‘The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from its restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind’
~Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 26
Objection: I have a slightly different view then Ramana perhaps did on ignoring the external world. It seems to me that the external world is the reflection of the inner. Becoming conscious of the beauty in nature resonates with the inner. This is perhaps a more indigenous view and is much older then even Vedanta and goes back even to the time when humans were Neanderthals as well as Homo sapiens when everything in nature was animating in presence.
Tom: Yes, being with nature is one of many things that can bring us in tune with the Self and bring us genuine peace and genuine insight, but ultimately for realisation to occur (and thus for suffering to end) one must turn within and all thoughts must cease. Otherwise the illusion of time and space are not seen through and suffering (and duality) continue, even if in a subtle way.
This is why Sri Ramana Maharshi writes in Who Am I?:
Q. When will the realization of the Self be gained? Sri Ramana: When the world which is what-is-seen [ie. objects] has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer. Q. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there? Sri Ramana: There will not be.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Tom: What we call the world (ie. space and time and people) is actually a projection of mind/thought. Put simply, the world, space and time are simply thoughts. Again, this cannot be known unless we turn within, away from the world, towards the Self, and thoughts competely cease. From Sri Ramana Maharshi:
‘When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear…All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent.’
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Tom: When thoughts completely cease, time and space disappear. If time and space are still appearing, it is because thought (namely the ‘I-thought’, which is the notion or thought or belief that ‘I am a body-mind’) still persists.
Therefore, when the world appears, the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears the world does not appear.
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears.
Here is what the Vedanta scriptures, such as the Upanishads and the writings of Sri Shankara and Sri Gaudapada say, together with quotes from Sri Ramana Maharshi:
The Lord created the senses out-going: therefore, one sees outside and not the Self within. Some intelligent man, with his senses turned away (from their objects), desirous of immortality, sees the Self within. ~ Katha Upanishad 2.1.1
In his commentary on this above verse (Katha Upanishad 2.1.1), Shankara writes:
‘…the perceiver sees the external objects which are not-Self/not the Atman, such as sound, etc., and not the Self within. Though this is the nature of the world, some (rare) discerning man, like turning back/ reversing the current of a river, sees the Self within…The group of sense organs, beginning with the ear, should be turned away from all sense-objects. Such a one, who is purified thus, sees the indwelling self. For it is not possible for the same person to be engaged in the thought of sense-objects and to have the vision of the Self as well.‘
Dwelling on external objects will only increase evil propensities, so wisely recognising this fact, one should abandon external objects and and constantly attend to one’s true nature within, the Atman [the Self]. ~ Shankara, Vivekachudamani
(Note, there are so many quotes from Shankara’s Vivekachudamani which advocate turning within/away from objects that they would ovewhelm this post, but you can find some of these quotes compiled together here in a separate post.)
Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both…It is the cessation of all phenomena…This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman and this has to be realised. ~Mandukya Upanishad
In Shankara’s commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, in his introduction to the text he writes:
Just as the normal state of a man, afflicted by disease, consists in his getting cured of the disease, similarly the normalcy of the Self, stricken with identification with misery, is regained through the cessation of the phenomenal universe of duality…since the phenomenal world of duality is a creation of ignorance, it can be eradicated through knowledge…
In his commentary on Katha Upanishad verse 1.2.20 Sri Shankara writes:
‘…One whose intellect has been withdrawn from all objects, gross and subtle, when this takes place, this is known as ‘inactivity of the sense organs’. Though this ‘inactivity of the sense organs’ one sees that glory of the Self. ‘Sees’ means he directly realises the Self as ‘I am the Self’ as thereby becomes free from suffering’
When the mind…remains unshakable and does not give rise to appearances, it verily becomes Brahman. ~ Gaudapada, Mandukya Upanishad Karika
When the mind, after realizing the knowledge that Atman alone is real, becomes free from imaginations and therefore does not cognize anything, for want of objects to be cognized, it ceases to be the mind. ~ Gaudapada, Mandukya Upanishad Karika
The mind severed from all connection with sensual objects, and prevented from functioning out, awakes into the light of the heart, and finds the highest condition. The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves itself in the heart. This is Jnana, this is Dhyana, the rest is all mere concoction of untruth. ~ Amritabindu Upanishad
As long as the objective universe is perceived one does not realise the Self. ~ Yoga Vasishta
The Self (Atman) is beyond all expression by words beyond all acts of mind; It is absolutely peaceful, it is eternal effulgence free from activity and fear and it is attainable by Samadhi ~ Gaudapada, Mandukya Upanishad Karika 3.37
Shankara’s commentary from the above verse from Gaudapada 3.37 states:
…The Self (Atman) is denoted by the word Samadhi as it can be realised only by the knowledge arising out of the deepest concentration (on its essence), Samadhi. Or the Self (Atman) is denoted by Samadhi because it is the object of concentration, the Jiva concentrates his mind on the Self (Atman)…
In the next verse Gaudapada writes in verse 3.38 of his Mandukya Karika:
There can be no acceptance or rejection where all mentation stops. Then knowledge is established in the Self and is unborn, and it becomes homogenous
Shankara’s commentary on this verse 3.38 is as follows:
…therefore there is no rejection or acceptance in It, where thought does not exist. That is to say, how can there be rejection or acceptance where no mentation is possible in the absence of the mind? As soon as there comes the realisation of the Truth that is the Self, then, in the absence of any object, knowledge (Jnanam) is established in the Self, like the heat of fire in fire. It is then birthless (ajati) and becomes homogenous.
