Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Annamalai Swami: Bhagavan's basic message never changed. 

It was always: 

-  Do self-enquiry
-  Stop identifying with the body and 
-  Try to be aware of the Self, which is your real nature.

Annamalai Swami:

When I say, ‘Meditate on the Self’ I am asking you to be the Self, not think about it. Be aware of what remains when thoughts stop. Be aware of the consciousness that is the origin of all your thoughts. Be that consciousness. Feel that this is what you really are. If you do this you are meditating on the Self. But if you cannot stabilize in that consciousness because your vasanas are too strong and too active, it is beneficial to hold onto the thought, ‘I am the Self; I am everything.’ If you meditate in this way you will not be cooperating with the vasanas that are blocking your Self-awareness. If you don’t cooperate with them, sooner or later they are bound to leave you.

If this method doesn’t appeal to you, then just watch the mind with full attention. Whenever the mind wanders, become aware of it. See how thoughts connect with each other and watch how this ghost called mind catches hold of all your thoughts, saying,’ This is my thought. ‘ Watch the ways of the mind without identifying with them in any way. If you give your mind your full, detached attention, you begin to understand the futility of all mental activities. Watch the mind wandering here and there, seeking out useless and unnecessary things or ideas, which will ultimately only create misery for itself. Watching the mind gives us a knowledge of its inner processes. It gives us an incentive to stay detached from all our thoughts. Ultimately, if we try hard enough, it gives us the ability to remain as consciousness, unaffected by transient thoughts. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Though Arunachala is by his grace ever shining in the heart of all beings as the consciousness ‘I’, why do not all jivas realise him to be the fullness of grace? 

Because they never turn their attention towards the shining of ‘I’. If a jiva withdraws his attention from all second and third person objects and focuses it upon the first person, which shines as the mere consciousness ‘I’, then the light of self-consciousness will shine forth with a fresh clarity in whose spreading effulgence the entire appearance of this seemingly solid world-picture will be swallowed. 

That is why in the second sentence of Verse 1 of Arunachal Stuthi Panchakam,  Sri Bhagavan addresses Arunachala as “Arunagiri, the supreme self, who swallowed everything by spreading rays”.


For the purposes of self-enquiry, the Tamil equivalents of the grammatical terms 'first person', 'second person' and 'third person' are more meaningful than their English counterparts. In Tamil grammar these 'three persons' are called the 'three places', because we experience each of them as occupying a different 'place' or point either in physical space or in our conceptual space. The first person, which is the person who speaks as 'I', is always experienced as being here, in the present place. The second person, which is any person or thing that is spoken to as 'you', is experienced as being physically or conceptually nearby, in a place that is close to the first person. And the third person, which is any person or thing that is spoken about, is experienced as being physically or conceptually elsewhere, in a place that is other than that occupied by the first and second persons.

However, because Sri Bhagavan used these grammatical terms for philosophical purposes, in his teachings each of them has a special philosophical meaning, which does not correspond exactly to their usual grammatical meaning. The actual Tamil word for the first person, 'tanmai', etymologically means 'selfness', and therefore denotes our sense of 'self', the subject or first thought 'I', which we always experience as being the
central 'place' or point from which we conceive and perceive all the objects known by us. The Tamil term for the second person, 'munnilai', etymologically means 'what stands in front', and therefore in its philosophical sense it
denotes those mental objects or images that figuratively speaking stand immediately in front of our mind's eye, and that we therefore recognise as being thoughts that exist only within our own mind. And the Tamil term for
the third person, 'padarkkai', etymologically means 'what spreads out, ramifies, becomes diffused, expands or pervades', and therefore in its philosophical sense it denotes those thoughts that have spread out or expanded through the channel of our five senses, and that have thereby been projected as the objects of this world, which we seem to perceive through those five senses, and which we therefore imagine to be objects existing outside ourself. Thus the 'second person' objects are those objects that we recognise as existing only within the field of our mental conception, while the 'third person' objects are those objects that we imagine to exist outside the field of our mental conception, in the seemingly separate field of our sense perception. Therefore, when Sri Bhagavan advises us to withdraw our attention from all the 'second persons' and 'third persons' and to focus it
on the 'first person', what he wants us to understand is that we should withdraw our attention from all objects – both those that we recognise as being merely our own thoughts or feelings, and those that we mistake to be
objects existing outside ourself – and to fix it only on our sense of self, 'I', which we always experience as being here and now, in the precise present point in space and time.


How is the world-appearance thus swallowed by the effulgent light of self-knowledge? 

If a cinema show is going on in a tent in daytime, the pictures can be seen on the screen only because of the limited light of the projector and because of the background of artificial darkness caused by the tent. If a powerful wind were to blow away the tent, the bright sunlight would flood in, the darkness would vanish and thus all the pictures on the screen would be swallowed up. Similarly, the entire picture of the world, soul and God can be seen only because of the limited light of the mind (which is a reflection of the original light of Arunachala, the real self) and because of the background of the darkness of ignorance caused by forgetfulness of self. If our attention is focused keenly on self, the light of selfknowledge (the bright light of Arunachala) will dawn, the background darkness of ignorance or maya will vanish, and thus the whole picture of the world, soul and God will be swallowed up and disappear. 

