Ramana Maharshi: The Self is all. Are you apart from the Self? Or can the work go on without the Self? The Self is universal: so, all actions will go on whether you strain yourself to be engaged in them or not. The work will go on of itself. Thus Krishna told Arjuna that he need not trouble to kill the Kauravas; they were already slain by God. It was not for him to resolve to work and worry himself about it, but to allow his own nature to carry out the will of the higher power.
Q: But the work may suffer if I do not attend to it.
Ramana Maharshi: Attending to the Self means attending to the work. Because you identify yourself with the body, you think that work is done by you. But the body and its activities, including that work, are not apart from the Self. What does it matter whether you attend to the work or not? Suppose you walk from one place to another: you do not attend to the steps you take. Yet you find yourself after a time at your goal. You see how the business of walking goes on without your attending to it. So also with other kinds of work.
Q: It is then like sleep-walking.
Ramana Maharshi: Like somnambulism? Quite so. When a child is fast asleep, his mother feeds him; the child eats the food just as well as when he is fully awake. But the next morning he says to the mother, “Mother, I did not take food last night”. The mother and others know that he did, but he says that he did not; he was not aware. Still the action had gone on.
A traveller in a cart has fallen asleep. The bulls move, stand still or are unyoked during the journey. He does not know these events but finds himself in a different place after he wakes up. He has been blissfully ignorant of the occurrences on the way, but the journey has been finished. Similarly with the Self of a person. The ever-wakeful Self is compared to the traveller asleep in the cart.
Many people find it difficult to engage in spiritual practices (sadhanas) 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 distil 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. You do not need to cultivate a specific bhavana (attitude or feeling).
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’. However there is no obligation for you to do this. If you wish to remain in ignorance, in the dream in which you believe yourself to be a separate body-mind, that is fine.
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 (spiritual practice) is in no way opposed to daily life.
Om Guru Ramana!
Q. Hi Tom, thank you so much for sharing your experiences through your blog. It’s very helpful. In my journey I have learned a lot from the folks you have read Ramana Maharshi, Kirshnamurti, etc. I have experienced the sense of oneness almost like a peaceful black hole, and this feeling is now always accessible to me, although the strength of it varies. This access has changed how I experience life and a lot of suffering has diminished.
However I have a pretty intense, stressful leadership job and I find that my reactions to some people that I think are not being effective in my jobs is just as intense as it used to be before I found this state. I find myself suffering in navigating these situations, but I have to address these types of problems as a natural part of my job responsibilities.
Is there some guidance you can share that might nudge me to navigate this differently? I really suffer every time I confront this situation, and I have found myself making good decisions but causing pain to both myself and the people who are impacted by this decision. I know you are busy, but anything you can nudge me on would be helpful. I want to stay in the world and be effective in whatever role I am playing at the time, but want to not cause suffering to me or others in my path.
Tom: Thank you for your kind words and sorry it has taken me some time to respond. It’s great that your suffering has reduced and that you have instant access to that state of peace whenever you need to take shelter there.
I think I understand what you mean by the situation you face at work. As you know, I also have a job and family life and am in some ways very much in the world.
With these kinds of issues, there is no one fixed solution that works for everyone. I can give you some suggestions, but it is for you to experiment and find what works for you.
My recommendation is to start the day with a sense of gratitude, perhaps even a formal ‘giving thanks’ meditation session/puja in the morning to start the day.
Thereafter try to love everything that happens to you. This sadhana is described here in more detail: Start the day with love, fill the day with love, end the day with love
Thanks again for writing to me, best wishes and let me know how it all goes