Author Topic: Michael James about Happiness And The Art Of Being based on teachings of Ramana  (Read 767 times)


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The quantity and quality of the food we should consume is described by Sri Ramana as mita and sattvika. The word mita refers to the quantity of food we should consume, and means measured, limited, frugal or moderate. The word sattvika refers to the quality of food we should consume, and basically means pure and wholesome, or more precisely, endowed with the quality known as sattva, which literally means being-ness, ‘is’-ness, essence or reality, and which by extension means calmness, clarity, purity, wisdom, goodness and virtue. The restriction or niyama of eating only sattvika food means abstaining from all types of non-sattvika food, which includes all meat, fish and eggs, all intoxicants such as alcohol and tobacco, and all other substances that excite passions or dull the clarity of our mind in any way.

Since one of the important principles underlying the observance of consuming only sattvika food is ahimsa, the compassionate principle of ‘non-harming’ or avoidance of causing suffering to any living being, any food whose production involves or is associated with the suffering of any human being or other creature must be considered as being not sattvika. In our present-day circumstances,therefore, the only food that can truly be considered as being sattvika is that which is organically produced, fairly traded and above all vegan.

This process of destroying our vasanas as soon as they rise in the form of thoughts is described by Sri Ramana in more detail in the tenth and eleventh paragraphs of Nan Yar?. In the tenth paragraph he says:

Even though vishaya-vasanas [our latent impulsions or desires to attend to things other than ourself], which come from time immemorial, rise [as thoughts] in countless numbers like oceanwaves,they will all be destroyed when svarupa-dhyana [selfattentiveness] increases and increases. Without giving room to the doubting thought, ‘Is it possible to dissolve so many vasanas and be [or remain] only as self?’, [we] should cling tenaciously to self-attentiveness. However great a sinner a person may be, if instead of lamenting and weeping, ‘I am a sinner! How am I going to be saved?’, [he] completely rejects the thought that he is a sinner and is zealous [or steadfast] in self-attentiveness, he will certainly be reformed [or transformed into the true ‘form’ of thought-free self-conscious being].

In the eleventh paragraph of Nan Yar? Sri Ramana goes on to explain more about how the practice of self-attentive being enables us to destroy all our vasanas or latent desires to experience things other than ourself:

As long as vishaya-vasanas [latent impulsions or desires to attend to anything other than ourself] exist in [our] mind, so long the investigation ‘who am I?’ is necessary. As and when thoughts arise, then and there it is necessary [for us] to annihilate them all by investigation [keen and vigilant selfattentiveness] in the very place from which they arise. Being [abiding or remaining] without attending to [anything] other [than ourself] is vairagya [dispassion] or nirasa [desirelessness]; being [abiding or remaining] without leaving [separating from or letting go of our real] self is jñana [knowledge]. In truth [these] two [desirelessness and true knowledge] are only one. Just as a pearl-diver, tying a stone to his waist and submerging, picks up a pearl which lies in the ocean, so each person, submerging [beneath the surface activity of their mind] and sinking [deep] within themself with vairagya [freedom from desire or passion for anything other than being],can attain the pearl of self. If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarupa-smarana [self-remembrance] until one attains svarupa [one’s own essential self], that alone [will be] sufficient. So long as enemies are within the fort, they will continue coming out from it. If [we] continue destroying [or cutting down] all of them as and when they come, the fort will [eventually] come into [our] possession.

Therefore instead of concentrating our efforts in repeatedly studying a few books that truly convince us and remind us of the need for us to turn our mind inwards, and in sincerely and persistently trying to practise the art of self-attentive being that those books teach us, if we continue reading innumerable books to gather more and more extraneous knowledge, we will be wasting our valuable time and distracting our mind from our true purpose, which is to give up all other knowledge and thereby to sink in the only true knowledge – the simple non-dual knowledge or consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’.

Therefore in the sixteenth paragraph of Nan Yar? Sri Ramana says:

Since in every [true spiritual] treatise it is said that for attaining mukti [spiritual emancipation, liberation or salvation] it is necessary [for us] to restrain [our] mind, after knowing that mano-nigraha [holding down, holding within, restraining, subduing, suppressing or destroying our mind] is the ultimate intention [or purpose] of [such] treatises, there is no benefit [to be gained] by studying without limit [a countless number of] treatises. For restraining [our] mind it is necessary [for us] to investigate ourself [in order to know] who [we really are], [but] instead [of doing so] how [can we know ourself by] investigating in treatises? It is necessary [for us] to know ourself only by our own eye of jñana [true knowledge, that is, by our own selfward-turned consciousness]. Does [a person called] Raman need a mirror to know himself as Raman? [Our] ‘self’ is within the pancha-kosas [the ‘five sheaths’ with which we seem to have covered and obscured our true being, namely our physical body, our prana or life force, our mind, our intellect and the seeming darkness or ignorance of sleep],whereas treatises are outside them. Therefore investigating in treatises [hoping to be able thereby to know] ourself, whom we should investigate [with an inward-turned attention] having removed [set aside, abandoned or separated] all the panchakosas,is useless [or unprofitable]. Knowing our yathartha svarupa [our own real self or essential being] having investigated who is [our false individual] self, who is in bondage [being bound within the imaginary confines of our mind], is mukti [emancipation]. The name ‘atma-vichara’ [is truly applicable] only to [the practice of] always being [abiding or remaining] having put [placed, kept, seated, deposited,detained, fixed or established our] mind in atma [our own real self], whereas dhyana [meditation] is imagining ourself to be sat-chit-ananda brahman [the absolute reality, which is beingconsciousness-bliss]. At one time it will become necessary [for us] to forget all that [we] have learnt.

