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ramana maharshi | who am I? | guru | self-enquiry | spiritual instruction | wisdom | words | silence | daily talks | reality | padam – the formless self
abide in the self | arunachala | annamalai swami | self alone is real | swami rama tirtha | real self | i am that | practical freedom | sun of self
h.w.l. poonja | freedom now | remembering | meeting ramana | who is aware of consciousness? | who are you? | words | no practice | final abode
eternal rest | lion's roar | peace is always everywhere | plunge into eternity | i am eternal self | summa iru | wisdom | here and now in lucknow
ma anandamayi | words | siddharameshwar maharaj | beyond nothing | perfection of material science | master key | non-action | self
nisargadatta maharaj | words | a great maharashtrian jnani | self-knowledge and self-realisation | meet the sage | detachment | awareness | who am I?
life | "i am" | guru and disciple | ranjit maharaj | meeting siddharameshwar | everything is nothing | forget everything | death is not true | real and unreal
u.g. krishnamurti | natural state | words | remembering | no separation | nothing to understand | chief joseph | way of the warrior | old tcheng | sayings
advaita | vedanta | devikalottara | supreme wisdom | atma sakshatkar | direct awareness of the self | vichara mani mala | jewel garland of enquiry
avadhuta gita | ever-free | ashtavakra gita | purest expression of truth | ribhu gita | heart | wisdom | bhagavad gita | essence | the song celestial
adi shankaracharya | atma bodha | aparokshanubhuti | dakshinamurti strotram | dasasloki | nirvana shatkam | drik drisya viveka | vivekachudamani
seng tsan | faith mind | gaudapada | mandukya karika | katha upanishad | death as teacher | yoga vasistha | dispassion | seeker's behaviour | essence
ramakant maharaj | reality has nothing to do with words | lama guendune rinpoché | free and easy | ellam ondre | all is one | william samuel | now



Let there be peace and love among all beings of the universe. OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

"If you remain in the "don't want" state,
everything will come to you.

UESTION :  I am thinking of leaving my village to go into a forest to perform tapas [severe spiritual austerities]. I have decided to go with the permission of Sri Bhagavan.

Ramana: One may leave the village, but one cannot leave one's Self. If the village exists apart from the Self, it may be left. To live alone at the place of Self, and then leaving your village to live in a forest, will be the same as living in a city. The one who thinks that he is a sannyasin [one who renounces the world] is not a sannyasin. The householder who does not think that he is a householder is a sannyasin. The one who does not think that he is the one who is doing all his actions is superior to the one who thinks that he has renounced everything.

Question: The scriptures say that attention should be placed at the centre between the eyebrows. Is this correct?

Ramana: 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 form of spiritual discipline 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.

Question: Because I have too much work to do I keep forgetting to meditate. If I frequently forget like this, when am I going to make any progress?

Ramana: Never mind. Self-realisation [jnana] will not come in a day. Mental habits will only go gradually. Today we may think every five hours, "Oh, I have forgotten to meditate." Tomorrow we may remember every four hours. The day after, every three hours. In this way, enthusiasm for meditation will slowly come.

Why do you think, "Why didn't I meditate?" or, "Why didn't I work?" If the thoughts "I did" and "I didn't" are given up, then all actions will end up as meditation. In that state, meditation cannot be given up. This is the state of natural and permanent abidance in Self [sahaja samadhi].

Question: Can we attain Self-realisation through your Grace and teach it to the people of the world?

Ramana: First know your Self; leave alone the idea of teaching others. If the world and its people remain after your realisation, you may teach them. Trying to help the world without knowing your Self will be just like a blind man trying to teach the diseases in the eyes of others. First clear your own eyes. If you do this you will see the eyes of all others as your own. Then, if you see the eyes of all others as your own, how can you exist without helping them?

Question: It is said that one can attain the Self by means of Patanjali's Yoga. Is this true?

Ramana: Yoga means the union of two existing things. Would you agree that there are two "I"s?

Question: No.

Ramana: Where is one to attain knowledge of the Self? Since we ourselves are already the Self, suffering arises only when we think, "I am the body" or, "There is a Self which I have to attain." The Self is not something that is a long way away. We need not search for it by travelling on planes or trains. To do this will be like a man who is immersed in water crying out, "I am thirsty! I am thirsty!" If we want to attain the Self while already being the Self, how is it possible?

Question: Please tell us a method to destroy the mind.

Ramana: Find out who has the mind. If the mind is still there after you succeed, you may then look for a method to destroy it.

Question: I have a mind.

Ramana: Who are you? Are you this body? Why do you not raise questions like this while you are asleep? Do you agree that the mind and the life-force which animates the body are not yourself?

