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Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)
Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in His Own Words
Edited by Arthur Osborne
by T. M. P. Mahadevan
by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Am I? (Nan Yar?)
The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
in His Own Words
Edited by Arthur Osborne
6th Edition 1993
The purpose of the present book is to build up a general exposition of the Maharshi's teachings by selecting and fitting together passages from these dialogues and from his writings (published as The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi published by Messrs. Rider and Co., in England and by Sri Ramanasramam in India). The editor's comments have been kept to a minimum and are printed in smaller type to distinguish them clearly from the Maharshi's own words.
So far as is possible, Sanskrit words have been avoided, and it usually has been possible. The purpose of this is to make the book easier to read and also to avoid giving the false impression that the quest of Self-Realisation is some intricate science which can be understood only with a knowledge of Sanskrit terminology. It is true that there are spiritual sciences which have a necessary technical terminology, but they are more indirect. The clear and simple truth of non-duality which Bhagavan taught and the direct path of Self-enquiry which he enjoined can be expounded in simple language; and indeed, he himself expounded them so to Western visitors, without having recourse to Sanskrit terminology. In the rare cases where a Sanskrit term has seemed necessary or useful in this book its approximate meaning has been indicated in brackets, so that no glossary is necessary. It may also be remarked that the English words - Enlightenment, Liberation, and Self-Realisation have all been used with the same meaning, to correspond with the Sanskrit words Jnana, Moksha and Mukti.
In places where the English of the source quoted seemed infelicitous, it has been altered. This implies no infidelity to the texts since the replies were mostly given in Tamil or other South Indian languages and later rendered into English. The meaning has not been changed.
The Basic Theory
Heart and Head
This seems a suitable place to set forth the Maharshi's teaching about heart and head. He taught that the heart, not the head, is the true seat of Consciousness; but by this he did not mean the physical organ at the left side of the chest but the heart at the right, and by 'consciousness' he did not mean thought but pure awareness or sense of being. He had found this from his own experience to be the centre of spiritual awareness and then found his experience confirmed in some ancient texts. When his devotees were instructed to concentrate on the heart, it was this spiritual heart upon the right that was referred to; and they also found it the centre of an actual, almost physical vibration of awareness. However, he would also speak of the Heart as equivalent to the Self and remind them that in truth it is not in the body at all, but is spaceless.
D: Why do you say that the heart is on the right when biologists have found it to be on the left? What authority have you?
B: No one denies that the physical organ is on the left; but the heart which I speak is on the right. That is my experience and I require no authority for it; still you can find confirmation of it in a Malayali book on Ayurveda and in the Sita Upanishad.
Saying this, Bhagavan showed the quotation from the latter and quoted the text from the former. Sometimes, when asked, he referred also to the Biblical text from Ecclesiastes: "The wise man's heart is at the right and a fool's heart is at the left.''
D: Why do we have a place such as the heart to concentrate on for meditation?
B: Because you seek true Consciousness. Where can you find it? Can you attain it outside yourself? You have to find it internally. Therefore you are directed inward. The Heart is the seat of Consciousness or Consciousness itself.
I ask you to observe where the 'I' arises in your body, but it is not really quite correct to say that the 'I' arises from and merges in the chest at the right side. The Heart is another name for Reality and this is neither inside nor outside the body. There can be no in or out for it, since it alone is. I do not mean by 'heart' any physiological organ or any plexus or nerves or anything like that; but so long as a man identifies himself with the body or thinks he is in the body, he is advised to see where in the body the 'I' - thought arises and merges again. It must be the heart at the right side of the chest since every man of whatever race and religion and in whatever language he may be speaking, points to the right side of the chest to indicate himself when he says 'I'. This is so all over the world, so that must be the place. And by keenly watching the emergence of the 'I' - thought on waking and its subsidence on going to sleep, one can see that it is in the heart on the right side.
When a room is dark you need a lamp to light it, but when the sun rises there is no need for a lamp; objects are seen without one. And to see the sun itself no lamp is needed because it is self-luminous. Similarly with the mind. The reflected light of the mind is necessary to perceive objects, but to see the heart it is enough for the mind to be turned towards it. Then the mind loses itself and the Heart shines forth.
From Theory to Practice
As was shown in the previous chapter, the theory that the Maharshi taught was intended only to serve as a basis for practice. However, the demand for practice brought in another branch of theory, that of free-will or predestination, since people were not lacking who asked why they should make any effort if everything was predestined, or if all men returned to their Source in any case.
A visitor from Bengal saiD: Shankara says that we are all free, not bound, and that we shall all return to God from whom we came, like sparks from a fire. If that is so, why should we not commit all sorts of sins?
Bhagavan's reply showed him that that cannot be the point of view of the ego.
B: It is true that we are not bound. That is to say, the real Self has no bondage. And it is true that you will eventually return to your Source. But meanwhile, if you commit sins as you call them, you have to face the consequences. You cannot escape them. If a man beats you, can you say: 'I am free. I am not affected by the beating and feel no pain. Let him continue beating'? If you can really feel that, then you can do what you like, but what is the use of just saying in words that you are free?
Bhagavan did sometimes make pronouncements which seemed superficially like affirmations of complete predestination. When he left home in his youth, already established in Self-realisation, his mother sought and at last found him. He was maintaining silence at that time; therefore, on her request to return home with her, he wrote out his reply instead of replying verbally:
The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdha karma (destiny to be worked out in this life, resulting from the balance sheet of actions in past lives). Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.
He sometimes also made such statements to devotees.
All the activities that the body is to go through are determined when it first comes into existence. It does not rest with you to accept or reject them. The only freedom you have is to turn your mind inward and renounces activities there.
With reference to Bhagavan's reply to Mrs. Desai on the evening of January 3, 1946, I asked him: Are only the important events in a man's life, such as his main occupation or profession, predetermined, or are trifling acts also, such as taking a cup of water or moving from one part of the room to another?
B: Everything is predetermined.
I: Then what responsibility, what free will has man?
B: Why does the body come into existence? It is designed for the various things that are marked out for it in this life.... As for freedom, a man is always free not to identify himself with the body and not to be affected by the pleasures and pains consequent on its activities.
Actually, however, the question of free will or predestination does not arise at all from the point of view of non-duality. It is as though a group of people who had never heard of radio were to stand round a wireless set arguing whether the man in the box has to sing what the transmitting station tells him to or whether he can change parts of the songs. The answer is that there is no man in the box and therefore the question does not arise. Similarly, the answer to the question of whether the ego has free will or not is that there is no ego and therefore the question does not arise. Therefore Bhagavan's usual response to the question would be to bid the questioner find out who it is that has free will or predestination.
D: Has man any free will or is everything in his life predetermined?
The same question as above, but the answer differs according to the needs of the questioner. In fact, if one does not bear in mind what has just been said about the unreality of the ego it seems to be quite contradictory.
B: Free will exists together with the individuality. As long as the individuality lasts, so long is there free will. All the scriptures are based on this fact and advise directing the free will in the right channel.
Is this really a contradiction of the reply given earlier? No, because, according to Bhagavan's teaching, individuality has only an illusory existence. So long as one imagines that one has a separate individuality, so long does one also imagine its free will. The two exist together inevitably. The problem of predestination and free will has always plagued philosophers and theologians and will always continue to do so, because it is insoluble on the plane of duality, that is on the supposition of one being who is the Creator and a lot of other, separate omnipotent and omniscient - he does not know what will happen, because it depends on what they decide; and he cannot control all happenings because they have the power to change them. On the other hand, if he is omniscient and omnipotent he has the fore-knowledge of all that will happen and controls everything, and therefore they can have no power of decision, that is to say no free will. But on the level of advaita or non-duality the problem fades out and ceases to exist. In truth the ego has no free will, because there is no ego; but on the level of apparent reality the ego consists of free will - it is the illusion of free will that creates the illusion of the ego. That is what Bhagavan meant by saying that "as long as the individuality lasts, so long is there free will.'' The next sentence in his answer turns the questioner away from the theory of practice.
Find out who it is who has free will or predestination and abide in that state. Then both are transcended. That is the only purpose in discussing these questions. To whom do such questions present themselves? Discover that and be at peace.
He did not encourage curiosity and seldom answered questions about the state of the Jnani or the Realised Man, but when asked whether the Jnani continues to perform a function after the death of the body, I have heard him reply briefly that in some cases he may. Also he himself confirmed what his disciples know now from experience, that the Guru may continue to give guidance after the death of the body, when no longer in human form.
Dr. Masalavala, retired Chief Medical Officer of Bhopal, who has been here for over a month and is in temporary charge of the Asramam hospital in the absence of Dr. K. Shiva Rao, put the following questions to Bhagavan and received the following answers:
D: Bhagavan says: 'The influence of the Jnani steals into the devotee in silence'. Bhagavan also says: 'Contact with great men, exalted souls, is one efficacious means of realising one's true being.'
B: Yes. What is the contradiction? Jnani, great men, exalted souls - does he differentiate between them?
Thereupon I said 'no'.
B: Contact with them is good. They will work through silence. By speaking, their power is reduced. Speech is always less powerful than silence. So silent contact is the best.
D: Does the contact continue even after the dissolution of the physical body of the Jnani or only so long as he is in flesh and blood?
B: The Guru is not in the physical form. So contact will remain even after his physical form vanishes.
He declared that one who has obtained the grace of the Guru would never be abandoned.
He who has earned the grace of the Guru will undoubtedly be saved and never forsaken, just as the prey that has fallen into the tiger's jaw will never be allowed to escape.
Remembering this, perhaps, some devotees complained, when the death of his body was imminent, that he was abandoning them and asked what they could do without his continued guidance. He answered briefly:
You attach too much importance to the body.
The implication was clear. The Guru is the same whether he wears a body or not. And his devotees have since found it to be so.
