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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Self- Atma

This Page has been divided into
seven parts at regular intervals
This is done to provide easy access
to different sections of this page

Part Two    Part Three     Part Four  

Part Five    Part Six        Part Seven


Part One

Self- Atma>
The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman

Question: What is Reality?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Reality must be always real. It is not with forms and names. That which underlies these is the Reality. It underlies limitations, being itself limitless. It is not bound. It underlies unrealities, itself being real. Reality is that which is. It is as it is. It transcends speech. It is beyond the expressions ‘existence, non-existence’, etc.

The reality which is the mere consciousness that remains when ignorance is destroyed along with knowledge of objects, alone is the Self (Atma). In that Brahma-swarupa (real form of Brahman), which is abundant Self-awareness, there is not the least ignorance.

The reality which shines fully, without misery and without a body, not only when the world is known but also when the world is not known, is your real form (nija-swarupa).

The radiance of consciousness-bliss, in the form of one awareness shining equally within and without, is the supreme and blissful primal reality. Its form is silence and it is declared by Jnanis (Self-realised) to be the final and unobstructable state of true knowledge (jnana).

Know that jnana alone is non-attachment; jnana alone is purity; jnana is the attainment of God; jnana which is devoid of forgetfulness of Self alone is immortality; jnana alone is everything.

Question: What is this awareness and how can one obtain and cultivate it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it. All that you have to do is to give up being aware of other things, that is of the not-self. If one gives up being aware of them then pure awareness alone remains, and that is the Self.

Question: If the Self is itself aware, why am I not aware of it even now?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no duality. Your present knowledge is due to the ego and is only relative. Relative knowledge requires a subject and an object, whereas the awareness of the Self is absolute and requires no object.

Remembrance also is similarly relative, requiring an object to be remembered and a subject to remember. When there is no duality, who is to remember whom?

The Self is ever present. Each one wants to know the Self. What kind of help does one require to know oneself? People want to see the Self as something new. But it is eternal and remains the same all along. They desire to see it as a blazing light etc. How can it be so? It is not light, not darkness. It is only as it is. It cannot be defined. The best definition is ‘I am that I am’. The Srutis (scriptures) speak of the Self as being the size of one’s thumb, the tip of the hair, an electric spark, vast, subtler than the subtlest, etc. These descriptions have no foundation in fact. It is only being, but different from the real and the unreal; it is knowledge, but different from knowledge and ignorance. How can it be defined at all? It is simply being.

Question: When a man realises the Self, what will he see?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no seeing. Seeing is only being. The state of Self-realisation, as we call it, is not attaining something new or reaching some goal which is far away, but simply being that which you always are and which you always have been. All that is needed is that you give up your realisation of the not-true as true. All of us are regarding as real that which is not real. We have only to give up this practice on our part. Then we shall realise the Self as the Self, in other words, ‘Be the Self.’ At one stage you will laugh at yourself for trying to discover the Self which is not self-evident. So, what can we say to this question?

That stage transcends the seer and the seen. There is no seer there to see anything. The seer who is seeing all this now ceases to exist and the Self alone remains.

Question: How to know this by direct experience?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If we talk of knowing the Self, there must be two selves, one a knowing self, another the self which is known, and the process of knowing. The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realised, one is that which alone is and which alone has always been. One cannot describe that state. One can only be that. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realisation, for want of a better term. How to ‘real-ise’ or make the real that which alone is real?

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Part Two

Question: You some times say the Self is silence. Why is this?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: For those who live in Self as the beauty devoid of thought, there is nothing, which should be thought of. That which should be adhered to is only the experience of silence, because in that supreme state nothing exists to be attained other than oneself.

Question: What is Mouna (silence)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That state which transcends speech and thought is mouna. That which is, is mouna. How can mouna be explained in words?

Sages say that the state in which the thought "I" (the ego) does not rise even in the least, alone is Self (swarupa) which is silence (mouna). That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the jiva (individual soul). Self alone is this ancient world.

All other kinds of knowledge are only petty and trivial knowledge; the experience of silence alone is the real and perfect knowledge. Know that the many objective differences are not real but are mere superimpositions on Self, which is the form of true knowledge.

Question: 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?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: 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.

Since the body itself does not exist in the natural outlook of the real Self, but only in the extroverted outlook of the mind which is deluded by the power of illusion, to call Self, the space of consciousness, Dehi (the possessor of the body) is wrong.

