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Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga
The Message of the Guru
Janaka said: Without the aid of an understanding cleansed by study of the scriptures
and without that true conception of all things which is known by the name of Vijnana, the
attainment of Emancipation is impossible. That cleansed understanding, again, it is said,
is unattainable without ones connection with a preceptor. The preceptor is the
helmsman, and knowledge is the boat (aided by whom and which one succeeds in crossing the
ocean of the world). After having acquired that boat, one becomes crowned with success.
God and Guru are in truth not different. Just as the prey that has fallen into the jaws of a tiger cannot escape, so those who have come under the glance of the Gurus grace will surely be saved and will never be forsaken; yet one should follow without fail the path shown by the Guru.
From Bhagavans (Sri Ramanas) point of view there are no disciples but from the point of view of the disciple the grace of the Guru is like the ocean. If the disciple comes with a cup he will only get a cupful. It is no use complaining of the niggardliness of the ocean; the bigger the vessel the more he will be able to carry. It is entirely up to him.
The term Guru is often loosely used to describe anyone who gives out spiritual advice, but in Sri Ramanas vocabulary the word has a much more restricted definition. For him, a true Guru is someone who has realised the Self and who is able to use his power to assist others towards the goal of Self-realisation.
Sri Ramana often said that God, Guru and the Self are identical; the Guru is God in human form and, simultaneously, he is also the Self in the Heart of each devotee. Because he is both inside and outside, his powers work in two different ways. The outer Guru gives instructions and by his power enables the devotee to keep his attention on the Self; the inner Guru pulls the devotees mind back to its source, absorbs it in the Self and finally destroys it.
It is a basic tenet of Sri Ramanas teaching that a Guru is necessary for almost everyone who is striving towards a permanent awareness of the Self. The catalytic role of the Guru in spiritual development is therefore crucial; except in rare instances, ignorance of the Self is so deeply rooted that individual seekers are unable to escape from it by their own efforts.
Although Sri Ramana taught that a Guru is indispensable for those seeking Self-realisation, he also pointed out that the Guru has no power to bring about realisation in those who are not energetically seeking it. If the individual seeker makes a serious attempt to discover the Self, then the grace and power of the Guru will automatically start to flow. If no such attempt is made, the Guru is helpless.
The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Question: What is Gurus grace? How does it lead to Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is the Self. Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied and not content with what he has, he 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 his worldly desires. Then, Gods grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the truth and, more over, purifies his mind by association. The devotees mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm expanse is the Self.
The Guru is both external and internal. From the exterior he
Questioner: In the Theosophical Society they meditate in
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. If he is a stranger whom you await, he is bound to disappear also. What is the use of a transient being like that? But so long as you think you are separate or that you are the body, an external master is also necessary and he will appear to have a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases, the master will be found to be none other than the Self.
Question: Will the Guru help us to know the Self through initiation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Does the Guru hold you by the hand and whisper in the ear? You may imagine him to be what you are yourself. Because you think you are with a body, you think he also has a body and that he will do something tangible to you. His work lies within, in the spiritual realm.
Question: How is a Guru found?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: God, who is immanent, in His grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests himself according to the devotees development. The devotee thinks that he is a man and expects a relationship between two physical bodies. But the Guru, who is a God or the Self incarnate works from within, helps the man to see the error of his ways and guides him on the right path until he realises the Self within.
Question: What are the marks of a real teacher (sadaguru)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Steady abidance in the Self, looking at all with an equal eye, unshakable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances.
Question: There are a number of spiritual teachers teaching
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Choose that one where you find you get shanti (peace).
Question: Should we not also consider his teachings?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: He who instructs an ardent seeker to do this or that is not a true master. The seeker is already afflicted by his activities and wants peace and rest. In other words he wants cessation of his activities. If a teacher tells him to do something in addition to, or in place of, his other activities, can that be a help to the seeker?
Activity is creation. Activity is the destruction of ones inherent happiness. If activity is advocated the adviser is not a master but a killer. In such circumstances either the Creator (Brahma) or death (Yama) may be said to have come in the guise of a master. Such a person cannot liberate the aspirant; he can only strengthen his fetters.
Question: How can I find my own Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: By intense meditation.
Question: If it is true that the Guru is ones own Self, what is the principle underlying the doctrine which says that, however learned a disciple may be or whatever occult powers he may possess, he cannot attain Self-realisation without the grace of the Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Although in absolute truth the state of the Guru is that of oneself (the Self), it is very hard for the self which has become the individual (jiva or embodied soul) through ignorance, to realise its true state or nature without the grace of the Guru.
Question: What are the marks of the Gurus grace?
Sri Ramana: It is beyond words or thoughts.
Question: If that is so, how is it that it is said that the disciple
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is like the elephant, which wakes up on seeing a lion in his dream. Even as the elephant wakes up at the mere sight of the lion, so too is it certain that the disciple wakes up from the sleep of ignorance into the wakefulness of true knowledge through the Gurus benevolent look of grace.
Question: What is the significance of the saying that the nature of the real Guru is that of the Supreme Lord (Sarvesvara)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: First, the individual soul, which desires to attain the state of Godhood, or the state of true knowledge, practises incessant devotion. When the individuals devotion has reached a mature stage, the Lord, who is the witness of the individual soul and identical with it, manifests. He appears in human form with the help of Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence, Consciousness and Bliss Absolute), his three natural features, and form the name, which he also graciously assumes. In the guise of blessing the disciple he absorbs him in Himself. According to this doctrine the Guru can truly be called the Lord.