Having dealt with the need to pass from theory to practice, the possibility of practising in the conditions of the modern world without any outward observances, and the necessity for a Guru, the next two chapters will deal with the forms of practice that Bhagavan prescribed. His prescribing them openly is in itself remarkable. In their public writings and utterances the spiritual masters of all religions have dealt mainly with theory and said little or nothing about the practical discipline they enjoined. The reason for this is obvious. It is that, as Bhagavan explains in the story of the king and his minister quoted earlier in this chapter, a technique of spiritual training can be legitimately used and be effective for good only when the use of it has been authorised by one duly qualified. And yet Bhagavan himself openly expounded the methods he enjoined, both in speech and writing. Most of the books on which the present exposition is based were written and published during his lifetime, and he always showed interest in them and often recommended a questioner to turn to one of them of his answer. Even when it became clear that the life of his body was approaching its end, he continued to show interest, in their editing and publication. Why did he permit this, when he was insistent that no technique is valid without the authorisation of the Guru? The only answer is the one given above. Physical death made no difference. If the Mukta can be a Guru before death, so can he also after death. He becomes no more a Mukta by dying. The path that had been made open by his Grace to those who turn to him was not for his lifetime only or for those few only who could approach him physically. He said:
They say that I am dying, but I am not going away. Where could I go? I am here.
by T. M. P. Mahadevan, M. A., Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy, University of Madras
V. S. RAMANAN
President, Board of Trustees
Reprinted from Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence
© Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai 606-603, Tamil Nadu, India 1989
THE present essay was originally written for a book on The Saints; and it appears as General Introduction in a work on Bhagavan entitled Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence. As it is felt that this essay may be of interest to the general readers, it is being issued separately also in the form of a booklet.
May Bhagavan accept this offering!
Aradhana Day T. M. P. MAHADEVAN May 5, 1959.
O - Vinayaka, who wrote on a scroll (i.e., the slopes of Mt. Meru) the words of the Great Sage (i.e., Vyasa) and who presides at the victorious Arunachala, do remove the disease (i.e. maya) that is the cause of repeated births, and protect graciously the great Noble Faith (i.e., the Upanisadic philosophy and religion) which brims with the honey of the Self.
This a prayer to Lord Ganesa, the Remover of all obstacles, composed by Bhagavan Sri Ramana. Reference is made to the Puranic story that Ganesa served as a scribe to Vyasa and wrote down the Mahabharata and His Grace is here invoked for the protection of the Vedanta philosophy. The printed Tamil verse is a facsimile of Bhagavan's own handwriting.
THE Scriptures tell us that it is as difficult to trace the path a sage pursues as it is to draw a line marking the course a bird takes in the air while on its wings. Most humans have to be content with a slow and laborious journey towards the goal. But a few are born as adepts in flying non-stop to the common home of all beings - the supreme Self. The generality of mankind takes heart when such a sage appears. Though it is unable to keep pace with him, it feels uplifted in his presence and has a foretaste of the felicity compared to which the pleasures of the world pale into nothing. Countless people who went to Tiruvannamalai during the life-time of Maharshi Sri Ramana had this experience. They saw in him a sage without the least touch of worldliness, a saint of matchless purity, a witness to the eternal truth of Vedanta. It is not often that a spiritual genius of the magnitude of Sri Ramana visits this earth. But when such an event occurs, the entire humanity gets benefited and a new era of hope opens before it.
About thirty miles south of Madurai there is a village Tirucculi by name with an ancient Siva temple about which two of the great Tamil saints, Sundaramurti and Manikkavacakar, have sung. In this sacred village there lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century an uncertified pleader, Sundaram Aiyar with his wife Alagammal. Piety, devotion and charity characterised this ideal couple. Sundaram Aiyar was generous even beyond his measure. Alagammal was an ideal Hindu wife. To them was born Venkataraman - who later came to be known to the world as Ramana Maharshi - on the 30th of December, 1879. It was an auspicious day for the Hindus, the Ardra-darsanam day. On this day every year the image of the Dancing Siva, Nataraja, is taken out of the temples in procession in order to celebrate the divine grace of the Lord that made Him appear before such saints as Gautama, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, and Manikkavacaka. In the year 1879 on the Ardra day the Nataraja Image of the temple at Tirucculi was taken out with all the attendant ceremonies, and just as it was about to re-enter, Venkataraman was born. There was nothing markedly distinctive about Venkataraman's early years. He grew up just as an average boy. He was sent to an elementary school in Tirucculi, and then for a year's education to a school in Dindigul. When he was twelve his father died. This necessitated his going to Madurai along with the family and living with his paternal uncle Subbaiyar. There he was sent to Scott's Middle School and then to the American Mission High School. He was an indifferent student, not at all serious about his studies. But he was a healthy and strong lad. His school mates and other companions were afraid of his strength. If some of them had any grievance against him at any time, they would dare play pranks with him, only when he was asleep. In this he was rather unusual : he would not know of anything that happened to him during sleep. He would be carried away or even beaten without his waking up in the process.
It was apparently by accident that Venkataraman heard about Arunachala when he was sixteen years of age. One day an elderly relative of his called on the family in Madurai. The boy asked him where he had come from. The relative replied "From Arunachala". The very name 'Arunachala' acted as a magic spell on Venkataraman, and with an evident excitement he put his next question to the elderly gentleman, "What! From Arunachala! Where is it?" And he got the reply that Tiruvannamalai was Arunachala.
Referring to this incident the Sage says later on in one of his hymns to Arunachala : 'Oh, great wonder! As an insentient hill it stands. Its action is difficult for anyone to understand. From my childhood it appeared to my intelligence that Arunachala was something very great. But even when I came to know through another that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai I did not understand its meaning. When, stilling my mind, it drew me up to it, and I came close, I found that it was the Immovable.'
Quickly following the incident which attracted Venkataraman's attention to Arunachala, there was another happening which also contributed to the turning of the boy's mind to the deeper values of spirituality. He chanced to lay his hands, on a copy of Sekkilar's Periyapuranam which relates the lives of the Saiva saints. He read the book and was enthralled by it. This was the first piece of religious literature that he read. The example of the saints fascinated him; and in the inner recesses of his heart he found something responding favourably. Without any apparent earlier preparation, a longing arose in him to emulate the spirit of renunciation and devotion that constituted the essence of saintly life.
The spiritual experience that Venkataraman was now wishing devoutly to have came to him soon, and quite unexpectedly. It was about the middle of the year 1896; Venkataraman was seventeen then. One day he was sitting up alone on the first floor of his uncle's house. He was in his usual health. There was nothing wrong with it. But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death took hold of him. He felt he was going to die. Why this feeling should have come to him he did not know. The feeling of impending death, however, did not unnerve him. He calmly thought about what he should do. He said to himself, "Now, death has come. What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies." Immediately thereafter he lay down stretching his limbs out and holding them stiff as though rigor mortis had set in. He held his breath and kept his lips tightly closed, so that to all outward appearance his body resembled a corpse. Now, what would happen? This was what he thought : "Well, this body is now dead. It will be carried to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death, of this body am I dead? Is the body I? This body is silent and inert. But I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the 'I' within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit". As Bhagavan Sri Ramana narrated this experience later on for the benefit of his devotees it looked as though this was a process of reasoning. But he took care to explain that this was not so. The realization came to him in a flash. He perceived the truth directly. 'I' was something very real, the only real thing. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. From then on, 'I' continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Thus young Venkataraman found himself on the peak of spirituality without any arduous or prolonged sadhana. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness. All on a sudden the boy that used to be called Venkataraman had flowered into a sage and saint.
There was noticed a complete change in the young sage's life. The things that he had valued earlier now lost their value. The spiritual values which he had ignored till then became the only objects of attention. School-studies, friends, relations - none of these had now any significance for him. He grew utterly indifferent to his surroundings. Humility, meekness, non-resistance and other virtues became his adornment. Avoiding company he preferred to sit alone, all-absorbed in concentration on the Self. He went to the Minaksi temple every day and experienced an exaltation every time he stood before the images of the gods and the saints. Tears flowed from his eyes profusely. The new vision was constantly with him. His was the transfigured life.
Venkataraman's elder brother observed the great change that had come upon him. On several occasions he rebuked the boy for his indifferent and yogi-like behaviour. About six weeks after the great experience the crisis came. It was the 29th of August, 1896. Venkataraman's English teacher had asked him, as a punishment for indifference in studies, to copy out a lesson from Bain's Grammar three times. The boy copied it out twice, but stopped there, realizing the utter futility of that task. Throwing aside the book and the papers, he sat up, closed his eyes, and turned inward in meditation. The elder brother who was watching Venkataraman's behaviour all the while went up to him and said : "What use is all this to one who is like this?" This was obviously meant as a rebuke for Venkataraman's unworldly ways including neglect of studies. Venkataraman did not give any reply. He admitted to himself that there was no use pretending to study and be his old self. He decided to leave his home; and he remembered that there was a place to go to, viz. Tiruvannamalai. But if he expressed his intention to his elders, they would not let him go. So he had to use guile. He told his brother that he was going to school to attend a special class that noon. The brother thereupon asked him to take five rupees from the box below and pay it as his fee at the college where he was studying. Venkataraman went downstairs; his aunt served him a meal and gave him the five rupees. He took out an atlas which was in the house and noted that the nearest railway station to Tiruvannamalai mentioned there was Tindivanam. Actually, however, a branch line had been laid to Tiruvannamalai itself. The atlas was an old one, and so this was not marked there. Calculating that three rupees would be enough for the journey, Venkataraman took that much and left the balance with a letter at a place in the house where his brother could easily find them, and made his departure for Tiruvannamalai. This was what he wrote in that letter : "I have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with his command. This (meaning his person) has only embarked on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore, no one need grieve over this act. And no money need be spent in search of this. Your college fee has not been paid. Herewith rupees two."
There was a curse on Venkataraman's family - in truth, it was a blessing - that one out of every generation should turn out to be a mendicant. This curse was administered by a wandering ascetic who, it is said, begged alms at the house of one of Venkataraman's forbears, and was refused. A paternal uncle of Sundaram Aiyar's became a sannyasin; so did Sundaram Aiyar's elder brother. Now, it was the turn of Venkataraman, although no one could have foreseen that the curse would work out in this manner. Dispassion found lodgement in Venkataraman's heart, and he became a parivrajaka.
It was an epic journey that Venkataraman made from Madurai to Tiruvannamalai. About noon he left his uncle's house. He walked to the railway station which was half a mile way. The train was running fortunately late that day; otherwise he would have missed it. He looked up the table of fares and came to know that the third-class fare to Tindivanam was two rupees and thirteen annas. He bought a ticket, and kept with him the balance of three annas. Had he known that there was a rail-track to Tiruvannamalai itself, and had he consulted the table of fares, he would have found that the fare was exactly three rupees. When the train arrived, he boarded it quietly and took his seat. A Maulvi who was also travelling entered into conversation with Venkataraman. From him Venkataraman learnt that there was train-service to Tiruvannamalai and that one need not go to Tindivanam but could change trains at Viluppuram. This was a piece of useful information. It was dusk when the train reached Tiruccirappalli. Venkataraman was hungry; he bought two country pears for half an anna; and strangely enough even with the first bite his hunger was appeased. About three o'clock in the morning the train arrived at Viluppuram. Venkataraman got off the train there with the intention of completing the rest, of the journey to Tiruvannamalai by walk.
