The world progresses by intellect. All that is great in this world is just a manifestation of the intellect. What is the goal towards which the world is moving? What is the world striving for? Careful observation will show that all are striving for happiness. From the smallest ant to the greatest emperor, everyone is tirelessly working. For what? For happiness, and happiness alone! Everyone is anxious that he or she should live in happier circumstances than those at present. It is this anxiety which impels man to work. This craving for happiness is not wrong; it is indeed desirable!
But since men are constantly endeavouring to obtain more happiness, it is evident that happiness in full has not yet been obtained. Man is constantly trying to accumulate such sources of pleasure as food, dress, house, employment, wife and children, because he believes that happiness will be derived from these sources.
But the happiness which man thus obtains is fleeting and impermanent. For a while there seems to be happiness, but then it fades away. It we analyse the various ways by which man obtains happiness, we will come to a general conclusion : the happiness sofar found by him is that which has been experiened through the five sense-organs, namely the eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin. Thus, down through the ages, human effort has been directed only towards acquiring objects for the satisfaction of these five senses.
When his eyes see pleasurable things, man derives happiness; when those things vanish, he becomes gloomy.
When his ears hear pleasing music or words, man is happy; when those pleasurable sounds are denied him, he sinks into sorrow. Like sight and hearing, the sensations of touch, taste and smell are also experienced by man as either happiness or misery. Although these five senses seem to give happiness, they do not give it uninterruptedly.
By watching too many cinema shows, the eyes become impaired. Further, since the various other pleasing sights come to an end, it is impossible for man to watch them constantly. The same is the case with the happiness experienced through the sense of hearing. How long can a man listen to a concert? Either the concert will come to its natural end, or else the individual will have to leave the place on account of some other work. Thus there is an end to the happiness experienced through the sense of hearing.
Similar is the case with the sense of smell; in fact, the continuous enjoyment of strong and pleasant odours may at length produce a headache or bleeding from the nose.
Moreover, those things from which pleasant odours emanate lose them rapidly. We find the same to be true about the sense of taste. Can one stuff one’s stomach beyond its capacity with even the tastiest dish? Beyond a certain limit the tongue finds even that tastiest dish repulsive. Hence, even taste does not give permament happiness. Let us now consider the sense of touch. When a silky-soft flower touches the body, there is a sensation of pleasure, but the flower withers away rapidly. Moreover after a while we become accustomed to the sensation and it ceases altogether to give us pleasure. The same is also true of a cool breeze and other such things. Hence, the pleasure experienced through the sense of touch also cannot be permanent.
Therefore, the happiness acquired through anyone of these five senses cannot be enjoyed continuously; beyond a certain limit, they may actually become sources of pain instead of pleasure. Hence, the foregoing scrutiny can only lead us to the conclusion that the permanent and perfect happiness sought by man cannot be obtained through the five senses.
It is certain that everyone wants happiness in full, untainted by even an iota of sorrow. This can in no way be denied. However, no one has so far been able to obtain such happiness by gratifying the five senses. It is thus quite clear that up till now perfect happiness has not been obtained in spite of all the world’s progress and endeavours through the above-mentioned means. Yet, is such perfect happiness impossible? No! One can have it here and now. There is nothing wrong in all living beings aspiring for perennial and full happiness, untainted by sorrow. The desire for happiness is not wrong! Happiness must be obtained! It is in fact the Supreme goal (purushartha) for all human beings! But the means to obtain it which have been charted and followed by people up till now are wrong. The defect is only in the means and not in the goal. That is why man is not able to enjoy perfect happiness despite the herculean efforts he has made to achieve it.
The paths leading people to the perfect happiness which is desired by one and all are the religions that have come into existence on earth. Religion (mata) is the principle or path found by mind (mati). The purpose of all religions is to show mankind the best means for achieving perfect happiness. But unfortunately now-a-days, though various religions point out their own distinct roads towards this great objective, every man – regardless of his religion – is stopped on the way and is prevented from obtaining happiness on account of religious bigotry and also of not knowing the true significance of religious tenets.
“With true love and faith, follow that religion in which you have belief and turn within; do not jump outwards, criticising and arguing against other religions on account of bigotry for your own religion.”
Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 991
At this juncture mankind needs a proper guide. Such guides, the Great Ones, are generally called by people Avatarapurushas, that is, God in human form. They are those who have achieved and are well settled in that perfect happiness which is the goal of mankind. They ever remain effortlessly in that blissful state, and also help others to obtain it. Among thoseJnana-Gurus, the most recent one is Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, who lived as the world Guru (jagat guru) on the southern slope of Arunachalam, the sacred Hill. What did Sri Ramana Bhagavan teach the world? What is the supreme benefit which mankind can derive from His Teaching? Let us see.
What is the ultimate objective for which man, by means of his intellect, has been ceaselessly working in different fields of endeavour throughout so many ages? Is it not for happiness? It is to achieve this very end that Sri Bhagavan has shown us a direct path which is His own unique discovery, and which is at the same time the quintessence of all the paths paved by those Great Ones who came before Him. It will be found at the end of this research how His Teaching is the direct path, like the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, and an easy one to folIow.
Now, who is fit to follow this path to bliss which Sri Bhagavan has shown? Are the brahmins alone fit to follow It? Or are Hindus alone qualified to follow it? Is Bhagavan Sri Ramana a Guru for Hindus only? Does He propagate a particular religious faith which is already in the world, or is it an altogether new religion? Such questions may arise in the mind of the reader.
The path of Sri Ramana is meant for anyone who craves for happiness. Is there anyone in the world who does not want happiness? Even one who denies the existence of God will not admit that he does not want happiness.
Therefore, an atheist can also obtain perfect happiness through the path of Sri Ramana. No human being is excluded from this path. Sri Ramana is not a preacher of any religion; He belongs to no religion or country! Since He shows the way to perfect bliss, which is the common aim of the whole world. He is the Jagat Guru, and since, unbound by the tenets and traditions of any religion, He teaches one and all the path to obtain the common aim, bliss eternal. He is indeed the ‘Loka Maha Guru’ – the Guru for the whole world! People of all religions have come to Him and have been benefited. Moreover, no matter to which religion one belongs, one feels in one’s heart, “Sri Ramana is the Guru of my own religion!”, and has devotion to Him.
Therefore, let us see what is the path of Sri Ramana.
The above is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Path of Sri Ramana (Part 1)
Q. Why do we seek?
Tom: Because we suffer.
Q. Why do we suffer?
Tom: Because we seek (something different to ‘what is’)
Q. Why do we both suffer and seek?
Tom: Because we take ourself to be a separate vulnerable body-mind entity. So long as we do so we are compelled to both suffer and seek.
Q. Why do we take ourself to be a separate body-mind entity?
Tom: Because we believe our thoughts that tell us so (ie. it is a belief that we are a body-mind entity – note that I call this belief ‘the ego’)
Q. What is the solution?
Tom: The solution is to stop this type of thinking.
Q. How can we do that?
A. We find, perhaps after much trial and error, there is only one essential method that consistently works, and that is to take one’s attention away from objective phenomena and place it upon the first person, the ‘I AM’, the Subject-Self. This practice is called Self-Enquiry. This process is explained in detail in the book The Path of Sri Ramana – Part 1
Q. My mind is too busy for this method
Tom: Then try another preliminary practice such as mantra recitation, devotion, chanting, watching the breath, hatha yoga, etc, as suits you – try another calming practice first – preferably a practice you are drawn to, and then when the mind is calm go straight back to Self-Enquiry.
Q. What about other teachings or methods?
Tom: You will find that other teachings methods (methods other than Self-Enquiry) at most only lead to a temporary effect that comes and goes. Don’t take my word for this, you can find out for yourself.
Q. Why do other methods not work?
Tom: Other methods, which involve attending to objects (gross or subtle objects such as thoughts, feelings, the breath, or other objects) invariably give rise to egoic ‘body-based’ thinking as the ego only survives when it can think of objective phenomena. And when we attend to objective phenomena you will see that the ego always finds a way to rise and ‘take control’ or ‘take the reins’ and posit itself as the true ‘I’.
Q. Isn’t this quite an extreme practice?
Tom: Yes, it is this extreme practice that is required, for most people, for the ego to end.
Q. Doesn’t this practice just perpetuate the separate ego-I?
Tom: No, that too is just another belief, that all practice necessarily perpetuates the ego-I. Try it – with consistent daily application results are quickly seen.
Q. Ok thanks!
Tom: You’re most welcome. Let me know how it goes!
