Many people find it difficult to engage in spiritual practices during the ups and downs of daily life. In the following dialogue recounted by Devaraja Mudaliar, a questioner asks Ramana Maharshi 5 questions related to this:
Mr. Joshi put five questions. I give below the questions and Sri Bhagavan’s answers:
Question 1: Should I go on asking ‘who am I?’ without answering? Who asks whom? Which bhavana (attitude) should be in the mind at the time of inquiry? What is ‘I’, the Self or the ego?
Answer: In the inquiry Who am I? ‘I’ is the ego. The question really means, ‘what is the source or origin of this ego?’ You need not have any bhavana in the mind. All that is required is, you must give up any bhavana that you are the body, of such and such description, with such and such a name, etc., There is no need to have a bhavana about your real nature. It exists as it always does. It is real and no bhavana.
Question 2: I cannot be always engaged in this inquiry, for I have got other work to do, and when I do such work, I forget this quest.
Answer: When you do other work, do you cease to exist? You always exist. Do you not?
Question 3: Without the sense of doership, – the sense ‘I am of doing’ – work cannot be done.
Answer: It can be done. Work without attachment. Work will go on even better than when you worked with the sense that you were the doer.
Question 4: I don’t understand what work I should do and what not.
Answer: Don’t bother. What is destined as work to be done by you in this life, will be done by you, whether you like it or not.
Question 5: Why should I try to realize? I will emerge from this state, as I wake up from a dream. We do not make an attempt to get out of a dream during sleep.
Answer: In a dream, you have no inkling that it is a dream and so you don’t have the duty of trying to get out of it by your own effort. But in this life, you have some intuition, by your sleep experience, by reading and hearing, that this life is something like a dream, and hence the duty is cast on you to make an effort and get out of it. However, who wants you realize the Self if you don’t want it? If you prefer to be in the dream, stay as you are.
With reference to question 4, Mrs. P.C. Desai quoting the Bhagavad Gita asked Bhagavan: If (as Arjuna was told) there is a certain work destined to be done by each and we shall eventually do it however much we do not wish to do it or refuse to do it, is there any freewill?
Bhagavan said: ‘It is true that the work meant to be done by us will be done by us. But it is open to us to be free from the joys and pains, pleasant and unpleasant consequences of the work, not identifying ourselves with the body or that which does the work. If you realize your true nature, and know that it is not you, that does any work, you will be unaffected by the consequences of whatever work the body may be engaged in according to destiny or past karma or divine plan, however you may call it. You are always free and there is no limitation of that freedom.’
(The above excerpt is from Day by Day with Bhagavan, pages 88-90)
Here we can distill several key points:
1. You always exist, regardless of whether you are thinking about it or not, regardless of what you are doing.
2. The issue is that you take yourself to be the body-mind and therefore you take yourself to be a doer who has to choose what actions to do and suffer the consequences thereof. Instead relinquish the idea that you are the body-mind, and don’t take yourself to be the doer of any actions or receiver of pleasure/pain.
3. When you don’t take yourself to be the body-mind-doer-receiver, life still continues and the body-mind appearance still is able to fulfil its responsibilities – in fact it becomes more efficient in doing so.
4. Whatever is destined to happen will happen regardless of your desires about this.
5. Effort must be made to cast off the ignorance ‘I am the body-mind-doer-receiver’.
6. You are, in truth, always ever free. You are the Self. Know this and remain naturally unaffected by the life-appearance. In this way sadhana is in no way opposed to daily life.
Om Guru Ramana!
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.
Desire and pleasure end in sorrow; and love has no sorrow.
What has sorrow is thought – thought which gives continuity to pleasure. Thought nourishes pleasure, giving strength to it. Thought is everlastingly seeking pleasure, and so inviting pain.
The virtue which thought cultivates is the way of pleasure and in it there is effort and achievement.
The flowering of goodness is not in the soil of thought but in freedom from sorrow.
The ending of sorrow is love.
Believing the narrative of ‘me’,
Buying into this notion of self,
Projecting this notion of self onto another,
Indulging in the 3 judgements of pride, praise and blame,
We pile log upon log upon log,
Onto the fire of suffering.
So many people cling to beliefs, either knowingly or unknowingly, caught up in confusion, sometimes teaching it to others.
If you really want truth, would you accept a belief, a concept, an idea? Would you accept second-hand words, teachings and phrases uttered by others? Would you worry about what others think and get preoccupied in puerile semantic debate?
Or would you continue to seek, genuinely investigate, until you have genuinely found, in your own direct experience, the end to your suffering, an end to your seeking?