At daybreak he went into the town, and was looking out for the sign-post to Tiruvannamalai. He saw a sign-board reading 'Mambalappattu' but did not know then that Mambalappattu was a place en route to Tiruvannamalai. Before making further efforts to find out which road he was to take, he wanted to refresh himself as he was tired and hungry. He went up to a hotel and asked for food. He had to wait till noon for the food to be ready. After eating his meal, he proffered two annas in payment. The hotel proprietor asked him how much money he had. When told by Venkataraman that he had only two and a half annas, he declined to accept payment. It was from him that Venkataraman came to know that Mambalappattu was a place, on the way to Tiruvannamalai. Venkataraman went back to Viluppuram station and bought a ticket to Mambalappattu for which the money he had was just enough.
It was sometime in the afternoon when Venkataraman arrived at Mambalappattu by train. From there he set out on foot for Tiruvannamalai. About ten miles he walked, and it was late in the evening. There was the temple of Arayaninallur nearby, built on a large rock. He went there waited for the doors to be opened, entered and sat down in the pillared hall. He had a vision there - a vision of brilliant light enveloping the entire place. It was no physical light. It shone for some time and then disappeared. Venkataraman continued sitting in a mood of deep meditation, till he was roused by the temple priests who were wanting to lock the doors and go to another temple three quarters of a mile away at Kilur for service. Venkataraman followed them, and while inside the temple he got lost in samadhi again. After finishing their duties the priests woke him up, but would not give him any food. The temple drummer who had been watching the rude behaviour of the priests implored them to hand over his share of the temple food to the strange youth. When Venkataraman asked for some drinking water, he was directed to a Sastri's house which was at some distance. While in that house he fainted and fell down. A few minutes later he rallied round and saw a small crowd looking at him curiously. He drank the water, ate some food, and lay down and slept.
Next morning he woke up. It was the 31st of August, 1896, the Gokulastami day, the day of Sri Krishna's birth. Venkataraman resumed his journey and walked for quite a while. He felt tired and hungry. So he wished for some food first, and then he would go to Tiruvannamalai, by train if that was possible. The thought occurred to him that he could dispose of the pair of gold ear-rings he was wearing and raise the money that was required. But how was this to be accomplished? He went and stood outside a house which happened to belong to one Muthukrishna Bhagavatar. He asked the Bhagavatar for food and was directed to the housewife. The good lady was pleased to receive the young sadhu and feed him on the auspicious day of Sri Krisna's birth. After the meal, Venkataraman went to the Bhagavatar again and told him that he wanted to pledge his ear-rings for four rupees in order that he may complete his pilgrimage. The rings were worth about twenty rupees, but Venkataraman had no need for that much money. The Bhagavatar examined the ear-rings, gave Venkataraman the money he had asked for, took down the youth's address, wrote out his own on a piece of paper for him, and told him that he could redeem the rings at any time. Venkataraman had his lunch at the Bhagavatar's house. The pious lady gave him a packet of sweets that she had prepared for Gokulastami. Venkataraman took leave, of the couple, tore up the address the Bhagavatar had given him - for he had no intention of redeeming the ear-rings - and went to the railway station. As there was no train till the next morning, he spent the night there. On the morning of the 1st of September, 1896, he boarded the train to Tiruvannamalai. The travel took, only a short time. Alighting from the train, he hastened to the great temple of Arunacalesvara. All the gates stood open - even the doors of the inner shrine. The temple was then empty of all people - even the priests. Venkataraman entered the sanctum sanctorum, and as he stood before his Father Arunacalesvara he experienced great ecstasy and unspeakable joy. The epic journey had ended. The ship had come safely to port.
The rest of what we regard as Ramana's life - this is how we shall call him hereafter - was spent in Tiruvannamalai. Ramana was not formally initiated into sannyasa. As he came out of the temple and was walking along the streets of the town, someone called out and asked whether he wanted his tuft removed. He consented readily, and was conducted to the Ayyankulam tank where a barber shaved his head. Then he stood on the steps of the tank and threw away into the water his remaining money. He also discarded the packet of sweets given by the Bhagavatar's wife. The next to go was the sacred thread he was wearing. As he was returning to the temple he was just wondering why he should give his body the luxury of a bath, when there was a downpour which drenched him.
The first place of Ramana's residence in Tiruvannamalai was the great temple. For a few weeks he remained in the thousand-pillared hall. But he was troubled by urchins who pelted stones at him as he sat in meditation. He shifted himself to obscure corners and even to an underground vault known as Patala-lingam. Undisturbed he used to spend several days in deep absorption. Without moving he sat in samadhi, not being aware of even the bites of vermin and pests. But the mischievous boys soon discovered the retreat and indulged in their pastime of throwing potsherds at the young Svami. There was at the time in Tiruvannamalai a senior Svami by name Seshadri. Those who did not know him took him for a madman. He sometimes stood guard over the young Svami, and drove away the urchins. At long last he was removed from the pit by devotees without his being aware of it and deposited in the vicinity of a shrine of Subrahmanya. From then on there was some one or other to take care of Ramana. The seat of residence had to be changed frequently. Gardens, groves, shrines - these were chosen to keep the Svami. The Svami himself never spoke. Not that he took any vow of silence; he had no inclination to talk. At times the texts like Vasistham and Kaivalyanavanitam used to be read out to him.
A little less than six months after his arrival at Tiruvannamalai Ramana shifted his residence to a shrine called Gurumurtam at the earnest request of its keeper, a Tambiransvami. As days passed and as Ramana's fame spread, increasing numbers of pilgrims and sight-seers came to visit him. After about a year's stay at Gurumurtam, the Svami - locally he was known as Brahmana-svami - moved to a neighbouring mango orchard. It was here that one of his uncles, Nelliyappa Aiyar traced him out. Nelliyappa Aiyar was a second-grade pleader at Manamadurai. Having learnt from a friend that Venkataraman was then a revered Sadhu at Tiruvannamalai, he went there to see him. He tried his best to take Ramana along with him to Manamadurai. But the young sage would not respond. He did not show any sign of interest in the visitor. So, Nelliyappa Aiyar went back disappointed to Manamadurai. However, he conveyed the news to Alagammal, Ramana's mother.
The mother went to Tiruvannamalai accompanied by her eldest son. Ramana was then living at Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern spurs of Arunachala. With tears in her eyes Alagammal entreated Ramana to go back with her. But, for the sage there was no going back. Nothing moved him -- not even the wailings and weepings of his mother. He kept silent giving no reply. A devotee who had been observing the struggle of the mother for several days requested Ramana to write out at least what he had to say. The sage wrote on a piece of paper quite in an impersonal way thus : "In accordance with the prarabdha of each, the One whose function it is to ordain makes each to act. What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain. The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet."
Disappointed and with a heavy heart, the mother went back to Manamadurai. Sometime after this event Ramana went up the hill Arunachala, and started living in a cave called Virupaksa after a saint who dwelt and was buried there. Here also the crowds came, and among them were a few earnest seekers. These latter used to put him questions regarding spiritual experience or bring sacred books for having some points explained. Ramana sometimes wrote out his answers and explanations. One of the books that was brought to him during this period was Sankara's Vivekacudamani which later on he rendered into Tamil prose. There were also some simple unlettered folk that came to him for solace and spiritual guidance. One of them was Echammal who having lost her husband, son, and daughter, was disconsolate till the Fates guided her to Ramana's presence. She made it a point to visit the Svami every day and took upon herself the task of bringing food for him as well as for those who lived with him.
In 1903 there came to Tiruvannamalai a great Samskrit scholar and savant, Ganapati Sastri known also as Ganapati Muni because of the austerities he had been observing. He had the title Kavya-kantha (one who had poetry at his throat), and his disciples addressed him as nayana (father). He was a specialist in the worship of the Divine Mother. He visited Ramana in the Virupaksa cave quite a few times. Once in 1907 he was assailed by doubts regarding his own spiritual practices. He went up the hill, saw Ramana sitting alone in the cave, and expressed himself thus : "All that has to be read I have read; even Vedanta sastra I have fully understood; I have done japa to my heart's content; yet I have not up to this time understood what tapas is. Therefore I have sought refuge at your feet. Pray enlighten me as to the nature of tapas." Ramana replied, now speaking, "If one watches whence the notion 'I' arises, the mind gets absorbed there; that is tapas. When a mantra is repeated, if one watches whence that mantra sound arises, the mind gets absorbed there; that is tapas." To the scholar this came as a revelation; he felt the grace of the sage enveloping him. He it was that proclaimed Ramana to be Maharshi and Bhagavan. He composed hymns in Samskrit in praise of the sage, and also wrote the Ramana-Gita explaining his teachings.
Ramana's mother, Alagammal, after her return to Manamadurai, lost her eldest son. Two years later, her youngest son, Nagasundaram paid a brief visit to Tiruvannamalai. She herself went there once on her return from a pilgrimage to Varanasi, and again during a visit to Tirupati. On this occasion she fell ill and suffered for several weeks with symptoms of typhoid. Ramana showed great solicitude in nursing her and restoring her to health. He even composed a hymn in Tamil beseeching Lord Arunachala to cure her of her disease. The first verse of the hymn runs as follows : 'Oh Medicine in the form of a Hill that arose to cure the disease of all the births that come in succession like waves! Oh Lord! It is Thy duty to save my mother who regards Thy feet alone as her refuge, by curing her fever.' He also prayed that his mother should be granted the vision divine and be weaned from worldliness. It is needless to say that both the prayers were answered. Alagammal recovered, and went back to Manamadurai. But not long after she returned to Tiruvannamalai; a little later followed her youngest son, Nagasundaram who had in the meanwhile lost his wife leaving a son. It was in the beginning of 1916 that the mother came, resolved to spend the rest of her life with Ramana. Soon after his mother's arrival, Ramana moved from Virupaksa to Skandasramam, a little higher up the hill. The mother received training in intense spiritual life. She donned the ochre robe, and took charge of the Asrama kitchen. Nagasundaram too became a sannyasin, assuming the name Niranjanananda. Among Ramana's devotees he came to be popularly known as Chinnaswami (the Younger Swami). In 1920 the mother grew weak in health and ailments incidental to old age came to her. Ramana tended her with care and affection, and spent even sleepless nights sitting up with her. The end came on May 19, 1922, which was the Bahulanavami day, in the month of Vaisakha. The mother's body was taken down the hill to be interred. The spot chosen was at the southernmost point, between Palitirtham Tank and the Daksinamurti Mantapam. While the ceremonies were being performed, Ramana himself stood silently looking on. Niranjanananda Swami took his residence near the tomb. Ramana who continued to remain at Skandasramam visited the tomb every day. After about six months he came to stay there, as he said later on, not out of his own volition but in obedience to the Divine Will. Thus was founded the Ramanasramam. A temple was raised over the tomb and was consecrated in 1949. As the years rolled by the Asramam grew steadily, and people not only from India but from every continent of the world came to see the sage and receive help from him in their spiritual pursuits.