Question: How then some great persons attain knowledge without a Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: To a few mature persons the Lord shines as the formless light of knowledge and imparts awareness of the truth.
Question: How is one to decide upon a proper Guru? What is the swarupa (nature or real form) of a Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: He is the proper Guru to whom your mind is attuned. If you ask, "How to decide who is the Guru and what is his swarupa?", he should be endowed with tranquillity, patience, forgiveness and other virtues; he should be capable of attracting others even with his eyes just as a magnet attracts iron; he should have a feeling of equality towards all. He who has these virtues is the true Guru, but one wants to know the swarupa of the Guru, one must know ones own swarupa first. How can one know the real nature of the Guru if one does not know ones own real nature first? If you want to perceive the real nature or form of the Guru you must first learn to look upon the whole universe as Guru rupam (the form of the Guru). One must see the Guru in all living beings. It is the same with God. You must look upon all objects as Gods rupa (form). How can he who does not know his own Self perceive the real form of God or the real form of the Guru? How can he determine them? Therefore, first of all know your own real form and nature.
Question: Isnt a Guru necessary to know even that?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is true. The world contains many great men. Look upon him as your Guru with whom your mind gets attuned. The one in whom you have faith is your Guru.
Question: What is the significance of Gurus grace in the attainment of liberation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Liberation is not anywhere outside you. It is
only within. If a man is anxious for deliverance, the internal Guru pulls him in and the
external Guru pushes him into the Self.
Question: Some people reported you to have said that there was no need
for a Guru. Others gave the opposite report.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: I have never said that there is no need for a Guru.
Questioner: Sri Aurobindo and others refer to you as having had no Guru.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It all depends on what you call a Guru. He need not be in a human form. Dattatreya had twenty-four Gurus including the five elements- earth, water, etc. Every object in this world was his Guru.
The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of intellect and sense perceptions. So there must be a Guru.
Questioner: I mean a human Guru- Maharshi did not have one.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: I might have had one at one time or other. But
did I not sing hymns to Arunachala? What is a Guru? Guru is God or the Self. First a man
prays to God to fulfil his desires.
Question: When loyal to one master can you respect others?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is only one. He is not physical.
Questioner: J.Krishnamurti says, "No Guru is necessary."
Sri Ramana Maharshi: How did he know it? One can say so after realising but not before.
Question: Can Sri Bhagavan help us to realise truth?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Help is always there.
Questioner: Then there is no need to ask questions. I do not feel the ever-present help.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surrender and you will find it.
Questioner: I am always at your feet. Will Bhagavan give us some upadesa (teaching) to follow? Otherwise how can I get help living 600 miles away?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sadguru (the Guru who is one with Being) is within.
Questioner: Sadguru is necessary to guide me to understand it.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sadguru is within.
Questioner: I want a visible Guru.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That visible Guru says that he is within.
Question: Is success not dependent on the Gurus grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, it is. Is not your practice itself due to such grace? The fruits are the result of the practice and follow it automatically. There is a stanza in Kaivalya which says, O Guru! You have been always with me, watching me through several incarnations, and ordaining my course until I was liberated. The Self manifests externally as the Guru when the occasion arises, otherwise he is always within, doing what is necessary.
Question: Some disciples of Shirdi Sai Baba worship a picture of him
and say that it is their Guru. How could that be?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: They secure concentration by that.
Question: That is all very well, I agree. It may be to some extent an exercise in concentration. But isnt a Guru required for that concentration?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Certainly, but after all, Guru only means guri (concentration).
Questioner: How can a lifeless picture help in developing deep concentration? It requires a living Guru who could show it in practice. It is possible perhaps for Bhagavan to attain perfection without a living Guru, but is it possible for people like myself?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is true. Even so, by worshipping a lifeless portrait, the mind gets concentrated to a certain extent. That concentration will not remain constant unless one knows ones own Self by enquiring. For that enquiry, a Gurus help is necessary.
Question: It is said that the Guru can make his disciple realise the Self by transmitting some of his own power to him? Is it true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. The Guru does not bring about Self-realisation. He simply removes all the obstacles to it. The Self is always realised.
Question: Is it absolutely necessary to have a Guru if one is seeking Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: So long as you seek Self-realisation the Guru is
necessary. Guru is the Self. Take Guru to be the real Self and your self as 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 that the Guru is also a body.
Question: How can one know whether a particular individual is competent to be a Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: By the peace of mind found in his presence and by the sense of respect you feel for him.
Question: If the Guru happens to turn out incompetent, what will be the fate of the disciple who has implicit faith in him?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Each one according to his merits.
Question: May I have Gurus grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Grace is always there.
Questioner: But I do not feel it.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surrender will make one understand the grace.
Questioner: I have surrendered heart and soul. I am the best judge of my heart. Still I do not feel the grace.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If you had surrendered the question would not arise.
Questioner: I have surrendered. Still the questions arise.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Grace is constant. Your judgment is the variable. Where else should the fault lie?
Question: May one have more than one spiritual master?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Who is a master? He is the Self after all. According to the stages of development of the mind the Self manifests as the master externally. The famous ancient Dattatreya said that he had more than twenty-four masers. The master is one from whom one learns anything. The Guru may be sometimes inanimate also, as in the case of Dattatreya. God, Guru and the Self are identical.
A spiritually minded man thinks that God is all pervading and takes God for his Guru. Later, God brings him in contact with a personal Guru and the man recognises him as all in all. Lastly the same man is made by the grace of the master to feel that his Self is the reality and nothing else. Thus he finds that the Self is the master.
