these practices are simply to quieten the mind. To make the mind one pointed. When the mind becomes one pointed self-inquiry becomes very easy. Then the mind will disappear completely and you’ll be free.
And what about feelings?
Body sensations are the same as thoughts. As you keep inquiring, “Who am I?” And you stay in the space between the answer, between the question. Then the body thoughts become less and less and the thoughts become less and less, they’re the same thing. The feelings and the thoughts are nothing as you practice sel finquiry. You ask, “Who does this come to? It comes to me. I think this. Who am I?” And when you keep still your body sensations will slow down, as well as your thoughts. And soon there will be no body sensations, there will be no thoughts. There will be nothing. So body sensations are the same as thoughts. T139: Existence Is Not In Form! 1500 When one goes the other goes also. You cannot have body sensations without thoughts. There has to be a thought about a body sensation. So when the thoughts dissipate, the body sensations will also dissipate.
Is no-thoughts the same as self-realisation?
The no mind state is when you’ve come from practicing, to the place in the silence. Where there are no thoughts bothering you any longer. You get there through self inquiry. That is the fastest way. But that is not self-realization. Self-realization is when the mind is pulled into the spiritual heart…
…Liberation, moksha, self-realization is when the mind that’s left over in the silence is pulled completely into the spiritual heart. At that time your whole mind, the I dissolves completely and you are free.
So the no mind state is a very high state. It’s the state of bliss. But there is still somebody left to experience the bliss. When the bliss is pulled into the heart there is no one left to experience anything. Therefore you no longer say, “I’m in the no mind state.” At that time there is nothing to say. Can you understand that?
I’m scared. What will happen if I don’t think?
The thoughts and the ego are synonymous. As the thoughts slow down, the ego slows down, and begins to also disappear with the thoughts. When there are no thoughts, there’s no ego. When there’s no ego, there’s nobody left to think. Then the question you will ask is, “How do I function without thinking?” As I mentioned in the beginning, the sage’s thoughts are like a burnt rope. They appear to be real, but they’re not. In other words, your thoughts are not real. They are false. How do you function without thoughts? Very well, thank you.
Many of you still believe you have to have thoughts to function. You think you’ll become a vegetable, but you will be spontaneous without thoughts. You’ll be motivated by the Self. You will know what to do, where to go, whom to speak to, whom not to speak to, much better than you do now, much, much better. Things will happen to you spontaneously. Everything we always talk about is very paradoxical, and the paradox here is, even though you have no thoughts, you will still think about certain things. It has to be done. But there’s absolutely no thinker alive. There’s no thinker. There is no one left to think, yet you still appear to be thinking about certain things, so you can function. It’s similar to what we were discussing on Sunday. People always ask me, “What do you see? Do you see the world?” Of course I see the world. If I didn’t see the world, I wouldn’t be able to function. But I see the world as the Self. In other words, I see the world as images on reality, like in the movies, the images on the screen. I’m able to see the screen and the images at the same time. I see reality and I see the images. So it is with the thoughts, the same thing with the thoughts. You appear to be thinking, but you’re not thinking. This is a very important point to remember. You will think whatever you have to think about, but the thoughts will be dead, like the burnt rope, like the fan with the plug pulled out, but the blades are still spinning, until they stop.
But can we really stop our thoughts? It that actually possible?
Now really, no Sage on this earth or anywhere else really stops the thoughts. As long as you see a body, and you call that body the Sage, there will always be some sort of thinking in that body, some sort of thought. For instance I can be sitting here and I’ll say to myself “when I go home I’m going to eat a dish of ice-cream”. This is a thought. But what happens when I say it and what happens when you say it?
When I say it, when I think it, it is similar to a burned rope. A burned rope may appear to be strong, but when you pick it up, it turns to ashes. It’s burned. There’s nothing there. When you say it, it is like a real rope, not burned. You give it energy, you give it power. Again when the Sage thinks of something, it is like a fan that has been pulled out of the socket. It’s still turning, but there’s no power. The power is dead. The power has been cut off. In other words, the source of a Saint is dead. The source of the Sage has no power, no power whatsoever. This is why it is said, a Sage does not think. A Sage has no thoughts. What it really means is that the Sage’s thoughts are dead.