This same idea is expressed by Sri Bhagavan in verse 114 of Guru
Vachaka Kovai:

“If the small light [of a cinema projector] is merged and dissolved in the great light [of the sun], the picture show will vanish. Likewise, if the mind-light is merged and dissolved in the true light of consciousness, the false show of the appearance of the three entities [the soul, world and God] will be dissolved…”
Such was the experience of Sri Bhagavan. When the fear of the death arose in him, his attention was focused keenly on self, and thus the light of self consciousness shone forth so clearly that in its bright effulgence the entire world-appearance was swallowed, and that selfconsciousness alone remained shining as Arunachala, the supreme self. This experience is the true shining forth of grace described in verse 3 of Atma Vidya Kirtanam as 

“… minnum tanul anma prakasame; arul vilasame” (the light of self will shine within oneself; this is the shining forth of grace).

Since this experience is possible only when by his light of grace Arunachala makes the heart lotus blossom, Sri Bhagavan concludes this verse as a prayer, 

“Shine as the sun [of self knowledge] that will cause my mind-lotus, which is swelling [with love], to blossom fully”.

What is meant here by the blossoming of the ‘swelling heart-lotus’ (kilar ulap-pu)? 

The mind, which functions as a knot (granthi) binding together as one the real self, which is consciousness (chit), and the body, which is insentient (jada), is here compared to a lotus. The state in which this knot is tightly closed, being firmly bound by the entanglement of strong worldly desires and attachments (asa-pasa), is compared to the state of a tightly closed immature lotus-bud. When by ripening bhakti this lotus-bud of the mind gradually becomes mature, the tight binding of worldly desires and attachments gradually becomes loose. This state of maturity in which the force of attachment (abhimana-vega) is thus weakened, is compared to the state of a lotus-bud which has swollen and is ready to blossom. The state of self-knowledge, in which the chit-jada-granthi is cut asunder, all its desires and attachments having been destroyed, is compared to the blossoming of the lotus.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Self Enquiry - Misconceptions

Sri Ramana Maharshi’s philosophical pronouncements were very similar to those upheld by the followers of Advaita (non-dualistic) Vedanta, an Indian philosophical school which has flourished for well over a thousand years. Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Advaitins agree on most theoretical matters but their attitudes to practice are radically different. While Sri Ramana Maharshi advocated self-enquiry, most advaitic teachers recommended a system of meditation which mentally affirmed that the Self was the only reality. These affirmations such as ‘I am Brahman’ or ‘I am He’, are usually used as mantras, or, more rarely, one meditates on their meaning and tries to experience the implications of the statement

Because self-enquiry often starts with the question ‘Who am I?’, many of the traditional followers of Advaita assumed that the answer to the question was ‘I am Brahman’ and they occupied their minds with repetitions of this mental solution. Sri Ramana Maharshi criticised this approach by saying that while the mind was constantly engaged in finding or repeating solutions to the question it would never sink into its source and disappear.

He was equally critical, for the same reason, of those who tried to use ‘Who am I?’ as a mantra, saying that both approaches missed the point of self-enquiry. The question ‘Who am I?’, he said, is not an invitation to analyse the mind and to come to conclusions about its nature, nor is it a mantric formula, it is simply a tool which facilitates redirecting attention from the objects of thought and perception to the thinker and perceiver of them. In Sri Ramana Maharshi’s opinion, the solution to the question ‘Who am I?’ is not to be found in or by the mind since the only real answer is the experience of the absence of mind.

Another widespread misunderstanding arose from the belief that the Self could be discovered by mentally rejecting all the objects of thought and perception as not-self. Traditionally this is called the Neti-Neti approach (not this, not this). The practitioner of this system verbally rejects all the objects that the ‘I’ identifies with –‘I am not the mind’, ‘ I am not the body’, etc.-in the expectation that the real ‘I’ will eventually be experienced in the pure uncontaminated form. Hinduism calls this practice ‘self-enquiry’ and, because of the identity of names, it was often confused with Sri Ramana Maharshi’s method. Sri Ramana Maharshi’s attitude to this traditional system of self-analysis was wholly negative and he discouraged his own followers from practising it by telling them that it was an intellectual activity which could not take them beyond the mind. In his standard reply to questions about the effectiveness of this practice he would say that the ‘I’-thought is sustained by such acts of discrimination and that the ‘I’ which eliminates the body and the mind as ‘not I’ can never eliminate itself.

The followers of the ‘I am Brahman’ and ‘Neti-Neti’ schools share a common belief that the Self can be discovered by the mind, either through affirmation or negation. This belief that the mind can, by its own activities, reach the Self is the root of most of the misconceptions about the practice of self-enquiry. A classic example of this is the belief that self-enquiry involves concentrating on a particular centre in the body called the Heart-centre. This widely held view results from a misinterpretation of some of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s statements on the Heart, and to understand how this belief has come about it will be necessary to take a closer look at some of his ideas on the subject.