Question: No.

Ramana: You are the Self. If there is anything separate from you, you can think about doing good or bad things to it. But if you yourself are the only thing that exists, how can there be any likes and dislikes? Desirelessness is absolute bliss.

Question: We are asking you again about destroying the mind because of our ignorance. We pray to Sri Bhagavan to forgive us and give us a reply. It is said that one must do spiritual practice to get rid of the mind. How should this be done?

Ramana: Enquiring with the mind, "Whose is the mind that ought to be destroyed?", is the spiritual practice to get rid of the mind.

Question: Who am I? I do not know.

Ramana: Without even knowing who we are we want to attain something else. That which we want to attain is that which we already are. The experience of any state or heavenly world that comes to us will eventually go away again. That which comes and goes is not the Self. That which is always within the experience of everyone, that alone is our real Self. That is liberation, enlightenment.

Question: What benefit can the Guru give to the disciple?

Ramana: Guru and God can only indicate the path by saying, "You are That." Nothing else can be done. Walking along the path revealed to you by the Guru is the work of the disciple.

Question: I want to know my Self. You must tell me the way.

Ramana: There is a story in Chandogya Upanishad which explains man's quest for the true Self, or God:

A man who was sleeping soundly in his house began to dream. He dreamed somebody came and put some drug in his nose and then, after blindfolding his eyes and tying his hands, left him in the middle of a forest and went away. Without knowing the path to get back home, he wandered for a long time among the thorns and stones of the forest. Eventually he began to cry.

A deva [spirit being] appeared and asked, "Why are you crying? Who are you? Why did you come here?

The blindfolded man gave the particulars of his name, village and so on. Then he said, "Someone came and deluded me with drugs, blindfolded my eyes, tied my hands, left me in the middle of the forest and went away."

The deva freed him from his ties, showed him a path and told him, "If you follow this path you will reach your village." The man followed the instructions, reached his village and entered his own house.

At that moment he woke up from his dream. He looked at the door and saw that it was locked from the inside. He realised that he had spent the whole night lying on his bed and that he had never been to a forest or returned from there. He understood that the cause of all his suffering was his lack of discerning enquiry.

The idea that we are separate from God, and the idea that we have to undergo some arduous practice to reach Him are as false as the ideas this man had in his dream. While he was lying comfortably in bed [which means that we are already abiding in the Self], his imagination of his mind led him to believe that he was suffering in a forest [meaning, caught in the belief that this world is real and that we are subject to it] and that he had to make a great effort to get back to bed again [meaning, perform sadhana to return to the Self, or realise God].

One attains God and one remains in the state of Self when the thought of wanting to attain stops. It is sufficient to go on observing the place from where the mind rises.

Question: Sri Bhagavan has written in Supplement to Reality in Forty Verses, the verse 38 which says that one should not show advaita [non-duality] in one's activities. Why so? All are One. Why differentiate?

Ramana: Would you like to sit on the seat I am sitting on?

Question: I don't mind sitting there. But if I came and sat there, the manager of the ashram and the other people here would hit me and chase me away.

Ramana: Yes, nobody would allow you to sit here. If you saw someone molesting a woman would you let him go, thinking, "All is One?" There is a scriptural story about this. Some people once gathered together to test whether it is true, as said in the Bhagavad Gita, that a jnani [enlightened sage] sees everything as One. They took a brahmin, an untouchable, a cow, an elephant and a dog to the court of King Janaka, who was a jnani. When all had arrived, King Janaka sent the brahmin to the place for brahmins, the cow to its shed, the elephant to the place allotted to elephants, the dog to its kennel and the untouchable person to the place where the other untouchables lived. He then ordered his servants to take care of his guests and feed them all appropriate food.

The people asked, "Why did you separate them individually? Is not everything one and the same for you?"

"Yes, all are One," replied Janaka, "but self-satisfaction varies according to the nature of the individual. Will a man eat the straw eaten by the cow? Will the cow enjoy the food that a man eats? One should only give what satisfies each individual person or animal."

Although the same man may play the role of all the characters in a play, his acts will be determined by the role that he is playing at each moment. In the role of a king he will sit on the throne and rule. If the same person takes on the role of a servant, he will carry the sandals of his master while he plays these roles. The jnani never forgets that he himself has played all these roles in the past.

Question: God is Omnipresent. Why should He become an avatara [incarnate in a physical body] age after age? Couldn't He perform His function just by being present everywhere?

Ramana: By the order of God [Ishwara], authorised beings along with their devotees, are sent to take birth on earth. These beings become avataras in order to give their Grace to those who have done meritorious acts without any desire for reward. They also come to punish sinners. When they have accomplished the mission for which they came, they go back to their own earlier positions. Though different bodies come to the pure God Souls [avatara purushas] their experience of the unity of the Self never changes. A man, after being born, undergoes the various stages of life – childhood, youth, manhood and old age – but in all these stages the thought that he is the same person who was born remains unchanged. Likewise, the avatara purushas knowingly remain as the one Self even though they go through many births. For them it is rather like seeing ten different dreams in one night.

All these questions will not occur when you know your Self. Without knowing the Truth about oneself, it is a waste of time trying to understand the differing teachings of other people.

Question: What is the difference between God [Ishwara] and the liberated one [jnani]?

Ramana: God and the jnani are one and the same except that the jnani was at first forgetful of the Self. Later, by the strength of his practice, he eventually came to know the Self. For God, it was not like that. Being the eternally liberated, God is performing the fivefold functions of creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and Grace. Because of this, his functioning is called activity in the form of the Absolute [Brahman]. That is like calling the river which has merged in the sea the river in the form of the ocean. The activities or functioning of God and the jnani are one and the same. But for the avatara purushas [pure incarnations of God] the bodies will change until the end of the kalpa [the longest age in hindu philosophy lasting several billion years]. This does not happen with the jnanis.

Question: Sri Rama must have had the "I am the body" idea as soon as he was born. Is this not correct?"

Ramana: Sri Rama first gave darshan [seen as a divine being] as Vishnu to Kausalya [his mother]; only then did he take the form of avatara. Later, when Rama was in the forest, he was wandering everywhere searching for his kidnapped wife, Sita. Then Parvati [Ishwara's consort, who was watching from heaven] asked Ishwara, "Doesn't Rama [who is an avatara and therefore perfect] know where Sita is? Why should he wander about searching for her?"

In reply, Ishwara told her, "Go and appear before Rama in the form of Sita. Then you will understand." Parvati did as he suggested and appeared before Rama as Sita, but Rama completely ignored her. He just went on searching for Sita.

There is a verse from Kaivalya Navanitam which states that Ishwara and the jnani are equal:

[2:36] Disciple: O master, you who are formless function as Ishwara and appear here in human form. You speak of a jnani and Ishwara as the same. How can they be so?

Master: Yes, Ishwara and the jnani are the same because they are free from "I" and "mine". The jnani is himself Ishwara, the totality of the jivas [individual souls] and also the cosmos.

Question: Bhagavan says that when one attains enlightenment all the three karmas [sanchita, prarabdha and agamya] cease to be. But in Kaivalya Navanitam it is stated that the jnani will experience only prarabdha karma [karma being worked out in this lifetime]. Why does it say this?"

Ramana: Prarabdha is the rule prior to the attainment of Self-realisation. As such, even after the attainment of Self-realisation, a jnani appears to be experiencing prarabdha in the sight of onlookers. There are several examples which are commonly used to explain this: an electric fan goes on spinning for some time even after it is switched off; a burnt rope looks like a rope but it cannot be used to tie anything; a tree that has been felled looks just like a living tree but it is no longer alive; peas which are roasted still look like peas but they cannot sprout.

The prarabdha of a jnani can be compared to examples such as these. When other people look at a jnani it seems to them that he is experiencing prarabdha, but from the jnani's own point of view there is no prarabdha at all.

Question: In the hindu scriptures it is stated that even the jivamukta [liberated while still alive] will behave according to his prarabdha karma. Why is Bhagavan telling us that a jnani [one who is enlightened] has no prarabdha?

Ramana: For the jnani, there is neither scriptures nor prarabdha. Questions like this have no relevance for the jnani. All these rules in the scriptures were created only for the ajnanis [those who are not enlightened]. Let me give you and example. Let us say that a man has three wives. When the man dies who will agree with us if we say that only two of his former wives are widows. It is not correct that all three of them are widows? Likewise, for the jnani all the three kinds of karma are non-existent. Prarabdha is only for those who see this problem and ask question about it.

Question: Why does a jnani appear to bestow his Grace on some people and show anger to others? Why does the jnani not correct all those who come to him? What is it that jnani's work for?

Ramana: The maturity and past karma of each spiritual seeker is different. Because of this, jnanis must speak in different ways to different people.

[He then quoted five verses from Kaivalya Navanitam:]

[2:60] Disciple: O master, who are bliss incarnate, how is it that God, who is impartial, advances a few and degrades others?