The world does not exist without the body, the body never exists without the mind, the mind never exists without consciousness, and consciousness never exists without the Reality.

For the wise one who has known Self by diving within himself, there is nothing other than Self to be known. Why? Because since the ego, which identifies the form of a body as "I" has perished, he (the wise one) is the formless existence– consciousness.

The jnani (one who has realised the Self) knows he is the Self and that nothing, neither his body nor anything else, exists but the Self. To such a one what difference could the presence or absence of a body make?

It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The Real is as it always is. We are not creating anything new, or achieving something, which we did not have before.

The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or the well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth, which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long Samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.

Question: But how to do this and attain liberation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Liberation is our very nature. We are that. The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is to get rid of the false notion that we are bound. When we achieve that, there will be no desire or thought of any sort. So long as one desires liberation, so long, you may take it, one is in bondage.

Question: For one who has realised his Self, it is said that he will not have the three states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Is that a fact?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What makes you say that they do not have the three states? In saying, ‘I had a dream; I was in deep sleep; I am awake’, you must admit that you were there in all three states. That makes it clear that you were there all the time. If you remain as you are now, you are in the wakeful state; this becomes hidden in the dream state; and the dream state disappears when you are in deep sleep. You were there then, you are there now, and you are there at all times. The three states come and go, but you are always there.

It is like a cinema. The screen is always there but several types of pictures appear on the screen and then disappear. Nothing sticks to the screen, it remains a screen. Similarly, you remain your own Self in all the three states. If you know that, the three states will not trouble you, just as the pictures which appear on the screen do not stick to it. On the screen, you sometimes see a huge ocean with endless waves; that disappears. Another time, you see fire spreading all around; that too disappears. The screen is there on both occasions. Did the screen get wet with the water or was it burnt by fire? Nothing affected the screen. In the same way, the things that happen during the wakeful, dream and sleep states do not affect you at all; you remain your own Self.

Question: Brahman (the Supreme Reality) is said to be sat-chit-ananda. What does that mean?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. That is so. That which is, in only Sat. That is called Brahman. The lustre of Sat is Chit and its nature is Ananda. These are not different from Sat. All the three together are known as Sat-Chit-Ananda.

Question: As the Self is existence (Sat) and consciousness (Chit) what is the reason for describing it as different from the existent and the non-existent, the sentient and the insentient?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: 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.

Sat-Chit-Ananda is said to indicate that the Supreme is not asat (different from being), not achit (different from consciousness) and not an ananda (different from bliss). Because we are in the phenomenal world we speak of the Self as Sat-Chit-Ananda.

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Part Three

Question: In what sense is happiness or bliss (ananda) our real nature?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Perfect bliss is Brahman. Perfect peace is the Self. That alone exists and is consciousness. That which is called happiness is only the nature of Self; Self is not other than perfect happiness. That which is called happiness alone exists. Knowing that fact and abiding in the state of Self, enjoy bliss eternally.

If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external cause and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of possessions and diminish in proportion to their diminution. Therefore if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness should be nil. What is the real experience of man? Does it conform to this view?

In deep sleep man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realise the Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.

Question: Sri Bhagavan speaks of the Heart as the seat of consciousness and as identical with the Self. What does the Heart exactly signify?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Call it by any name, God, Self, the Heart or the seat of consciousness, it is all the same. The point to be grasped is this that ‘Heart’ means the very core of one’s being, the centre, without which there is nothing whatever

The Heart is not physical, it is spiritual. Hridayam (the Sanskrit word) equals Hrit plus Ayam; it means ‘this is the centre’. It is that from which thoughts arise, on which they subsist and where they are resolved. The thoughts are the content of the mind and they shape the universe. The Heart is the centre of all. That from which beings come into existence is said to be Brahman in the Upanishads. That is the Heart. Brahman is the Heart.

Question: How to realise the Heart?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no one who even for a moment fails to experience the Self. For no one admits that he ever stands apart from the self. He is the Self. The Self is the Heart.

The Heart is the centre from which everything springs. Because you see the world, the body and so on, it is said that there is a centre for these, which is called the Heart. When you are in the Heart, the Heart is known to be neither the centre nor the circumference. There is nothing else apart from it.

