Sri Ramana Maharshi



Questions 1 - 10

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Is there any way of adoring the Supreme which is all, except by abiding firmly as That!


Disciple: Master! What is the means to gain the state of eternal bliss, ever devoid of misery?

Master: Apart from the statement in the Veda that wherever there is body there is misery, this is also the direct experience of all people; therefore, one should enquire into one's true nature which is ever bodiless, and one should remain as such. This is the means to gaining that state.


D: What is meant by saying that one should enquire into one's true nature and understand it?

M: Experiences such as "I went; I came; I was; I did", come naturally to everyone. From these experiences, does it not appear that the consciousness "I" is the subject of those various acts?

Enquiry into the true nature of that consciousness, and remaining as oneself is the way to understand, through enquiry, one's true nature.


D: How is one to enquire: "Who am I?"

M: Actions such as "going" and "coming" belong only to the body. And so, when one says "I went, I came", it amounts to saying that the body is "I". But, can the body be said to be the consciousness "I", since the body was not before it was born, is made up of the five elements, is non-existent in the state of deep sleep, and becomes a corpse when dead? Can this body which is inert like a log of wood be said to shine as "I", "I"?

Therefore, the "I" consciousness which at first arises in respect of the body is referred to variously as self-conceit (tarbodham), egoity (ahankara), nescience (avidya), maya, impurity (mala), and individual soul (jiva). Can we remain without enquiring into this? Is it not for our redemption through enquiry that all the scriptures declare that the destruction of "self-conceit" is release (mukti)?

Therefore, making the corpse-body remain as a corpse, and not even uttering the word "I", one should enquire keenly thus: "Now, what is it that rises as 'I'?". Then, there would shine in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of the form "I", "I". That is, there would shine of its own accord the pure consciousness which is unlimited and one, the limited and the many thoughts having disappeared. If one remains quiescent without abandoning that (experience), the egoity, the individual sense, of the form "I am the body" will be totally destroyed, and at the end the final thought, viz. the "I"-form also will be quenched like the fire that burns camphor. [1] The great sages and scriptures declare that this alone is release.

[1. I.e., without leaving any sediment.]


D: When one enquires into the root of "self conceit" which is of the form "I", all sorts of different thoughts without number seem to rise; and not any separate "I" thought.

M: Whether the nominative case, which is the first case, appears or not, the sentences in which the other cases appear have as their basis the first case; similarly, all the thoughts that appear in the heart have as their basis the egoity which is the first mental mode "I", the cognition of the form "I am the body"; thus, it is the rise of egoity that is the cause and source of the rise of all other thoughts; therefore, if the self-conceit of the form of egoity which is the root of the illusory tree of samsara (bondage consisting of transmigration) is destroyed, all other thoughts will perish completely like an uprooted tree.

Whatever thoughts arise as obstacles to one's sadhana (spiritual discipline)—the mind should not be allowed to go in their direction, but should be made to rest in one's self which is the Atman; one should remain as witness to whatever happens, adopting the attitude "Let whatever strange things happen, happen; let us see!" This should be one's practice. In other words, one should not identify oneself with appearances; one should never relinquish one's self. This is the proper means for destruction of the mind (manonasa) which is of the nature of seeing the body as self, and which is the cause of all the aforesaid obstacles.

This method which easily destroys egoity deserves to be called devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana ), concentration (yoga), and knowledge (jnana). Because God remains of the nature of the Self, shining as "I" in the heart, because the scriptures declare that thought itself is bondage, the best discipline is to stay quiescent without ever forgetting Him (God, the Self), after resolving in Him the mind which is of the form of the "I"-thought, no matter by what means. This is the conclusive teaching of the Scriptures.


D: Is enquiry only the means for removal of the false belief of selfhood in the gross body, or is it also the means for removal of the false belief of selfhood in the subtle and causal bodies?

M: It is on the gross body that the other bodies subsist. In the false belief of the form "I am the body" are included all the three bodies consisting of the five sheaths. And destruction of the false belief of selfhood in the gross body is itself the destruction of the false belief of selfhood in the other bodies. So inquiry is the means to removal of the false belief of selfhood in all the three bodies.


D: While there are different modifications of the internal organ, viz. manas (reflection), buddhi (intellect), chitta (memory) and ahankara (egoity), how can it be said that the destruction of the mind alone is release?

