======= Understanding Hinduism =======
Q & A
The teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman; Arthur Osborne, Kavyakantha
Meditation and Concentration
Sri Ramana Maharshi's insistence that awareness of the "I" thought was a pre-requisite for Self-realisation led him to the conclusion that all spiritual practices which did not incorporate this feature were indirect and inefficient:
Sri Ramana Maharshi said: This path (attention to the ' I ' ) is the direct path; all others are indirect ways. The first leads to the Self, the others elsewhere. And even if the others do arrive at the Self it is only because they lead at the end to the first path which ultimately carries them to the goal. So, in the end, the aspirants must adopt the first path. Why not do so now? Why waste time?
[Note: By David Godman: That is to say, other techniques may sometimes bring one to an inner state of stillness in which self-attention or self-awareness inadvertently takes place, but it is a very roundabout way of reaching the Self. Sri Ramana maintained that other techniques could only take one to the place where self-enquiry starts and so he never endorsed them unless he felt that particular questioners were unable or unwilling to adopt self-enquiry.]
Sri Ramana Maharshi said: The goal is the same for the one who meditates [on an object] and the one who practises self-enquiry. One attains stillness through meditation, the other through knowledge. One strives to attain something; the other seeks the one who strives to attain. The former takes a longer time, but in the end attains the Self.
[Note: Although Sri Ramana vigorously defended his views on self-enquiry he never insisted that anyone change their beliefs or practices and, if he was unable to convince his followers to take up self-enquiry, he would happily give advice on other methods.]
Question by a disciple: There is more pleasure in dhyana
(concentration) than in sensual enjoyments. Yet the mind runs after the sensual enjoyments
and does not seek the former.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Pleasure or pain are aspects of the
Question: It is said that the Self is beyond the mind and yet the realisation is with the mind. The mind cannot think it. It cannot be thought of by the mind and the mind alone can realise it. How are these contradictions to be reconciled?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Atman (Self) is realised with mrita manas (dead mind), that is, mind devoid of thoughts and turned inward. Then the mind sees its own source and becomes that (the Self). It is not as the subject perceiving an object.
When the room is dark, a lamp is necessary to illumine, and eyes are necessary to recognise objects. But when the sun has risen there is no need of a lamp to see objects. To see the sun no lamp is necessary, it is enough that you turn your eyes towards the self-luminous sun.
Similarly with the mind. To see objects the reflected light of the mind is necessary. To see the Heart it is enough that the mind is turned towards it. Then mind loses itself and Heart shines forth.
The essence of mind is only awareness or consciousness. When the ego, however, dominates it, it functions as the reasoning, thinking or sensing faculty. The cosmic mind, being not limited by the ego, has nothing separate from itself and is therefore only aware.
Again people often ask how the mind is controlled. I say to them, 'Show me the mind and then you will know what to do'. The fact is that the mind is only a bundle of thoughts. How can you extinguish it by the thought of doing so or by a desire? Your thoughts and desires are part and parcel of the mind. The mind is simply fattened by new thoughts rising up. Therefore it is foolish to attempt to kill the mind by means of the mind. The only way of doing it to find its source and hold on to it. The mind will then fade away of its own accord.
Yoga teaches CHITTA VRITTI NIRODHA (control of the activities of the mind). But I say ATMA VICHARA (self-investigation). This is the practical way. Chitta Vritti Nirodha is brought about in sleep, swoon, or by starvation. As soon as the cause is withdrawn there is a recrudescence of thoughts. Of what use is it then? In the state of stupor there is peace and no misery.But misery recurs when the stupor is removed. So Nirodha (control) is useless and cannot be of lasting benefit.
How then can the benefit be made lasting? It is by finding the cause of misery. Misery is due to the perception of objects. If they are not there, there will be no contingent thoughts and so misery is wiped off.
'How will objects cease to be'? is the next question. The sruti (scriptures) and the sages say that the objects are only mental creations. They have no substantive being. Investigate the matter and ascertain the truth of the statement. The result will be the conclusion that the objective world is in the subjective consciousness.The Self is thus the only reality which permeates and also envelopes the world. Since there is no duality, no thoughts will arise to disturb your peace. This is realisation of the Self. The Self is eternal and so also is realisation.
