Ramana Maharshi Renderings


Illusion is perceived by what is neither subject to illusion nor able to speak to levels and degrees of it.

The phenomenal world is imagined upon the substratum of Reality, which remains unaffected by it in any way. Reality is always and only One.

It is as if various scenes are passing on a cinema screen: fire seems to burn buildings to ashes; water seems to swallow ships; yet the screen on which the scenes appear remains unburnt and dry. Why? Because only the screen is real. Similarly a mirror, unaffected by what it reflects.

When viewpoint awakens to Knowledge the Universe is perceived to be only Brahman. Viewpoint immersed in the phenomenal sees only the world; yet upon awakening it is seen that Reality alone is.

When the false notions ‘I am the body,’ ‘I am these thoughts’ or ‘I am not realized’ fall away, Supreme Consciousness or the Self alone remains. In the world’s present state of knowledge this is called ‘Realization.’ But the truth is that Realization is eternal and already exists, here and now.

Consciousness is pure Knowledge. The seeming mind that arises out of it is made of thoughts. The essence of this mind though is still awareness or consciousness. However, with the ego overlay it appears to function as reasoning, thinking or perceiving. The universal mind, eternally unlimited by ego, knows nothing outside itself and is only aware. This is what the Bible means by ‘I am that I am.’

The ego-ridden mind has its energy sapped and is unable to resist distressing thoughts. The ego-less mind is energetic and happy. Yet, both this happiness and the distress remain but very limited aspects of the mind.

What is there to be seen? And by whom? And how? There is only one Consciousness. When Consciousness identifies itself as the body through beliefs of separation it projects this separation identity and seems to see surrounding objects. This “individual,” which is limited to the waking state, expects to see something other, different, and accepts the authority of the body’s senses, which offer him what he expects. He will not admit that he who is seeing, the objects seen, and the act of seeing are all manifestations of the same Consciousness.

There is no ego. Therefore there is no ignorance. If you inquire into the Self, ignorance, which is already non-existent, will be found to not exist and you will believe that it has fled. Yet it never was.

Absence of thought does not mean a void. There would still be someone aware of that void. Knowledge of phenomena and ignorance pertain only to the mind and are in duality, but the Self is beyond both. It is pure Light. There is no calling for Self to see another. There are not two selves. What is not the Self is mere non-self, illusion, and cannot know the Self. Self has no sight or hearing; it lies beyond all sensing, alone, pure Consciousness.

The waking man will say he did not know anything while he was in the state of deep sleep. Awake he sees objects and believes that he exists, but in deep sleep there were neither objects nor a spectator. And yet the same one who is saying this existed in deep sleep also. What is the difference between the two states? There seem to be objects and the play of the senses and memory now, while in deep sleep there is none of this.

Upon awakening from deep sleep a new entity that was not there, the ego, arises. It seems to act through the senses, sees objects, confuses itself with the body, believes it has a memory and claims to be the self. In reality, what was in deep sleep continues to be now also. This Self is changeless. It is the ego that comes and goes. What rises and sets is the ego. That which remains changeless is Self.

Waking, dreaming and deep sleep are mere phases of the mind, not of the Self. The Self is the witness of these three states. Your true nature also exists in sleep.

What you must guard against is stupor, or false sleep. Are you awake now? No. What you are called to do is wake up from your awake state. Neither fall into false sleep nor remain falsely awake.

The Self cannot be known in sleep until it is first realized in the waking state, for our true nature underlies all of the three states. Effort is called for in the waking state to realize the Self here and now. In that realization will the continuous Self also be known uninterrupted by the alternation of waking, dream and deep sleep.

One term for the true state of realization is the ‘Fourth State,’ existing eternally beyond the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. It is compared with the state of deep sleep since, similarly, it is formless and non-dual; however, it is far from being the same. In the Fourth State the ego merges into Consciousness, in deep sleep it merges into unconsciousness.

Whatever is born must die; whatever is acquired must be lost; but were you born? You are eternally existent. The Self can never be lost.

Why be concerned with what happens after death? Why ask whether you were born, whether you are reaping the fruits of your past karma, and so on? You will not raise such questions in a little while when you fall into deep sleep. Why? Are you a different person now from the one you are when asleep? No, you are not. Find out why such questions do not occur to you when you are asleep.