The consciousness which is the real existence and which does not go out to know those things which are other than Self, alone is the Heart. Since the truth of Self is known only to that consciousness, which is devoid of activity, that consciousness which always remains attending to Self alone is the shining of clear knowledge.

Question: How can I attain Self-realisation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Realisation is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought ‘I have not realised’.

Stillness or peace is realisation. There is no moment when the Self is not. So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-realisation, the attempt should be made to rid oneself of these thoughts. They are due to the identification of the Self with the not-self. When the not-self disappears, the Self alone remains. To make room, it is enough that objects be removed. Room is not brought in from elsewhere.

Question: Since realisation is not possible without Vasana-kshaya (destruction of mental tendencies), how am I to realise that state in which the tendencies are effectively destroyed?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are in that state now.

Question: Does it mean that by holding on to the Self, the vasanas (mental tendencies) should be destroyed as and when they emerge?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They will themselves be destroyed if you remain as you are.

Question: How shall I reach the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If the Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now and that it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self, you are already that.

The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance supervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self, which is bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance, which is merely wrong knowledge. The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains.

Therefore realisation is for everyone; realisation makes no difference between the aspirants. This very doubt whether you can realise, and the notion ‘I have not realised’ are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.

Question: How long does it take to reach Mukti (liberation)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti is not to be gained in the future. It is there forever, here and now.

Questioner: I agree, but I do not experience it.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The experience is here and now. One cannot deny one’s own Self.

Questioner: That means existence and not happiness.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Existence is the same as happiness and happiness is the same as being. The word Mukti is so provoking. Why should one seek it? One believes that there is bondage and therefore seeks liberation. But the fact is that there is no bondage but only liberation. Why call it by a name and seek it?

Questioner: True, but we are ignorant.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Only remove ignorance,. That is all there is to be done.

All questions relating to Mukti are inadmissible. Mukti means release from bondage, which implies the present existence of bondage. There is no bondage and therefore no Mukti either.

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Part Four

Question: Of what nature is the realisation of Westerners who relate that they have had flashes of cosmic consciousness?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It came as a flash and disappeared as such. That which has a beginning must also end. Only when the ever-present consciousness is realised will it be permanent. Consciousness is indeed always with us. Everybody knows ‘I am’. No one can deny his own being. The man in deep sleep is not aware; while awake he seems to be aware. But it is the same person. There is no change in the one who slept and the one who is now awake. In deep sleep he was not aware of his body and so there was no body-consciousness. In the wakeful state he is aware of his body and so there is body-consciousness. Therefore the difference lies in the emergence of body-consciousness and not in any change in the real consciousness.

The body and body-consciousness arise together and sink together. All this amounts to saying that there are no limitations in deep sleep, whereas there are limitations in the waking state. These limitations are the bondage. The feeling ‘the body is ‘I’ is the error. This false sense of ‘I’ must go. The real ‘I’ is always there. It is here and now. It never appears anew and disappears again. That which is must also persist forever. That which appears anew will also be lost. Compare deep sleep and waking. The body appears in one state but not in the other. Therefore the body will be lost The consciousness was pre-existent and will survive the body.

There is no one who does not say ‘I am’. The wrong knowledge of ‘I am the body’ is the cause of all the mischief. This wrong knowledge must go. That is realisation. Realisation is not acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.

The ultimate truth is so simple. It is nothing more than being in the pristine state. This is all that need be said.

Question: Is not the realisation of one’s absolute being, that is, Brahma-jnana, something quite unattainable for a layman like me?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Brahma-jnana is not knowledge to be acquired, so that acquiring it one may obtain happiness. It is one’s ignorant outlook that one should give up. The Self you seek to know is truly yourself. Your supposed ignorance causes you needless grief like that of the ten foolish men who grieved at the loss of the tenth man who was never lost.

The ten foolish men in the parable forded a stream and on reaching the other shore wanted to make sure that all of them had in fact safely crossed the stream. One of the ten began to count, but while counting the others left himself out. ‘I see only nine; sure enough, we have lost one. Who can it be?’ he said. ‘Did you count correctly?’ asked another, and did the counting himself. But he too counted only nine. One after the other each of the ten counted only nine, missing himself. ‘We are only nine’, they all agreed, ‘but who is the missing one?’ they asked themselves. Every effort they made to discover the ‘missing’ individual failed. ’Whoever he is that is drowned,’ said the most sentimental of the ten fools, ‘we have lost him.’ So saying he burst into tears, and the others followed suit.