Ramana's first Western devotee was F. H. Humphrys. He came to India in 1911 to take up a post in the Police service at Vellore. Given to the practice of occultism, he was in search of a Mahatma. He was introduced to Ganapati Sastri by his Telugu tutor; and Sastri took him to Ramana. The Englishman was greatly impressed. Writing about his first visit to the sage in the International Psychic Gazette, he said : 'On reaching the cave we sat before him, at his feet, and said nothing. We sat thus for a long time and I felt lifted out of myself. For half an hour I looked into the Maharshi's eyes, which never changed their expression of deep contemplation.... The Maharshi is a man beyond description in his expression of dignity, gentleness, self-control and calm strength of conviction.' Humphry's ideas of spirituality changed for the better as a result of the contact with Ramana. He repeated his visits to the sage. He recorded his impressions in his letters to a friend in England which were published in the Gazette mentioned above. In one of them he wrote, 'You can imagine nothing more beautiful than his smile.' And again, 'It is strange what a change it makes in one to have been in his Presence!'
It was not all good people that went to the Asrama. Sometimes bad ones turned up also - even bad sadhus. Twice in the year 1924 thieves broke into the Asrama in quest of loot. On the second of these occasions they even beat the Maharshi, finding that there was very little for them to take. When one of the devotees sought the sage's permission to punish the thieves, the sage forbade him, saying : "They have their dharma, we have ours. It is for us to bear and forbear. Let us not interfere with them." When one of the thieves gave him a blow on the left thigh, he told him : "If you are not satisfied you can strike the other leg also." After the thieves had left, a devotee enquired about the beating. The sage remarked, "I also have received some puja," punning on the word which means 'worship' but is also used to mean 'blows'.
The spirit of harmlessness that permeated the sage and his environs made even animals and birds make friends with him. He showed them the same consideration that he did to the humans that went to him. When he referred to any of them, he used the form 'he' or 'she' and not 'it'. Birds and squirrels built their nests around him. Cows, dogs and monkeys found asylum in the Asrama. All of them behaved intelligently - especially the cow Laksmi. He knew their ways quite intimately. He would see to it that they were fed properly and well. And, when any of them died, the body would be buried with due ceremony. The life in the Asrama flowed on smoothly. With the passage of time more and more of visitors came - some of them for a short stay and others for longer periods. The dimensions of the Asrama increased, and new features and departments were added - a home for the cattle, a school for the study of the Vedas, a department for publication, and the Mother's temple with regular worship, etc. Ramana sat most of the time in the hall that had been constructed for the purpose as the witness to all that happened around him. It was not that he was not active. He used to stitch leaf-plates, dress vegetables, read proofs received from the press, look into newspapers and books, suggest lines of reply to letters received, etc. yet it was quite evident that he was apart from everything. There were numerous invitations for him to undertake tours. But he never moved out of Tiruvannamalai, and in the later years out of the Asrama. Most of the time, every day, people sat before him. They sat mostly in silence. Sometimes some of them asked questions; and sometimes he answered them. It was a great experience to sit before him and to look at his beaming eyes. Many did experience time coming to a stop and a stillness and peace beyond description.
The golden jubilee of Ramana's coming to stay at Tiruvannamalai was celebrated in 1946. In 1947 his health began to fail. He was not yet seventy, but looked much older. Towards the end of 1948 a small nodule appeared below the elbow of his left arm. As it grew in size, the doctor in charge of the Asrama dispensary cut it out. But in a month's time it reappeared. Surgeons from Madras were called, and they operated. The wound did not heal, and the tumour came again. On further examination it was diagnosed that the affection was a case of sarcoma. The doctors suggested amputating the arm above the affected part. Ramana replied with a smile : "There is no need for alarm. The body is itself a disease. Let it have its natural end. Why mutilate it? Simple dressing of the affected part will do." Two more operations had to be performed, but the tumour appeared again. Indigenous systems of medicine were tried; and homeopathy too. The disease did not yield itself to treatment. The sage was quite unconcerned, and was supremely indifferent to suffering. He sat as a spectator watching the disease waste the body. But his eyes shone as bright as ever; and his grace flowed towards all beings. Crowds came in large numbers. Ramana insisted that they should be allowed to have his darsana. Devotees profoundly wished that the sage should cure his body through an exercise of supernormal powers. Some of them imagined that they themselves had had the benefit of these powers which they attributed to Ramana. Ramana had compassion for those who grieved over the suffering, and he sought to comfort them by reminding them of the truth that Bhagavan was not the body : "They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! They are despondent the Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away - where can he go, and how?"
The end came on the 14th of April, 1950. That evening the sage gave darsana to the devotees that came. All that were present in the Asrama knew that the end was nearing. They sat singing Ramana's hymn to Arunachala with the refrain Arunachala-Siva. The sage asked his attendants to make him sit up. He opened his luminous and gracious eyes for a brief while; there was a smile; a tear of bliss trickled down from the outer corner of his eyes; and at 8-47 the breathing stopped. There was no struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the summit, of the holy hill, Arunachala, and disappeared behind it.
Ramana Maharshi seldom wrote; and what little he did write in prose or verse was written to meet the specific demands of his devotees. He himself declared once : "Somehow, it never occurs to me to write a book or compose poems. All the poems I have made were on the request of someone or other in connection with some particular event." The most important of his works is The Forty Verses on Existence. In the Upadesa Saram which is also a poem the quintessence of Vedanta is set forth. The sage composed five hymns to Arunachala. Some of the works of Sankara like Vivekacudamani and Atma-bodha were rendered into Tamil by him. Most of what he wrote is in Tamil. But he wrote also in Sanskrit, Telugu, and Malayalam.
The philosophy of Sri Ramana - which is the same as that of Advaita-Vedanta has for its aim Self-realization. The central path taught in this philosophy is the inquiry into the nature of Self, the content of the notion 'I'. Ordinarily the sphere of the 'I' varies and covers a multiplicity of factors. But these factors are not really the 'I'. For instance, we speak of the physical body as 'I'; we say, 'I am fat', 'I am lean' etc. It will not take long to discover that this is a wrong usage. The body itself cannot say, 'I' for it is inert. Even the most ignorant man understands the implication of the expression 'my body'. It is not easy, however, to resolve the mistaken identity of the 'I' with egoity (ahankara). That is because the inquiring mind is the ego, and in order to remove the wrong identification it has to pass a sentence of death, as it were, on itself. This is by no means a simple thing. The offering of the ego in the fire of wisdom is the greatest form of sacrifice.
The discrimination of the Self from the ego, we said, is not easy. But it is not impossible. All of us can have this discrimination if we ponder over the implication of our sleep-experience. In sleep 'we are', though the ego has made its exit. The ego does not function there. Still there is the 'I' that witnesses the absence of the ego as well as of the objects. If the 'I' were not there, one would not recall on waking from one's sleep-experience, and say; "I slept happily. I did not know anything". We have, then, two 'I's' - the 'pseudo-I' which is the ego and the true 'I' which is the Self. The identification of the 'I' with the ego is so strong that we seldom see the ego without its mask. Moreover, all our relative experience turns on the pivot of the ego. With the rise of the ego on waking from sleep, the entire world rises with it. The ego, therefore, looks so important and unassailable.
But this is really a fortress made of cards. Once the process of inquiry starts, it will be found to crumble and dissolve. For undertaking this inquiry, one must possess a sharp mind - much sharper than the one required for unravelling the mysteries of matter. It is with the one-pointed intellect that the truth is to be seen (drsyate tu agraya buddhya). It is true that even the intellect will have to get resolved before the final wisdom dawns. But up to that point it has to inquire - and inquire relentlessly. Wisdom, surely, is not for the indolent!
The inquiry 'Who am I?' is not to be regarded as a mental effort to understand the mind's nature. Its main purpose is 'to focus the entire mind at its source'. The source of the 'pseudo-I' is the Self. What one does in Self-inquiry is to run against the mental current instead of running along with it, and finally transcend the sphere of mental modifications. When the 'pseudo-I' is tracked down to its source, it vanishes. Then the Self shines in all its splendour - which shining is called realization and release.
The cessation or non-cessation of the body has nothing to do with release. The body may continue to exist and the world may continue to appear, as in the case of the Maharshi. That makes no difference at all to the Self that has been realized. In truth, there is neither the body nor the world for him; there is only the Self, the eternal Existence (sat), the Intelligence (cit), the unsurpassable bliss (ananda). Such an experience is not entirely foreign to us. We have it in sleep, where we are conscious neither of the external world of things nor of the inner world of dreams. But that experience lies under the cover of ignorance. So it is that we come back to the phantasies of dream and of the world of waking. Non-return to duality is possible only when nescience has been removed. To make this possible is the aim of Vedanta. To inspire even the lowliest of us with hope and help us out of the Slough of Despond, is the supreme significance of such illustrious exemplars as the Maharshi.
by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
A Revised Translation
V. S. RAMANAN
President, Board of Trustees
TIRUVANNAMALAI (S. INDIA)
Foreword to the Original Tamil Edition
The Tamil-speaking world knows the life-history and the spiritual instructions of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi well through the books which have already come out. He shines in the resplendent Arunachala Hill (Tiruvannamalai) as the sun of knowledge which destroys the sorrows of those who worship him. In this book named Upadesa Manjari (bouquet of spiritual instructions) Sri Natanananda, a true devotee of his, who serves and praises him by laying at his lotus feet many garlands of songs, has brought out Bhagavan's words heard by him at different times. They consist of questions and answers comprising four chapters entitled upadesa (instruction), abhyasa (practice), anubhava (experience) and arudha (attainment). I humbly request devotees to accept this small book which offers wholesome food for the spirit.