In his commentary on the Katha Upanishad, verse 2.1.2, Shankara writes:
‘The natural tendency to see external objects, which are not-Self, is the cause of ignorance, the obstacle to the realisation of the Self. The desire of external/outward enjoyments pertaining to this world and the next, which are presented by ignorance, is another obstacle. The realisation of the Self being impeded by these two, ignorance and desire, men with little intelligence pursue only external objects of desire….This being so, the intelligent, knowing the certain immortality of concentration in the inner Self…
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 [Brahma-Vidya or Self Knowledge] ~Katha Upanishad 2.3.10
Shankara’s commentary on this above verse (Katha Upanishad, verse 2.3.10) states the following:
‘At the time when the five senses…, together with the mind…, which is now no longer functioning and thinking, are at rest in the Self alone, after turning away from objects, and with the intellect…no longer engaging with its functioning, that they call the highest state [Brahma-Vidya or Self-Knowledge].’
That which is not seen, though within us, is called the eternal and indestructible Self. ~ Yoga Vasishta
After knowing that by which you know this world, turn the mind inward, and then you will realise the effulgence of the Self. ~ Yoga Vasishta
Strenuously withdrawing all thoughts from sense objects, one should remain fixed in steady, non-objective [ie. subjective] enquiry. This, in brief, is the means of knowing one’s own real nature; this effort alone bring about the sublime inner vision. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Ramana Gita
If, on the contrary, you withdraw your mind completely from the world and turn it within and abide thus, that is, if you keep awake always to the Self, which is the substratum of all experience, you will find the world, of which alone you are now aware, just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Maharshi’s Gospel
Q. When will the realization of the Self be gained? Sri Ramana: When the world which is what-is-seen [ie. objects] has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer. Q. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there? Sri Ramana: There will not be. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear…All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Therefore, when the world appears, the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears the world does not appear. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
When the mind that is subtle goes out through the brain and the sense organs, the gross names and forms appear; when it stays in the heart, the names and forms disappear. Not letting the mind go out, but retaining it in the Heart is what is called “inwardness” (antarmukha). Letting the mind go out of the Heart is known as “externalisation” (bahir-mukha). Thus, when the mind stays in the Heart, the ‘I’ which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self which ever exists will shine. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they are the same. Desirelessness is refraining from turning the mind towards any object. Wisdom [Jnana] means the appearance of no object. ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
Q. How long should inquiry be practised? Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry “Who am I?” is required ~ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?
The Following teaching statements of Sri Ramana Maharshi are taken from the text Guru Vachaka Kovai (Garland of Guru’s sayings). This text is widely consider to be the most authoritative text on Sri Ramana’s verbal teachings – you can download it using the link below.
In the following video I have read the quotes to form a guided meditation/guided contemplation. You are invited to sit comfortably and allow these soothing words to wash over you and guide you to the Self.
393.One who has wisely chosen the straight path Of self-enquiry can never go astray; For like the bright, clear Sun, the Self Reveals itself direct to whoso Turns towards it.
391. Those who do not dive into the Heart And there confront the Self in the five sheaths hid Are only students answering out of books Clever questions raised by books, And not true seekers of the Self.