Question: It is said in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita: "Realise the Self with pure intellect and also by service to the Guru and by enquiry." How are they to be reconciled?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Iswaro Gururatmeti- Iswara, Guru and Self are identical. So long as the sense of duality persists in you, you seek a Guru, thinking that he is different from you. However, he teaches you the truth and you gain the insight.
He who bestows the supreme knowledge of Self upon the soul by making it face towards Self alone is the supreme Guru who is praised by sages as the form of God, who is Self. Cling to him. By approaching the Guru and serving him faithfully, one should learn through his grace the cause of ones birth and ones suffering. Knowing then that these are due to ones straying from Self, it is best to abide firmly as Self.
Although those who have embraced and are steadfastly following the path to salvation may at times happen to swerve from the Vedic path either due to forgetfulness or due to some other reasons, know that they should not at any time go against the words of the Guru. The words of sages assure that if one does a wrong to God, it can be rectified by the Guru, but that a wrong done to a Guru cannot be rectified even by God.
For one who, due to rare, intense and abundant love, has complete faith in the glance of grace bestowed by the Guru, there will be no suffering and he will live in this world like Puruhuta (a name if Indra, the king of the gods).
Peace, the one thing which is desired by everyone, cannot be attained in any way, by any one, at any time or in any place, unless stillness of mind is obtained through the grace of the Sadguru. Therefore, always seek that grace with a one-pointed mind.
Question: There are disciples of Bhagavan who have had his grace and realised without any considerable difficulty. I too wish to have that grace. Being a woman, and living at a long distance I cannot avail myself of Maharshis holy company as much as I would wish and as often as I would. Possibly I may not be able to return. I request Bhagavans grace. When I am back in my place, I want to remember Bhagavan. May Bhagavan be pleased to grant my prayer.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Where are you going? You are not going anywhere. Even supposing you are the body, has your body come from Lucknow to Tiruvannamalai? You simply sat in the car and one conveyance or another moved. And finally you say that you have come here. The fact is that you are not the body. The Self does not move, the world moves in it. You are only what you are. There is no change in you. So then, even after what looks like departure from here, you are here and there and everywhere. These scenes shift.
As for grace, grace is within you. If it is external it is useless.
Questioner: I mean that when I remember your form, my mind should be strengthened and a response should come from your side too. I should not be left to my individual efforts, which are after all only weak.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Grace is the Self. I have already said, if you remember Bhagavan, you are prompted to do so by the Self. Is not grace already there? Is there a moment when grace is not operating in you? Your remembrance is the forerunner of grace. That is the response, that is the stimulus, that is the Self and that is grace. There is no cause for anxiety.
Question: Can I dispense with outside help and by my own effort get to the deeper truth by myself?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The very fact that you are possessed of the quest for the Self is a manifestation of the divine grace. It is effulgent in the Heart, the inner being, the real Self. It draws you from within. You have to attempt to get in from outside. Your attempt is the earnest quest; the deep inner movement is grace. That is why I say there is no real quest without grace, nor is there grace active for him who does not seek the Self. Both are necessary.
Question: How long is a Guru necessary for Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is necessary so long as there is ignorance. Ignorance is due to the self-imposed but wrong limitation of the Self. God, on being worshipped, bestows steadiness in devotion, which leads to surrender. On the devotee surrendering, God shows his mercy by manifesting as the Guru. The Guru, otherwise God, guides the devotee, saying that God is within and that he is not different from the Self. This leads to introversion of mind and finally to realisation.
Question: If grace is so important, what is the role of individual effort?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Effort is necessary up to the state of realisation. Even then the Self should spontaneously become evident, otherwise happiness will not be complete. Up to that state of spontaneity there must be effort in some form or another.
There is a state beyond our efforts or effortlessness. Until it is realised effort is necessary. After tasting such bliss, even once, one will repeatedly try to regain it. Having once experienced the bliss of peace no one wants to be out of it or to engage in any other activity.
Question: Is divine grace necessary for attaining realisation, or can an individuals honest efforts by themselves lead to the state from which there is no return to life and death?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Divine grace is essential for realisation. It leads one to God realisation. But such grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee or a yogi. It is given only to those who have striven hard and ceaselessly on the path towards freedom.
Question: Does distance have any effect upon grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Time and space are within us. You are always in your Self. How do time and space affect it?
Question: On the radio those who are nearer hear sooner.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: No.
Questioner: Even thoughts are read by others.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That shows that all are one.
Question: Does Bhagavan feel for us and show grace?
Sri Ramana Maharshi:You are neck deep in water and yet cry for water. It is as good as saying that one who is neck deep in water feels thirsty, or that a fish in water feels thirsty, or that water feels thirsty.
Grace is always there. Dispassion cannot be acquired, nor realisation of the truth, nor inherence in the Self, in the absence of Gurus grace.
But practice is also necessary. Staying in the Self by ones efforts is like training a roguish bull confined to his stall by tempting him with luscious grass and preventing him from straying.
Quetioner: I have recently come across a Tamil song in which the author laments he is not like the tenacious young monkey that can hold on to its mother tightly, but rather like a puling (weak) kitten that must be carried by the neck in its mothers jaws. The author therefore prays to God to take care of him. My case is exactly the same. You must take pity on me Bhagavan. Hold me by the neck and see that I dont fall and get injured.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is impossible. It is necessary both for you to strive and for the Guru to help.
Question: How long will it take for one to get the grace of the Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why do you desire to know?