Master: He is like the father who encourages his sons who are on the right path and who frowns on the other sons who are going in the wrong direction. Know that it is very merciful to punish the erring and turn them towards righteousness.

[2:61] Master: O son, whose fetters of worldly life are broken! The celestial wish-fulfilling tree, fire and water protect those who seek them by fulfilling their desires, keeping them warm and quenching their thirst. So also Ishwara [God] is kind to his devotees and not so to others. Now think well and judge whose fault it is.

[2:50] Master: My son, the jivas [individuals souls] are unlimited, and their actions are also similarly unlimited. In three sections [karma, upasana and jnana] the beneficent Vedas prescribe according to the aptitudes of seekers, with preliminary views succeeded by final conclusions, as flowers by fruits.

[2:59] Master: Those fools head for disaster who, in their ignorance, attribute to God the six evils [lust, anger, greed, delusion, conceit and jealousy], which are of their own making, but the wise will gain untainted deliverance by recognising that the same evils are of their own making and not God's.

[2:35] Master: My good boy, hear me further. The activities of the sage are solely for the uplift of the world. He does not stand to lose or gain anything. The Almighty, who is the only store of Grace for the world, is not affected by the merits or demerits of the beings in the world.

Question: Bhagavan has said that liberation occurs only when the thought "I am the body" is destroyed. How does one get rid of this thought, "I am the body?"

Ramana: Since you have prayed to the Guru, totally surrender to Him.

Question: The Guru is not in the village where I live. What can I do?

Ramana: The Guru is within you. Surrender to Him there.

Question: What is within me is only my own Self.

Ramana: Guru, Self, Ishwara [God] – these are only different names for the same thing. The essence of each is the same.

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

Ramana: Of course! But the thought "I am doing it" will not arise.

Question: If the "I"-thought is not there, how will my duties get done?

Ramana: Whatever you get paid for your job, you do with indifference to the results. Discharge your family duties with the same indifference that you discharge your office or factory work. The things that come and go in your office or factory don't cause you to worry. Do all your jobs and duties with this same detachment.

Question: Difficulties keep coming to me. When will they stop?

Ramana: If you give up the "I am the body" idea, all your difficulties will fly away.

Ramana: Mauna [silence] is ceaseless speech; and, to remain still is to work ceaselessly.

Question: Bhagavan says that to be still means to be ever active, and that to be silent means to be ever speaking. I don't understand how this can be so.

Ramana: Is that so? Can you see that "I am"?

Question: Yes, I can see.

Ramana: How do you see?

Question: I confess that I do not know how it is seen.

Ramana: Be where the "I" is. Just like that, "to be still" means "to be ever working." Working does not mean working with a hoe [or tool, etc.] in one's hand. Working means to shine always as "That" [the Self]. Only silence is ever speaking. Moreover, both are the same. This is just what the great sages have expressed as, "I am remembering without forgetting", "I am worshipping without being separate", "I am thinking without thinking", "I am telling without telling", "I am listening without listening", and so on. If you don't speak, God will come and speak [as you]. The greatest scripture is the silent exposition. Only if you read this scripture [silence] will all doubts cease. Otherwise, even if you read tens of thousands of books countless times, doubts will never cease.

Eating, bathing, going to the toilet, talking, thinking, and many other activities related to the body are all work. How is it that the performance of one particular act is alone considered work? To be still is to be always engaged in work. To be silent is to be always talking.

Question: When I meditate my breath seems to get suspended in my stomach. Is this good?

Ramana: That is very good.

Question: If I go on meditating after that, what will happen?

Ramana: Samadhi will be attained.

Question: Does samadhi mean that one is unaware of everything?

Ramana: No. Meditation will go on without our effort. That is samadhi.

Question: Then what is sahaja samadhi?

Ramana: In that state meditation will always be going on. In that state the thought, "I am meditating" or "I am not meditating" will not occur.

Question: During my meditation, when I am only aware of an all-pervasive blankness, sometimes nothing is seen. Is this good?

Ramana: In the beginning, it is good if meditators meditate with self-awareness.

Question: Can one practice sahaja samadhi right from the beginning?

Ramana: One can.

Question: But how to practice it? And how does one practice nirvikalpa samadhi [samadhi in which all differences between the individual self and Reality cease to exist]? How many different kinds of samadhi are there?

Ramana: There is only one kind of samadhi, not many kinds. To remain temporarily subsided in the Reality, without any thought, is nirvikalpa samadhi. Permanently abiding in the Self without forgetting it [even while being active and with eyes open] is sahaja samadhi. Both will give the same happiness.

Ramana: The world vision which appears in the waking state and the world vision which appears in the dream state are both the same. There is not even a trace of difference. The dream state happens merely to prove the unreality of the world which we see in the waking state. This is one of the operations of God's Grace.

The world of the waking state changes in the same way as the world of the dream state. Both are equally insubstantial and equally unreal. Some people dispute this by saying, "But the same world which we saw yesterday is existing today. Dream worlds are never the same from one night to the next. Therefore how can we believe that the world of the waking state is unreal? History tells us that this world has existed for thousands of years."

We take the evidence that this changing world has been existing for a long time and decide that this constitutes a proof that the world is real. This is an unjustified conclusion. The world is changing every minute. How? Our body is not the same as it was when we were young. A lamp which we light at night may seem to be the same in the morning, but all the oil in the flame has changed. Is this not so? Water flows in a river. If we see the river on two successive days we say it is the same river, but it is not the same; the water has completely changed.

The world is always changing. It is not permanent. But we exist unchanged in all the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. Nobody can truthfully say, "I did not exist during these three states." Therefore, we must conclude that this "I" is the permanent substance because everything else is in a state of perpetual flux. If you never forget this, this is liberation.

Question: If the world exists only when my mind exists, when my mind subsides in meditation or sleep, does the outside world disappear also? I think not. If one considers the experiences of others who were aware of the world while I slept, one must conclude that the world existed then. Is it not more correct to say that the world got created and is ever existing in some huge collective mind? If this is true, how can one say that there is no world and that it is only a dream?

Ramana: The world does not say that it was created in the collective mind, or that it was created in the individual mind. It only appears in your small mind. If your mind gets destroyed, there will be no world.

Long ago there was a man whose father had died thirty years before. One day he had a dream in which his father was alive. In the dream he [the man who had the dream] was a boy who had four younger brothers. His dream father had accumulated a great fortune which he divided among the five brothers. The four younger brothers were not satisfied with their share. Out of jealousy they came to fight with the eldest brother and began to beat him up. As he was receiving the beating in the dream, he woke up. On waking up, he very happily realised that he had neither a father nor any brothers. He discovered that of all the characters he had dreamt, he alone really existed.

Similarly, if we go beyond this waking dream and see only our real Self, we will discover that there is no world and that there are no "other" people. On the other hand, if we move away from the Self and see the world, we find that we are in bondage. Every individual self [jiva] is seeing a separate world, but a jnani does not see anything other than himself. This is the state of Truth.

Question: I often get stomach pains. What should I do about them?

Ramana: What to do about it? The body itself is a big disease. To destroy this disease all we have to do is keep quiet. All other diseases will then leave even earlier. Since there is no suffering in the Self, all suffering must inevitably be a product of the mind.

Question: Is there no way to escape from worldly suffering?

Ramana: The only remedy is to remain in the state of Self without losing awareness of it.

Question: Bhagavan, all through my life I have been experiencing nothing but suffering. Is it due to the sinful karma of my previous births? I once asked my mother whether I had been happy in her womb. She told me that she had suffered a great deal at that time. How is it that I have acquired so many sins? Why do I suffer so much?

Ramana: We could say that it is due to past karma. But instead of thinking that this past karma is due to the karma of, for example, the incarnation previous to the last, find out to whom this present incarnation has come. If this body is what has taken birth, let it ask the question. You say that "you" are always experiencing suffering. That is only your thoughts. Happiness alone exists. What comes and goes is suffering.

Question: How is it that so much suffering comes to people who behave virtuously?

Ramana: It is good if suffering comes to devotees. The washerman, when washing clothes, beats them hard against a rock. But he does so only to remove the dirt from the clothes. Similarly, all sufferings are given for the sole purpose of purifying the mind of the devotee. If we are patient, happiness will follow.

Question: Happiness and suffering occur according to one's previous karma. If one has a desire for events to happen in a particular way, will they end that way?

Ramana: If a person has done a lot of good deeds in the past, right at this moment whatever he thinks will happen. But he will not be changing what is destined. Whatever he desires will conform to what is to happen anyway. His desires will conform to that which was already determined by the desire or will of the Supreme. If there is plenty of accumulated sins, the fruits of these acts will also materialise right now. The fruits of excessive good deeds and accumulated sins, which have been carried forward from past lives, will materialise in this birth.

Question: When one person does good deeds, suffering comes to him. But another person who does many bad deeds may not suffer at all. Why is this?

Ramana: Everyone is getting happiness and suffering as a result of the karma which has been carried forward from previous births. Accepting both patiently, and remaining in the Self, doing whatever actions one happens to be engaged in without seeking happiness or suffering in them, that alone is good. The enquiry "Who am I?" leads to the cessation of suffering and the acquisition of the Supreme bliss.

Question: I am trying to follow the path of virtue, but I am finding it impossible. My previous mental habits are preventing me. When will they disappear?

Ramana: Ask yourself "Who am I?" Your previous mental habits will disappear when you find out who has them.

Question: When I meditate, sleep overpowers me. I cannot avoid it. What should I do?

Ramana: If I say "I awoke", it follows that "I slept". When waking comes we must be in the state that we were in when we were asleep. When sleep comes we must awake. That is the state of awakened sleep. [Bhagavan maintained that if one could make the mind sink completely into the Self, without losing consciousness, one would enjoy the bliss of conscious sleep.]

Question: That is not possible for me.

Ramana: The greatest obstacle is the thought, "It is impossible for me."

Question: What to do when this thought catches hold of us and shakes us?

Ramana: The thought does not catch hold of us and shake us. The thought catching hold of us shakes itself.

Question: If this is so, how can I control the mind?

Ramana: Controlling the mind implies the need of a second mind to control the first. Trying to control the mind is like someone attempting the impossible task of measuring the length of his own shadow by himself.

How were we in sleep? We are now the same [bodiless and mindless] "I" that we were when we were asleep. Our first mistake is to leave that state and take the body to be "I".

Question: Ignorance [ajnana] must be destroyed. Am I right?

Ramana: It will be sufficient if you investigate the one whose ignorance must be destroyed.

Question: What must I do to avoid sleep during my meditation?

Ramana: Meditators must not work too much, nor should they fill their stomachs with excessive food. The more one fills the stomach, the lower one's mental state becomes. If the stomach is mostly empty, one will go higher spiritually. One should not tighten the strings of the veena [stringed instrument used in Indian music] either too much or too little. The body must be kept like that.

Likewise with sleep. One third of the night has been allotted for sleep. That is, one must go to bed at 10 PM. and wake up at 2 AM. One should not sleep during the day time. There is another system also. One should get up whenever one wakes up and one should sleep whenever sleep comes. But one should not think, "I slept" or "I woke up".

[He then quoted verse 33 of Devikalottara:] "The mind often strays into reveries or falls asleep. Be vigilant and turn it into its pristine state again and again."

Question: What is the difference between the mind with form and the formless mind?

Ramana: Pure mind has the name "manakasa" [space mind or empty mind]. Immediately on waking from sleep a clarity of awareness arises, without exception, in all people. That is the formless mind. Thoughts such as "I am the body" and "This is the world" arise after that. This is the mind with form. In a cinema show the light appears first. The forms appear on the screen only after that. Likewise, the light of the Self comes first and provides the space for everything that follows.

Question: What method should I use to make my mind steady and firm?

Ramana: It is sufficient to think always of one thing. If the mind does not obey, again start thinking of only one thing. In the course of time, the mind will obey your orders.

Question: Sometimes there is meditation, at other times there are worldly activities. What is the difference between the two?

Ramana: To be in meditation and to be in activity are both the same. It is like calling the same object by its name in two different languages; like the crow only having one eye but seeing in two different directions [it is commonly believed in South India that crows have one large eyeball in the centre of their skulls which is rotated from side to side so that the crow can use it to see out of either eye socket]; like the elephant using the same trunk for the two activities of breathing and drinking water; like the cobra using its eyes for the two functions of seeing and hearing. [another common folk belief]

[Then he quoted the following verse [2.173] from Kaivalya Navanitham:] "If you always remain aware that "I" am perfect consciousness, what does it matter how much you think, or what you do? All this is unreal, like dream visions after waking. "I" am all bliss!"

Question: Bhagavan, how is it that one gets the same happiness from worldly activities that one gets from meditation?

Ramana: One's happiness and suffering are dependent on one's mental state. Happiness is our natural state. Suffering occurs when one leaves the Self and thinks that the body and the mind are "I". What to do about this? The thought "I am this body" has been strengthened over many births. What remains after it has been destroyed is happiness.

Question: Bhagavan, the scriptures talk about so many different kinds of happiness or bliss. Are there really so many different types?

Ramana: No, bliss is only one. That happiness or bliss [ananda] is itself God. Our natural state is bliss. Because this is experienced externally, through various sensual enjoyments, various names are given to it. However many varieties of happiness are enjoyed; many millions of varieties of misery will also have to be experienced. But this is not so for the jnani. He enjoys all the happiness enjoyed by everyone in the world as his own bliss of Brahman [Brahmananda]. Brahmananda is like an ocean. The external types of happiness are like the waves, foam, bubbles and ripples.

