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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======


The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

The nature of Individual self and of liberation

[These were the instructions written down by Bhagavan
Sri Ramana Maharshi in the days of his silence about
the year 1901 for his disciple Gambhiram Seshayya.
Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, South India]

  1. According to the Hindu scriptures there is an entity known as the ‘mind’, which is derived from the subtle essence of the food consumed; which flourishes as love, hatred, lust, anger, and so on; which is the totality of mind, intellect, memory, will and ego; which, although it has such diverse aspects, bears the generic name ‘mind’, which is objectified as insentient objects cognized by us; which, though itself insentient, appears sentient, being associated with Consciousness, like a red-hot iron appearing as fire; in which the principle of differentiation is inherent; which is transient and is possessed of parts capable of being moulded into any shape like lac, gold or wax; which is the basis of all root-principles (tattwas); which is located in the Heart like sight in the eye, hearing in the ear; which gives its character to the individual self and which, on thinking of the object already associated with the consciousness reflected on the brain, assumes a thought form and is in contact with that object through the five senses operated by the brain, appropriates such cognizance to itself with the feeling "I am cognizant of such and such", enjoys the object and is finally satisfied.

    To think whether a certain thing may be eaten is a thought-form of the mind; "It is good. It is not good. It can be eaten. It cannot be eaten", discriminating notions like these constitute the discriminative intellect. Because the mind alone constitutes the root-principle manifesting as the individual, God and the world, its absorption or submergence and dissolution in the Self as pure Consciousness is the final emancipation known as Kaivalya and in the Supreme Spirit, the Brahman.

  2. The senses being located externally as aids for the cognition of objects are exterior; the mind being internal is the inner sense. ‘Within’ and ‘without’ are relative to the body; they have no significance in the Absolute. For the purpose of pointing out that the whole objective world is within, and not without, the scriptures have described the cosmos as being shaped like the lotus of the Heart. But that is no other than the Self. Just as the goldsmith’s wax ball, although hiding minute specks of gold, still looks like a simple lump of wax, so too all the individuals merged in dark ignorance (avidya) or the universal veiling (maya) are only aware of nescience in their sleep. In deep sleep the physical and subtle bodies, though entering in the dark veiling, still lie merged in the Self. From ignorance sprang the ego- the subtle body. The mind must be metamorphosed into the Self.

    The mind is no other than the ‘I-thought’. The mind and the ego are one and the same. Intellect, will, ego and individuality are collectively the same mind. It is like a man being variously described according to his different activities. The individual is no other than the ego, which again, is only the mind. Simultaneously with the rise of the ego the mind appears, associated with the reflected nature of the Self, like the red-hot iron in the example. How is the fire in the red-hot iron to be understood? As being one with it? Because the individual is no other than the ego, inseparable from the Self as the fire and the red-hot iron are, there is no other self known as the witness of the individual than the individual himself functioning as the ego, which after all is the mind associated with reflected consciousness. The very same Self does not only shine unaffected in the Heart, like the fire in the iron, but is also infinite like space.

  3. [Note: Just as the fire in the red-hot iron is unaffected by the hammer-blows, which only change the shape of the metal- even so the vicissitudes of life, pleasure and pain, affect only the ego, the Self ever remaining pure and undefiled.]

    It is self-luminous in the Heart as pure Consciousness, as the one without a second; and manifesting universally as the same in all individuals, it is known as the Supreme Spirit. ‘Heart’ is merely another name for the Supreme Spirit, because He is in all Hearts.

    Thus the red-hot iron is the individul, the fiery heat is the witnessing Self, the iron is the ego. Pure fire is the all-immanent and all-knowing Supreme Spirit.

  4. The individual self resides in the eye during the waking state, in the neck during the dream state, and in the heart during deep sleep; but the Heart is the chief among these places, and therefore the individual self never entirely leaves the Heart.

    [Note: At the back of the neck is the medulla oblongata.]

    Although it is variously said that the neck is the seat of the mind, the brain of the intellect, and the Heart or the whole body of the ego, still the scriptures state conclusively that the Heart is the seat of the totality of the interior senses, which is again called the mind.

    [Note: Antahkarana, in the original, meaning the mind, intellect and ego collectively.]

    The sages, having investigated all the different versions of the innumerable scriptures, rightly and briefly stated the whole truth in the following manner, that it is the experience of every one, that the Heart is primarily the seat of the ‘I’.

  5. The veil of ignorance can never really hide the individual self. For how can it do so? Even the ignorant do not fail to speak of the ‘I’. All the same, the veil hides the Reality, "I-am-the Self" or "I" as pure Consciousness, and confounds the "I" with the body; but still it cannot completely hide the Self from being known.
  6. Mind is, in reality, only consciousness, because it is pure and transparent by nature; in that pure state, however, it cannot be called mind. The wrong identification of one thing with another is the work of the contaminated mind.

    [Note: i.e. the mistaken view that attributes the Reality of the Self to the material world as existing by itself independent of the conscious principle. This is due to the false identification of the Self with the physical body as a result of which the ignorant person assumes that what is outside and independent of the physical body is also outside and independent of the conscious principle.]

    ‘The contaminated mind’, that is to say, the pure, uncontaminated mind being absolute Consciousness, on becoming oblivious of its primary nature, is overpowered by the quality of the darkness (tamas) and manifests as the physical world; similarly, overpowered by activity (rajas) it identifies itself with the body and appearing in the manifested world as the ‘I’, mistakes it to be real; thus, swayed by love and hatred, performs good and bad actions, and is as the result, caught up in the cycle of births and deaths. Because the quality of purity (sattva) is the real nature of the mind, clearness like that of the sky is the characteristic of the mind-expanse.

    Being stirred up by activity (rajas) the mind becomes restless and influenced by darkness (tamas) manifests as the physical world. The mind thus becoming restless on the one hand, and being precipitated as solid matter on the other, the Real is not discerned as such. Just as fine silk threads cannot be woven with the use of a heavy iron shuttle, or the delicate shades of a piece of art be distinguished in the light of a lamp agitated by the wind, so is Realisation of Truth impossible with the mind rendered gross and obtuse by darkness (tamas) and restless and unsteady by activity (rajas), because Truth is exceedingly subtle and serene.

    Mind will be cleared of its impurities only by a desireless performance of a man’s duties during several births, getting a worthy Master, learning from Him and incessantly practising meditation on the Supreme. The metamorphosis of the mind into the world of inert matter due to the quality of darkness (tamas) and its restlessness due to the quality of activity (rajas) will cease. Then the mind regains its subtlety and composure. The Bliss of the pure Self can manifest only in a mind that has become subtle and steady through assiduous practice of meditation. The one who experiences that Bliss is the one who is liberated even while still alive.

  7. On divesting the mind of the qualities of darkness and activity by constant meditation, the Bliss of the Self will clearly manifest within the subtle mind. The Yogis gain omniscience by means of such mind-expanse. He alone who has achieved such subtlety of mind and by that means has gained the Realisation of the Self is liberated while still alive. The same state has been described in Rama Gita as Brahman beyond attributes, the one universal undifferentiated Spirit.

[Note: Rama Gita is a Hindu sacred book handed down from antiquity.]

The one who has attained the unbroken eternal State beyond that, transcending mind and speech, is called Videha Mukta; that is, when even the aforesaid subtle mind is destroyed, the experience of Bliss by the individual subject as such also ceases. He is drowned and dissolved in the fathomless Ocean of Bliss, one with it and unaware of anything apart. This is Videha Mukti. There is nothing beyond that State. It is the finality.

As one continues to abide as the Self, the experience "I am the Supreme Spirit" grows and becomes natural, the restlessness of the mind and the thought of the world will in due course become extinct. Because experience is not possible without the mind. Realisation happens with the subtle mind. Since Videhamukti connotes the entire dissolution of even the subtle mind in the fathomless Ocean of pure Bliss, this State is beyond experience. It is the transcendental State, "I am not the body. I am the pure Spirit" is the clear and indubitable experience of the Jivanmukta, one who is liberated while yet alive. Nevertheless, if the mind is not totally destroyed, there is the possibility of his being apparently unhappy on account of incidental association with objects according to his destiny.

[Note: Prarabdha, in the original, meaning the accumulated fruits of action of former existence which are now being reaped.]

He would also appear to the onlooker as not having realised the unbroken eternal Bliss, since his mind is not completely extinct. However, the Bliss of Liberation in Life is possible only to the mind made subtle and serene by long continued meditation.

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Mind Q & A

Question:"What is the nature of the mind?"

Sri Ramana Maharshi: "What is called mind is a wonderous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thought, there is no independent entity called the world.

In deep sleep there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself.

When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears (shines), the world does not appear.When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self.What is referred to as the Self is the Atman.The mind always exists always only in dependence on something gross; it cannot stay alone.It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (embodied soul or jiva)."

Question: "Are there no other means for making the mind quiescent?"

Sri Ramana: "Other than inquiry, there is no adequate means. If through other means it is sought to control the mind, the mind will appear to be controlled, but will again go forth. Through the control of breath also, the mind will become quiescent; but it will be quiescent only so long as the breath remains controlled, and when the breath resumes, the mind also will again start moving and will wander as impelled by residual impressions. The source is the same for both mind and breath. Thought, indeed, is the nature of the mind. The thought "I" is the first thought of the mind; and that is egoity.

It is from that whence egoity originates that breath also originates. Therefore, when the mind becomes quiescent, the breath is controlled, and when the breath is controlled the mind becomes quiescent.But in deep sleep, although the mind becomes quiescent, the breath does not stop.

This is because of the will of God, so that the body may be preserved and other people may not be under the impression that it is dead. In the state of waking and in samadhi, when the mind becomes quiescent the breath is controlled. Breath is the gross form of mind. Till the time of death, the mind keeps the breath in the body; and when the body dies the mind takes the breath along with it. Therefore, the exercise of breath control is only an aid for rendering the mind quiescent (manonigraha);
it will not destroy the mind (manonaashaa).

Like the practice of breath control, meditation on the forms of God, repetition of mantras, restriction on food, etc., are but aids for rendering the mind quiescent.

Through meditation on the forms of God and through repetition of mantras, the mind becomes one-pointed. The mind will always be wandering. Just as when the chain is given to an elephant to hold in its trunk it will go along grasping the chain and nothing else, so also when the mind is occupied with a name or form it will grasp that alone.When the mind expands in the form of countless thoughts, each thought becomes weak; but as thoughts get resolved the mind becomes one-pointed and strong; for such a mind Self-inquiry will become easy. Of all the restrictive rules, that relating to the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is best; by observing this rule, the sattvic quality of mind will increase, and that will be helpful to Self-inquiry."

Question: "Why should Self-inquiry alone be considered the direct means to jnana?"

Sri Ramana: "Because every kind of sadhana except that of Atma Vichara presupposes the retention of the mind as the instrument for carrying on the sadhana, and without the mind it cannot be practised. The ego may take different and subtler forms at the different stages of one's practice, but is itself never destroyed.

When King Janaka exclaimed, "Now I have discovered the thief who has been ruining me all along. He should be dealt with summarily," the king was really referring to the ego or the mind."

Question: " But the thief may well be apprehended by the other sadhanas as well."

Sri Ramana:"The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through sadhanas other than Atma -Vichara is just like the thief turning out a policeman to catch the thief, that is, himself. Atma-Vichara alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists, and enables one to realise the pure , undifferentiated Being of the Self or the Absolute. Having realised the Self, nothing remains to be known, because it is perfect Bliss; it is the All."

Question: "But is it not funny that the "I" should be searching for the "I" ? Does not the inquiry "Who am I?" turn out in the end an empty formula? Or am I to put the question to myself endlessly, repeating it like some mantra?"

Sri Ramana: "Self-inquiry is certainly not an empty formula; it is more than the repetition of any mantra. If the inquiry "Who am I?" were a mere mental questioning, it would not be of much value. The very purpose of Self-inquiry is to focus the entire mind at its Source. It is not,therefore, a case of one ' I ' searching for another ' I ' ".

Question: "How can I control the mind?"

Sri Ramana: "There is no mind to control if the Self is realised. The Self shines forth when the mind vanishes. In the realised man the mind may be active or inactive; the Self alone exists. For the mind, body, and world are not separate from the Self; and they cannot remain apart from the Self. Can they be other than the Self? When aware of the Self, why should one worry about these shadows? How do they affect the Self?"

(Continued below)

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Question: "Why do thoughts of many objects arise in the mind even when there is no contact with external objects?"

Sri Ramana: "All such thoughts are due to latent tendencies (purva sanskaras). They appear only to the individual consciousness (jiva) which has forgotten its real nature and becomes externalised. Whenever particular things are perceived , the inquiry "Who is it that sees them?" should be made; they will then disappear at once."

Question: "What is the relation between jnana and bhakti?"(between knowledge and devotion)"

Sri Ramana: "The eternal, unbroken, natural state of abiding in the Self is jnana (knowledge). To abide in the Self you must love the Self. Since God is verily the Self, love of the Self is love of God; and that is Bhakti (devotion). Jnana and Bhakti are thus one and the same."

Question: "Should we read the Bhagavad Gita now and then?"

Sri Ramana: "Always"

Question: "How should I carry on nama-japa?"

Sri Ramana: "One should not use the Name of God mechanically and superficially without the feeling of devotion. To use the Name of God one must call upon Him with yearning and unreservedly surrender oneself to Him. Only after such surrender is the Name of God constantly with the man."

Question: "Where, then, is the need for inquiry or Vichara?"

Sri Ramana: "Surrender can take effect only when it is done with full knowledge as to what real surrender means. Such knowledge comes after inquiry and reflection and ends invariably in self-surrender.
There is no difference between Jnana and absolute surrender to the Lord, that is, in thought, word and deed. To be complete, surrender must be unquestioning; the devotee cannot bargain with the Lord or demand favours at His hands. Such entire surrender comprises all: it is Jnana and Vairagya, Devotion and Love."

Question: "What is the highest goal of spiritual experience for man?"

Sri Ramana: "Self-realisation."