835. Renouncing this phenomenal world Which seems to, but does not, exist We gain (the great ones say) the Self, The Awareness shining all unseen.
755. If without wasting time one starts And keeps up steady self-enquiry, One’s life becomes at once ennobled, One is no more this wretched body, And there wells up within one’s heart A sea of bliss supreme.
647. If you refrain from looking at this Or that or any other object Then by that overpowering look Into absolute Being you become Yourself the boundless space of pure Awareness which alone is Real Being.
432. …If you observe Awareness steadily, this Awareness Itself as Guru will reveal The Truth.
291. For those who seek eternal life The assurance stands: the senses five Retracted tortoise-like, the mind Turned homeward to the Self and there Abiding is pure bliss.
130. When will the fool, who thinks the body And the world are permanent and clings To them, find peace? Only when this Folly leaves him and he trusts And like a limpet clings to That, The Self within. Thenceforward he Shall never more know pain.
390. Without abiding in calm solitude As the Being-Awareness shining in the heart, To tear oneself away and look for truth Fussing everywhere without, Is like searching with a lighted torch For a diver in deep water sunk.
420. The knowledge that ignores the Self, The knower, and holds as true the field Perceived, is but illusive folly…
293. Know that these countless things are pictures In a dream and none is real Apart from the beholder. Shun This phantom world of names and forms And dwell in the pure, blissful being Of Awareness.
697. …Not an iota of the past can touch Those who dwell unceasingly In the firmament of Self-Awareness, Vast, boundless, frontierless and full.
921. None can confront and overcome The mind. Ignore it, then, as something False, unreal. Know the Self As the real ground and stand firm-rooted In it. Then the mind’s movements will Gradually subside.
898. When we with mind serene and still Experience pure unbroken Being, That is samadhi. In this state The mind, abiding as the Self Supreme, shares God’s own Being.
399. If in this manner day after day Practice is maintained, the mind Is rendered flawless, pure, the quest Becomes so easy that the moment It begins the Heart is reached.
877. Only when the world-illusion goes Does the blissful light of Self arrive. Life lived in this bright, blissful light Is our true, natural life. Other ways Of life are full of trouble and fear.
974. Unbroken Self-awareness is The true, bright path of devotion or love. Knowledge of our inherent nature As indivisible Bliss supreme Wells up as Love
418. The only true and full awareness Is awareness of awareness. Till awareness is awareness Of itself, it knows no peace at all.
Here a seeker asks Sri Ramana Maharshi how to find or ‘see’ God. When Ramana gives his usual answer, the seeker objects with a very common objection, let us see. The following dialogue has been recorded in the book Conscious Immortality, page 125:
Questioner: How is God to be seen?
Ramana Maharshi: Within. If the mind is turned inwards, God manifests as the inner consciousness.
Questioner: But isn’t God in all the objects we see around us?
Ramana Maharshi: God is in everything and in the seer. Where can God be seen? He cannot be found outside. He should be felt within. To see the objects, mind is necessary, and to conceive God in them is only a mental operation. But that is not real. The consciousness within, purged of the mind, is felt as God.
We can see that Ramana states that to find God, or see God, one must turn within, away from objects and abide as the Consciousness within, the pure Subject, devoid of objects. The seeker responds with a philosophical argument that seems to make sense to the mind. The seeker’s reasoning is as follows: but if God is everywhere and everything, why must I turn within to find Him?
The problem is that while this seem philosophically correct and so makes sense (to the ego-mind!), it doesn’t work. Ramana Maharshi’s teaching is a practical guide. It actually works! Ramana does not simply say to us ‘All is God…All is Self…All is One’ or something similar and leave it at that. Ramana states that yes, God is All, but he cannot be found outside, only within.
What we see around us is also God, yes, but it is God as Maya, and is therefore unreal and gives rise only to suffering and confusion. Maya/the world may make us feel we are making progress by giving us superficial temporary realisations and insights together with philosophical platitudes and positive feelings, but this is simply ‘Maya’s way of ensnaring us’ and perpetuating the ego and suffering.
It is only when we turn within and attend to what is Real, namely our own very Self, that we then Abide as the Self and the above is seen for oneself. Only when we turn within, away from objects, do the Vedanta teachings come alive. They are transformed from mere concepts to first-hand Reality, and suffering finally comes to an end. Only then is the body-mind identification destroyed. Only then is the infinite divine nature of the Self truly seen. Only then do we truly experience the Ananda or Blissful aspect of the Self.