Seeing them weeping on the riverbank, a sympathetic wayfarer enquired about the cause. They related what had happened and said that even after counting themselves several times they could find no more than nine. On hearing the story, but seeing all the ten before him, the wayfarer guessed what had happened. In order to make them know for themselves they were really ten, that all of them had survived the crossing, he told them, ‘Let each of you count for himself but one after the other serially, one, two, three and so on, while I shall give you each a blow so that all of you may be sure of having been included in the count, and included only once. The tenth missing man will then be found.’ Hearing this they rejoiced at the prospect of finding their ‘lost’ comrade and accepted the method suggested by the wayfarer.

While the kind wayfarer gave a blow to each of the ten in turn, he that got the blow counted himself aloud. ‘Ten,’ said the last man as he got the last blow in his turn. Bewildered, they looked at one another, ‘We are ten,’ they said with one voice and thanked the wayfarer for having removed their grief.

That is the parable. From where was the tenth man brought in? Was he ever lost? By knowing that he had been there all the while, did they learn anything new? The cause of their grief was not the real loss of anyone, it was their own ignorance, or rather, their mere supposition that one of them was lost.

Such is the case with you. Truly there is no cause for you to be miserable and unhappy. You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of infinite being, and then weep that you are but a finite creature. Then you take up this or that spiritual practice to transcend the non-existent limitations. But if your spiritual practice itself assumes the existence of the limitations, how can it help you to transcend them?

Hence I say know that you are really the infinite pure being, the Self. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. Therefore, you can never be really ignorant of the Self. Your ignorance is merely an imaginary ignorance, like the ignorance of the ten fools about the lost tenth man. It is this ignorance that caused them grief.

Know then that true knowledge does not create a new being for you, it only removes your ignorant ignorance. Bliss is not added to your nature, it is merely revealed as your true natural state, eternal and imperishable. The only way to be rid of your grief is to know and be the Self. How can this be unattainable?

Questioner: However often Bhagavan teaches us, we are not able to understand.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: People say that they are not able to know the Self that is all pervading. What can I do? Even the smallest child says, ‘I exist; I do; this is mine.’ So, everyone understands that the thing ‘I’ is always existent. It is only when that ‘I’ is there that there is the feeling that you are the body, he is Venkanna, this is Ramanna and so on. To know that the one that is always visible is one’s own Self, is it necessary to search with a candle? To say that we do not know the atma swarupa (the real nature of the Self) which is not different but which is in one’s own Self is like saying, ‘I do not know myself.’

Question: But how is one to reach this state?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no goal to be reached. There is nothing to be attained. You are the self. You exist always. Nothing more can be predicated of the Self than that it exists. Seeing God or the Self is only being the Self or yourself. Seeing is being. You, being the Self, want to know how to attain the Self. It is something like a man being at Ramanasramam asking how many ways there are to reach Ramanasramam and which is the best way for him. All that is required of you is to give up the thought that you are this body and to give up all thoughts of the external things or the not-self./pr>

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Part Five

Question: What is the ego-self? How is it related to the real Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ego-self appears and disappears and is transitory, whereas the real Self is permanent. Though you are actually the true Self you wrongly identify the real Self with the ego-self.

Question: How does the mistake come about?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: See if it has come about.

Questioner: One has to sublimate the ego-self into the true-Self.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ego-self does not exist at all.

Question: Why does it give us trouble?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: To whom is the trouble? The trouble also is imagined. Trouble and pleasure are only for the ego.

Question: Why is the world so wrapped up in ignorance?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Take care of yourself. Let the world take care of itself. See your Self. If you are the body there is the gross world also. If you are spirit all is spirit alone.

Question: It will hold good for the individual, but of the rest?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do it first and then see if the question arises afterwards.

Question: Is there avidya (ignorance)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: For whom is it?

Questioner: For the ego-self.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, for the ego. Remove the ego and avidya is gone. Look for it, the ego vanishes and the real Self alone remains. The ego professing avidya is not to be seen. There is no avidya in reality. All Sastras (scriptures) are meant to disprove the existence of avidya.

