======= Understanding Hinduism =======
Freedom & Bondage
From The Teachings of 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.
It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The real is as it is always. 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 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: 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 divining 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?
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.
[Note: Comments by David Godman: Sri Raman Maharshi occasionally indicated that there were three classes of spiritual aspirants. The most advanced realise the Self as soon as they are told about its real nature. Those in the second class need to reflect on it for some time before Self-awareness becomes firmly established. Those in the third category are less fortunate since they usually need many years of intensive spiritual practice to achieve the goal of Self-realisation. Sri Ramana sometimes used a metaphor of combustion to describe the three levels; gunpowder ignites with a single spark, charcoal needs the application of heat for a short time, and wet coal needs to dry out and heat up over a long period of time before it will begin to burn.
For the benefit of those in the top two categories Sri Ramana taught that the Self alone exists and that it can be directly and consciously experienced merely by ceasing to pay attention to the wrong ideas we have about ourselves. These wrong ideas he collectively called not-Self since they are an imaginary accretion of wrong notions and misperceptions which effectively veil the true experience of the real Self. The principal misperception is the idea that the Self is limited to the body and the mind. As soon as one ceases to imagine that one is an individual person, inhabiting a particular body, the whole superstructure of wrong ideas collapse and is replaced by a conscious and permanent awareness of the real Self.
At this level of the teaching, there is no question of effort or practice. All that is required is an understanding that the Self is not a goal to be attained, it is merely the awareness that prevails when all the limiting ideas about the not-Self have been discarded.]
Sri Ramana Maharshi: 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: How shall I reach the Self?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now, and 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 or freedom)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti(liberation) 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 ones 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 (liberation or freedom) 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(liberation) are inadmissible. Mukti means release from bondage. There is no bondage and therefore no mukti either.
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. Everyone 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. 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 for ever. That 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 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 one nearer to pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sleep, dream and waking states are mere phenomena appearing on the Self which itself is stationary. It is also a state of simple awareness. Can anyone remain away from the Self at any moment? This question can arise only if that were possible.
Question: Is it not often said that one is nearer pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The question may as well be Am I nearer to myself in my sleep than in my waking state?
The Self is pure consciousness. No one can ever be away from the Self. The question is possible only if there is duality. But there is no duality in the state of pure consciousness.
The same person sleeps, dreams and wakes up. The waking state is considered to be full of beautiful and interesting things. The absence of such experience makes one say that the sleep state is dull. Before we proceed further let us make this point clear. Do you not admit that you exist in your sleep?
Questioner: Yes I do.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are the same person that is now awake. Is it not so? So there is a continuity in the sleep and the waking states. What is that continuity? It is only the state of pure being.
There is a difference in the two states. What is that difference? The incidents, namely, the body, the world and objects appear in the waking state but they disappear in sleep.
Questioner: But I am not aware in my sleep.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: True, there is no awareness of the body or of the world. But you must exist in your sleep in order to say now I was not aware in my sleep. Who says so now? It is the wakeful person. The sleeper cannot say so. That is to say, the individual who is now identifying the Self with the body says that such awareness did not exist in sleep.
Because you identify yourself with the body, you see the world around you and say that the waking state is filled with beautiful and interesting things. The sleep state appears dull because you were not there as an individual and therefore these things were not. But what is the fact? There is the continuity of being in all the three states, but no continuity of the individual and the objects.
That which is continuous is also enduring, that is permanent. That which is discontinuous is transitory. Therefore the state of being is permanent and the body and the world are not. They are fleeting phenomena passing on the screen of being-consciousness which is eternal and stationary.
Question:What prevents the infinite, undifferentiated light of consciousness arising from the Heart from revealing itself to the ajnani (ignorant)?
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 phenomena called the mind. Seeing only this reflection, the ajnani (the ignorant) is deluded into the belief that he is the 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 (Vasnas)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: By realising the Self. 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: There are said to be Sadeha Mukta(liberated while still in the body) and Videha Mukta(liberated at the time of death).
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no liberation, and where are muktas?
Question: Do not Hindu scriptures speak of mukti (liberation)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti is synonymous with the Self. Jivan mukti (liberated while still in the body) and videh mukti are all for the ignorant. The jnani(self-realised) is not conscious of mukti or bandha (bondage). Bondage, liberation and orders of mukti are all said for an ajnani (ignorant) in order that ignorance might be shaken off. There is only mukti or liberation and nothing else.
Question: If there is neither bondage nor liberation, what is the reason for the actual experience of joys and sorrows?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: They appear to be real only when one turns aside from ones real nature. They do not really exist.
Question: Is the world created for happiness or misery?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Creation is neither good nor bad; it is as it is. It is the human mind which puts all sorts of constructions on it, seeing things from its own angle and interpreting them to suit its own interests. A woman is just a woman, but one mind calls her 'mother' another 'sister' and still another 'aunt' and so on. Men love women, hate snakes, and are indifferent to the grass and stones by the roadside. These value-judgements are the cause of all the misery in the world. Creation is like a peepul tree; birds come and eat its fruit, or take shelter under its branches, men cool themselves in its shade, but some may hang themselves on it. Yet the tree continues to lead its quiet life, unconcerned with and unaware of all the uses it is put to.
It is the human mind that creates its own difficulties and then cries for help. Is God so partial as to give peace to one person and sorrow to another? In creation there is room for everything, but man refuses to see the good, the healthy and the beautiful. Instead, he goes on whining, like the hungry man who sits besides the tasty dish and who, instead of stretching out his hand to satisfy his hunger, goes on lamenting, Whose fault is it, Gods or mans?
It is true that we are not bound and that the real Self has no bondage. It is true that
you will eventually go back to your source. But meanwhile, if you commit sins, as you call
them, you will have to face the consequences of such sins. You cannot escape them. If a
man beats you, then, can you say, 'I am free, I am not bound by these beatings and I
dont feel any pain. Let him beat on? If you can feel like that, you can go on
doing what you like. What is the use of merely saying with your lips I am