In describing the origin of the ‘I’-thought he sometimes said that it arose to the brain through a channel which started from a centre in the right hand side of the chest. He called this centre the Heart centre and said that when the ‘I’-thought subsided into the Self it went back into the centre and disappeared. He also said that when the Self is consciously experienced, there is a tangible awareness that this centre is the source of both the mind and the world. However, these statements are not strictly true and Sri Ramana Maharshi sometimes qualified them by saying that they were only schematic representations which were given to those people who persisted in identifying with their bodies. He said that the Heart is not really located in the body and that from the highest standpoint it is equally untrue to say that the ‘I’-thought arises and subsides into this centre on the right of the chest.

Because Sri Ramana Maharshi often said ‘Find the place where the "I" arises’ or ‘Find the source of the mind’, many people interpreted these statements to mean that they should concentrate in this particular centre while doing self-enquiry. Sri Ramana Maharshi rejected this interpretation many times by saying that the source of the mind or the ‘I’ could only be discovered through attention to the ‘I’-thought and not through concentration on a particular part of the body. He did sometimes say that putting attention on this centre is a good concentration practice, but he never associated it with self-enquiry. He also occasionally said that meditation on the Heart was an effective way of reaching the Self, but again, he never said that this should be done by concentrating on the Heart-centre. Instead he said that one should meditate on the Heart ‘as it is’. The Heart ‘as it is’ is not a location, it is the immanent Self and one can only be aware of its real nature by being it. It cannot be reached by concentration.

Although there are several potentially ambiguous comments of this kind about the Heart and the Heart-centre, in all his writings and recorded conversations there is not a single statement to support the contention that self-enquiry is to be practised by concentrating on this centre. In fact, by closely examining his statements on the subject one can only conclude that while the experience of the Self contains an awareness of this centre, concentration on this centre will not result in the experience of the Self.

Question: I begin to ask myself ’Who am I?’, eliminate the body as not ‘I’, the breath as not ‘I’, and I am not able to proceed further.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Well, that is as far as the intellect can go. Your process is only intellectual. Indeed, all the scriptures mention the process only to guide the seeker to know the truth. The truth cannot be directly pointed out. Hence this intellectual process.

You see, the one who eliminates all the ‘not I’ cannot eliminate the ‘I’. To say ‘I am not this’ or ‘I am that’ there must be the ‘I’. This ‘I’ is only the ego or the ‘I’-thought. After the rising up of this ‘I’-thought, all other thoughts arise. The ‘I’-thought is therefore the root thought. If the root is pulled out all others are at the same time uprooted. Therefore seek the root ‘I’, question yourself ‘Who am I?’. Find out its source, and then all these other ideas will vanish and the pure Self will remain.

Question: How to do it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ‘I’ is always there- in deep sleep, in dream and in wakefulness. The one in sleep is the same as that who now speaks. There is always the feeling of ‘I’. Otherwise do you deny your existence? You do not. You say ‘I am’. Find out who is.

Questioner: I meditate Neti-Neti (not this-not this).

Sri Ramana Maharshi: No- that is not meditation. Find the source. You must reach the source without fail. The false ‘I’ will disappear and the real ‘I’ will be realised. The former cannot exist apart from the latter.

There is now wrong identification of the Self with the body, senses, etc. You proceed to discard these, and this is Neti. This can be done only by holding to the one which cannot be discarded. That is ‘iti’ (that which is).

Question: When I think ‘Who am I?’, the answer comes ‘I am not this mortal body but I am Chaitanya, Atma (consciousness, the Self).’ And suddenly another question arises, ‘Why has Atma (Self) come into Maya (illusion)?’ or in other words, ‘Why has God created this world?’

Sri Ramana Maharshi: To enquire ‘Who am I?’ really means trying to find out the source of the ego or the ‘I’-thought. You are not to think of other thoughts, such as ‘I am not this body’. Seeking the source of ‘I’ serves as a means of getting rid of all other thoughts. We should not give scope to other thoughts, such as you mention, but must keep the attention fixed on finding out the source of the ‘I’-thought by asking, as each thought arises, to whom the thought arises. If the answer is ‘I get the thought’ continue the enquiry by asking ‘Who is this "I" and what is its source?’

Question: Am I to keep on repeating ‘Who am I?’ so as to makes a mantra of it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: No. ‘Who am I?’ is not a mantra. It means that you must find out where in you arises the ‘I’-thought, which is the source of all other thoughts.

Question: Shall I meditate on ‘I am Brahman’ (Aham Brahmasmi)?’

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The text is not meant for thinking ‘I am Brahman’. Aham (‘I’) is known to every one. Find out the ‘I’. The ‘I’ is already Brahman. You need not think so. Simply find out the ‘I’.