Just as rivers lose their individuality when they discharge their waters into the ocean, and yet the waters evaporate and return as rain on the hills and back again through the rivers to the ocean, so also do individuals lose their individuality when they go to sleep but return to it when they awaken, each according to previous innate tendencies. Similarly, in death also, being is not lost. Latent potentialities withdraw into the Heart at death but do not perish. That is how beings are re-born.

The birth of the ‘I’-thought is a person’s birth and the death of the ‘I’-thought is his death. After the ‘I’-thought has arisen, wrong identification with the body arises. Identifying yourself with the body makes you falsely identify others also as their bodies. You believe you were born, grow old and will die, and so you believe others are born, grow old and will die.

The Heart is another name for Reality and this is neither inside nor outside the body. There can be no in or out for it, since it alone is. I do not mean by ‘heart’ any physiological organ or any plexus of nerves or anything like that; but so long as a man identifies himself with the body or thinks he is in the body, he is advised to see where in the body the ‘I’-thought arises from and merges back into again. It must be the heart at the right side of the chest since every person of whatever race and religion and in whatever language he may be speaking, points to the right side of the chest to indicate himself when he says ‘I’.

When a room is dark you need a lamp to light it, but when the sun rises there is no need for one. And to see the sun itself no lamp is needed, it is self-luminous. Similarly with the mind. The reflected light of the mind is necessary to perceive objects, but to see the heart it is enough for the mind to turn towards it. Then the mind loses itself and the Heart shines forth.

There are two ways to become independent of destiny. One is to inquire who undergoes this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by it, not the Self, and that the ego is non-existent. The other way is to dissolve the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one’s complete helplessness and always saying: ‘Not I, but Thou, my Lord’, giving up all sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Surrender can never be regarded as complete so long as the devotee wants this or that from the Lord.

True surrender is love of God for the sake of love and for nothing else, not even for the sake of salvation. In other words, complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through self inquiry or through bhakti-marga.

Effortless and choice-less awareness is our real nature. If we can attain that state and abide, that is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberation or meditation, whether it be upon Self inquiry, surrender or both. All the age-old vasanas (inherent tendencies) turn the mind outward to external objects. All such thoughts must be given up, the mind turned inwards. That, for most people, requires effort. Every teacher and every scripture tells the aspirant to keep quiet, but it is not so easy to do.

That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if we find somebody who has achieved this supreme state of stillness without seeming effort, you may take it that the necessary effort had already been made in a previous life. So effortless and choice-less awareness is attained only after deliberate meditation. That meditation can take whatever form that most appeals to you. See what helps you to be free of thought and adopt that for your meditation.

Bliss will ensue if you keep still, but however much you tell your mind this truth, it will not keep still. It is the ego-mind that tells itself to be still in order for it to attain bliss, but it will not do it. Though all the scriptures have said it and though we hear it daily from the great ones and even from our Guru, we are never quiet, always straying into the world of Maya (illusion) and sense objects. That is why conscious, deliberate effort is needed to attain that effortless state of stillness.

Indeed, until the supreme, effortless state is attained, it is impossible for a man not to make effort. His own nature compels him to, just as Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita told Arjuna that his own nature would compel him to fight.

If you can keep still without engaging in any other pursuits, well and good. But for so long as you are obliged to be active, do not give up the attempt to realize the Self. Often glimpses of Realization are attained before it becomes permanent, and in all such cases effort remains necessary.

Yet, the belief that you have to make an effort to get rid of this dream of a waking state and attain Realization or real awakening is also a part of the dream. When you attain Realization you will see that there was neither the dream during sleep nor the dream during the waking state, but only yourself and your real nature.

Grace is the Self. It is not something to be acquired. All that is necessary is to know its existence as yourself. In the same way, the sun is pure brightness; it does not know darkness, although others may speak of darkness fleeing away on its approach. Like darkness ignorance is also a phantom, not real. Because of its unreality, it is said to be removed when its unreality is revealed.

The sun is there and shines and you are surrounded by sunlight; still, if you would know the sun you must turn in its direction and look. Similarly, Grace will be found by the effort to turn towards it, although it is here and now.