Bliss is common to all in sleep. All living things, and all human beings, from a pauper to an emperor, experience bliss equally while they are asleep.

Question: Swami, as soon as I heard your name I had a great desire to see you. I have now come. How did this great desire come to me?

Ramana: In just the same way that your body came to you.

Question: What is the fruit of one's life?

Ramana: If a person thinks that he must conduct himself according to the true principles of life, that itself is the fruit of great spiritual discipline done in his previous life. Those who do not think in this way are wasting their time.

In my early years here, I was once sitting on a rock on the hill when a boy came up to see me. He was about eight years old. Seeing me, he said with great pity, "Swami, why did you come away like this to live alone without any clothes?"

I gave him an answer which would satisfy his mind. "The elders in my house became angry with me so I left and came here."

The boy asked, "Swami, what do you do for your food?" I replied, "If somebody gives me some, I take it. Otherwise I don't eat." The boy was shocked that I had to live such an arduous life.

"Aiyo!" he exclaimed. "You come with me. I will talk to my boss and get you a job. If you work just for food for a few days he will give you a salary later." I responded to his offer by remaining silent.

On another day, as I was sitting on the bench at Virupaksha Cave, a small boy came up to me and stared at me for a long time. Then he cried and sobbed violently. Palaniswami, who was inside the cave, came out and asked him, "Why are you crying?"

"I feel great pity when I look at him", said the boy. And then he carried on sobbing.

Question: The Puranas say that liberation means living in Kailash Vaikunta, or Brahmaloka [the hindu heavens], and having darshan [sight] of God there. Is this correct? Or does liberation only come when one merges with the Absolute[Brahman] in the state where there is no knowledge of the body, the world and the mind?

Ramana: Living in Vaikunta and Kailash is not liberation. If everyone goes to Kailash and Vaikunta, where will be space for everyone to live? If I must live and enjoy bliss with God, then God must be inert [jada]. If he is inert, where can we enjoy bliss?

[Then Bhagavan quoted verse 31 of Ulladu Narpadu:] "To one who has destroyed himself [his ego] and is awake to his nature as bliss, what remains to be accomplished? He does not see anything [as being] other than himself. Who can comprehend his state?"

When I was staying at the Pachaiamman Temple my loincloth got torn. I never made any requests to anybody, so I had to stitch it myself. For a needle, I used a thorn from a cactus plant. I made a slit at the end which gripped a thread that I had removed from my loincloth. After the repairs were finished, I was able to wear it for another two months.

During the same period, my towel had so many holes it looked like a net. One day a shepherd, after seeing this towel, tried to ridicule me by saying, "Swami, the [provincial] Governor wants this towel."

After washing and drying this towel, I used to wrap it around my hand so that no one could see what state it was in. Somehow, those who were with me came to know about it and brought three sets of new loincloths and towels. They took away my old towel and made me exchange my loincloth for a new one. If you remain in the "don't want" state, everything will come to you. That is why both likes and dislikes are not wanted.

Question: Sometimes when I meditate I enter a state in which I don't know anything. Is this state manolaya or manonasa?

Ramana: In both manolaya and manonasa questions will not arise.

Question: What is the difference between them?

Ramana: Remaining permanently as one is without the rising of any doubt or thought such as, "Nothing is known" or "Something is known", alone is manonasa. Manolaya is a temporary suspension of all mental faculties, whereas manonasa is the complete and permanent destruction of the mind.

Question: What sort of food should a spiritual seeker eat?

Ramana: The rule of taking moderate amounts of sattvic [pure, bland, vegetarian] food is better than all other rules.

Question: Various kinds of yogic postures are spoken of in the scriptures. What is the best? Which must be practised?

Ramana: Unwavering meditation or contemplation is the best. It is enough if one practices this.

Question: [submitted in the form of a written questionnaire to Sri Bhagavan]

[a] Did God create the world in the beginning with as many differences as there are now? Or did these differences only come into being after sometime?

[b] If God is common to everyone, why are some people good and some bad? One is lame; another is blind; one person is a jnani while many other people are ajnanis. Why did he create all these differences?

[c] Do the guardian spirits of the eight cardinal points [ashta dik palaka], the thirty-three crores [330 million] of devas [incarnate spirits] and the maharishis [great seers] exist even today?

Ramana: [after glancing at the paper] The answer to all these three questions will shine forth of its own accord if you ask yourself, "To whom did these questions occur?"

After knowing ourselves first, if we then look into the world created by God, we will understand the Truth. To try to know God and the world without knowing oneself first, is ignorance indeed. The opinions of a man who does not know himself, are like those of a man suffering from jaundice who tells other people that the colour of everything is yellow. Who will agree with him?