Question: Is not discarding the sheaths (Neti-Neti) mentioned in the sastras?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: After the rise of the ‘I’-thought there is the false identification of the ‘I’ with the body, the senses, the mind, etc. ‘I’ is wrongly associated with them and the true ‘I’ is lost sight of. In order to sift the pure ‘I’ from the contaminated ‘I’, this discarding is mentioned. But it does not mean exactly discarding of the non-self, it means the finding of the real Self. The real Self is the infinite ‘I’. That ‘I’ is perfection. It is eternal. It has no origin and no end. The other ‘I’ is born and also dies. It is impermanent. See to whom the changing thoughts belong. They will be found to arise after the ‘I’-thought. Hold the ‘I’-thought and they subside. Trace back the source of the ‘I’-thought. The Self alone will remain.

Question: It is difficult to follow. I understand the theory. But what is the practice?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The other methods are meant for those who cannot take to the investigation of the Self. Even to repeat Aham Brahmasmi or think of it, a doer is necessary. Who is it? It is ‘I’. Be that ‘I’. It is the direct method. The other methods also will ultimately lead everyone to this method of the investigation of the Self.

Questioner: I am aware of the ‘I’. Yet my troubles are not ended.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: This ‘I’-thought is not pure. It is contaminated with the association of the body and senses. See to whom the trouble is. It is to the ‘I’-thought. Hold it. Then the other thoughts vanish.

Question: Yes. How to do it? That is the whole trouble.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Think ‘I, I’, and hold to that one thought to the exclusion of all others.

Question: Is not affirmation of God more effective than the quest, ‘Who am I?’ Affirmation is positive, whereas the other is negation. Moreover, it indicates separateness.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: So long as you seek to know how to realise, this advice is given to find your Self. Your seeking the method denotes your separateness.

Question: Is it not better to say ‘I am the Supreme Being’ than ask ‘Who am I?’

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Who affirms? There must be one to do it. Find that one.

Question: Is not meditation better than investigation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Meditation implies mental imagery, whereas investigation is for the reality. The former is objective, whereas the latter is subjective.

Questioner: There must be a scientific approach to this subject.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: To eschew unreality and seek the reality is scientific.

Questioner: I mean there must a gradual elimination, first of the mind, then of the intellect, then of the ego.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Self alone is real. All others are unreal. The mind and intellect do not remain apart from you.

The Bible says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Stillness is the sole requisite for the realisation of the Self as God.

Question: Is Soham (the affirmation ‘I am He’) the same as ‘Who am I?’

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Aham (‘I’) alone is common to them. One is Soham. The other is Koham (Who am I?). They are different. Why should we go on saying soham? One must find out the real ‘I’. In the question ‘Who am I?’, ‘I’ refers to the ego. Trying to trace it and find its source, we see it has no separate existence but merges in the real ‘I’.

You see the difficulty. Vichara (enquiry) is different in method from the meditation Sivoham or Soham (‘I am Siva’ or ‘I am He’). I rather lay stress upon Self-knowledge, for you are first concerned with yourself before you proceed to know the world and its Lord. The soham meditation or ‘I am Brahman’ meditation is more or less a mental thought. But the quest for the Self I speak of is a direct method, indeed superior to the other meditation. The moment you start looking for the self and go deeper and deeper, the real Self is waiting there to take you in. Then whatever is done is done by something else and you have no hand in it. In this process, all doubts and discussions are automatically given up just as one who sleeps forgets, for the time being, all his cares.

Question: What certainty is there that something else waits there to welcome me?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: When one is a sufficiently developed soul (pakvi) one becomes naturally convinced.

Question: How is this development possible?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Various answers are given. But whatever the previous development, Vichara quickens the development.

Questioner: That is arguing in a circle. I am developed and so I am suitable for the quest but the quest itself causes me to develop.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The mind has always this sort of difficulty. It wants a certain theory to satisfy itself. Really, no theory is necessary for the man who seriously desires to approach God or to realise his own true being.

Question: No doubt the method taught by Bhagavan is direct. But it is so difficult. We do not know how to begin it. If we go on asking, ‘Who am I?, who am I?’ like a japa (repetition of the name of God) or a mantra, it becomes dull. In other methods there is something preliminary and positive with which one can begin and then go step by step. But in Bhagavan’s method, there is no such thing, and to seek the Self at once, though direct, is difficult.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You yourself concede it is the direct method. It is the direct and easy method. When going after other things that are alien to us is so easy, how can it be difficult for one to go to one’s own Self? You talk of where to begin? There is no beginning and no end. You are yourself in the beginning and the end. If you are here and the Self somewhere else, and you have to reach that Self, you may be told how to start, how to travel and then how to reach.

Suppose you who are now in Ramanasramam ask, ‘I want to go to Ramanasramam. How shall I start and how to reach it?’, what is one to say? A man’s search for the Self is like that. He is always the Self and nothing else.

You say ‘Who am I?’ becomes a japa. It is not meant that you should go on asking ‘Who am I?’ In that case, thought will not so easily die. In the direct method, as you call it, in asking yourself ‘Who am I?’, you are told to concentrate within yourself where the ‘I’-thought, the root of all other thoughts, arise. As the Self is not outside but inside you, you are asked to dive within, instead of going without. What can be more easy than going to yourself?