The following are the first 21 verses from Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice) by Sri Sadhu Om. These initial verses beautifully display both devotion to Bhagavan and the path of Self-Enquiry.
- O Sri Ramana, bestow Your Grace upon me so that I may in experience flawlessly attain the unequalled and unsurpassed essence of the practice (sadhana) of Self-knowledge, the excellent path “Who am I?” which you have discovered to be the central and foremost among all the various paths.
- O Sri Ramana, the Heart, who through Your Grace protects me at every moment by guiding me along the correct path, rise from within and teach me the true import of Your divine and unequalled teachings so that I may know them in their undefiled pristine purity.
The Greatness of This Birth
- Among countless births, one like this birth of ours is very rare to achieve. Ah! When Lord Ramana has assumed a sacred body on earth, we have attained the blessed boon of becoming slave to His Holy Feet.
- However many crores of births they may take, it is indeed very difficult for anyone to have the opportunity of gaining such a great benefit as that which is gained in this birth of ours, in which we have come to the Feet of Bhagavan Ramana, who is a rare treasure for the world. So great is the benefit of this birth.
The Wealth of Sri Ramana
- The wealth of the almighty Sri Ramana’s enlightenment (Jnana) is a treasure that is ever available to be plundered by all people who want it; and, however much it is plundered, it will never decrease even in the least. However, only good people who are true devotees know how to plunder it; and though other people who are too immature go near that treasure, they cannot see anything there.
The Grace of Sri Ramana
- Sri Ramana, the Bestower of Grace, will never give the least dissatisfaction to those who weepingly pray to Him, “Make me Your possession.” I know that our Lord uses countless inexpressible tricks in order to protect and save those who have become His slaves.
- What our Lord uses to save us are tricks of Grace. Even by the skill of our intellects, it is impossible for us to know all those tricks. If He wishes, even an ocean will enter and disappear into a mustard seed. Therefore, as soon as the glance of Sri Ramana’s Grace falls upon us, the Supreme Reality will be revealed.
- Since He is not bound by time or even by the limitation of place, He will not wait for some suitable time or suitable place to bestow His Grace upon His devotees. He has far greater compassion than even a compassionate mother, who has no plan that she will give her baby milk to drink only when it cries (and hence, even without our crying for it, He will bestow His Grace upon us of His own accord).
- O Bhagavan, innumerable are the wrongs (the mistakes and misfortunes) from which I, this poor creature, have escaped by Your Grace unknown to myself. You know all of them, but I do not know anything except enjoying the bliss of being saved by Your Grace.
- O Sri Ramana, those who have taken refuge at Your Feet are protected perfectly not only on one or two occasions but on more than a crore of occasions. From many incidents that happen in their life, this is a truth that is clearly known to the hearts of Your devotees.
- The state of abiding in the Heart as the Heart as it is (that is, as the adjunctless and thoughtfree existence-consciousness “I am”) is the ineffable and most excellent state. He, who nurtures the fruit of such Self-abidance by sowing the seed of clarity of mind and by watering it with divine Grace, is only our Self-realized or Celestial Preceptor (Sadgurudeva), Sri Ramana.
- We and all our possessions, beginning with the body, are in truth only the possessions of Sri Ramana. When the responsibility of saving us and protecting our possessions is borne by Him alone, why should we worry about anything in our life on this earth thinking it to be either pleasure or pain? Where is any such thing as wrong, evil, harm or suffering now?
All That He Does is Happiness for Me
- The almighty Sri Ramana, who exists within the heart of everyone, who unfailingly helps me at all times, and who cannot be banished from my mind even for a moment, has brought me close to Him only to take me as His slave. Therefore, whatever He now does with me is only happiness for me; how can anything that He does hereafter appear to me as something undesirable or painful?
Leave it to Him
- He knows the best of all,
Leave it to Him, be calm;
Believe Him most of all,
Then rests the mental storm.
Explanatory paraphrase: Our Sadguru (Selfrealized Guru, or guide) Sri Ramana, alone knows what is best for us. Therefore, entrusting all our burdens and cares to Him, we should always remain peaceful and calm. If we believe Him more than we believe anyone or anything else, knowing that He alone is the Supreme all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving reality, then, at that very moment, we will attain that perfect pace in which the raging storm of thoughts will have come to an end, forever.