Surrender once and for all and be done with the desire to surrender. So long as the sense of being the doer remains, desire does also. Therefore the ego remains. But once this goes the Self shines forth in its purity, always and only upon itself. The sense of being the doer is the bondage, not the actions themselves. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’

Here, stillness is total surrender without a vestige of individuality. Stillness will prevail and there will be no agitation of the mind. Agitation of mind is the cause of desire, of the sense of being the doer, of personality. If that is stopped, there is quiet. In this sense that I speak, ‘knowing’ means ‘being.’ It is not relative knowledge involving the triads of knower, knowledge and known.

If the unripe mind does not feel God’s grace, it does not mean that this is absent, for that would imply that God is at times not gracious, that is to say, ceases to be God. It is the same as the saying of Christ: ‘According to thy faith be it done unto thee.’

When the sun rises some buds blossom, not all. Do you blame the sun for that? Nor can the bud blossom of itself; it requires the sunlight to enable it to do so.

There was never a time when the Supreme Being was unknown or unrealized, because He is one and identical with the Self. His grace or anugraha is the same as the conscious immediacy of His Divine Presence, Prasannata, or in other words, Enlightenment or Revelation. One’s ignorance of this self-revealing immediacy of Divine Grace is no proof to the contrary. If the owl does not see the sun that illumines the whole world, is that the fault of the sun? Is it not due to the misdirection of the bird’s sight?

Similarly, if the ignorant man is unaware of the ever-luminous Atman or Self, can that be attributed to the nature of the Atman itself? Is it not the result of his own ignorance? The Supreme Lord is eternal grace. Therefore, there is really no such individual act as bestowing Grace; and, being ever present, the manifestation of Grace is not confined to any particular period or occasion. Turning to God and desiring His grace is itself grace.

A doubt arises and it is cleared. Another arises and that is cleared, only to make way for another, and so it goes on. So there is no possibility of clearing away all doubts. Find out instead to whom the doubts come. Go to their source and stay there. Then they cease to arise. That is how doubts are to be cleared away. Grace is not something outside you. In fact your very desire for grace is due to grace that is already working in you.

Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to live in the forest, your mind haunts you. The ego is the source of thought. It creates the body and the world and makes you think of being a householder. If you renounce, it will only substitute the thought of renunciation for that of the family, and the environment of the forest for that of the household. But the mental obstacles are always there for you. They even increase greatly in the new surroundings. Change of environment is no help. The one obstacle is the mind, and this must be overcome whether in the home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest why not in the home? So why change the environment? Your efforts can be made even now, whatever be the environment.

It is the feeling ‘I work’ that is the hindrance. Ask yourself: ‘Who works?’ Remember who you are. Then the work will not bind you. It will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce; either effort is the bondage. What is destined to happen will happen. If you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it; you will be forced to engage in it. So leave it to the Self that you are. It is not really your choice whether you renounce or retain.

When women, carrying jars of water on their heads, stop to talk, they are very careful, keeping their mind always on the water jars. Similarly, when a sage engages in activity, his mind remains fixed in the Self and his activity does not distract him.

Brahmacharya means ‘living in Brahman;’ it has no connection with celibacy as commonly understood. A real Brahmachari is one who lives in Brahman and finds bliss in Brahman, which is the same as the Self. Why, then, should he look for other sources of happiness? In fact, it is emergence from the Self that is the cause of all misery.

Married or unmarried, a man can realize the Self, because the Self is here and now. If it were not so, if it was something to be acquired by a later effort, it would not be worth seeking, because what is not naturally now cannot be permanent. What I am saying is that the Self is here and now and that IT alone is.

‘Sannyasa’ means renouncing one’s individuality, not shaving one’s head and putting on ochre robes. A man may be a householder but if he does not believe he is one he is a sannyasin. On the other hand, he may wear ochre robes and wander about, but so long as he believes he is a sannyasin he is not one. To think about one’s renunciation defeats the purpose of renouncing.

Solitude is in the mind of a man. One man may be in the thick of the world and yet maintain perfect serenity of mind. Such a person is always in solitude. Another may live in the forest but still be unable to control his mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is an attitude of the mind. A man attached to the things of life cannot acquire solitude, wherever he may be, whereas a detached man is always in solitude.