When the thoughts are dead, you live in ABSOLUTE REALITY. You live in PURE AWARENESS. When the thoughts are dead you live in SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, in NIRVANA. So what do you have to do to also cease thinking, so the thoughts can become dead? You simply do not attach yourself to the thoughts. By not attaching yourself to the thoughts, by not reacting to the thoughts, by not responding to the thoughts, they lose their power and begin to fade away. Yet do not give them any energy. Do not give them any power. Do not say to yourself, I have to stop my thoughts. Do nothing like this. Just slow down, slow down. Let the thoughts do what they may. Allow the thoughts to go their own way. Do nothing with your thoughts. Do not think about them. Do not fight them. And above all, do not try to stop them. You may think this is so difficult, but it’s not.
It’s like when you first wake up, before the thoughts come. You’re still drowsy from sleep. And when the first thoughts come to you, you hardly pay any attention to them. That’s the attitude to have.
A different approach to/clarification of the practice – no need to remove thoughts
It has come to my attention that many of you are trying to stop your thoughts, control your thoughts. You cannot really do this. Trying to stop your thoughts, as Ramana Maharshi says, is like a thief becoming a policeman to catch the thief. In other words, the thief that becomes the policeman will not catch the thief, because he is the thief himself.. And so it is with our minds. When we use the mind to stop the thoughts, the mind will not stop the thoughts at all, because the mind wants to go on living.
Stopping the thoughts is annihilating the mind, and the mind does not wish to be annihilated. The mind wants to live on to fill you full of nonsense, superstitions. Therefore we do not try to stop, the thoughts. What do we really do? We do absolutely nothing. There is really nothing you have to do to make the thoughts cease. Always remember when you do things according to the Sadhanas you’ve learned, the spiritual exercise you’ve practice, the meditations, the yoga. This will make you free for a couple of moments, and then the thoughts will come back to you with full force, knocking you over. You cannot stop the mind or control the mind with spiritual practice.
Again you cause the thoughts to cease by doing absolutely nothing. By being your SELF. And all the scriptures we read, unless the mind stops spinning there will be no realization, no liberation. Only when the mind stops, the thoughts cease to be, is there liberation. Yet we use the words “to stop the mind, to stop, the thoughts”. This is sort of a misnomer. For again you have to use the mind to stop the thoughts, and the mind does not want to do this. It does not wish to cease thinking.
Yet by ceasing to think, you do acquire unalloyed happiness, infinite peace, Divine Bliss. When the thoughts do stop, these verities come forward, and you become free. You do not have to watch the thoughts, analyze the thoughts, be the witness to the thoughts, or observe the thoughts in any way whatsoever. All of these symptoms simply make the mind stronger really.
Ignore the thoughts completely, totally, absolutely. Again, do not fight your thoughts. Ignoring your thoughts is not fighting your thoughts. Do not try to change your thoughts. Above all do not try to stop your thoughts.
What is the best way to deal with thoughts?
It makes no difference if the thoughts are good or bad, they’re both impostors. In reality there are no good thoughts, there are no bad thoughts. We’re not trying to replace bad thoughts for good thoughts. We’re trying to LEAVE THE THOUGHTS ALONE. Not to do a thing about them. I want to make this perfectly clear. This is the highest way to handle your thoughts.
Do not be in conflict with your thoughts and the self. When there is no conflict there are no thoughts. Thoughts only appear because there’s conflict. By conflict I mean, you’re worrying about getting rid of your thoughts, you’re doing sadhana, meditation, pranayamas, japa. All of these things cause conflict. For aren’t you saying, “I’m doing these things to become liberated. I’m doing these things to become free.”
The reason there’s a the conflict is because you’re already free and liberated. Therefore when you give yourself the information that you have to do something to become liberated, there is immediately conflict. This is the only problem you have. It is your conflict. And this conflict comes from programming when you were a child, from samskaras, from previous existence, things that you took with you, the habits that are inside of you, that you believe you are.
This is where the conflict comes from. For it tells you, “I’m just a human being, I’m just a frail body. I have to suffer sometimes, sometimes I have to be happy.” This is all a lie. There never was a you that has to suffer. There never was a you that has to be happy.
Thoughts are an optical illusion:
Do not analyze what I am saying. Do not even agree with what I’m saying. Just be open. Open your heart by remaining still, silent. Allow the thoughts to come, do try not to stop them. Do not judge your thoughts, analyze your thoughts, or try to change your thoughts, or try to remove your thoughts. This will put you back in conflict with your thoughts. Do not even observe your thoughts. Do not even be the witness to your thoughts. Why? Because in reality there are no thoughts. The thoughts that you think you’re thinking, are an optical illusion. It is false imagination. Don’t you see? Everything that you’re thinking about is false. There is no thinker and there are no thoughts. So why have you been practicing all these exercises all of your life? It’s like a person in the ocean going in search for water. Awaken. Be free. Be yourself.