But the fact remains that to some this method will seem difficult and will not appeal. That is why so many different methods have been taught. Each of them will appeal to some as the best and easiest. That is according to their Pakva or fitness. But to some, nothing except the Vichara Marga (the path of enquiry) will appeal. They will ask, ‘You want me to know or to see this or that. But who is the knower, the seer?’ Whatever other method may be chosen, there will be always a doer. That cannot be escaped. One must find out who the doer is. Till then, the Sadhana (spiritual practice) cannot be ended. So eventually all must come to find out ‘Who am I?’

You complain that there is nothing preliminary or positive to start with. You have the ‘I’ to start with. You know you exist always, whereas the body does not exist always, for example in sleep. Sleep reveals that you exist even without a body. We identify the ‘I’ with the body, we regard the Self as having a body, and as having limits, and hence all our trouble.

All that we have to do is to give up identifying the Self with the body, with forms and limits, and then we shall know ourselves as the Self that we always are.

Question: Am I to think ‘Who am I?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You have known that the ‘I’-thought springs forth. Hold the ‘I’-thought and find its source.

Question: May I know the way?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do as you have now been told and see.

Questioner: I do not understand what I should do.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If it is anything objective the way can be shown objectively. This is subjective.

Questioner: But I do not understand.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What! Do you not understand that you are?

Questioner: Please tell me the way.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is it necessary to show the way in the interior of your own home? This is within you.

Questioner: You have said that the Heart is the centre of the Self.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, it is the one supreme centre of the Self. You need have no doubt about it. The real Self is there in the Heart behind the jiva or ego self.

Questioner: Now be please to tell me where it is in the body.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You cannot know it with your mind. You cannot realise it by imagination, when I tell you here is the centre (pointing to the right side of the chest). The only direct way to realise it is to cease to fantasize and try to be yourself. When you realise, you automatically feel that the centre is there.

This is the centre, the Heart, spoken of in the scriptures as Hrit-Guha (cavity of the heart), Arul (grace), Ullam (the Heart).

Questioner: In no book have I found it stated that it is there.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Long after I came here I chanced upon a verse in the Malayalam version of Ashtangahridayam, the standard work on Ayurveda (science of life, health and medicine), wherein the Ojas Sthana (source of bodily vitality or place of light) is mentioned as being located in the right side of the chest and called the seat of consciousness (samvit). But I know of no other work which refers to it as being located there.

Question: Can I be sure that the ancients meant this centre by the term ‘Heart’?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes that is so. But you should try to have rather than to locate the experience. A man need not find out where his eyes are situated when he wants to see. The Heart is there ever open to you if you care to enter it, ever supporting all your movements even when you are unaware. It is perhaps more proper to say that the Self is the Heart itself than to say that it is in the Heart. Really, the Self is the centre itself. It is everywhere, aware of itself as ‘Heart’, the Self-awareness.

Question: In that case, how can it be localised in any part of the body? Fixing a place for the Heart would imply setting physiological limitations to that which is beyond space and time.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is right. But the person who puts the question about the position of the Heart considers himself as existing with or in the body. While putting the question now, would you say that your body alone is here but you are speaking from somewhere else? No, you accept your bodily existence. It is from this point of view that any reference to a physical body comes to be made.

Truly speaking, pure consciousness is indivisible, it is without parts. It has no form and shape, no ‘within’ and ‘without’. There is no ‘right’ or ‘left’ for it. Pure consciousness, which is the Heart, includes all, and nothing is outside or apart from it. That is the ultimate truth.

From this absolute standpoint, the Heart, Self or consciousness can have no particular place assigned to it in the physical body. What is the reason? The body is itself a mere projection of the mind, and the mind is but a poor reflection of the radiant Heart. How can that, in which everything is contained be itself confined as a tiny part within the physical body which is but an infinitesimal, phenomenal manifestation of the one reality?

But people do not understand this. They cannot help thinking in terms of the physical body and the world. For instance, you say, ‘I have come to this ashram all the way from my country beyond the Himalayas’. But that is not the truth. Where is ‘coming’ or ‘going’ or any movement whatever, for the one, all-pervading spirit which you really are? You are where you have always been. It is your body that moved or was conveyed from place to place till it reached this ashram. This is the simple truth, but to a person who considers himself a subject living in an objective world, it appears as something altogether visionary!

It is by coming down to the level ordinary understanding that a place is assigned to the Heart in the physical body.

Question: How then shall I understand Sri Bhagavan’s statement that the experience of the heart-centre is at the particular place in the chest?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Once you accept that from the true and absolute standpoint, the Heart as pure consciousness is beyond space and time, it will be easy for you to understand the rest in its correct perspective.

Question: The Heart is said to be on the right, on the left, or in the centre. With such differences of opinion how are we to meditate on it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are and it is a fact. Dhyana (meditation) is by you, of you, and in you. It must go on where you are. It cannot be outside you. So you are the centre of Dyana and that is the Heart.