As you are, so is the world. Without understanding yourself, what is the use of trying to understand the world? Seekers after Truth do not need to worry about what the world is or isn’t. People waste their time and energy over such questions. First find out the Truth behind what you believe is yourself, then you will be in a better position to understand the Truth behind what you believe is the world.

From the point of view of jnana or Reality, the suffering is a dream, as is the world of which that suffering is an infinitesimal part. In a dream you have when you are asleep you feel hunger and see others also suffering from hunger. You feed yourself and, moved by pity, feed the others who are hungry. So long as the dream lasted, all this suffering was quite as real as the suffering you believe you see in the world.

It is only when you wake up that you discover it to be unreal. You might have eaten heartily before going to sleep, but you still dreamt that you had been working hard in the hot sun all day and were tired and hungry. Then you woke up and found that your stomach was full and that you had not stirred from your bed.

All this is not to suggest that while you believe you are in the dream you can act as if the suffering you feel and see in it is not there. The hunger you feel in the dream calls for dream food. The fellow beings you find hungry in the dream call for dream food.

Similarly, until you attain the state of Realization and thus have awakened out of this illusory, phenomenal world, you may be called to do social service by relieving suffering when you see it. But even so you must do it without ahankara, that is without the sense of: ‘It-is-I-who-am-doing-it.’

Instead you act with the understanding; ‘I am the Lord’s instrument.’ Similarly you must not be conceited and think; ‘I am helping a man below me. He needs help and I am in a position to give it. I am superior and he is inferior.’ You must help him because he is the means for you to worship and love God, in and as him. All such service is serving the Self, not any other. You truly help no one but yourself.

The Guru is one who at all times abides in the profound depths of the Self. He never sees any difference between himself and others and is quite free of the idea that he is the Enlightened or the Liberated One, even as those around him who are lost in the bondage of the darkness of ignorance may believe otherwise. His self-possession will never be shaken under any circumstances and he is never perturbed.

The word upadesa literally means ‘restoring an object to its proper place.’ The mind of the disciple, having become differentiated from its true and primal state of Pure Being, which is the Self and which is described in the scriptures as Sat-chit-ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss), slips away therefrom and, assuming the form of thought, constantly pursues objects of sense-gratification. Therefore it is assailed by the vicissitudes of life and becomes weak and dispirited. Upadesa consists in the Guru restoring it to its primal state and preventing it from slipping away from the state of Pure Being, of absolute identity with the Self or, in other words, the Being of the Guru.

The word can also be understood as meaning to present an apparently distant object to close view; that is to say, it consists in the Guru showing the disciple what he had considered as distant and different from himself to be immediate and identical with himself.

A disciple, after Realization once said to his Guru; ‘I now realize that you dwelt in my innermost heart as the one Reality in all my countless births and have now come before me is human shape and lifted this veil of ignorance. What can I do in return for such a great benefit?’ And the Guru replied; ‘You need not do anything. It is enough if you remain as you are in your true state.’

The Guru is the Self. At some time a man grows dissatisfied with his life and, not content with what he has, seeks the satisfaction of his desires through prayer to God. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain His Grace than to satisfy worldly desires. Then God’s grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the Truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association with him. The devotee’s mind thus gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified until it remains calm without the least ripple. That calm Expanse is the Self.

The Guru is both outer and inner. From outside he gives a push to the mind to turn inward while from inside he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in quieting it. That is the Grace of the Guru. There is no difference between God, Guru and Self.

God, who is immanent, in His Grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests Himself according to the devotee’s development. The devotee thinks that he is a man and expects a relationship as between two physical bodies. But the Guru who is God or the Self incarnate, works from within, helps the man to see his mistakes and guides him in the right path until he realizes the Self within.

You think that the world can be conquered by your own efforts. When you become frustrated externally and are driven inwards you may begin to feel, ‘Oh, there is a power higher than man.’

The ego is a very powerful elephant which cannot be brought under control by any creature less powerful than a lion, which, in this instance, is none other than the Guru, whose very looks make the elephant-like ego tremble and die.

You will know in due course that your glory lies where you cease to exist. In order to gain that state, you must surrender yourself. Then the master sees that you are in a fit state to receive guidance and He guides you.

So long as you seek Self-realization, the Guru is necessary. Guru is the Self. Take Guru to be the real Self, and yourself to be the individual self. The disappearance of this sense of duality is the removal of ignorance. So long as duality persists in you, the Guru is necessary. Because you identify yourself with the body, you think the Guru also is the body. You are not the body, nor is the Guru. You are the Self and so is the Guru.

To ask the mind to kill the mind is like making the thief the policeman. He will go with you and pretend to catch the thief, but nothing will be gained. So, you must turn inward and see where the mind rises from and then it will cease to exist.

To do this we employ the mind. It is well known and admitted that only with the help of the mind, can the mind be killed. But instead of setting about by saying there is a mind and I want to kill it, you use the mind to seek its source, and then you find it does not exist at all. The mind turned outwards results in thoughts and objects. Turned inwards it becomes itself the Self.

It can be said that the mind ceases to exist or that it becomes transformed into the Self; the meaning is really the same. It does not mean that a person becomes mindless, like a stone, but that the Pure Consciousness of the Self no longer seems to be confined within the narrow limits of an individualized mind, and no longer sees through a glass darkly.  Instead there is seeing with clarity and radiant vision.

By steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind, the mind is transformed into That to which ‘I’ refers; and that is in fact the Self. The ego-mind has necessarily to depend for its existence on something gross; it never subsists by itself. Yet it is the mind that is also called the subtle body, jiva or soul.

That which arises in the physical body as ‘I’ is the mind. If one enquires whence the ‘I’-thought arises in the body in the first instance, it will be found with diligence that it is from the hrdayam or the Heart. That is both the source and stay of the mind. Or again, even if one merely continuously repeats to oneself inwardly ‘I-I’ with the entire mind fixed thereon, that also leads to the same source.

The first and foremost of all thoughts that arise in the mind is the primal ‘I’-thought. It is only after the rise or origin of the ‘I’-thought that innumerable other thoughts arise. In other words, only after the first personal pronoun, ‘I’, has arisen, do the second and third personal pronouns (you, he, etc.) occur to the mind; and they cannot subsist without without the ‘I.’

Since every other thought can occur only after the rise of the ‘I’-thought, and since the mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, it is only through the inquiry, ‘Who am I?’ that the mind subsides. Moreover, the integral ‘I’-thought that is implicit in such an inquiry, having destroyed all other thoughts, itself finally gets consumed, just as a stick used for stirring the burning funeral pyre gets consumed.

Who would object to having a seemingly separate God to worship so long as he needs one? Through devotion he will develop until he comes to feel that God alone exists, and that he himself does not count. He comes to a stage when he says; ‘Not I but Thou; not my will, but Thy Will.’ When that stage is reached, which is called complete surrender in bhakti marga, one discovers in the effacement of the ego the attainment of the Self. We need not quarrel whether there are two entities or one. According to dualists as well as bhakti marga, complete surrender is necessary. Do that, then discover for yourself whether the one Self alone exists or whether there are two.

Whatever may be needed to suit the different capacities and stages of different men, the truth is that the state of Self-realization must be beyond the triad of knower, knowledge and known. The Self is the Self; that is all that can be said of it.

You are under the impression that you are the body, so you believe the Realized Man also has a body. Does He say that he has one? He may seem to you to have one, and to do things with it, as others do. The charred ashes of a rope look like a rope but they are of no use to tie anything with. So long as one identifies oneself with the body, all this is hard to understand.

That is why it is sometimes said that the body of the Realized Man continues to exist until his destiny has worked itself out, and then it falls away. But the truth is that the Realized Man has transcended all destiny and is bound neither by the body nor by its destiny.

Our true nature is Liberation, but we imagine that we are bound and so we make strenuous efforts to get free, although all the while we are free. Yet this is understood only when we reach that state of freedom. Then we are surprised to find that we were frantically striving to attain something that we always were.

An illustration will make this clear. A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he goes on a world-tour and is travelling over hill and dale, forest and plain, desert and sea, across various continents, and after many years of weary and strenuous travel, he returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the Ashram and walks into the hall.

Just at that same moment he wakes up and finds that he has gone nowhere, done nothing. He has not returned after great time and efforts to this hall, rather he was here all the time. It is exactly like that.

When it is asked why, being free, we imagine ourselves bound, I answer, ‘why, being here in the hall, do you imagine you are on a world-tour, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea?’

It is all mind, maya.

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