Question: How did the ego arise?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Ego is not. Otherwise do you admit of two selves? How can there be avidya in the absence of the ego? If you begin to enquire, the avidya, which is already non-existent, will be found not to be, or you will say it has fled away.

Ignorance pertains to the ego. Why do you think of the ego and also suffer? What is ignorance again? It is that which is non-existent. However, the worldly life requires the hypothesis of avidya. Avidya is only our ignorance and nothing more. It is ignorance or forgetfulness of the Self. Can there be darkness before the sun? Similarly, can there be ignorance before the self-evident and self-luminous Self? If you know the Self there will be no darkness, no ignorance and no misery.

It is the mind, which feels the trouble and the misery. Darkness never comes nor goes. See the sun and there is no darkness. Similarly, see the Self and avidya will be found not to exist.

Question: How has the unreal come? Can the unreal spring from the Real?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: See if it has sprung. There is no such thing as the unreal, from another standpoint. The Self alone exists. When you try to trace the ego, which is the basis of the perception of the world and everything else, you find the ego does not exist at all and neither does all this creation that you see.

Questioner: It is cruel of God’s leela (play) to make the knowledge of the Self so hard.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Knowing the Self is being the Self, and being means existence, one’s own existence. No one denies one’s own existence any more than one denies one’s eyes, although one cannot see them. The trouble lies with your desire to objectify the Self, in the same way as you objectify your eyes when you place a mirror before them. You have been so accustomed to objectivity that you have lost the knowledge of yourself, simply because the Self cannot be objectified. Who is to know the Self? Can the insentient body know it? All the time you speak and think of your ‘I’, yet when questioned you deny knowledge of it. You are the Self, yet you ask how to know the Self. Where then is God’s leela and where is its cruelty? Because of this denial of the Self by people the Sastras (scriptures) speak of Maya, leela etc.

Question: Does my realisation help others?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, certainly. It is the best help possible. But there are no others to be helped. For the realised being sees only the Self, just like a goldsmith estimating the gold in various items of jewelry sees only gold. When you identify yourself with the body then only the forms and shapes are there. But when you transcend your body the others disappear along with your body-consciousness.

Question: Is it so with plants, trees, etc.?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do they exist at all apart from the Self? Find it out. You think that you see them. The thought is projected out from the Self. Find out from where it rises. Thoughts will cease to rise and the Self alone will remain.

Questioner: I understand theoretically. But they are still there.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. It is like a cinema show. There is the light on the screen and the shadows fleeting across it impress the audience as the enactment of some piece. If in the same play an audience also is shown on the screen as part of the performance, the seer and the seen will then both be on the screen. Apply it to yourself. You are the screen, the Self has created the ego, the ego has its accretions of thoughts, which are displayed as the world, the trees and the plants of which you are asking. In reality, all these are nothing but the self. If you see the Self, the same will be found to be all, everywhere and always. Nothing but the Self exists.

Questioner: Yes, I still understand only theoretically. Yet the answers are simple, beautiful and convincing.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Even the thought ‘I do not realise’ is a hindrance. In fact, the Self alone is.

Our real nature is Mukti (liberation). But we are imagining we are bound and are making various, strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the while free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something, which we have always been and are. An illustration will make this clear. A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he has gone on a world tour, is roaming over hill and dale, forest and country, desert and sea, across various continents and after many years of weary and strenuous travel, returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the ashram and walks into the hall. Just at that moment he wakes up and finds he has not moved an inch but was sleeping where he lay down. He has not returned after great effort to this hall, but is and always has been in the hall. It is exactly like that. If it is asked, ‘Why being free do we imagine that we are bound?’ I answer, ‘Why being in the hall did you imagine you were on a world adventure, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea? It is all mind or Maya (illusion)’.

Question: How then does ignorance of this one and only reality unhappily arise in the case of the ajnani (one who has not realised the Self)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ajnani sees only the mind, which is a mere reflection of the light of pure consciousness arising from the Heart. Of the Heart itself he is ignorant. Why? Because his mind is extroverted and he never sought its source.

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Part Six

Question: What prevents the infinite, undifferentiated light of consciousness arising from the Heart from revealing itself to the ajnani?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Just as water in a 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. The form of this reflection is the phenomenon called the mind. Seeing only this reflection, the ajnani is deluded into the belief that he is a finite being, the jiva, the individual self.