Doubts arise only when you identify it with something tangible and physical. Heart is no conception, no object for meditation. The Self remains all alone. You see the body in the Heart, the world is also in it. There is nothing separate from it. So, all kinds of efforts are located there only.

Question: You say the ‘I’-thought rises from the Heart-centre. Should we seek its source there?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: I ask you to see where the ‘I’ arises in your body, but it is really not quite correct to say that the ‘I’ rises from and merges in the Heart in the right side of the chest. The Heart is another name for the reality and it is neither inside nor outside the body. There can be no in or out for it, since it alone is.

Question: Should I meditate on the right chest in order to meditate on the Heart?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Heart is not physical. Meditation should not be on the right or the left. Meditation should be on the Self. Everyone knows ‘I am’. Who is the ‘I’? It will be neither within nor without, neither on the right nor on the left. ‘I am’- that is all. Leave alone the idea of right and left. They pertain to the body. The Heart is the Self. Realise it and then you will see for yourself. There is no need to know where and what the Heart is. It will do its work if you engage in the quest for the Self.

Question: What is the Heart referred to in the verse of Upadesa Saram where it is said, ‘Abiding in the Heart is the best Karma, Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (knowledge)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That which is the source of all, that in which all live, and that into which all finally merge, is the Heart referred to.

Question: How can we conceive of such a Heart?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why should you conceive of anything? You have only to see from where the ‘I’ springs. That from which all thoughts of embodied beings issue forth is called the Heart. All descriptions of it are only mental concepts.

Question: There are said to be six organs of different colours in the chest, of which the Heart is said to be two finger-breaths to the right of the middle line. But the Heart is also formless. Should we then imagine it to have a shape and meditate on it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: No. Only the quest ‘Who am I?’ is necessary. What remains all through deep sleep and waking is the same. But in waking there is unhappiness and the effort to remove it. Asked who wakes up from sleep you say ‘I’. Now you are told to hold fast to this ‘I’. If it is done the eternal being will reveal itself. Investigation of ‘I’ is the point and not meditation on the Heart-centre. There is nothing like within or without. Both mean either the same thing or nothing.

Of course there is also the practice of meditation on the Heart-centre. It is only a practice and not investigation. Only the one who meditates on the Heart can remain aware when the mind ceases to be active and remains still, whereas those who meditate on other centres cannot be so aware but infer that the mind was still only after it becomes again active.

In whatever place in the body one thinks Self to be residing, due to the power of that thinking it will appear to the one who thinks thus as if Self is residing in that place. However, the beloved Heart alone is the refuge for the rising and subsiding of that ‘I’. Know that though it is said that the Heart exists both inside and outside, in absolute truth it does not exist both inside and outside, because the body, which appears as the base of the differences ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, is an imagination of the thinking mind. Heart, the source, is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. Heart, the supreme space, is never a form. It is the light of truth.


The 'I'-thought which rises in this manner [by catching hold of something] appears in the form of the three gunas, and of these three the rajas and tamas aspects cling to and identify with the body. The remaining one, which is pure sattva, is alone the natural characteristic of the mind, and this stands clinging to the reality. However, in the pure sattvic state, the 'I'-thought is no longer really a thought, it is the Heart itself… The state in which the pure sattva mind shines clinging to the Self is called aham sphurana…The source to which this sphurana clings alone is called the reality or pure consciousness… When the mind, having pure sattva as its characteristic, remain attending to the aham sphurana, which is the sign of the forthcoming direct experience of the Self, the downward-facing Heart becomes upward-facing and remains in the form of That. This aforesaid attention to the source of the aham sphurana alone is the path. When thus attended to, Self, the reality, alone will remain shining in the centre of the Heart as I-am-I.

-Sri Ramana in a letter to Ganapathi Muni

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Self-enquiry by following the clue of aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The master may be at some distant, unknown place, but that does not at all stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master's scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his build and stature etc., counts. The dog holds on to that scent undistractedly while searching for him, and finally it succeeds in tracing him.

The enquiry into the source of aham-vritti touches the very existence of the ego. Therefore the subtlety of the ego's form is not a material consideration.

It is the one irreducible datum of your experience; seeking its source is the only practicable course you can adopt to realise the Self.

Just as water in the pot reflects the enormous sun within the narrow limits of the pot, even so the vasanas or latent tendencies of the mind of the individual, acting as the reflecting medium, catch the all-pervading, infinite light of Consciousness arising from the heart and present in the form of a reflection the phenomenon called the mind.
Seeing only this reflection, the ajnani is deluded into the belief that he is a finite being, the jiva.

If the mind becomes introverted through enquiry into the source of aham-vritti, the vasanas become extinct, and in the absence of the reflecting medium the phenomenon of reflection, namely, the mind, also disappears being absorbed into the light of the one Reality, the heart.

This is the sum and substance of all that an aspirant needs to know. What is imperatively required of him is an earnest and one-pointed enquiry into the source of aham-vritti.