Grace Alone is of Prime Importance
- The ego is only a trivial entity; besides, it is unreal (asat) and powerless (asakta). It is a mere adjunct which rises and subsides. Therefore, what foolishness it is to think, “The spiritual practice (sadhana) done by the strength of this ego will by itself bestow the goal of life; the supreme power of divine Grace is not of any consequence (and is not necessary in order for one to attain the goal)”!
Note: Not believing Grace, but thinking one’s own individual effort alone to be of very great consequence, is mere foolishness.
- Is not the unreal help which one unreal man renders to another unreal man, experienced by everyone in this world as real? Therefore, O Sadguru, the embodiment of Grace, the sole reality, is it impossible for You to save me by dispelling the unreal ego? What doubt or wonder is there in Your being able to help me thus?
Note: A man or jiva is merely an unreal appearance, and hence whatever help he may seem to render to another man is also unreal. But when such unreal help rendered by an unreal man is experienced by everyone as real, why should we doubt the ability of the Sadguru, who alone is truly real, to render us the real help of destroying the unreal ego? Such help from the Sadguru will certainly be experienced by us as more real than the help that we feel is rendered to us by others.
- Unless our Lord, Sri Ramana, who is the form of God, Himself bestows His divine Grace, who can by his own effort attain that heroic state of firmly abiding as Self, having clearly known one consciousness other than the body to be the real “I”?
What is Worthy to be Desired?
- The great wealth that exists in enlightened sages (Jnanis) is only the subtle secret of how to be still, abiding in perfect peace as the mere thoughtfree existence-consciousness “I am.” Therefore, how wretched it will be if one greedily desires to attain from them mere worldly pleasures, such as gold, wealth or fame, which will only make one suffer in delusion.
Sense-Pleasures are Worthless
- Instead of eating the fruit that is in your hand, why do you desire to eat the unreal fruit which is seen in a mirror and which is merely a reflection of the fruit in your hand? Is the reflected fruit an object which can be eaten and give real enjoyment? Similarly, instead of drowning deep within the heart by keenly attending to Self and thereby enjoying the bliss of Self which is ever shining there, why do you desire to enjoy the pleasures experienced through the five senses of this perishable body, which are merely an unreal reflection of the true happiness within you?
Endeavor and Result
- For those who seek (and make effort to attain) Self, not only Self but also all other benefits will automatically be attained in full. But if one desires and makes effort to attain worldly objects (either through worldly endeavors or through spiritual practices), know that they will be attained only partially and to the extent of one’s endeavor, and that Self will not be attained at all.
- If we deeply ponder over the natural yearning of all living beings to remove their miseries (through some means or other), it will be decidedly known that the sole aim for which the whole world is striving is only to remain always in perfectly imperishable bliss.
‘The path of Sri Ramana is meant for anyone who craves for happiness…’
These texts, written by Sri Sadhu Om, himself a direct devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, clearly, unambiguously and thoroughly explain the path to Self-Realisation, which is the extinguishment of suffering, as taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi.
- Part one focuses on Self-Enquiry (the path of knowledge or Jnana), which is the principal path for liberation/Moksha.
- Part two focuses on Self-Surrender (the path of Bhakti or love/ devotion).
Together these texts summarise the entire Vedanta path, and are consistent with the Vedanta scriptures, but the teachings are arranged practically for those with a genuine yearning for liberation and not just philosophical study.
Sri Sadhu Om (1922-1985), sometimes known as Sri Sadhu Om Swamigal, spent 4 years with Sri Ramana Maharshi from 1946 until Ramana’s death in 1950. He was regarded by many other direct devotees as both Self-Realised and an authority on Ramana Maharshi’s teachings. Sri Muruganar, one of the few devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi who Sri Ramana openly conceded to be Self-Realised, considered Sri Sadhu Om to be one of the few people who truly understood Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teachings.
We are indeed fortunate to have these clear and precise teachings to hand!
All we have to do is understand them and put them into practice!
Click on the links below to download these precious texts, and then put them into practice:
“We should not run after the world; we should not look outwards at the world, we should look inwards at Self. Those sannyasis who run after the world achieve neither the world nor Self (God). If we try to chase after our shadow, we will never catch it; but if we go towards the sun, our shadow will automatically come running behind us.
Those sannyasis who are always attending to the world with the aim of teaching the world became spoilt in the end. . . No Sage (jnani) who ever came on earth was the product of an ashramam, math or any such institution. Each one of them stood alone and realized the Truth by himself.