Abhyasa (spiritual practice) consists in withdrawal within the Self every time you are disturbed by thought. It is not concentration or destruction of the mind but withdrawal into the Self."
Question: Why is concentration ineffective?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: 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 from where the mind rises and then it will cease to exist.
Question: In turning the mind inwards, are we not still employing the mind?'
Sri Ramana Maharshi:Of course we are employing the mind. It is well known and admitted that only with the help of the mind can the mind be killed. But instead setting about saying there is a mind, and I want to kill it, you begin to seek the source of the mind, and you find the mind does not exist at all. The mind, turned outwards, results in thoughts and objects. Turned inwards, it becomes itself the Self.
Question: What is samadhi?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The state in which the unbroken
When the mind is in communion with the Self in darkness, it is called nidra (sleep), that is the immersion of the mind in ignorance. Immersion in a conscious or wakeful state is called samadhi. Samadhi is continuous inherence in the Self in a waking state. Nidra or sleep is also inherence in the Self but in an unconscious state. In SAHAJ SAMADHI the communion is continuous.
The immersion of the mind in the Self, but without its destruction, is known as Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In this state one is not free from vasanas and so one does not therefore attain mukti (liberation). Only after the vasanas have been destroyed can one attain liberation."
Question: When can one practice Sahaj Samadhi?
Sri Ramana Maharshi:Even from the beginning. Even though one practises Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas one will not attain liberation.
Question: Is samadhi, the eighth stage of raja yoga, the same as the samadhi you speak of?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: In yoga the term samadhi refers to some kind of trance and there are various kinds of samadhi. But the samadhi I speak of is different. It is SAHAJ SAMADHI. From here you have samadhan (steadiness) and you remain calm and composed even while you are active. You realise that you are moved by the deeper real Self within. You have no worries, no anxieties, no cares, for you come to realise that there is nothing belonging to you. You know that everything is done by something with which you are in conscious union.
Question:If this sahaj samadhi is the most desirable condition, is there no need for nirvikalpa samadhi?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The nirvikalpa samadhi of raja yoga may have its use. But in Jnana yoga this sahaj sthiti (natural state) or sahaj nishtha (abidance in the natural state) itself is the nirvikalpa state. In this natural state, the mind is free from doubts. It has no need to swing between alternatives of possibilities and probabilities.It sees no vikalpas (differences) of any kind. It is sure of the truth because it feels the presence of the real. Even when it is active, it knows it is active in the reality, the Self, the Supreme Being.
Question: How can one function in the world in such a state?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: One who accustoms himself naturally to meditation and enjoys the bliss of meditation will not lose his samadhi state whatever external work he does, whatever thoughts may come to him. That is Sahaja Nirvikalpa. Sahaj Nirvikalpa is Nasa Manas (total destruction of the mind). Those who are in the laya samadhi state (a trance like state in which the mind is temporarily in abeyance) will have to bring the mind back under control from time to time. If the mind is destroyed, as it is in sahaj samadhi, it will never slide down from their high state.
Question:Is samadhi a blissful or ecstatic state?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: In samadhi itself there is only perfect peace. Ecstasy comes when the mind revives at the end of samadhi. In devotion the ecstasy comes first. It is manifested by tears of joy, hair standing on end, and vocal stumbling. When the ego finally dies and the Sahaj is won, these symptoms and the ecstasies cease.
Siddhis (super natural powers)
Question: On realising samadhi, does not one obtain siddhis (super natural powers) also?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: In order to display siddhis, there must be others to recognise them. That means, there is no jnana in the one who displays them. Therefore, siddhis are not worth a thought. Jnana alone is to be aimed at and gained.
Turiya-the fourth state
Question: Is samadhi the same as Turiya, the fourth state?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Samadhi, Turiya and nirvikalpa all have the same
implication, that is, awareness of the Self. Turiya literally means the fourth
state, the Supreme Consciousness, as distinct from the other three states of
consciousness: waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. The fourth state is eternal and
the other three states come and go in it. In Turiya there is the awareness that the mind
has merged in its source, the Heart, and is quiescent there, although some thoughts
still impinge on it and the senses are still somewhat active. In nirvikalpa, the
senses are inactive and thoughts are totally absent. Hence the experience of Pure
Consciousness in this state is intense and blissful. Turiya is obtainable in savikalpa