Importance of the Work
I Instruction (Upadesa)
II. Practice (Abhyasa)
III. Experience (Anubhava)
IV. Attainment (Arudha)
I seek refuge at the sacred feet of the blessed Ramana, who performs the entire work of creation, preservation and destruction, while remaining wholly unattached, and who makes us aware of what is real and thus protects us, that I may set down his words fittingly.
Importance of the Work
Worshipping with the instruments (of thought, word and body) the sacred lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the very embodiment of the beginningless infinite supreme Brahman, the Satchitananda (existence, consciousness, bliss), I have gathered this bouquet of the flowers of his instructions (upadesamanjari) for the benefit of those who are foremost among the seekers of Liberation and who are adored by learned persons, in order that they might adorn themselves with it and attain salvation.
This book is an epitome of the immortal words of that great soul, Sri Ramana Maharshi, whose teachings entirely dispelled the doubts and wrong notions of this humble person even as the sun dispels darkness.
The subject of this book is that eternal Brahman which shines as the pinnacle and heart of all the Vedas and Agamas.
That incomparable Self-realization (atmasiddhi) which is praised by all the Upanisads and which is the supreme good to be sought by all noble aspirants (brahmavids) is the theme of this work.
1. What are
the marks of a real teacher (Sadguru)?
Steady abidance in the Self, looking at all with an equal eye, unshakeable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances, etc.
2. What are
the marks of an earnest disciple (sadsisya)?
An intense longing for the removal of sorrow and attainment of joy and an intense aversion for all kinds of mundane pleasure.
3. What are
the characteristics of instruction (upadesa)?
The word 'upadesa' means : 'near the place or seat' (upa - near, desa - place or seat). The Guru who is the embodiment of that which is indicated by the terms sat, chit, and ananda (existence, consciousness and bliss), prevents the disciple who, on account of his acceptance of the forms of the objects of the senses, has swerved from his true state and is consequently distressed and buffeted by joys and sorrows, from continuing so and establishes him in his own real nature without differentiation.
Upadesa also means showing a distant object quite near. It is brought home to the disciple that the Brahman which he believes to be distant and different from himself is near and not different from himself.
4. If it be
true that the Guru is one's own Self (atman), what is the principle underlying
the doctrine which says that, however learned a disciple may be or whatever
occult powers he may possess, he cannot attain self-realization (atma-siddhi)
without the grace of the Guru?
Although in absolute truth the state of the Guru is that of oneself it is very hard for the Self which has become the individual soul (jiva) through ignorance to realize its true state or nature without the grace of the Guru.
All mental concepts are controlled by the mere presence of the real Guru. If he were to say to one who arrogantly claims that he has seen the further shore of the ocean of learning or one who claims arrogantly that he can perform deeds which are well-nigh impossible, "Yes, you learnt all that is to be learnt, but have you learnt (to know) yourself? And you who are capable of performing deeds which are almost impossible, have you seen yourself?", they will bow their heads (in shame) and remain silent. Thus it is evident that only by the grace of the Guru and by no other accomplishment is it possible to know oneself.
5. What are
the marks of the Guru's grace?
It is beyond words or thoughts.
6. If that is
so, how is it that it is said that the disciple realizes his true state by the
It is like the elephant which wakes up on seeing a lion in its dream. Even as the elephant wakes up at the mere sight of the lion, so too is it certain that the disciple wakes up from the sleep of ignorance into the wakefulness of true knowledge through the Guru's benevolent look of grace.
7. What is the
significance of the saying that the nature of the real Guru is that of the Supreme
In the case of the individual soul which desires to attain the state of true knowledge or the state of Godhood (Isvara) and with that object always practises devotion, when the individual's devotion has reached a mature stage, the Lord who is the witness of that individual soul and identical with it, comes forth in human form with the help of sat-chit-ananda, His three natural features, and form and name which he also graciously assumes, and in the guise of blessing the disciple, absorbs him in Himself. According to this doctrine the Guru can truly be called the Lord.
8. How then
did some great persons attain knowledge without a Guru?
To a few mature persons the Lord shines as the light of knowledge and imparts awareness of the truth.
9. What is the
end of devotion (bhakti) and the path of Siddhanta (i.e., Saiva Siddhanta)?
It is to learn the truth that all one's actions performed with unselfish devotion, with the aid of the three purified instruments (body, speech and mind), in the capacity of the servant of the Lord, become the Lord's actions, and to stand forth free from the sense of 'I' and 'mine'. This is also the truth of what the Saiva-Siddhantins call para-bhakti (supreme devotion) or living in the service of God (irai-pani-nittral).
10. What is
the end of the path of knowledge (jnana) or Vedanta?
It is to know the truth that the 'I' is not different from the Lord (Isvara) and to be free from the feeling of being the doer (kartrtva, ahamkara).
11. How can
it be said that the end of both these paths is the same?
Whatever the means, the destruction of the sense 'I' and 'mine' is the goal, and as these are interdependent, the destruction of either of them causes the destruction of the other; therefore in order to achieve that state of Silence which is beyond thought and word, either the path of knowledge which removes the sense of 'I' or the path of devotion which removes the sense of 'mine', will suffice. So there is no doubt that the end of the paths of devotion and knowledge is one and the same.
NOTE: So long as the 'I' exists it is necessary to accept the Lord also. If any one wishes to regain easily the supreme state of identity (sayujya) now lost to him, it is only proper that he should accept this conclusion.
12. What is
the mark of the ego?
The individual soul of the form of 'I' is the ego The Self which is of the nature of intelligence (chit) has no sense of 'I'. Nor does the insentient body possess a sense of 'I'. The mysterious appearance of a delusive ego between the intelligent and the insentient, being the root cause of all these troubles, upon its destruction by whatever means, that which really exists will be seen as it is. This is called Liberation (moksha).
1. What is the
method of practice?
As the Self of a person who tries to attain Self-realization is not different from him and as there is nothing other than or superior to him to be attained by him, Self-realization being only the realization of one's own nature, the seeker of Liberation realizes, without doubts or misconceptions, his real nature by distinguishing the eternal from the transient, and never swerves from his natural state. This is known as the practice of knowledge. This is the enquiry leading to Self-realization.
2. Can this
path of enquiry be followed by all aspirants?
This is suitable only for the ripe souls. The rest should follow different methods according to the state of their minds.
3. What are
the other methods?
They are (i) stuti, (ii) japa, (iii) dhyana, (iv) yoga,(v) jnana, etc.
(i) stuti is singing the praises of the Lord with a great feeling of devotion.
(ii) japa is uttering the names of the gods or sacred mantras like Om either mentally or verbally.(While following the methods of stuti and japa the mind will sometimes be concentrated (lit. closed) and sometimes diffused (lit. open). The vagaries of the mind will not be evident to those who follow these methods).
denotes the repetition of the names, etc., mentally (japa) with feelings of
devotion. In this method the state of the mind will be understood easily. For
the mind does not become concentrated and diffused simultaneously. When one
is in dhyana it does not contact the objects of the senses, and when it is in
contact with the objects it is not in dhyana. Therefore those who are in this
state can observe the vagaries of the mind then and there and by stopping the
mind from thinking other thoughts, fix it in dhyana. Perfection in dhyana is
the state of abiding in the Self (lit., abiding in the form of 'that' tadakaranilai)
As meditation functions in an exceedingly subtle manner at the source of the mind it is not difficult to perceive its rise and subsidence.
(iv) yoga: The source of the breath is the same as that of the mind; therefore the subsidence of either leads effortlessly to that of the other. The practice of stilling the mind through breath control (pranayama) is called yoga. Fixing their minds on psychic centres such as the sahasrara (lit. the thousand-petalled lotus) yogis remain any length of time without awareness of their bodies. As long as this state continues they appear to be immersed in some kind of joy. But when the mind which has become tranquil emerges (becomes active again) it resumes its worldly thoughts. It is therefore necessary to train it with the help of practices like dhyana, whenever it becomes externalised. It will then attain a state in which there is neither subsidence nor emergence.
(v) jnana is the annihilation of the mind in which it is made to assume the form of the Self through the constant practice of dhyana or enquiry (vichara). The extinction of the mind is the state in which there is a cessation of all efforts. Those who are established in this state never swerve from their true state. The terms 'silence' (mouna) and inaction refer to this state alone.
NOTE: (1) All practices are followed only with the object of concentrating the mind. As all the mental activities like remembering, forgetting, desiring, hating, attracting, discarding, etc., are modifications of the mind, they cannot be one's true state. Simple, changeless being is one's true nature. Therefore to know the truth of one's being and to be it, is known as release from bondage and the destruction of the knot (granthi nasam). Until this state of tranquillity of mind is firmly attained, the practice of unswerving abidance in the Self and keeping the mind unsoiled by various thoughts, is essential for an aspirant.
(2) Although the practices for achieving strength of mind are numerous, all of them achieve the same end. For it can be seen that whoever concentrates his mind on any object, will, on the cessation of all mental concepts, ultimately remain merely as that object. This is called successful meditation (dhyana siddhi). Those who follow the path of enquiry realize that the mind which remains at the end of the enquiry is Brahman. Those who practise meditation realize that the mind which remains at the end of the meditation is the object of their meditation. As the result is the same in either case it is the duty of aspirants to practise continuously either of these methods till the goal is reached.
4. Is the state
of 'being still' a state involving effort or effortless?
It is not an effortless state of indolence. All mundane activities which are ordinarily called effort are performed with the aid of a portion of the mind and with frequent breaks. But the act of communion with the Self (atma vyavahara) or remaining still inwardly is intense activity which is performed with the entire mind and without break.
Maya (delusion or ignorance) which cannot be destroyed by any other act is completely destroyed by this intense activity which is called 'silence' (mouna).
5. What is the
nature of maya?
Maya is that which makes us regard as non-existent the Self, the Reality, which is always and everywhere present, all-pervasive and self-luminous, and as existent the individual soul (jiva), the world (jagat), and God (para) which have been conclusively proved to be non-existent at all times and places.
6. As the Self
shines fully of its own accord why is it not generally recognised like the other
objects of the world by all persons?
Wherever particular objects are known it is the Self which has known itself in the form of those objects. For what is known as knowledge or awareness is only the patency of the Self (atma sakti). The Self is the only sentient object. There is nothing apart from the Self. If there are such objects they are all insentient and therefore cannot either know themselves or mutually know one another. It is because the Self does not know its true nature in this manner that it seems to be immersed and struggling in the ocean of birth (and death) in the form of the individual soul.
the Lord is all-pervasive it appears, from passages like "adorning him
through His Grace", that He can be known only through His grace. How then
can the individual soul by its own efforts attain self-realization in he absence
of the Lord's Grace?