Question: What are the obstacles, which hinder realisation of the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They are habits of mind (vasanas).

Question: How to overcome the mental habits (vasanas)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: By realising the Self.

Questioner: This is a vicious circle.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is the ego, which raises such difficulties, creating obstacles and then suffering from the perplexity of apparent paradoxes. Find out who makes the enquiries and the Self will be found.

Question: Why is this mental bondage so persistent?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The nature of bondage is merely the rising, ruinous thought ‘I am different from the reality’. Since one surely cannot remain separate from the reality, reject that thought whenever it rises.

Question: Why do I never remember that I am the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: People speak of memory and oblivion of the fullness of the Self. Oblivion and memory are only thought-forms. They will alternate so long as there are thoughts. But reality lies beyond these. Memory and oblivion must be dependent on something. That something must be foreign to the Self as well, otherwise there would not be oblivion. That upon which memory and oblivion depend is the idea of the individual self. When one looks for it, this individual ‘I’ is not found because it is not real.

Hence this 'I'‘ is synonymous with illusion or ignorance (Maya, Avidya or Ajnana). To know that there never was ignorance is the goal of all the spiritual teachings. Ignorance must be of one who is aware. Awareness is jnana (knowledge). Jnana is eternal and natural, ajnana is unnatural and unreal.

Question: having heard this truth, why does not one remain content?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Because Samskaras (innate mental tendencies) have not been destroyed. Unless the samskaras cease to exist, there will always be doubt and confusion. All efforts are directed to destroying doubt and confusion. To do so their roots must be cut. Their roots are the samskaras. These are rendered ineffective by practice as prescribed by the Guru. The Guru leaves it to the seeker to do this much so that he might himself find out that there is no ignorance. Hearing the truth (Sravana) is the first stage. If the understanding is not firm one has to practise reflection (Manana) and uninterrupted contemplation (Nididhyasana) on it. These two processes scorch the seeds of samskaras so that they are rendered ineffective.

Some extraordinary people get unshakable jnana after hearing the truth only once. These are the advanced seekers. Beginners take longer to gain it.

Question: How did ignorance (avidya) arise at all?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Ignorance never arose. It has no real being. That which is, is only vidya (knowledge).

Question: Why then do I not realise it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Because of the samskaras. However, find out who does not realise and what he does not realise. Then it will be clear that there is no avidya.

Question: So, it is wrong to begin with a goal, is it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If there is a goal to be reached it cannot be permanent. The goal must already be there. We seek to reach the goal with the ego, but the goal exists before the ego. What is in the goal is even prior to our birth, that is, to the birth of the ego. Because we exist the ego appears to exist too.

If we look on the Self as the ego then we become the ego, if as the mind we become the mind, if as the body we become the body.

It is thought which builds up sheaths in so many ways. The shadow on the water is found to be shaking. Can anyone stop the shaking of the shadow? If it would cease to shake you would not notice the water but only the light. Similarly, take no notice of the ego and its activities, but see only the light behind. The ego is the thought ‘I’. The true ‘I’ is the Self.

Questioner: If it is just a question of giving up ideas then it is only one step to realisation.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Realisation is already there. The state free from thoughts is the only real state. There is no such action as realisation. Is there anyone who is not realising the Self? Does anyone deny his own existence? Speaking of realisation, it implies two selves- the one to realise, the other to be realised. What is not already realised is sought to be realised. Once we admit our existence, how is it that we do not know our Self?

Questioner: Because of the thoughts, the mind.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Quite so. It is the mind that veils our happiness. How do we know that we exist? If you say because of the world around us, then how do you know that you existed in deep sleep?

Question: How to get rid of the mind?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is it the mind that wants to kill itself? The mind cannot kill itself. So your business is to find the real nature of the mind. Then you will know that there is no mind. When the Self is sought, the mind is nowhere. Abiding in the self, one need not worry about the mind.

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Part Seven

Question: Is Mukti the same as realisation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti or liberation is our nature. It is another name for us. Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade, voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat there, making great efforts to get back into the shade and then rejoicing, ‘How sweet is the shade! I have reached the shade at last!’ We are all doing exactly the same. We are not different from the reality. We imagine we are different, that is we create the bheda bhava (the feeling of difference) and then undergo great sadhana (spiritual practices) to get rid of the bhed bhava and realise the oneness. Why imagine or create bheda bhava and then destroy it?