I know it’s difficult for some of you to think that you have to do absolutely nothing to become free, because you’re already free.
No thoughts can liberate you
Just the idea of wanting to awaken is a mistake. Just the feeling that I want to become awake, I want to become self-realized, I want to be liberated, is a mistake, for it’s part of the thinking process, and the thinking process can never liberate you. There are no thoughts that can liberate you. There are no emotions or feelings that can liberate you, awaken you, make you free.
Question: So when you say don’t think, you don’t mean stop all your thoughts. You mean stop identifying with the thoughts that are occurring.
R: Yes. Thoughts come before the thinker comes on the picture.
Question : So is there any point where they stop, where the thoughts do stop?
R: The thoughts do stop, yes, and you just act spontaneously. But they appear like thoughts, but they are no longer thoughts. For instance if I think I’m getting up off this chair, the thought had to come to me spontaneously, but that’s the end. So I’m not really thinking about getting off the chair. I just did it.
Q: That’s like the end, the duration, is no longer present. The thought arose, died, there was no concern.
R: That’s right.
Q: There is no separation between the thought and the action.
R: Exactly. It’s all one.
Q: So really what happened is you lost all sense of division like there was separate thought entities. They come, they end, another one comes, it’s just like, right?
R: There’s no beginning and no end.
Q: So actually non-duality is the real thing, even with thoughts, and what appears to appear is the I or the one concerned with the thoughts, and that’s when duality surges up.
Does a Jnani have thoughts?
Question: Robert I have a problem with this thing about thoughts, ultimately thoughts are the manifestation of the Self. I don’t know if I’m wrong but, if that’s the case the thoughts are non-dual per se. Duality comes only when there is somebody who believes they’re the thinker. So thoughts per se like in the case of the Jnani, he has thoughts but there is nobody to think about? I mean that’s the way I see it.
R: The Self is self-contained and the Self really does not manifest thoughts to begin with. Thoughts are an illusion and like you say, the Jnani does have thoughts. But the thoughts of the Jnani can only goes this far and they stop. But they do not bring on any more karma, they do not disturb the Jnani at all. They have no value whatsoever to the Jnani. The thoughts come very lightly, very slowly, they come and they go, they come and they go. There is no permanent thought. But the thoughts do not come from the Self. The Self is the Self. They appear to come from the Self. Just like the world appears, the body appears, the thoughts appear.
Therefore when you follow the I like we said in the beginning and we realize the thoughts and the body is attached to the I, when the I goes everything else goes. Thoughts go and everything goes. So don’t try to really stop your thoughts, get rid of the I that thinks the thoughts. See the difference? Whenever I tell you stop thinking, I mean catch the I that thinks. Find the source of the I that thinks. And the thoughts will stop by themselves.
Question: Robert, in several traditions I see, I think they talk about realization it comes along with the elimination of thoughts. Is that true or is the thinker which is creating that and thoughts are still happening in the Jnani? Of course I believe that thoughts are happening in the Jnani it’s just that he doesn’t identify with them or he doesn’t think?
R: That’s true. They like bounce off. The thoughts come and disappear at the same time. They come and they’re gone, they come and they’re gone.
Q: That’s right, you don’t dwell on them do you?
Q: But the Jnani or the realized one doesn’t see them as factual things.
R: Indeed that’s right. No the thoughts are just return to nothing. They come and they melt. Like ice. They come and they melt and they go, and they come and they melt and they go.
Q: No clinging whatsoever?
R: No clinging, no attachment.
Q: So that’s what it means, elimination of thoughts?
R: Yes, you can say that.
Q: Because actually thoughts will always happen, within the nature of things while you are living in this world.
R: It’s not like the thoughts that the average person has. The thoughts that come to me. I realize that they’re not real. So I just look at them and they go away.
Q: So they acquire a new quality?
R: They’re a different quality of thought. But you’re right as long as there’s something present, some part of the body is still present, thoughts come, but they don’t come to me. They just pass through. Like empty mind.
Do thoughts even exist?
In reality there are no thoughts. There is no one trying to stop them. There is no liberation, there is no bondage. There is nothing. You’re using the same nothing to stop your thoughts. Do nothing. Because you are nothing. Nothing plus nothing makes nothing. Can you see why I tell you to do nothing now? Because you’re using your real nature when you do nothing. YOU are your SELF YOU are the ABSOLUTE REALITY when you are NOTHING. Consequently when you are doing something to stop your thoughts, you’re fooling yourself. Nothing will ever happen. Like I say, you will acquire a little peace, that’s it. But by slowing yourself down, saying nothing, hearing nothing, doing nothing, being nothing, your thoughts will stop completely, totally absolutely. And as I mentioned before, you will feel beautiful happiness, peace of mind, bliss, you’ll be free.