As the Lord denotes the Self and as Grace means the Lord's presence or revelation, there is no time when the Lord remains unknown. If the light of the sun is invisible to the owl it is only the fault of that bird and not of the sun. Similarly can the unawareness by ignorant persons of the Self which is always of the nature of awareness be other than their own fault? How can it be the fault of the Self? It is because Grace is of the very nature of the Lord that He is well-known as 'the blessed Grace'. Therefore the Lord, whose nature itself is Grace, does not have to bestow His Grace. Nor is there any particular time for bestowing His Grace.
8. What part
of the body is the abode of the Self?
The heart on the right side of the chest is generally indicated. This is because we usually point to the right side of the chest when we refer to ourselves. Some say that the sahasrara (the thousand-petalled lotus) is the abode of the Self. But if that were true the head should not fall forward when we go to sleep or faint.
9. What is the
nature of the heart?
The sacred texts describing it say:
Between the two nipples, below the chest and above the abdomen, there are six organs of different colours*. One of them resembling the bud of a water lily and situated two digits to the right is the heart. It is inverted and within it is a tiny orifice which is the seat of dense darkness (ignorance) full of desires. All the psychic nerves (nadis) depend upon it. It is the abode of the vital forces, the mind and the light (of consciousness). (See Appendix to Reality in Forty Verses 18 -19).
But, although it is described thus, the meaning of the word heart (hrdayam) is the Self (atman). As it is denoted by the terms existence, consciousness, bliss, eternal and plenum (sat, chit, anandam, nityam, purnam) it has no differences such as exterior and interior or up and down. That tranquil state in which all thoughts come to an end is called the state of the Self. When it is realized as it is, there is no scope for discussions about its location inside the body or outside.
* These are not the same as the Chakras.
10. Why do thoughts
of many objects arise in the mind even when there is no contact with external
All such thoughts are due to latent tendencies (purva samskaras). They appear only to the individual consciousness (jiva) which has forgotten its real nature and become externalised. Whenever particular things are perceived, the enquiry "Who is it that sees them"? should be made; they will then disappear at once.
11. How do the
triple factors (i.e., knower, known and knowledge), which are absent in deep
sleep, samadhi, etc., manifest themselves in the Self (in the states of waking
From the Self there arise in succession
(i) Chidabhasa (reflected consciousness) which is a kind of luminosity.
(ii) Jiva (the individual consciousness) or the seer or the first concept.
(iii) Phenomena, that is the world.
12. Since the
Self is free from the notions of knowledge and ignorance how can it be said
to pervade the entire body in the shape of sentience or to impart sentience
to the senses?
Wise men say that there is a connection between the source of the various psychic nerves and the Self, that this is the knot of the heart, that the connection between the sentient and the insentient will exist until this is cut asunder with the aid of true knowledge, that just as the subtle and invisible force of electricity travels through wires and does many wonderful things, so the force of the Self also travels through the psychic nerves and, pervading the entire body, imparts sentience to the senses, and that if this knot is cut the Self will remain as it always is, without any attributes.
13. How can
there be a connection between the Self which is pure knowledge and the triple
factors which are relative knowledge?
This is, in a way, like the working of a cinema as shown below:-
CINEMA SHOW SELF
1/ The lamp inside (the apparatus) 1/ The Self
2/ The lens in front of the lamp 2/ The pure (sattvic) mind close to the Self.
3/ The film which is a long series of (separate photos). 3/ The stream of latent tendencies consisting of subtle thoughts.
4/ The lens, the light passing through it and the lamp, which together form the focused light. 4/ The mind, the illumination of it and the Self, which together form the seer or the Jiva.
5/ The light passing through the lens and falling on the screen. 5/ The light of the Self emerging from the mind through the senses, and falling on the world.
6/ The various kinds of pictures appearing in the light of the screen. 6/ The various forms and names appearing as the objects perceived in the light of the world.
7/ The mechanism which sets the film in motion. 7/ The divine law manifesting the latent tendencies of the mind.
Just as the pictures appear on the screen as long as the film throws the shadows through the lens, so the phenomenal world will continue to appear to the individual in the waking and dream states as long as there are latent mental impressions. Just as the lens magnifies the tiny specks on the film to a huge size and as a number of pictures are shown in a second, so the mind enlarges the sprout-like tendencies into tree-like thoughts and shows in a second innumerable worlds. Again, just as there is only the light of the lamp visible when there is no film, so the Self alone shines without the triple factors when the mental concepts in the form of tendencies are absent in the states of deep sleep, swoon and samadhi. Just as the lamp illumines the lens, etc., while remaining unaffected, the Self illumines the ego (chidabhasa), etc., while remaining unaffected.
14. What is
It is abiding as one's Self without swerving in any way from one's real nature and without feeling that one is meditating. As one is not in the least conscious of the different states (waking, dreaming, etc.) in this condition, the sleep (noticeable) here is also regarded as dhyana.
15. What is
the difference between dhyana and samadhi?
Dhyana is achieved through deliberate mental effort; in samadhi there is no such effort.
16. What are
the factors to be kept in view in dhyana ?
It is important for one who is established in his Self (atma nista) to see that he does not swerve in the least from this absorption. By swerving from his true nature he may see before him bright effulgences, etc., or hear (unusual) sounds or regard as real the visions of gods appearing within or outside himself. He should not be deceived by these and forget himself.
NOTE: (i) If
the moments that are wasted in thinking of the objects which are not the Self,
are spent on enquiry into the Self, self-realization will be attained in a very
(ii) Until the mind becomes established in itself some kind of bhavana (contemplation of a personified god or goddess with deep emotion and religious feeling) is essential. Otherwise the mind will be frequently assailed by wayward thoughts or sleep.
(iii) Without spending all the time in practising bhavanas like 'I am Siva' or 'I am Brahman', which are regarded as nirgunopasana (contemplation of the attributeless Brahman), the method of enquiry into oneself should be practised as soon as the mental strength which is the result of such upasana (contemplation) is attained.
(iv) The excellence of the practice (sadhana) lies in not giving room for even a single mental concept (vritti)
17. What are
the rules of conduct which an aspirant (sadhaka) should follow?
Moderation in food, moderation in sleep and moderation in speech.
18. How long
should one practice?
Until the mind attains effortlessly its natural state of freedom from concepts, that is till the sense of 'I' and 'mine' exists no longer.
19. What is
the meaning of dwelling in solitude (ekanta vasa)?
As the Self is all-pervasive it has no particular place for solitude. The state of being free from mental concepts is called 'dwelling in solitude'.
20. What is
the sign of wisdom (viveka)?
Its beauty lies in remaining free from delusion after realising the truth once. There is fear only for one who sees at least a slight difference in the Supreme Brahman. So long as there is the idea that the body is the Self one cannot be a realizer of truth whoever he might be.
21. If everything
happens according to karma (prarabdha: the result of one's acts in the past)
how is one to overcome the obstacles to meditation (dhyana)?
Prarabdha concerns only the out-turned, not the in-turned mind. One who seeks his real Self will not be afraid of any obstacle.
22. Is asceticism
(sanyasa) one of the essential requisites for a person to become established
in the Self (atma nista)?
The effort that is made to get rid of attachment to one's body is really towards abiding in the Self. Maturity of thought and enquiry alone removes attachment to the body, not the stations of life (asramas), such as student (brahmachari), etc. For the attachment is in the mind while the stations pertain to the body. How can bodily stations remove the attachment in the mind? As maturity of thought and enquiry pertain to the mind these alone can, by enquiry on the part of the same mind, remove the attachments which have crept into it through thoughtlessness. But, as the discipline of asceticism (sanyasasrama) is the means for attaining dispassion (vairagya), and as dispassion is the means for enquiry, joining an order of ascetics may be regarded, in a way, as a means of enquiry through dispassion. Instead of wasting one's life by entering the order of ascetics before one is fit for it, it is better to live the householder's life. In order to fix the mind in the Self which is its true nature it is necessary to separate it from the family of fancies (samkalpas) and doubts (vikalpas), that is to renounce the family (samsara) in the mind. This is the real asceticism.
23. It is an
established rule that so long as there is the least idea of I-am-the-doer, Self-knowledge
cannot be attained, but is it possible for an aspirant who is a householder
to discharge his duties properly without this sense?
As there is no rule that action should depend upon a sense of being the doer it is unnecessary to doubt whether any action will take place without a doer or an act of doing. Although the officer of a government treasury may appear, in the eyes of others, to be doing his duty attentively and responsibly all day long, he will be discharging his duties without attachment, thinking 'I have no real connection with all this money' and without a sense of involvement in his mind. In the same manner a wise householder may also discharge without attachment the various household duties which fall to his lot according to his past karma, like a tool in the hands of another. Action and knowledge are not obstacles to each other.
24. Of what
use to his family is a wise householder who is unmindful of his bodily comforts
and of what use is his family to him?
Although he is entirely unmindful of his bodily comforts, if, owing to his past karma, his family have to subsist by his efforts, he may be regarded as doing service to others. If it is asked whether the wise man derives any benefit from the discharge of domestic duties, it may be answered that, as he has already attained the state of complete satisfaction which is the sum total of all benefits and the highest good of all, he does not stand to gain anything more by discharging family duties.
25. How can
cessation of activity (nivritti) and peace of mind be attained in the midst
of household duties which are of the nature of constant activity?
As the activities of the wise man exist only in the eyes of others and not in his own, although he may be accomplishing immense tasks, he really does nothing. Therefore his activities do not stand in the way of inaction and peace of mind. For he knows the truth that all activities take place in his mere presence and that he does nothing. Hence he will remain as the silent witness of all the activities taking place.
26. Just as
the Sage's past karma is the cause of his present activities will not the impressions
(vasanas) caused by his present activities adhere to him in future?
Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage. That being so how can the tendencies of karma affect him who is entirely unattached to activity?
27. What is
the meaning of brahmacharya?
Only enquiry into Brahman should be called brahmacharya.
28. Will the
practice of brahmacharya which is followed in conformity with the (four) orders
of life (asramas) be a means of knowledge?
As the various means of knowledge, such as control of senses, etc., are included in brahmacharya the virtuous practices duly followed by those who belong to the order of students (brahmacharins) are very helpful for their improvement.
29. Can one
enter the order of ascetics (sanyasa) directly from the order of students (brahmacharya)?
Those who are competent need not formally enter the orders of brahmacharya, etc., in the order laid down. One who has realized his Self does not distinguish between the various orders of life. Therefore no order of life either helps or hinders him.