Questioner: To give me hope.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Even such a desire is an obstacle. The Self is ever there; there is nothing without it. Be the Self and the desires and doubts will disappear.
Grace is the beginning, middle and end. Grace is the Self. Because of the false identification of the Self with the body the Guru is considered to be a body. But from the Gurus outlook the Guru is only the Self. The Self is one only and the Guru tells you that the Self alone is. Is not then the Self your Guru? Where else will grace come from? It is from the Self alone. Manifestation of the Self is a manifestation of grace and vice versa. All these doubts arise because of the wrong outlook and consequent expectation of things external to oneself. Nothing is external to the Self.
Silent Teachings & Sat-sanga
Although Sri Ramana Maharshi was happy to give his verbal teachings to anyone who asked for them, he frequently pointed out that his silent teachings were more direct and more powerful. These silent teachings consisted of a spiritual force, which seemed to emanate from his form, a force so powerful that he considered it to be the most direct and important aspect of his teachings. Instead of giving out verbal instructions on how to control the mind, he effortlessly emitted a silent power, which automatically quietened the minds of everyone in his vicinity. The people who were attuned to this force report that they experienced it as a state of inner peace and well being; in some advanced devotees it even precipitated a direct experience of the Self.
This method of teaching has a long tradition in India, its most famous exponent being Dakshinamurti, a manifestation of Siva who brought four learned sages to an experience of the Self through the power of his silence. Sri Ramana frequently spoke of Dakshinamurti with great approval and his name crops up in many of his conversations.
This flow of power from the Guru can be received by anyone whose attention is focused on the Self or on the form of the Guru; distance is no impediment to its efficacy. This attention is often called Sat-sanga, which literally means association with being. Sri Ramana wholeheartedly encouraged this practice and frequently said that it was the most efficient way of bringing about a direct experience of the Self. Traditionally it involves being in the physical presence of one who has realised the Self, but Sri Ramana gave it a much wider definition. He said that the most important element in Sat-sang was the mental connection with the Guru; Sat-sang takes place not only in his presence but whenever and wherever one thinks of him.
Question: How can silence be so powerful?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: A realised one sends out waves of spiritual influence, which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence. We may listen to lectures upon truth and come away with hardly any grasp of the subject, but to come into contact with a realised one, though he speaks nothing, will give much more grasp of the subject. He never needs to go out among the public. If necessary he can use others as instruments.
The Guru is the bestower of silence who reveals the light of Self-knowledge that shines as the residual reality. Spoken words are of no use whatsoever if the eyes of the Guru meet the eyes of the disciple.
Question: Why does not Bhagavan go about and preach the truth to the people at large?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: How do you know I am not doing it? Does preaching consist in mounting a platform and haranguing the people around? Preaching is simple communication of knowledge; it can really be done in silence only. What do you think of a man who listens to a sermon for an hour and goes away without having been impressed by it so as to change his life? Compare him with another, who sits in a holy presence and goes away after some time with his outlook on life totally changed. Which is the better, to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently sending out inner force?
Again, how does speech arise? First there is abstract knowledge. Out of this arises the ego, which in turn gives rise to thought, and thought to the spoken word. So the word is the great grandson of the original source. If the word can produce an effect, judge for yourself how much more powerful must be the preaching through silence.
Question: Does Bhagavan give diksha (initiation)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mouna (silence) is the best and the most potent diksha. That was practised by Sri Dakshinamurti. Initiation by touch, look, etc., are all of a lower order. Silent initiation changes the hearts of all.
Dakshinamurti observed silence when the disciples approached him. That is the highest form of initiation. It includes the other forms. There must be subject-object relationship established in the other diksha. First the subject must emanate and then the object. Unless these two are there how is the one to look at the other or touch him? Mouna diksha (silent initiation) is the most perfect; it comprises looking, touching. It will purify the individual in every way and establish him in the reality.
Questioner: Swami Vivekananda says that a spiritual Guru can transfer spirituality substantially to the disciple.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is there a substance to be transferred? Transfer means eradication of the sense of being the disciple. The master does it. Not that the man was something at one time and metamorphosed later into another.
Question: Is not grace the gift of the Guru?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: God, grace and Guru are all synonymous and also eternal and immanent. Is not the Self already within? Is it for the Guru to bestow it by his look? If a Guru thinks so, he does not deserve the name.
The books say that there are so many kinds of diksha, initiation by hand, by touch, by eye, etc. They also say that the Guru makes some rites with fire, water, japa or mantra and calls such fantastic performances diksha, as if the disciple becomes ripe only after such processes are gone through by the guru.
If the individual is sought he is nowhere to be found. Such is the Guru. Such is Dakshinamurti. What did he do? He was silent when the disciples appeared before him. He maintained silence and the doubts of the disciples were dispelled, which means that they lost their individual identities. That is jnana (knowledge) and not all the verbiage usually associated with it.
Silence is the most potent form of work. However vast and emphatic the sastras (scriptures) may be they fail in their effect. The Guru is quiet and peace prevails in all. His silence is vaster and more emphatic than all the sastras put together. These questions arise because of the feeling that, having been here so long, heard so much, exerted so hard, one has not gained anything. The work proceeding within is not apparent; In fact the guru is always within you.
Question: Can the Gurus silence really bring about advanced states of spiritual awareness?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is an old story, which demonstrates the power of the Gurus silence. Tattvaraya composed a Bharani, a kind of poetic composition in Tamil, in honour of his Guru Swarupananda, and convened an assembly of learned Pandits (pundits) to hear the work and assess its value. The Pandits raised the objection that a Bharani was only composed in honour of great heroes capable of killing a thousand elephants in battle and that it was not in order to compose such a work in honour of an ascetic.