Consciousness has no thoughts. (SB: But if consciousness is all there is how can thought be outside of all there is.) Thought is not outside of all there is, thought is part of the ego, part of the non-existence. Thought does not really exist. It’s like the body that doesn’t really exist. And the world does not really exist. And the mind does not really exist. And karma does not really exist. So thought does not really exist.
Q: So the motion doesn’t really exist?
R: Motion doesn’t really exist.
Q: That is why it’s an illusion. It just appears pretty real.
R: An illusion does not really exist.
What about the doer?
Question: And the difference is between those thoughts which have a claim in it and those thoughts which do not.
R: Have a claim?
Q: Yeah, those claims that I’m doing something.
R: You have to realize, “I am not the doer.” And when those thoughts come, ask yourself, “To whom do they come?” And they’ll disappear. Is that what you mean?
Q: No, because you were talking about the thoughts of a Jnani that they had different thoughts and I would take it that those thoughts don’t have any claim of doing?
R: Oh I see what you mean, right. That’s right.
Q: And other thoughts have a claim of doing.
Q: So there’s a difference between those which have a claim and those which don’t.
R: A Jnani has no attachment to his thoughts whatsoever. They mean nothing, they’re valueless.
Does the ‘illusion of life’ disappear when you are self-realised?
There’s only consciousness and whatever appears in consciousness is an image…Like still life and when you realize who you are, you realize that you are the consciousness and not the still life. And the still life becomes an illusion. But it’s still there. But you’re aware that it’s not reality. You realize that everything is non reality. But it exists as an image in the Self.
Like the images in the mirror. They appear to exist. But you can’t do anything with them, because if you try to grab them you grab the mirror not the image. Consciousness is the same way. When you try to grab anything, you find it’s illusory. It doesn’t exist. Only consciousness exists.
So you ask, what about everything in the room, it appears to be real. That’s part of the dream, it’s part of the illusion. When you have a dream, you dream that everything exists, the world exists, the universe exists, people exist and you’re going through all kinds of periods, problems and delusions, but then you wake up and it’s gone. So when you wake up you laugh, for you realize it has all been a dream and only the Self exists, and you are that.
Does consciousness even exist?
Q: But when you say that consciousness exists that’s looking at it from a relative point of view. In itself consciousness doesn’t have a feeling of I exist.
R: Of course, you’re right. But to explain it you have to use some words…There is no consciousness, there is no existence, there’s no Self. So let’s keep still then.
It is the I, or the thinker, or the knower who has to be eliminated. For in reality there is absolutely nothing to know. If you are all-pervading, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, what else do you want? You’ve got everything. You are everything.
So when you try to know something, you’re making a grave mistake. This is a very important point. Remember this. In Advaita Vedanta, the knower is the last to go. What comes after the knower? Silence! There is nothing else.
The highest path of Jnana is no thinker left to think at all. Nobody is home. There is a total blank. There is no one around to do any thinking or preparing anything or trying to solve a problem or trying to do anything. At that stage you’re totally free.
You always have to think. Why do you have to think? You think you have to think, yet there is no thinker. You think you have to know, yet there is no knower. You think you have to be. There is no being. There just is, and you are that is-ness.
Q. Why do so many people practice self inquiry by Ramana Maharshi incorrectly? Ramana said the question ‘who am I’ should not be asked but one should put the attention on the “I” inner feeling. Sadhu Om and Sri Muruganar confirmed that that’s the correct way to practice.
Tom: Yes, true. Perhaps it was because Ramana gave slightly different instructions to different people. For some he said to ask the question verbally, to others he said be with the feeling ‘I’, to others he simply said ‘Summa iru’ (Be still).
A common instruction he gave was to dive into the heart…Anyway, all these methods culminate in the same place, and that is the key.
A living teacher can be very useful in finding how the living teaching interacts with the living seeker.
To confuse things more, Ramana also said there is no fixed teaching, and to some he prescribed work and chores, to others meditation, and so on.
That said, here is a collection of quotes from Ramana’s teachings that I compiled that may be helpful to some, with a brief summary at the end, best wishes:
Here is one possible summary of the essence of Ramana’s teachings: