Ramana Maharishi answers 63 questions

Self Realization       

36. For seekers of truth is the critical study of the scriptures alone enough for knowledge?

There is no doubt that mere critical study of scriptures cannot liberate the one seeking truth. Without ‘Upasana’, spiritual practice, there cannot be attainment. This is certain. Experience of the natural state during spiritual practice is called ‘upasana’. When that itself is unwaveringly attained it is called knowledge.

38. How is one to study oneself?

You can study it only if there are two selves (one which studies and the other which is studied). To remain as the Self is to study the self. If you study the Vedas and the Sastras you may get due respect in the world. Society will then decorate your neck with garlands, read you complimentary letters, and give you good food, a great name and much money. But all these things will be great obstacles for jnana and sadhana.

40. Bhagavan, I have been coming here for the past several years but still there is no progress. I am just as bad a sinner as before.

There are no milestones in this path. How can you be sure how far you have traveled? Why don’t you follow the first class passenger? He informs the guard about his destination, closes the door and sleeps soundly. That is all he needs to do. The guard will wake him up at the correct station.

41. Bhagavan, all my efforts to abide in the source have proved futile.

Keep at your practice. There is no need to remind God about his business which is to keep an eye always on your welfare. One is prone to abandon effort under the mistaken impression that God’s grace is absent. But one should not slacken, for God’s grace is bound to operate at the ripe time.

42. Bhagavan, will you graciously bestow self-realization on me?

As one enquires for whom is this realization, one’s individuality goes. And with that the delusion that the self has not been realized drops off. This alone is the grace of the guru. The guru can only dispel the delusion that self is yet to be realized but to grant self-realization is impossible. To pray for the grant of self-realization is like asking ‘give myself to me’, Because of the identification with the body, there arises the delusion that I am an individual that the guru is an individual other than myself. Really the guru is not other than the self.

43. Can we at least have a glimpse of the real self-everyday?

Between sleep and waking there is a momentary twilight. The waking consciousness begins with the ‘I’ thought. Just before the upsurge of the ‘I’ – thought there is a split second of undifferentiated pure consciousness. First unconsciousness, then the light of pure consciousness, then the ‘I’ – thought with which world-consciousness floods in. This is the order. The middle state is self-awareness. We can sense it if we are sufficiently alert and watchful.

44. Please give me some practical guidance for self-realization.

(Quoting from the Bible said) ‘Be still and know that I am God’. And added a rider that the lord said ‘know’ and not ‘think’ ‘I am God’.

• It is stated in the scriptures that the self will reveal itself only to one whom it chooses. Then what is the use of our efforts?

The Self will draw to itself an aspirant only when he becomes introverted. So long as he is extroverted self-realization is impossible. Many people try to define the self instead of attempting to know the self.

• What is self-realization?

People expect something to happen, something to drop from heaven in a flash. It is nothing of the sort. Only the notion that you are the body, that you are this or that will go. You will remain as you are.

45. What is the nature of the self?

Abide in the self, free from thoughts, instead of enquiring about the nature of the self.

47. After I surrender, will it be possible for me to carry on with my work?

Of course! But the thought ‘I am doing it’ will not arise.

• Difficulties keep coming to me, When will they stop?
If you give up the I-am-the-body idea all your difficulties will fly away.

49. Can one abiding in the natural state be active?

For the ignorant onlooker it would appear as if one in the natural state is also involved in activities. However, he does not perform any action. It is only from the onlooker’s point of view that he is so engaged. If the onlooker is also in the natural state such unnecessary questions would not arise. Such doubts will persist till one experience that state, which is not a matter of hearsay. To be that one has to remain still.

50. The scriptures say that attention should be placed at the center between the eyebrows. Is this correct?

The feeling ‘I am’ is directly evident to everyone. What happiness is there in seeing any particular God if one ignores this feeling? There is no foolishness like that of thinking that God exists only in certain spots such as the place between the eyebrows. Fixing the attention on these spots is just a violent from of sadhana whose aim is to concentrate the mind in order to prevent it from running ````everywhere. Enquiring ‘Who am I? Is a much easier method of controlling the mind.

51. ‘You have stated that Atma vidya (knowledge of the self) is very easy. How is this Atma vidya very easy?

As an example of direct perception everyone will quote the simile of the nellikai placed in the palm of the hand. The self is even more directly perceivable than the fruit on the palm. To perceive the fruit there must be the fruit, the palm to place it on and the eyes to see it. The mind should also be in the proper condition (to process the information). Without any of these four things, even those with very little knowledge can say out of direct experience, ‘I am’. Because the self exists just as the feeling ‘I am”, Atma vidya is very easy indeed. The easiest path is to see the one who is going to attain the Atma.’
52. Why cannot the self be perceived directly?

Only the self is said to be directly perceive (pratyaksha). Nothing else is said to be pratyaksha. Although we are having this pratyaksha, the thought ‘I am this body’ is veiling it. If we give up this thought, the Atma, which is always within the direct experience of everyone, will shine forth.

• Sri Bhagavan has stated this so, simply. But the thought ‘I am the body’ does not leave us. It is not leaving you because it is very strong.

• Why and how did that thought come into being?

It came into being only through a lack of enquiry on your part. A verse in Kaivalya Navanitam (2.95) gives the same explanation:

Because its nature is not determinable, maya is said to be inexpressible. They are in its grip who think: “This is mine - I am the body - The world is real. ‘O son, no one can ascertain how this mysterious illusion came into being. As to why it arose it is because of the person’s lack of discerning enquiry.

53. Do we lose our individually when we merge into the self?

There is no individuality in the self. The self is one supreme.

• Then individuality and identity are lost?

You don’t retain them in deep sleep. Do you?

• But we retain them from one birth to another. Don’t we?

Oh. Yes. The ‘I’ thought (the ego) will recur again. Only each time you identify it with another body and different surroundings around the body. The effects of the past acts (Karma) will continue to control the new body just as they did the old one. It is karma, which has given you this particular body and placed it in a particular family, race, sex, surroundings and so forth.

These questions are good but you must not become too intellectual about these things. It is better to just meditate and have no thought. Let the mind rest quietly in the self. Soon it will become natural and then there would be no need for questions. Do not imagine that this means being inactive. Silence is the only real activity.

54. The present experiences are the result of past Karma. If we know the mistake committed before we can rectify them.

If one mistake is rectified there yet remain the whole sanchita, which is going to give you innumerable births. So that is not the procedure. The more you prune a plant the more vigorously it grows. The more you rectify karma the more it accumulates. Find out the root of karma and cut it off.

• How to get released from Karma?

See whose karma it is. You will find you are not the doer. Then you will be free. This requires the grace of God for which you should pray to him, worship him and meditate on him.

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