There is no rule that a man can attain true knowledge (jnana) only by becoming an inmate of a religious institution. Therefore, in the name of service to the world, let no one cheat himself and retard his spiritual progress by forming foundations and associations and by preaching, shouting slogans and running magazines”
~ Sri Sadhu Om
The entire path is also explained in more concise form in Ramana Maharshi’s text ‘Who Am I?’ (Nar Yar?). However I have found that many people actually miss the key teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ even though they are plainly written due to the ego’s distortion in interpreting what it hears/reads. After reading ‘The Path of Sri Ramana’, the teachings in ‘Who Am I?’ become crystal clear.
Here are some verse from Guru Vachaka Kovai, perhaps the most comprehensive and accurate record of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s spoken teachings. I have used this version which contains comments from Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James. Much gratitude to them for making this wonderful text available. My comments are in italicised red:
71. Just as the goat’s beard wanders and wags for nothing, people roam about merrily but in vain, doing Karmas for the fulfillment of their worldly desires, while despising the disciplines [followed by aspirants] which lead to eternal Moksha in Self. Ah, what a pitiable spectacle is the condition of these worldly people!
Tom: Ramana states that people engaged in worldy actions (karmas; the work karma literally means ‘action’ in Sanskrit, often used to denote cause and effect, here just refers to action) are to be pitied, and notes the irony that those who are ignorant shun the very practice (ie. self enquiry) that leads to eternal Moksha (liberation)
72. Longing for a tiny grain of pleasure, people toil so hard using the mind to plough the field of the five senses, but they never wish for the flood of Bliss which is the fruit that comes by ploughing the Heart, the Source of the mind, with [simple] Self-attention. Ah, what a wonder!
Tom: Simple self-attention is all that is needed instead of chasing all these pleasures which not only takes so much effort, but also causes so much suffering.
73. The moon-like jiva [the mind], ever wedded to the sun-like Self, should always remain in her home, the Heart; to forsake the Bliss of Self and go astray for worldly pleasures, is like the madness of a wife who spoils her precious chastity.
Tom: note the seeker’s job here is to discern the teaching rather than be side-tracked by whether or not this verse is politically correct in today’s social landscape. Ramana equates seeking wordly pleasures with infidelity. Instead we are to remain faithful to ourselves and abide as the Self in the Heart.
74. Only when the world’s allurement is lost will true Liberation be possible [and its allurement cannot be lost unless it is found to be unreal]. Hence, to try to foist reality upon this world is to be just like an infatuated lover who tries to foist chastity upon a prostitute.
Sadhu Om: A lover foists chastity upon a prostitute only because of his infatuation with her, and similarly some schools of thought argue and try to insist upon the world’s reality, only because of their immense desire for the enjoyment of this world. Therefore Liberation, which is the fruit of desirelessness, is absolutely impossible for them.
75. Only for the mad folk who are deluded, mistaking this fictitious world as a fact, and not for the Jnani, is there anything to revel in except Brahman, which is Consciousness.
Tom: There is only Consciousness
76. Will those who are rooted in the Knowledge of Truth stray to worldly ways? Is it not the base and weak nature of animals that descends to the sensual pleasures of this unreal world?
77. If you ask, “What is the benefit of sacrificing the innumerable sensual pleasures and retaining mere Consciousness?”, [we reply that] the fruit of Jnana is the eternal and unbroken experience of the Bliss of Self.
Sadhu Om: Any experience of worldly pleasure is small and interrupted, whereas the Bliss of Self attained through Jnana is eternal and unbroken, and is therefore the greatest benefit.
78. Truly there is not the least happiness in any single worldly objects, so how then is the foolish mind deluded into thinking that happiness comes from them?
79. Fools are now so proud and happy of the wealth and pleasure of this world, which may at any time abandon them in disappointment and distress.
80. Suffering from the heat of the three-fold desires, all living beings wander in the empty and arid desert of this dream-world, which is created by the whirl of past tendencies. The shade of the Bodhi-tree which can completely cool this heat is only Self, which shines as Turiya [the fourth state].
Michael James: The three-fold desires are for women, wealth and fame.
Tom: do not wander into the arid desert of the world, or ‘dream-world’ as is written above, instead be still, abide as the Self, That which you already are in your very Being.