- extracts from 'Maharshi's Gospel'

Self-abidance, which is the art of self-attentive being, is not impossible for anyone. All that is needed is persistent effort. Every moment that we are attentive to our natural consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’, however clumsily and imperfectly, the clear light of such relatively unadulterated self-consciousness will be cleansing and purifying our mind, dispersing the darkness of tamo-guna and calming the agitation of rajo-guna, and thereby allowing the natural clarity of sattva-guna or ‘being-ness’ to manifest itself.

To express the same truth in another way, when we practise the art of self-attentive being, the clarity of our self-attentiveness acts like the scorching rays of the sun, drying up all the seeds of desire in our heart and thereby rendering them infertile. Though the destruction of these seeds of our desires is the ultimate aim and purpose of all forms of spiritual practice, they can in fact be effectively destroyed – scorched and rendered infertile – only by the clarity of our self- attentive being-ness and by no other means.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

‘I exist’ is the only permanent, self-evident experience of everyone. Nothing else is so self-evident (pratyaksha) as ‘I am’. What people call ‘self-evident’ viz., the experience they get through the senses, is far from self- evident. The Self alone is that. Pratyaksha is another name for the Self. So, to do Self-analysis and be ‘I am’ is the only thing to do. ‘I am’ is reality. I am this or that is unreal. ‘I am’ is truth, another name for Self. ‘I am God’ is not true.

- March 22nd, 1946, Day by Day with Bhagavan

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Q: How is the mind to be eliminated or relative consciousness transcended?

M.: The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from its restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind.

D.: How is restlessness removed from the mind?

M.: External contacts - contacts with objects other than itself - make the mind restless. Loss of interest in non-Self, (vairagya) is the first step. Then the habits of introspection and concentration follow. They are characterised by control of external senses, internal faculties, etc. (sama, dama, etc.) ending in samadhi (undistracted mind).

D.: How are they practised?

M.: An examination of the ephemeral nature of external phenomena leads to vairagya. Hence enquiry (vichara) is the first and foremost step to be taken. When vichara continues automatically, it results in a contempt for wealth, fame, ease, pleasure, etc. The ‘I’ thought becomes clearer for inspection. The source of ‘I’ is the Heart - the final goal. If, however, the aspirant is not temperamentally suited to Vichara Marga (to the introspective analytical method), he must develop bhakti (devotion) to an ideal - may be God, Guru, humanity in general, ethical laws, or even the idea of beauty. When one of these takes possession of the individual, other attachments grow weaker, i.e., dispassion (vairagya) develops. Attachment for the ideal simultaneously grows and finally holds the field. Thus ekagrata (concentration) grows simultaneously and imperceptibly - with or without visions and direct aids. ...
If an aspirant be unsuited temperamentally for the first two methods and circumstantially (on account of age) for the third method, he must try the Karma Marga (doing good deeds, for example, social service). His nobler instincts become more evident and he derives impersonal pleasure. His smaller self is less assertive and has a chance of expanding its good side. The man becomes duly equipped for one of the three aforesaid paths. His intuition may also develop directly by this single method.
- Talks No 26
Q: How can the mind be controlled?

M: There are two methods. One is to see what the mind is, then it will subside. The second is to focus on something else - the predominant idea will eliminate all others. The object is up to the individual.

It is necessary to be aware while controlling thoughts, otherwise it will lead to sleep. Awareness is the chief factor, as indicated by the emphasis on pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, even after pranayama. Pranayama makes the mind steady and suppresses thoughts. Why is this not enough? Because awareness then is the one necessary factor. Such states are imitated by taking morphine, chloroform etc, but they do not lead to liberation.

Meditation is one approach that will drive away other thoughts. The one thought of God will dominate others. That is concentration. The object of meditation is thus the same as that of vichara.

Q: What is the difference between meditation and Self-enquiry?
M: Meditation is possible only if the ego is retained; there is the ego and the object meditated upon. This method is indirect. However, if we seek the ego-source, the ego disappears and what remains is the Self. This method is the direct one.
Q: (On another occasion) What is the difference between meditation and vichara?

M: Meditation can be upon an object, external or otherwise. Thus subject and object differ. In vichara, both subject and object are the same - the Self
Q: How can the mind be made to go? 

M: No attempt should be made to destroy it. To think or wish is in itself a thought. If the thinker is sought, the thoughts will disappear.

Q: Will they disappear by themselves? It seems so difficult.

M: They will disappear because they are unreal. The idea of difficulty is itself an obstacle to realization. It must be overcome. To remain as the Self is not difficult. This thought of difficulty is the chief obstacle. A little practice indiscovering the source of ‘I’ will make you think differently.

Absolute freedom from thoughts is the state conducive to such recognition of the Self. Mind is but an aggregate of thoughts.

Q: I begin to ask myself ‘Who am I?’ and eliminate the body as not ‘I’, the prana as not ‘I’, the mind as not ‘I’ and I am not able to proceed further.

M: Well, that is as far as the intellect goes. Your process is only intellectual. Indeed all the scriptures mention the process only to guide the seeker to know the truth.
The truth cannot be directly pointed out, hence this intellectual process.