Question: "A salt-doll diving into the sea will not be protected by a waterproof coat. This world in which we have to toil day in and day out is like the ocean."

Sri Ramana: "Yes, the mind is the waterproof coat."

Question: "What is the nature of the heart?"

Sri Ramana: "The meaning of the word heart (hrdayam) is the Self (Atman). As it is denoted by the terms Existence,Consciousness, Bliss eternal and plenum (sat,Chit, Anandam, Nityam, Puranam) it has no differences such as exterior and interior or up and down. That tranquil state in which all thoughts come to an end is called the state of the Self.
When it is realised as it is, there is no scope for discussions about its location inside the body or outside."

Question: What is the difference between the mind and the Self?

Sri Ramana: There is no difference. The mind turned inwards is the Self; turned outwards, it becomes the ego and all the world. Cotton made into various clothes we call by various names. Gold made into various ornaments, we call by various names. But all the clothes are cotton and all the ornaments gold. The one is real, the many are mere names and forms.

From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CCXCIX
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Parsara said: It is the mind that at first inclines the Soul to Yoga. The Soul then merges the mind into itself.

From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, section CCXLVIII

Vyasa said:
As the tortoise stretches out its limbs and withdraws them once again within itself, even so the Understanding creates the senses and once again withdraws them into itself. The consciousness of personal identity that arises in respect of that which is above the soles of the feet and below the crown of the head, is principally due to the action of the Understanding.

It is the Understanding that appears under different guises (for different functions) by modification. It is the modification of the Understanding that are called the senses. Over them is placed as their presiding chief or overseer the invisible Soul.

When the Understanding desires for anything, it comes to be called by the name of Mind. The senses again, though apparently different, should all be taken as included within the Understanding.

It is the Understanding that is transformed into the five attributes of taste, scent, vision, sound and  touch. It is Understanding also that transformed into the five senses with the mind for the sixth. When the Understanding is absent, where are the attributes?

In man there are five senses.
The mind is called the sixth sense. The Understanding is called the seventh. The Soul is the eigth.

The eyes and the other senses are for only receiving impressions of form (and scent etc.). The mind exists for doubting the accuracy of those impressions. The Understanding settles those doubts. The Soul is said to witness every operation without mingling with them.

Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas- these three- arise from their own counterparts (existing in a previous state of existence or life. They arise from their respective states as they existed with the Chitta or Understanding in a previous life). These are called attributes and should be known by the actions they induce. As regards those actions all such states in which one becomes conscious of oneself as united with cheerfulness or joy and which are tranquil and pure, should be known as due to the attribute of Sattwa.
All such states in either the body or the mind, as are united with sorrow, should be regarded as due to the influence of the attribute called Rajas. All such states again as exist with stupepefaction of the senses, the mind or the understanding, whose cause is unascertainable, and which are incomprehensible by either reasons or inward light, should be known as ascribed to the action of Tamas.

Delight, cheerfulness, joy, equanimity, contentment of heart, due to any known cause or arising otherwise, are all effects of the attribute of Sattwa. Pride, untruthfulness of speech, cupidity, stupefaction, vindictiveness, whether arising from any known cause or otherwise, are indications of the quality of Rajas.  Stupefaction of judgement, heedlessness, sleep, lethargy, and indolence, from whatever cause they may arise, are to be known as indications of the quality of Tamas.

All the three states that exist (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas) inhere to these three viz., Mind, Understanding and Consciousness, and like the spokes of a car-wheel acting in consequence of their attachment to the circumference of the wheel, they follow the different objects that exist in Mind, Understanding, and Consciousness.

The mind must make a lamp of the senses for dispelling the darkness that shuts out the knowledge of the Supreme Soul.

The Soul is incapable of being seen with the aid of the senses whose nature is to wander among all earthly objects of desire. When, however, a person, with the aid of his mind, tightly holds their reins, it is then that his soul discovers itself like an object (unseen in darkness) appearing to the view in consequence of the light of a lamp. Indeed, as all things become visible when the darkness that envelops them is dispelled, even the soul becomes visible when the darkness that covers it is removed.

As an acquatic fowl, though moving on the water, is never drenched by that element, after the same manner the Yogi of freed soul is never soiled by the imperfections of the three attributes of Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. After the same manner, the man of wisdom, by even enjoying all earthly objects without being attached to any of them, is never soiled by faults of any kind that arise in the case of others from such enjoyment.

The qualities are incapable of apprehending the Soul. The Soul, however, apprehends them always. The Soul is the witness that beholds the qualities and duly calls them up into being. Behold, this is the difference between the understanding and the Soul, both of which are exceedingly subtile. One of them creates the qualities. The other never creates them. Though they are different from each other by nature, yet they are always united. The fish living in the water is different from the element in which it lives. But as the fish and the water forming its home are always united, after the same manner Sattwa and Kshetrajna exist in a state of union. 

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