30. Does an
aspirant (sadhaka) lose anything by not observing the rules of caste and orders
As the attainment (anusthana, lit. practice) of knowledge is the supreme end of all other practices, there is no rule that one who remains in any one order of life and constantly acquires knowledge is bound to follow the rules laid down for that order of life. If he follows the rules of caste and orders of life he does so for the good of the world. He does not derive any benefit by observing the rules. Nor does he lose anything by not observing them.
1. What is the
light of consciousness?
It is the self-luminous existence-consciousness which reveals to the seer the world of names and forms both inside and outside. The existence of this existence-consciousness can be inferred by the objects illuminated by it. It does not become the object of consciousness.
2. What is knowledge
It is that tranquil state of existence-consciousness which is experienced by the aspirant and which is like the waveless ocean or the motionless ether.
3. What is bliss?
It is the experience of joy (or peace) in the state of vijnana free of all activities and similar to deep sleep. This is also called the state of kevala nirvikalpa (remaining without concepts).
4. What is the
state beyond bliss?
It is the state of unceasing peace of mind which is found in the state of absolute quiescence, jagrat-sushupti (lit. sleep with awareness) which resembles inactive deep sleep. In this state, in spite of the activity of the body and the senses, there is no external awareness, like a child immersed in sleep* (who is not conscious of the food given to him by his mother). A yogi who is in this state is inactive even while engaged in activity. This is also called sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi (natural state of absorption in oneself without concepts).
* The acts of sleeping children like eating and drinking are acts only in the eyes of others and not in their own. They do not therefore really do those acts in spite of their appearing to do them.
5. What is the
authority for saying that the entire moving and unmoving worlds depend upon
The Self means the embodied being. It is only after the energy, which was latent in the state of deep sleep, emerges with the idea of 'I' that all objects are experienced. The Self is present in all perceptions as the perceiver. There are no objects to be seen when the 'I' is absent. For all these reasons it may undoubtedly be said that everything comes out of the Self and goes back to the Self.
6. As the bodies
and the selves animating them are everywhere actually observed to be innumerable
how can it be said that the Self is only one?
If the idea 'I am the body' is accepted*, the selves are multiple. The state in which this idea vanishes is the Self since in that state there are no other objects. It is for this reason that the Self is regarded as one only.
* The idea that one is one's body is what is called hrdaya-granthi (knot of the heart). Of the various knots this knot, which binds together what is conscious with what is insentient, is what causes bondage.
7. What is the
authority for saying that Brahman can be apprehended by the mind and at the
same time that it cannot be apprehended by the mind?
It cannot be apprehended by the impure mind but can be apprehended by the pure mind.
8. What is pure
mind and what is impure mind?
When the indefinable power of Brahman separates itself from Brahman and, in union with the reflection of consciousness (chidabhasa) assumes various forms, it is called the impure mind. When it becomes free from the reflection of consciousness (abhasa), through discrimination, it is called the pure mind. Its state of union with the Brahman is its apprehension of Brahman. The energy which is accompanied by the reflection of consciousness is called the impure mind and its state of separation from Brahman is its non-apprehension of Brahman.
9. Is it possible
to overcome, even while the body exists, the karma (prarabdha) which is said
to last till the end of the body?
Yes. If the agent (doer) upon whom the karma depends, namely the ego, which has come into existence between the body and the Self, merges in its source and loses its form, will the karma which depends upon it alone survive? Therefore when there is no 'I' there is no karma.
10. As the Self
is existence and consciousness, what is the reason for describing it as different
from the existent and the non-existent, the sentient and the insentient?
Although the Self is real, as it comprises everything, it does not give room for questions involving duality about its reality or unreality. Therefore it is said to be different from the real and the unreal. Similarly, even though it is consciousness, since there is nothing for it to know or to make itself known to, it is said to be different from the sentient and the insentient.
1. What is the
state of attainment of knowledge?
It is firm and effortless abidance in the Self in which the mind which has become one with the Self does not subsequently emerge again at any time. That is, just as everyone usually and naturally has the idea, 'I am not a goat nor a cow nor any other animal but a man', when he thinks of his body, so also when he has the idea 'I am not the principles (tatwas) beginning with the body and ending with sound (nada), but the Self which is existence, consciousness and bliss', the innate self-consciousness (atmaprajna), he is said to have attained firm knowledge.
2. To which
of the seven stages of knowledge (jnana-bhoomikas)1 does the sage (jnani) belong?
He belongs to the fourth stage.
3. If that is
so why have three more stages superior to it been distinguished?
The marks of the stages four to seven are based upon the experiences of the realized person (jivanmukta). They are not states of knowledge and release. So far as knowledge and release are concerned no distinction whatever is made in these four stages.
The seven jnana bhoomikas are:
1. subheccha (the desire for enlightenment).
2. vicharana (enquiry).
3. tanumanasa (tenuous mind).
4. satwapatti (self-realization).
5. asamsakti (non-attachment).
6. padarthabhavana (non-perception of objects).
7. turyaga (transcendence).
Those who have attained the last four bhoomikas are called brahmavit, brahmavidvara, brahmavidvariya and brahmavid varistha respectively.
4. As liberation
is common to all, why is the varistha (lit. the most excellent) alone praised
So far as the varistha's common experience of bliss is concerned he is extolled only because of the special merit acquired by him in his previous births which is the cause of it.
5. As there
is no one who does not desire to experience constant bliss what is the reason
why all sages (jnanis) do not attain the state of varistha?
It is not to be attained by mere desire or effort. Karma (prarabdha) is its cause. As the ego dies along with its cause even in the fourth stage (bhoomika), what agent is there beyond that stage to desire anything or to make efforts? So long as they make efforts they will not be sages (jnanis) . Do the sacred texts (srutis) which specially mention the varistha say that the other three are unenlightened persons?
6. As some sacred
texts say that the supreme state is that in which the sense organs and the mind
are completely destroyed, how can that state be compatible with the experience
of the body and the senses?
If that were so there would not be any difference between that state and the state of deep sleep. Further how can it be said to be the natural state when it exists at one time and not at another? This happens, as stated before, to some persons according to their karma (prarabdha) for some time or till death. It cannot properly be regarded as the final state. If it could it would mean that all great souls and the Lord, who were the authors of the Vedantic works (jnana granthas) and the Vedas, were unenlightened persons. If the supreme state is that in which neither the senses nor the mind exist and not the state in which they exist, how can it be the perfect state (paripurnam)? As karma alone is responsible for the activity or inactivity of the sages, great souls have declared the state of sahaja nirvikalpa (the natural state without concepts) alone to be the ultimate state.
7. What is the
difference between ordinary sleep and waking sleep (jagrat sushupti)?
In ordinary sleep there are not only no thoughts but also no awareness. In waking sleep there is awareness alone. That is why it is called awake while sleeping, that is the sleep in which there is awareness.
8. Why is the
Self described both as the fourth state (turiya) and beyond the fourth state
Turiya means that which is the fourth. The experiencers (jivas) of the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, known as visva, taijasa and prajna, who wander successively in these three states, are not the Self. It is with the object of making this clear, namely that the Self is that which is different from them and which is the witness of these states, that it is called the fourth (turiya). When this is known the three experiencers disappear and the idea that the Self is a witness, that it is the fourth, also disappears. That is why the Self is described as beyond the fourth (turiyatita).
9. What is the
benefit derived by the sage from the sacred books (Srutis)?
The sage who is the embodiment of the truths mentioned in the scriptures has no use for them.
10. Is there
any connection between the attainment of supernatural powers (siddhis) and Liberation
Enlightened enquiry alone leads to Liberation. Supernatural powers are all illusory appearances created by the power of maya (mayashakti). Self-realization which is permanent is the only true accomplishment (siddhi). Accomplishments which appear and disappear, being the effect of maya, cannot be real. They are accomplished with the object of enjoying fame, pleasures, etc. They come unsought to some persons through their karma. Know that union with Brahman is the real aim of all accomplishments. This is also the state of Liberation (aikya mukti) known as union (sayujya).
11. If this
is the nature of Liberation (moksha) why do some scriptures connect it with
the body and say that the individual soul can attain Liberation only when it
does not leave the body?
It is only if bondage is real that Liberation and the nature of its experiences have to be considered. So far as the Self (Purusha) is concerned it has really no bondage in any of the four states. As bondage is merely a verbal assumption according to the emphatic proclamation of the Vedanta system, how can the question of Liberation, which depends upon the question of bondage, arise when there is no bondage? Without knowing this truth, to enquire into the nature of bondage and Liberation, is like enquiring into the non-existent height, colour, etc., of a barren woman's son or the horns of a hare.
12. If that
is so, do not the descriptions of bondage and release found in the scriptures
become irrelevant and untrue?
No, they do not. On the contrary, the delusion of bondage fabricated by ignorance from time immemorial can be removed only by knowledge, and for this purpose the term 'Liberation' (mukti) has been usually accepted. That is all. The fact that the characteristics of Liberation are described in different ways proves that they are imaginary.
13. If that
is so, are not all efforts such as study (lit. hearing) reflection, etc., useless?
No, they are not. The firm conviction that there is neither bondage nor liberation is the supreme purpose of all efforts. As this purpose of seeing boldly, through direct experience, that bondage and liberation do not exist, cannot be achieved except with the aid of the aforesaid practices, these efforts are useful.
14. Is there
any authority for saying that there is neither bondage nor Liberation?
This is decided on the strength of experience and not merely on the strength of the scriptures.
15. If it is
experienced how is it experienced?
'Bondage' and 'Liberation' are mere linguistic terms. They have no reality of their own. Therefore they cannot function of their own accord. It is necessary to accept the existence of some basic thing of which they are the modifications. If one enquires, 'for whom is there bondage and Liberation?' it will be seen, 'they are for me'. If one enquires, 'who am I?', one will see that there is no such thing as the 'I'. It will then be as clear as an amalaka fruit in one's hand that what remains is one's real being. As this truth will be naturally and clearly experienced by those who leave aside mere verbal discussions and enquire into themselves inwardly, there is no doubt that all realized persons uniformly see neither bondage nor Liberation so far as the true Self is concerned.
16. If truly
there is neither bondage nor Liberation what is the reason for the actual experience
of joys and sorrows?
They appear to be real only when one turns aside from one's real nature. They do not really exist.
17. Is it possible
for everyone to know directly without doubt what exactly is one's true nature?
Undoubtedly it is possible.