M: In the books explaining the nature of the mind, it is thus stated:

"The mind is formed by the concretion of the subtle portion of the food we eat; it grows with the passions such as attachment and aversion, desire and anger; being the aggregate of mind, intellect, memory and egoity, it receives the collective singular name 'mind', the characteristics that it bears are thinking, determining, etc.; since it is an object of consciousness (the self), it is what is seen, inert; even though inert, it appears as if conscious because of association with consciousness (like a red-hot iron ball); it is limited, non-eternal, partite, and changing like wax, gold, candle, etc.; it is of the nature of all elements (of phenomenal existence); its locus is the heart-lotus even as the loci of the sense of sight, etc., are the eyes, etc.; it is the adjunct of the individual soul thinking of an object, it transforms itself into a mode, and along with the knowledge that is in the brain, it flows through the five sense-channels, gets joined to objects by the brain (that is associated with knowledge), and thus knows and experiences objects and gains satisfaction. That substance is the 'mind.'"

Even as one and the same person is called by different names according to the different functions he performs, so also one and the same mind is called by the different names: mind, intellect, memory, and egoity, on account of the difference in the modes—and not because of any real difference. The mind itself is of the form of all, i.e. of soul, God and world; when it becomes of the form of the Self through knowledge there is release, which is of the nature of Brahman: this is the teaching.


D: If these four—mind, intellext, memory and egoity—are one and the same why are separate locations mentioned for them?

M: It is true that the throat is stated to be the location of the mind, the face or the heart of the intellect, the navel of the memory, and the heart or sarvanga of the egoity; though differently stated thus yet, for the aggregate of these, that is the mind or internal organ, the location is the heart alone. This is conclusively declared in the Scriptures.


D: Why is it said that only the mind which is the internal organ, shines as the form of all, that is of soul, God and world?

M: As instruments for knowing the objects, the sense organs are outside, and so they are called outer senses; and the mind is called the inner sense because it is inside. But the distinction between inner and outer is only with reference to the body; in truth, there is neither inner or outer. The mind's nature is to remain pure like ether. What is referred to as the heart or the mind is the collocation of the elements (of phenomenal existence) that appear as inner and outer. So there is no doubt that all phenomena consisting of names and forms are of the nature of mind alone. All that appear outside are in reality inside and not outside; it is in order to teach this that in the Vedas also all have been described as of the nature of the heart. What is called the heart is no other than Brahman.


D: How can it be said that the heart is no other than Brahman?

M: Although the self enjoys its experiences in the states of waking, dream, and deep sleep, residing respectively in the eyes, throat, and heart, in reality, however, it never leaves its principal seat, the heart. In the heart-lotus which is of the nature of all – in other words in the mind-ether – the light of that self in the form "I" shines.

As it shines thus in everybody, this very self is referred to as the witness (sakshi) and the transcendent (turiya, literally the fourth). The "I"-less supreme Brahman which shines in all bodies as interior to the light in the form "I" is the Self-ether (or knowledge-ether): that alone is the absolute Reality. This is the super-transcendent (turiyatita). Therefore, it is stated that what is called the heart is no other than Brahman. Moreover, for the reason that Brahman shines in the hearts of all souls as the Self, the name "Heart" is given to Brahman. [2] The meaning of the word hridayam, when split thus 'hrit-ayam', is in fact Brahman. The adequate evidence for the fact that Brahman, which shines as the self, resides in the hearts of all is that all people indicate themselves by pointing to the chest when saying "I".


D: If the entire universe is of the form of mind, then does it not follow that the universe is an illusion? If that be the case, why is the creation of the universe mentioned in the Veda?

M: There is no doubt whatsoever that the universe is the merest illusion. The principal purport of the Veda is to make known the true Brahman, after showing the apparent universe to be false. It is for this purpose that the Vedas admit the creation of the world and not for any other reason.

Moreover, for the less qualified persons creation is taught, that is the phased evolution of prakriti (primal nature), mahat-tattva (the great intellect), tanmatras (the subtle essences), bhutas (the gross elements), the world, the body, etc., from Brahman: while for the more qualified simultaneous creation is taught, that is, that this world arose like a dream on account of one's own thoughts induced by the defect of not knowing oneself as the Self. Thus, from the fact that the creation of the world has been described in different ways it is clear that the purport of the Vedas rests only in teaching the true nature of Brahman after showing somehow or other the illusory nature of the universe. That the world is illusory, every one can directly know in the state of realization which is in the form of experience of one's bliss-nature.

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