A small seed contains a big banyan tree, but which came first, the tree or the seed? What can one say in answer to this question? There is one real answer to such questions: "If one knows oneself, there is no world."

[Bhagavan then supported this statement by quoting four lines from his own philosophical works:]

Is it not ignorance to know all else without knowing the Self which is the source of all knowledge? Can it be knowledge?
[Reality in Forty Verses, verse 11, lines 1 and 2]

If one has a form, the world and God will also have forms.
[Reality in Forty Verses, verse 4, line 1]

What else is there to know for anyone when Self Itself is known?
[Self Knowledge, verse 3, line 2]

Question: Why did God, who is presumably free from all desires, create the world?

Ramana: There will be a place for this question only if this question exists apart from God. Why question about such things? Who is he who questions in the first place? Does this question exist while you are asleep?

"I am one; God is another." Who told you to think like this? Only when we know our own qualifications will we be able to know about God's. Is this not correct? First find out who you are. What the Self is and what God is can be learned later on.

Question: What is Bhagavan's opinion about the entry of harijans [outcastes who do not belong to the four major hindu castes] into temples?

Ramana: I have no separate opinion. All things are happening by the Power of God. All things which need to be done are done by God at the proper time, in the proper place and in the proper way.

Question: Is it good for one to do social service? Or is it good for one to go into a cave and meditate instead?

Ramana: Both are good. But only he who has done service to himself knows how to serve society.

Question: Just as we do, Bhagavan eats, speaks, applies medicine for toothache, and so on. What then is the difference between us and Bhagavan? I can't see any difference.

Ramana: Just before going to sleep a small boy started crying and asked his mother, "Mother, I am hungry. Give me some rice." The mother replied, "Please wait a little, the rice is still cooking." The boy fell asleep before the rice was ready. A little later his mother woke him up and showed him the different types of rice that she had prepared: "See, this is dhal rice, this is rasam rice, this is curd rice." The boy was very sleepy but he still managed to eat before he fell asleep again. The next morning, as soon as he woke up, he asked his mother, "Why didn't you give me any rice last night?" All the people in the house knew that he had eaten, but the boy himself was not aware of it any more, because for him it had just been a sleepy interlude in the middle of the night. The activities of a jnani are in some ways similar to those of the small boy. That is, other people see him taking part in various activities, but the jnani himself is not aware that he is doing anything.

There are two other similar analogies: one can say that the state of the jnani is like a man listening to a story while his mind is elsewhere, or that he is like the sleeping driver of a bullock cart whose cart continues to move down the road even though he is asleep.

Let me give you another example. Two people were sleeping in the same place. One of them had a dream in which both of them suffered while they were wandering through many forests. The other person slept well without dreaming at all. The one who dreamed thought that the one who slept well was also suffering. The dreamer is like the ajnani, he makes a dream world for himself, suffers in that dream, and because he is not able to see that it is only a dream, he believes that all the people in his dream are also suffering. The jnani, on the other hand, does not dream a world at all. He invents no suffering either for himself or for other people. That is because the jnani looks upon everything as the non-dual Reality [jnana], as his own Self, whereas the ajnani only sees ignorance [ajnana] around him. To what the jnani is asleep, to that the ajnani is awake. To what the ajnani is asleep, to that the jnani's awake.

Swami Rama Tirtha was once doing japa [repetition] of the name of Shiva on top of a high building. A man who was an ajnani came up to him and said, "Jump down from here. Then we can find out whether this word you repeat can save you."

Swami Rama Tirtha asked him, "Where is up and where is down?" For the jnani who sees only the non-dual Reality, such distinctions cannot exist.

The ajnani is like the man who only looks at the names and forms that appear on the cinema screen. The jnani, on the other hand, is always aware of the screen on which the names and forms appear.

Question: When an endeavour is made to lead the right life and to concentrate thought on the Self, there is often a downfall and break. What is to be done?

Ramana: It will come all right in the end. There is the steady impulse of your determination that sets you on your feet again after every downfall and breakdown. Gradually the obstacles are all overcome and your current becomes stronger. Everything comes right in the end. Steady determination is what is required.

Question: What is unconditional surrender?

Ramana: If one surrenders completely, there will be no one left to ask questions or to be considered. Either the thoughts are eliminated by holding on to the root thought, "I", or one surrenders unconditionally to the higher Power. These are the only two ways to realisation. Self-enquiry dissolves the ego by looking for it and finding it to be non-existent, whereas devotion surrenders it; therefore both come to the same ego-free goal, which is all that is required.

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