We see the same teaching given in Ramana’s text ‘Who Am I?’, and knowing the above teaching, namely that we need to turn within, explains what could be seen as a rather strange answer to a question by Ramana:
Question: Is not everything the work of God?
Ramana Maharshi: Without desire, resolve, or effort, the sun rises; and in its mere presence, the sun-stone emits fire, the lotus blooms, water evaporates; people perform their various functions and then rest. Just as in the presence of the magnet the needle moves, it is by virtue of the mere presence of God that the souls governed by the three (cosmic) functions or the fivefold divine activity perform their actions and then rest, in accordance with their respective karmas. God has no resolve; no karma attaches itself to Him. That is like worldly actions not affecting the sun, or like the merits and demerits of the other four elements not affecting all pervading space.
Again, we can see here that Ramana does not simply write ‘yes, all is God, God does all, all is One’, or something similar, but puts forward a different conception of the Self which will orientate our practice as above. He is stating God or the Self is Still, Whole, Unmoving, Unaffected, Self-Shining and Actionless (ie. God or Self does nothing). It is Pure Consciousness, the Subject, the Source of all, and we are to attend to That only. This is how we are to conceive of or think of the Self in order to orientate our practice. This is all beautifully explained in The Path of Sri Ramana.
So, how can we know this is the only way? Try other teachings if you want! You will eventually see they don’t work – despite all the concepts, practices and words your suffering will continue! All other teachings are based upon objects, Maya (ie. they are based upon thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, mind, world, etc): they are therefore based upon that which is transient and temporary and so do not serve to be a good foundation for firm Happiness.
Until you turn within, suffering will continue! Whenever you attend to (ie. attach to) objects, you tacitly strengthen the ego-notion, so turn within, abide as the Self! It is what you truly are, it is the only constant!
Q. Why turn within at all? Nonduality as I have experienced it is the actual disappearance of what is considered within and without. One seamless blending.
Tom: It’s fairly easy for many to realise there is no real within or without, ie. that what we consider inner, such as the mind and thoughts, are non-separate from the supposed outer world. It is all one movement. But it is usually the mind that realises this, in combination with some kind of a genuine seeing.
However these teachings I share here are to end suffering. Most people interested in non-duality do realise on some level the false dividing line between self and other (ie. inner and outer), but suffering still continues due to the habitual egoic tendencies (vasanas).
Basically, the false identity as the ego-mind entity remains intact at a deeper level, and the essential notion of individuality still survives and is believed in despite the ego-mind saying ‘all is one’ or ‘this is it’ or ‘there is already no ego’ or ‘there is already no duality’.
Without turning inward first, it ends up being the ego-mind proclaiming ‘there is no inner/outer’ or ‘all is one’, etc.
After turning inwards, it is then eventually seen that there is no inner/outer, but it is not the ego that sees this and co-opts this, but it is merely the absence of the ego which is itself the illusion of separation.
It is for this reason practice is almost always required – to end duality at its root and not just on a superficial level. Otherwise the ego-mind, and suffering, both continue.
Q. Don’t these traditional Vedanta teachings create an artificial duality where there actually is none? Why turn away from the world towards an apparent ‘True Self’? Why create this duality in the first place? All is already one!
Tom: For most, the ego-mind keeps on habitually coming back, causing suffering and perpetuating the illusion of duality until one finally turns to Self-Enquiry and Abides as the Self. You can say ‘all is one’, or ‘this is it already’, or ‘there is no duality’, but usually it is just the ego-mind saying that (ie. it is only on the level of concepts and belief) and so suffering and the illusion of duality continue. The infinite-love-bliss of the Self is not ‘experienced’ or ‘known’.
How to remove the illusion of separation, so it, and the resultant suffering never returns? The only way I know is to abide as the pure consciousness within. This is the teaching of the Vedanta scriptures and of all effective and true spiritual teachings that I have come across.
For most, unless this is done, suffering and peace alternate, which is itself suffering.
The purpose of Satsang/teachers/teachings is only for you to turn within and Be what You already Are. Other than that, no teacher or teaching is required.
‘The seat of Realisation is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realise it. There is nothing else to do.’
Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 219