You see, the one who eliminates all the ‘not-I’ cannot eliminate the ‘I’. To say ‘I am not this,’ or ‘I am that’, there must be the ‘I’. This ‘I’ is only the ego or the ‘I’- thought.

Once the ‘I’-thought has arisen, all other thoughts follow. The ‘I’-thought is therefore the root-thought. If the root is eliminated all others are uprooted. Ask yourself ‘Who am I?’ Find its source. Then all these will vanish and the pure Self will remain. The ‘I’ is always there - there is always the feeling of ‘I’, otherwise could you deny your existence?
The reality of yourself cannot be questioned. The Self is the primal reality.

The ordinary person unconsciously takes reality to be their true inner reality plus everything which has come into their consciousness as pertaining to themselves - body, etc. This they have to unlearn.

B.: There is no principle that actions can be performed only on the basis of the ‘I-am-the-doer’ idea, and therefore there is no reason to ask whether they can be performed and the duties discharged without that idea.To take a common example, an accountant working all day in his office and scrupulously attending to his duties might seem to the spectator to be shouldering all the financial responsibilities of the institution. But, knowing that he is not personally affected by the intake or outgoings, he remains unattached and free from the ‘I-am-the- doer’ feeling in doing his work, while at the same time he does it perfectly well. In the same way, it is quite possible for the wise householder who earnestly seeks liberation to discharge his duties in life (which, after all, are his destiny) without any attachment, regarding himself merely as an instrument for the purpose. Such activity is not an obstacle on the path of Knowledge nor does Knowledge prevent a man from discharging his duties in life. Knowledge and activity are never mutually antagonistic and the realisation of one does not impede performance of the other, nor performance of one the realisation of the other.

D.: What is the significance of the life of a spiritually- minded householder who has to devote all his time merely to earning a living and supporting his family and what mutual benefit do they get?

B.: The discharge of his duties by a householder such as this, who works for the support of his family, quite unmindful of his own physical comforts in life, should be regarded as selfless service rendered to his family, whose needs it is his destiny to meet. It may, however, be asked what benefit such a householder derives from the family.

The answer is that there is no benefit for him from the family as such, since he has made the discharge of his duties to them a means of spiritual training and since he finally obtains perfect contentment by realising the supreme Bliss of Liberation, which is the ultimate goal of every path and the supreme reward.
He therefore stands in need of nothing from the members of his family or from his family life.

D.: How can a householder who is constantly engaged in the active discharge of his domestic duties, which should naturally impel him to still greater activity, obtain the supreme peace of withdrawal and freedom from the urge to such activity even while thus busily engaged?

B.: It is only to the spectator that the enlightened householder seems to be occupied with his domestic duties; for even though apparently engaged in domestic duties, he is not really engaged in any activity at all. His outer activity does not prevent him from realising the perfect peace of withdrawal, and he is free from the restless urge to activity even in the midst of his activities.

Visitor: Should I retire from business and take to reading books on Vedanta?
B.: If objects have an independent existence, that is if they exist somewhere apart from you, then it may be possible for you to retire from them. But they do not. They owe their existence to you, to your thought, so where can you retire from them? As for reading books on Vedanta, you can go on reading any number but they can only tell you to realise the Self within you. The Self cannot be found in books. You have to find it for yourself, in yourself.

from: 'The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in his own Words'.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ulladhu Narpadhu - Verse 26

If the ego, which is the embryo comes into existence, everything (the world, God, bondage and liberation, knowledge and ignorance, and so on) will come into existence. If the ego does not exist, everything will not exist. (Hence) the ego itself is everything. Therefore, know that scrutinizing ‘What is this (ego)?’ is alone giving up (or renouncing) everything!
Satsangatve nissangatvam
nissangatve nirmohatvam
nirmohatve nischalatattvam
nischalatattve jeevanmuktih

sat sangatve - through the company of the good
nissangatvam - (there arises) non-attachment,

nissangatve - through non-attachment,
nirmohatvam - (there arises) freedom from delusion,

nirmohatve - through the freedom from delusion,
nischala- immutable, tattvam - reality,

nischalatattve - through the immutable reality,
jeevanmuktih - (comes) the state of 'liberated-in-life'

Sloka 9 from Bhaja Govindam by Shankara, adapted by Sri Ramana in Ulladu Narpadu

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

D.: Distractions result from inherited tendencies. Can they be cast off too?
M.: Yes. Many have done so. Believe it! They did so because they believed they could. Vasanas (predispositions) can be obliterated. It is done by concentration on that which is free from vasanas and yet is their core.

D.: How long is the practice to continue?
M.: Till success is achieved and until yoga-liberation becomes permanent. Success begets success. If one distraction is conquered the next is conquered and so on, until all are finally conquered. The process is like reducing an enemy’s fort by slaying its man-power - one by one, as each issues out.

D.: What is the goal of this process? 
M.: Realising the Real.

D.: What is the nature of the Reality?

(a) Existence without beginning or end - eternal. 
(b) Existence everywhere, endless, infinite.
(c) Existence underlying all forms, all changes, all forces, all matter and all spirit.

- Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi No. 28