Thereupon the author said, "Let us all go to my Guru and we shall have this matter settled there."
They went to the Guru and, after they had all taken their seats, the author told his Guru the purpose of their visit. The Guru sat silent and all the others also remained in mouna (silence). The whole day passed, the night came, and some more days and nights, and yet all sat there silently, no thought at all occurring to any of them and nobody thinking or asking why they had come there. After three or four days like this, the Guru moved his mind a bit, and the people assembled immediately regained their thought activity. They then declared, Conquering a thousand elephants is nothing beside this Gurus power to conquer the rutting elephants of all our egos put together. So certainly he deserves the Bharani in his honour!
Question: How does this silent power work?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Language is only a medium for communicating ones thoughts to another. It is called in only after thoughts arise. Other thoughts arise after the "I"-thought rises and so the "I"-thought is the root of all conversation. When one remains without thinking one understands another by menas of the universal language of silence.
Silence is ever speaking. It is a perennial flow of language, which is interrupted by speaking. These words I am speaking obstruct that mute language. For example, there is electricity flowing in a wire. With resistance to its passage, it glows as a lamp or revolves as a fan. In the wire it remains as electric energy. Similarly also, silence is the eternal flow of language, obstructed by words.
What one fails to know by conversation extending to several years can be known instantly in silence, or in front of silence. Dakshinamurti and his four disciples are a good example of this. This is the highest and most effective language.
Questioner: Bhagavan says, The influence of the jnani (self-realised) steals into the devotee in silence. Bhagavan also says, Contact with great men (mahatmas) is one efficacious means of realising ones true being.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. What is the contradiction? Jnani, great men, Mahatmas- do you differentiate between them?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Contact with them is good. They will work through silence. By speaking their power is reduced. Silence is most powerful. Speech is always less powerful than silence, so mental contact is the best.
Question: Does this hold good even after the dissolution of the physical body of the jnani or is it true only so long as he is in flesh and blood?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Guru is not the physical form. So the contact will remain even after the physical form of the Guru vanishes. One can go to another Guru after ones Guru passes away, but all Gurus are one and none of them is the form you see. Always mental contact is the best.
Question: Is the operation of grace the mind of the Guru acting on the mind of the disciple or is it a different process?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The highest form of grace is silence. It is also the highest upadesa (teaching).
Questioner: Vivekananda has also said that silence is the loudest form of prayer.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is so for the seekers silence. The Gurus silence is the loudest upadesa. It is also grace in its highest form. All other dikshas (initiations) are derived from Mouna (silence), and are therefore secondary. Mouna is the primary form. If the Guru is silent the seekers mind gets purified by itself.
Questioner: Sri Bhagavans silence is itself a powerful force. It brings about a certain peace of mind in us.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Silence is never-ending speech. Vocal speech obstructs the other speech of silence. In silence one is in intimate contact with the surroundings. The silence of Dakshinamurti removed the doubts of the four sages. Mouna Vyakhya Prakatita Tattvam means the truth expounded by silence. Silence is said to be exposition. Silence is so potent.
For vocal speech, organs of speech are necessary and they precede speech. But the other speech lies even beyond thought. It is in short transcendent speech or unspoken words (Para Vak).
Question: Can everyone benefit from this silence?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Silence is the true Upadesa (teachings). It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited only for the most advanced seeker. The others are unable to draw full inspiration from it. Therefore they require words to explain the truth. But truth is beyond words. It does not admit of explanation. All that it is possible to do is to indicate it.
Questioner: It is said that one look of a mahatma is enough, that idols, pilgrimages, etc., are not so effective. I have been here for three months, but I do not know how I have been benefited by the look of Maharshi.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The look has a purifying effect.
Question: Can the Gurus silence bring about realisation if the disciple makes no effort?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: In the proximity of a great master, the Vasanas (subtle impressions that lead to desires) cease to be active, the mind becomes still and Samadhi results. Thus the disciple gains true knowledge and right experience in the presence of the master. To remain unshaken in it further efforts are necessary. Eventually the disciple will know it to be his real being and will thus be liberated even while alive.
Question: If the search has to be made within, is it necessary to be in the physical proximity of the Master?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is necessary to be so until all doubts are at an end.
Questioner: I am not able to concentrate by myself. I am in search of a force to help me.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, that is called grace. Individually we are incapable because the mind is weak. Grace is necessary. Sadhu seva (serving a sadhu or a mendicant) will bring it about. There is however nothing new to get. Just as a weak man comes under the control of a stronger one, the weak mind of a man comes under control easily in the presence of strong minded sadhus. That which is only grace; there is nothing else.
Question: Is it necessary to serve the Guru physically?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Sastras (scriptures) say that one must serve
a Guru for twelve years in order to attain
Questioner: You say that association with the wise (Sat-sanga) and service of them is required of the disciple.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, the first really means association with the unmanifest Sat or absolute existence, but as very few can do that, they have to take second best which is association with the manifest Sat, that is, the Guru. Association with sages should be made because thoughts are so persistent. The sage has already overcome the mind and remains in peace. Being in his proximity helps to bring about this condition in others, otherwise there is no meaning in seeking his company. The guru provides the needed strength for this, unseen by others.
Service is primarily to abide in the Self, but it also includes making the Gurus body comfortable and looking after his place of abode. Contact with the Guru is also necessary, but this means spiritual contact. If the disciple finds the Guru internally, then it does not matter where he goes. Staying here or elsewhere must be understood to be the same and to have the same effect.
Question: My profession requires me to stay near my place of work. I cannot remain in the vicinity of sadhus. Can I have realisation even in the absence of sat-sanga?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Sat is Aham Pratyaya Saram, the Self of selves. The sadhu is that Self of selves. He is immanent in all. Can anyone remain without the Self? No. So no one is away from sat-sanga.
Question: Is proximity to the Guru helpful?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do you mean physical proximity?
Such associations both mental and physical. The extremely visible being of the Guru pushes the mind inward. He is also in the Heart of the seeker and so draws the latters inward-bent mind into the Heart.
Questioner: All that I want to know is whether sat-sanga is necessary and whether my coming here will help me or not.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: First you must decide what is sat-sanga. It means association with Sat or Reality. One who knows or has realised Sat is also regarded as Sat. Such association with Sat or with one who knows Sat is absolutely necessary for all. Sankara has said that in all the three worlds there is no boat like sat-sanga to carry one safely across the ocean of births and deaths.
Sat-sanga means sanga (association) with Sat. Sat is only the Self. Since the Self is
not now understood to be Sat, the company of the sage who has thus understood it is
[Note: The following quotation gives an indication of the power of sat-sanga. It consists of five stray Sanskrit verses that Sri Ramana came across at various times. He was so impressed by their contents that he translated them into Tamil and incorporated them in Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, one of his own written works which deals with the nature of reality.]
Every soul is destined to be perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain a state of perfection. Whatever we are now is the result of our acts and thoughts in the past; and whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think and do now. But this, the shaping of our own destinies does not preclude our receiving help from outside; nay, in the vast majority of cases such help is absolutely necessary. When it comes, the higher powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, spiritual life is awakened, growth is animated, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end.
This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. The soul can only receive impulses from another soul, and from nothing else. We may study books all our lives, we may become very intellectual, but in the end we find that we have not developed at all spiritually. It is not true that a high order of intellectual development always goes hand in hand with a proportionate development of the spiritual side in man. In studying books we are sometimes deluded into thinking that thereby we are being spiritually helped; but if we analyse the effect of the study of books on ourselves, we shall find that at the utmost it is only our intellect that derives profit from such studies, and not our inner spirit.
This inadequacy of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters, when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul.
The person from whose soul such impulse comes is called the Guru the teacher; and the person to whose soul the impulse is conveyed is called the Shishya the student. To convey such an impulse to any soul, in the first place, the soul from which it proceeds must possess the power of transmitting it, as it were, to another; and in the second place, the soul to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it. The seed must be a living seed, and the field must be ready ploughed. And when both these conditions are fulfilled, a wonderful growth of genuine religion takes place.
"The true preacher of religion has to be of wonderful
And when both of these are really wonderful and extraordinary, then will a splendid spiritual awakening result, and not otherwise. Such alone are the real teachers, and such alone are also the real students, the real aspirants. All others are only playing with spirituality. They have just a little curiosity awakened, just a little intellectual aspiration kindled in them, but are standing on the outward fringe of the horizon of religion.
There is no doubt, some value even in that, as it may, in course of time, result in the awakening of a real thirst for religion; and it is a mysterious law of nature that, as soon as the field is ready, the seed must and does come; as soon as the soul earnestly desires to have religion, the transmitter of the religious force must and does appear to help that soul. When the power that attracts the light of religion in the receiving soul is full and strong, the power that answers to that attraction and sends in light does come as a matter of course.
Dangers in regard to the Student
There are, however, certain great dangers in the way. There is, for instance, the danger to the receiving soul of its mistaking momentary emotions for real religious yearning. We may study that in ourselves. Many a times in our lives, somebody dies whom we loved. We receive a blow. We feel that the world is slipping between our fingers, that we want something surer and higher, and that we must become religious. In a few days that wave of feeling has passed away, and we are left stranded just where we were before.
We are all of us often mistaking such impulses for real thirst after religion; but as long as these momentary emotions are thus mistaken, that continuous, real craving of the soul for religion will not come; and we shall not find the true transmitter of spirituality into our nature. So whenever we are tempted to complain of our search after the truth, that we desire so much, proving vain, instead of so complaining, our first duty ought to be to look into our own souls, and find whether the craving in the heart is real. Then, in the vast majority of cases it would be discovered that we were not fit for receiving the truth, that there was no real thirst for spirituality.
Dangers in regard to the Guru
There are still greater dangers in regard to the transmitter, the Guru. There are many, who, though immersed in ignorance, yet, in the pride of their hearts, fancy they know everything, and not only do not stop there, but offer to take others on their shoulders; and thus the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch.
From Katha Upanishad, I.ii.5: "Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit, and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind."
The world is full of these. Every one wants to be a teacher. Every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars! Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.
Qualifications of the Aspirant and the Teacher
How are we to know the teacher then? The sun requires no torch to make him visible. We need not light a candle in order to see him. When the sun rises, we instinctively become aware of the fact, and when a teacher of men comes to help us, the soul will instinctively know that truth has already begun to shine upon it. Truth stands on its own evidence. It does not require any other testimony to prove it true; it is self-effulgent. It penetrates into the innermost corners of our nature, and in its presence, the whole universe stands up and says, "This is truth".