Questioner: This can be realised only by the grace of the master. I was reading Sri Bhagavata (Purana). It says that bliss can be had only by the dust of the master’s feet. I pray for grace.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What is bliss but your own being? You are not apart from being which is the same as bliss. You are now thinking that you are the mind or the body which are both changing and trnsient. But you are unchanging and eternal. That is what you should know.

Questioner: It is darkness and I am ignorant.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: This ignorance must go. Again, who says, ‘I am ignorant’? he must be the witness of ignorance. That is what you are. Socrates said, ‘I know that I do not know.’ Can it be ignorance? It is wisdom.

Questioner: Why then do I feel unhappy when I am in Vallore and feel peace in your presence?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Can the feeling in this place be bliss? When you leave this place you say you are unhappy. Therefore, this peace is not permanent, it is mixed with unhappiness which is felt in another place. Therefore you cannot find bliss in places and in periods of time. It must be permanent in order that it may be useful. It is your own being which is permanent. Be the Self and that is bliss. You are always that.

The Self is always realised. It is not necessary to seek to realise what is already and always realised. For you cannot deny your own existence. That existence is consciousness, the Self.

Unless you exist, you cannot ask questions. So you must admit your own existence. That existence is the Self. It is already realised. Therefore the effort to realise results only in your realising your present mistake- that you have not realised your Self. There is no fresh realisation. The Self becomes revealed.

Questioner: That will take some years.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why years? The idea of time is only in your mind. It is not in the Self. There is no time for the Self. Time arises as an idea after the ego arises. But you are the Self beyond time and space. You exist even in the absence of time and space.

Were it true that you realise it later it means that you are not realised now. Absence of realisation in the present moment may be repeated at any moment in the future, for time is infinite. So too, such realisation is impermanent. It is the true eternal state, which cannot change.

Questioner: Yes, I shall understand it in course of time.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are already that. Time and space cannot affect the Self. They are in you. So also all that you see around you is in you. There is a story to illustrate this point.

A lady had a precious necklace around her neck. Once in her excitement she forgot it and thought that the necklace was lost. She became anxious and looked for it in her home but could not find it. She asked her friends and neighbours if they knew anything about the necklace. They did not. At last a kind friend told her to feel the necklace round her neck. She found that it had all along been round her neck and she was happy. When others asked her later if she had found the necklace which was lost, she said, ‘Yes, I have found it.’ She still felt that she had recovered a lost jewel.

Now did she lose it at all? It was all along round her neck. But judge her feelings. She was as happy as if she had recovered a lost jewel. Similarly with us, we imagine that we will realise that Self some time, whereas we are never anything but the Self.

Questioner: there must be something that I can do to reach this state.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The conception that there is a goal and a path to it is wrong. We are the goal or peace always. To get rid of the notion that we are not peace is all that is required.

Questioner: All books say that the guidance of a Guru is necessary.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Guru will say only what I am saying now. He will not give you anything you have not already got. It is impossible for anyone to get what he has not got already. Even if he gets any such thing, it will go as it came. What comes will also go. What always is will alone remain. The Guru cannot give you anything new, which you don’t have already. Removal of the notion that we have not realised the Self is all that is required. We are always the Self, only we don’t realise it.

We go round and round in search of Atma (Self) saying, ‘Where is Atma? Where is it?’ till at last the dawn of jnana drishti (vision of knowledge) is reached, and we say, ‘This is Atma, this is me.’ We should acquire that vision. When once that vision is reached, there will be no attachments even if one mixes with the world and moves about in it. When once you put on shoes your feet do not feel the pain of walking on any number of stones or thorns on the way. You walk about without fear or care, even if there are mountains on the way. In the same way, everything will be natural to those who have attained jnana drishti. What is there apart from one’s own Self?

Question: The natural state can be known only after all this worldly vision subsides. But how is it to subside?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the mind subsides, the whole world subsides. Mind is the cause of all this. If that subsides, the natural state presents itself. The self proclaims itself at all times as ‘I, I’. It is self-luminous. It is here. All this is that. We are in that only. Being in it, why search for it? The ancients say: ‘Making the vision absorbed in jnana one sees the world as Brahman.’

Related articles:
Adhyatma- Self- Spiritual Science
Consciousness- the three states

Freedom and Bondage
Direct Path

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