It is the experience of everyone that even in the states of deep sleep, fainting, etc., when the entire universe, moving and stationary, beginning with earth and ending with the unmanifested (Prakriti), disappear, he does not disappear. Therefore the state of pure being which is common to all and which is always experienced directly by everybody is one's true nature. The conclusion is that all experiences in the enlightened as well as the ignorant state, which may be described by newer and newer words, are opposed to one's real nature.
May this book consisting of the words of experience, which have come out of the lotus heart of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, shine as a lamp of true knowledge to illuminate the true minds of those who have renounced (the world).
May the world be blessed for long with the feet of Guru Ramana who abides as that silent principle which absorbs all of us and remains by itself as the root of the three principles (soul, world and Iswara). Spiritual Instruction
Am I? (Nan Yar?)
The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Dr. T. M. P. MAHADEVAN
from the original Tamil
V. S. RAMANAN
PRESIDENT, BOARD OF TRUSTEES
TIRUVANNAMALAI, S. INDIA
"Who am I?" is the title given to a set of questions and answers bearing on Self-enquiry. The questions were put to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by one Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai about the year 1902. Sri Pillai, a graduate in Philosophy, was at the time employed in the Revenue Department of the South Arcot Collectorate. During his visit to Tiruvannamalai in 1902 on official work, he went to Virupaksha Cave on Arunachala Hill and met the Master there. He sought from him spiritual guidance, and solicited answers to questions relating to Self-enquiry. As Bhagavan was not talking then, not because of any vow he had taken, but because he did not have the inclination to talk, he answered the questions put to him by gestures, and when these were not understood, by writing. As recollected and recorded by Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai, there were fourteen questions with answers to them given by Bhagavan. This record was first published by Sri Pillai in 1923, along with a couple of poems composed by himself relating how Bhagavan's grace operated in his case by dispelling his doubts and by saving him from a crisis in life. 'Who am I?' has been published several times subsequently. We find thirty questions and answers in some editions and twenty-eight in others. There is also another published version in which the questions are not given, and the teachings are rearranged in the form of an essay. The extant English translation is of this essay. The present rendering is of the text in the form of twenty-eight questions and answers.
Along with Vicharasangraham (Self-Enquiry), Nan Yar (Who am I?) constitutes the first set of instructions in the Master's own words. These two are the only prosepieces among Bhagavan's Works. They clearly set forth the central teaching that the direct path to liberation is Self-enquiry. The particular mode in which the enquiry is to be made is lucidly set forth in Nan Yar. The mind consists of thoughts. The 'I' thought is the first to arise in the mind. When the enquiry ' Who am I?' is persistently pursued, all other thoughts get destroyed, and finally the 'I' thought itself vanishes leaving the supreme non-dual Self alone. The false identification of the Self with the phenomena of non-self such as the body and mind thus ends, and there is illumination, Sakshatkara. The process of enquiry of course, is not an easy one. As one enquires 'Who am I?', other thoughts will arise; but as these arise, one should not yield to them by following them , on the contrary, one should ask 'To whom do they arise ?' In order to do this, one has to be extremely vigilant. Through constant enquiry one should make the mind stay in its source, without allowing it to wander away and get lost in the mazes of thought created by itself. All other disciplines such as breath-control and meditation on the forms of God should be regarded as auxiliary practices. They are useful in so far as they help the mind to become quiescent and one-pointed.
For the mind that has gained skill in concentration, Self-enquiry becomes comparatively easy. It is by ceaseless enquiry that the thoughts are destroyed and the Self realized - the plenary Reality in which there is not even the 'I' thought, the experience which is referred to as "Silence".
This, in substance, is Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi's teaching in Nan Yar (Who am I?).
T. M. P.
University of Madras
June 30, 1982
Om Namo Bhagavathe Sri Ramanaya
Who Am I? - Nan Yar?
As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one's self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one's nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one's self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form "Who am I?", is the principal means.
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1 . Who am I
The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz. the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz. sound, touch, colour, taste, and odour, I am not; the five cognitive sense-organs, viz. the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation, which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting, and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not; the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects, and in which there are no objects and no functioning's, I am not.
2. If I am none
of these, then who am I?
After negating all of the above-mentioned as 'not this', 'not this', that Awareness which alone remains - that I am.
3. What is the
nature of Awareness?
The nature of Awareness is existence-consciousness-bliss
4. When will
the realization of the Self be gained?
When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.
5. Will there
not be realization of the Self even while the world is there (taken as real)?
There will not be.
The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real is removed.
7. When will
the world which is the object seen be removed?
When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition's and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.
8. What is the
nature of the mind?
What is called 'mind' is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines) the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross; it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).
9. What is the
path of inquiry for understanding the nature of the mind?
That which rises as 'I' in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought 'I' rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind's origin. Even if one thinks constantly 'I' 'I', one will be led to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the 'I' thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear; without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.
10. How will
the mind become quiescent?
By the inquiry 'Who am I?'. The thought 'who am I?' will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.
11. What is
the means for constantly holding on to the thought 'Who am I?'
When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: 'To whom do they arise?' It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, "To whom has this thought arisen?". The answer that would emerge would be "To me". Thereupon if one inquires "Who am I?", the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. 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" (antar-mukha). 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. Whatever one does, one should do without the egoity "I". If one acts in that way, all will appear as of the nature of Siva (God).
12. Are there
no other means for making the mind quiescent?
Other than inquiry, there are no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains controlled, and when the breath resumes the mind also will again start moving and will wander as impelled by residual impressions. The source is the same for both mind and breath. Thought, indeed, is the nature of the mind. The thought "I" is the first thought of the mind; and that is egoity. It is from that whence egoity originates that breath also originates. Therefore, when the mind becomes quiescent, the breath is controlled, and when the breath is controlled the mind becomes quiescent. But in deep sleep, although the mind becomes quiescent, the breath does not stop. This is because of the will of God, so that the body may be preserved and other people may not be under the impression that it is dead. In the state of waking and in samadhi, when the mind becomes quiescent the breath is controlled. Breath is the gross form of mind. Till the time of death, the mind keeps breath in the body; and when the body dies the mind takes the breath along with it. Therefore, the exercise of breath-control is only an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind (manonasa).
Like the practice of breath-control. meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.
Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when a chain is given to an elephant to hold in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied with a name or form it will grasp that alone. When the mind expands in the form of countless thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy. Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best; by observing this rule, the sattvic quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry.
13. The residual
impressions (thoughts) of objects appear wending like the waves of an ocean.
When will all of them get destroyed?
As the meditation on the Self rises higher and higher, the thoughts will get destroyed.
14. Is it possible
for the residual impressions of objects that come from beginningless time, as
it were, to be resolved, and for one to remain as the pure Self?
Without yielding to the doubt "Is it possible, or not?", one should persistently hold on to the meditation on the Self. Even if one be a great sinner, one should not worry and weep "O! I am a sinner, how can I be saved?"; one should completely renounce the thought "I am a sinner"; and concentrate keenly on meditation on the Self; then, one would surely succeed. There are not two minds - one good and the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions that are of two kinds - auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.
The mind should not be allowed to wander towards worldly objects and what concerns other people. However bad other people may be, one should bear no hatred for them. Both desire and hatred should be eschewed. All that one gives to others one gives to one's self. If this truth is understood who will not give to others? When one's self arises all arises; when one's self becomes quiescent all becomes quiescent. To the extent we behave with humility, to that extent there will result good. If the mind is rendered quiescent, one may live anywhere.
15. How long
should inquiry be practised?
As long as there are impressions of objects in the mind, so long the inquiry "Who am I?" is required. As thoughts arise they should be destroyed then and there in the very place of their origin, through inquiry. If one resorts to contemplation of the Self unintermittently, until the Self is gained, that alone would do. As long as there are enemies within the fortress, they will continue to sally forth; if they are destroyed as they emerge, the fortress will fall into our hands.
16. What is
the nature of the Self?
What exists in truth is the Self alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it. like silver in mother-of-pearl, these three appear at the same time, and disappear at the same time. The Self is that where there is absolutely no "I" thought. That is called "Silence". The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is "I"; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.
17. Is not everything
the work of God?
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.
18. Of the devotees,
who is the greatest?
He who gives himself up to the Self that is God is the most excellent devotee. Giving one's self up to God means remaining constantly in the Self without giving room for the rise of any thoughts other than that of the Self. Whatever burdens are thrown on God, He bears them. Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not? We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?
19. What is
As thoughts arise, destroying them utterly without any residue in the very place of their origin is non-attachment. Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment, dive within oneself and obtain the Self-Pearl.
20. Is it not
possible for God and the Guru to effect the release of a soul?
God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of release. In truth, God and the Guru are not different. Just as the prey which has fallen into the jaws of a tiger has no escape, so those who have come within the ambit of the Guru's gracious look will be saved by the Guru and will not get lost; yet, each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know oneself only with one's own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else's. Does he who is Rama require the help of a mirror to know that he is Rama?
21. Is it necessary
for one who longs for release to inquire into the nature of categories (tattvas)?
Just as one who wants to throw away garbage has no need to analyse it and see what it is, so one who wants to know the Self has no need to count the number of categories or inquire into their characteristics; what he has to do is to reject altogether the categories that hide the Self. The world should be considered like a dream.
22. Is there
no difference between waking and dream?
Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference. Just as waking happenings seem real while awake. so do those in a dream while dreaming. In dream the mind takes on another body. In both waking and dream states thoughts. names and forms occur simultaneously.
23. Is it any
use reading books for those who long for release?
All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within oneself what one's Self is; how could this search be done in books? One should know one's Self with one's own eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths; but books are outside them. Since the Self has to be inquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it is futile to search for it in books. There will come a time when one will have to forget all that one has learned.
24. What is
Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned, and enjoys pure Self-Happiness. Thus the mind moves without rest alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.
25. What is
Remaining quiet is what is called wisdom-insight. To remain quiet is to resolve the mind in the Self. Telepathy, knowing past, present and future happenings and clairvoyance do not constitute wisdom-insight.
26. What is
the relation between desirelessness and wisdom?
Desirelessness is wisdom. The two are not different; they are the same. Desirelessness is refraining from turning the mind towards any object. Wisdom means the appearance of no object. In other words, not seeking what is other than the Self is detachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self is wisdom.
27. What is
the difference between inquiry and meditation?
Inquiry consists in retaining the mind in the Self. Meditation consists in thinking that one's self is Brahman, existence-consciousness-bliss.
28. What is
Inquiring into the nature of one's self that is in bondage, and realising one's true nature is release.
SRI RAMANARPANAM ASTU