The teachers whose wisdom and truth shine like the light of the sun are the very greatest the world has known, and they are worshipped as God by the major portion of mankind. But we may get help from comparatively lesser ones also; only we ourselves do not possess intuition enough to judge properly of the man from whom we receive teaching and guidance. So there ought to be certain tests, certain conditions, for the teacher to satisfy, as there are also for the taught.
The conditions necessary for the taught are purity, a real thirst after knowledge, and
In regard to the teacher, we must see that he knows the spirit of the scriptures. The whole world reads Bibles, Vedas and Korans; but they are all only words, syntax, etymology, philology, the dry bones of religion. The teacher who deals too much in words, and allows the mind to be carried away by the force of the words, loses the spirit. It is the knowledge of the spirit of the scriptures alone that constitutes the true religious teacher. The network of the words of the scriptures is like a huge forest, in which the human mind often loses itself and finds no way out.
"The network of words is a big forest; it is the cause of a curious wandering of the mind."
"The various methods of joining words, the various methods of speaking in beautiful language, the various methods of explaining the diction of the scriptures are only for the disputations and enjoyment of the learned. They do not conduce to the development of spiritual perception."
Those who employ such methods to impart religion to others, are only desirous to show off their learning, so that the world may praise them as great scholars. You will find that no one of the great teachers of the world ever went into these various explanations of the texts. There is with them no attempt at "text-torturing", no eternal playing upon the meaning of words and their roots. Yet they nobly taught, while others who have nothing to teach, have taken up a word sometimes and written a three-volume book on its origin, on the man who used it first, and on what that man was accustomed to eat, and how long he slept, and so on.
The second condition necessary in the teacher is sinlessness
Hence with the teacher of religion we must see first what he is, and then what he says. He must be perfectly pure, and then alone comes the value of his words, because he is only then the true ""transmitter". What can he transmit if he has not spiritual power in himself? There must be the worthy vibration of spirituality in the mind of the teacher, so that it may be sympathetically conveyed to the mind of the taught. The function of the teacher is indeed an affair of the transference of something, and not one of mere stimulation of the existing intellectual or other faculties in the taught. Something real and appreciable as an influence comes from the teacher and goes to the taught. Therefore the teacher must be pure.
The third condition is in regard to the motive. The teacher must not teach with
any ulterior selfish motive for money, name or fame.
When you see that in your teacher these conditions are all fulfilled, you are safe. If they are not, it is unsafe to allow yourself to be taught by him, for there is the great danger that, if he cannot convey goodness to your heart, he may convey wickedness. This danger must by all means be guarded against.
"He who is learned in the scriptures, sinless, unpolluted by lust, and is the greatest knower of the Brahman (Supreme Reality)" is the real teacher."
From what has been said, it naturally follows that we cannot be taught to love, appreciate and assimilate religion everywhere and by everybody. The "books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything" is all very true as a poetical figure; but nothing can impart to a man a single grain of truth unless he has the undeveloped germs of it in himself. A blind man may go to a museum, but he will not profit by it in any way; his eyes must be opened first, and then alone he will be able to learn what the things in the museum can teach.
This eye-opener of the aspirant after religion is the teacher. With the teacher, therefore, our relationship is the same as that between an ancestor and his descendant. Without faith, humility, submission, and veneration in our hearts towards our religious teacher, there cannot be any growth of religion in us; and it is a significant fact that, where this kind of relation between the teacher and the taught prevails, there alone gigantic spiritual men are growing; while in those countries which have neglected to keep up this kind of relation, the religious teacher has become a mere lecturer, the teacher expecting his five dollars and the person taught expecting his brain to be filled with the teachers words, and each going his own way after this much has been done. Under such circumstances spirituality becomes almost an unknown quantity. There is none to transmit it, and none to have it transmitted to. Religion with such people becomes business. They think they can obtain it with their dollars. Would to God that religion could be obtained so easily! But unfortunately it cannot be.
Religion which is the highest knowledge and the highest wisdom, cannot be bought, nor
can it be acquired from books. You must thrust your head into all the corners of the
world, you may explore the Himalayas, the Alps, and the Caucasus, you may sound the bottom
of the sea, and pry into every nook of Tibet and the desert of Gobi, you will not find it
anywhere until your heart is ready for receiving it and your teacher has come. And when
that divinely appointed teacher comes, serve him with childlike confidence and simplicity,
freely open your heart to his influence, and see in him God manifested. Those who come to
seek truth with such a spirit of love and veneration, to them the Lord of Truth reveals
the most wonderful things regarding truth, goodness and beauty.
Guru and disciple - An episode from real life
One day when Narendra was on the ground floor, meditating, the Master (Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa) was lying awake in his bed upstairs. In the depths of his meditation Narendra felt as though a lamp were burning at the back of his head. Suddenly he lost consciousness. It was the yearned-for, all-effacing experience of nirvikalpa samadhi, when the embodied soul realises its unity with the Absolute.
After a very long time he regained partial consciousness but was unable to find his body. He could see only his head. "Where is by body?" he cried. The elder Gopal entered the room and said, "Why, it is here, Naren!" But Narendra could not find it. Gopal, frightened, ran upstairs to the Master. Sri Ramakrishna only said: "Let him stay that way for a time. He has worried me long enough."
After another long period Narendra regained full consciousness. Bathed in peace, he went to the Master, who said: "Now the Mother has shown you everything. But this revelation will remain under lock and key, and I shall keep the key. When you have accomplished the Mothers work you shall find the treasure again."
Some days later, Narendra being alone with the master, Sri Ramakrishna looked at him and went into samadhi. Narendra felt the penetration of a subtle force and lost all outer consciousness. Regaining presently the normal mood, he found the Master weeping.
Sri Ramakrishna said to him: "Today I have given you my all and I am now only a poor fakir, possessing nothing. By this power you will do immense good in the world, and not until it is accomplished will you return."
Henceforth the Master lived in the disciple.
Vyasa the son of Parsara, after the arrival of his puissant son, continued to dwell there on the Himavat (Himalayas) engaged in teaching his disciples and his son. One day, as he was seated, his disciples, all well skilled in the Vedas, having their senses under control, and endued with tranquil souls, sat themselves around him. All of them had thoroughly mastered the Vedas with their branches. All of them were observant of penances. With joined hands they addressed their preceptor in the following words:
The disciples said: We have through thy grace, been endued with great energy. Our fame also has spread. There is one favour that we humbly solicit thee to grant us.
Hearing these words of theirs, the regenerate Rishi answered them, saying: Ye sons, tell me what that boon is which ye wish I should grant you!
Hearing this answer of their preceptor, the disciple became filled with joy. Once more bowing their heads low unto their preceptor and joining their hands, all of them in one voice said these excellent words: If our preceptor has been pleased with us, then, O best of sages, we are sure to be crowned with success! We all solicit thee, O great Rishi, to grant us a boon. Be thou inclined to be graceful to us. Let no sixth disciple (besides us five) succeed in attaining to fame! We are four. Our preceptors son forms the fifth. Let the Vedas shine in only us five! Even this is the boon that we solicit.
Hearing these words of his disciples, Vyasa, the son of Parsara, possessed of great intelligence, well conversant with the meaning of the Vedas, endued with a righteous soul, and always engaged in thinking of objects that confer benefits on a person in the world hereafter, said unto his disciples these righteous words fraught with great benefit: The Vedas should always be given unto him who is a Brahmana, or unto him who is desirous of listening to Vedic instructions, by him who eagerly wishes to attain a residence in the region of Brahman! Do ye multiply. Let the Vedas spread (through your exertions). The Vedas should never be imparted unto one that has not formally become a disciple. Nor should they be given unto one who is not observant of good vows. Nor should they be given for dwelling in one that is of uncleansed soul. These should be known as the proper qualifications of persons that can be accepted as disciples (for the communication of Vedic knowledge).
[The span of ashrama life for students was usually twelve years. The students lived with their preceptors and served them and the ashrama during that period. They learnt the Vedas, maintained the sacrificial fire and studied whatever the guru taught them. Below is given a model message from a guru to a departing disciple at the end of the period. This might be said to be a Convocation Address if we liken the ashramas of old to the residential universities of today. This occurs in the Taittiriya Upanishad.]
Young boys eight or more entered the ashramas and were entrusted to the care of the guru or the preceptor. They spent twelve long years in study and sport, in service and sadhana or spiritual discipline. They were called brahmacharis, that is, those who adopt a particular discipline in order to know Brahman. Brahmacharya is not mere continence, but a whole code of disciplined conduct which aims at the conservation, development and concentration of physical, mental and moral energy, in order to attain the highest spiritual goal.
The twelve strenuous years thus spent by the youngsters in the very home of the guru in close association with him, built up very affectionate relations between them. The gurus were expected to take almost parental interest in their charges, while the disciples were to render filial obedience to the gurus.
Let us imagine in one such ashrama, a day dawns when a disciple or a group of them is about to depart and plunge into the wide world. He is leaving the charmed circle of the ashrama to battle with the currents and cross-currents of life. He is to transfer himself from the cloister to the market place. He is now to test in the world of experience what he has learnt within the precincts of the academy. He is to cut off his moorings in the sheltered bay and launch the boat of his life into the open sea. Fears and thrills of anticipated adventures fill the young man as he contemplates the prospect before him. The guru too feels the wrench and his heart is full of emotion. He has some anxiety about the future of his young disciple. But the separation is inevitable- it has to come one day. In fact, by that separation alone can the future development of his student be ensured.
Such are the mixed feelings that surge in the heart when the Vedic guru gives the parting message to the brahmachari after his study of the Vedas is over.
My dear child, your study of the Vedas is over. Now go forth into the wide world.
Speak the truth and practise the Dharma or the Law. Never fail nor falter in the study of that part of the Veda that has been assigned to you. Study more but never less than thy portion.
Give to your preceptor such wealth and such things as are dear to him. Never allow your line of life to lapse. Behind you, you must leave children.
Never falter from the truth nor from the Law (Dharma). Never stint nor make mistakes in doing good. Never neglect to do that which would lead to prosperity.
Do not give up your studies and do not stop teaching.
You ought not to omit to do your duties towards your gods and ancestors; commit no mistakes in performing them.
Revere your mother and your father as much as you revere god. Let your guru (preceptor) be looked upon as god. Let your guest get the same respect as is due to god.
Be thou faultless and pure in thought and action. Only such of your qualities and actions as are clearly good should be cherished by you, and not others. Such knowers of Brahman as are greater than ourselves ought to be highly respected by you.
Whilst giving, give with faith; never without it. Give richly. Give with humility. Give with fear, lest you give too little. Give with feeling and with full knowledge.
At times you may be in doubt about the wisdom of a certain course of action. At such a time you should act in a manner in which thoughtful and virtuous knowers of Brahman who are desirous of following the Law, do act.
So also, as regards your conduct towards men of ill fame; it should be like that of a thoughtful, virtuous knowers of Brahman who follow the Law.
This is the message. This is the advice. This is the knowledge. This is the command. Thus should you live and act in life.