Whereas studying deeply a few truly pertinent books can be a great aid to our practice of self-attentive being, reading a vast number of books can be a serious impediment. Therefore in verse 34 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Sri Ramana says:

For people of little intelligence, wife, children and others [other relatives] form [just] one family. [However] know that in the mind of people who have vast learning, there are not [just] one [but] many families [in the form] of books [that stand] as obstacles to yoga [spiritual practice].

Though a strong attachment to our family can be an obstacle to our spiritual practice, because it can draw our mind outwards and make it difficult for us to remain free of thoughts in the state of selfattentive being, a strong attachment to all the knowledge that we have acquired from studying many books is a still greater obstacle, because it will fill our mind with many thoughts.

If we are really intent upon experiencing the true goal of yoga,which is perfectly clear self-knowledge, we will not feel inclined to read vast quantities of sacred texts or other philosophical books,because we will be eager to put into practice what we have learnt from a few really pertinent books which explain that simple selfattentive being is the only means by which we can experience that goal. If instead we feel enthusiasm only to study an endless number of books, we will merely succeed in filling our mind with countless thoughts, which will draw our attention away from our essential consciousness of our own being. Thus filling our mind with knowledge gathered from many books will be a great obstacle to our practice of self-attentive being.

Excessive study will not only fill our mind with innumerable thoughts, which will cloud our natural inner clarity of selfconsciousness,but will also fill it with the pride of learning, which will prompt us to display our vast knowledge to other people, and to expect them to appreciate and praise it. Therefore in verse 36 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Sri Ramana says:

Rather than people who though learned have not subsided [surrendered or become subdued, humble or still], the unlearned are saved. They are saved from the ghost of pride that possesses [the learned]. They are saved from the disease of many whirling thoughts. They are saved from running in search of fame [repute, respect, esteem or glory]. Know that what they are saved from is not [just] one [evil].

Of all the obstacles that can arise in our path when we are seeking true self-knowledge, the desire for praise, appreciation, respect, high regard, renown or fame is one of the most delusive and therefore dangerous, and it is one to which the learned are particularly susceptible. Therefore in verse 37 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Sri Ramana says:

Though all the worlds are [regarded by them as] straw, and though all the sacred texts are within [their] hand, [for] people who come under the sway of the wicked whore who is puhazhchi [praise, applause, appreciation, respect, high regard,renown or fame], escaping [their] slavery [to her], ah, is rare [or very difficult].

The first clause of this verse, ‘though all the worlds are straw’,implies that those of us who have studied vast amounts of philosophy may look down upon the normal mundane pleasures of this world, heaven and all other worlds as being a mere trifle, and may therefore imagine that we have renounced all desire for them.The second clause, ‘though all the sacred texts are within hand’,implies that we may have mastered a vast range of scholastic knowledge about various systems of philosophy, religious belief and other such subjects. However, in spite of all our vast learning and our seeming renunciation, if we fall prey to desire for the extremely delusive pleasure of being an object of praise,appreciation,admiration, respect, high regard, acclaim or fame, to free ourself of such desire is very difficult indeed.

The desire for appreciation and respect is very subtle and therefore powerful in its ability to delude us, and it is a desire to which even otherwise perfectly good people can easily fall a prey,particularly if they engage themselves in any activity that seems to benefit other people, such as teaching the principles of religion,philosophy or moral conduct through either speech or writing. This desire is particularly dangerous for a spiritual aspirant, because the pleasure we feel in being appreciated and respected derives from our attachment to our ego or individual personality – our delusive sense that we are the person who is appreciated and respected. Therefore,if we are sincere in our desire to attain true self-knowledge, we should be extremely vigilant to avoid giving any room in our mind to the rising of this desire.

If we study the words written in sacred texts and other philosophical books, but still make no effort to put what we learn from those books into practice by turning our mind inwards to experience our own essential being, which is the source from which we as our ego were ‘born’ or originated, and thereby annihilating this ego, who experiences the letters of fate, all our study and erudition are of no use whatsoever.

What initially motivates us to read books on philosophy or religion is our desire to know the truth, but the true knowledge that we seek to acquire cannot be contained in any book or any words. True knowledge is only the absolute knowledge that lies beyond the reach of all thoughts and words.

Since this mind, our false ‘I’ or ego, rises only by knowing things that appear to be other than itself, and since it seems to exist only so long as we allow it to continue dwelling upon those other things, in order to annihilate it we must turn it away from all its thoughts and concepts – that is, from all forms of knowledge that are extraneous to our fundamental self-consciousness – by concentrating it wholly
and exclusively upon our own essential self-conscious being, which is the source from which it had arisen to know all those other forms of knowledge. No matter how many books we may read, we cannot attain true knowledge until and unless we forget all that we have learnt from them by thus concentrating our entire attention only upon our own true non-dual self-conscious being.

If we have great enthusiasm to study a vast number of books, and to remember all the concepts that we have learnt from them, we are likely to forget the true purpose of the books we study. Therefore,rather than reading many books, we would be wise to select a few books which clearly and repeatedly emphasise the need for us to turn our mind inwards and drown it in the source from which it has risen,and that thereby enkindle and sustain our enthusiasm to practise the art of vigilantly self-attentive and therefore thought-free being.

Thus our interactions with other people are a good opportunity for us to recognise such bad qualities in ourself, and to resist the sway that they hold over us by applying the vairagya or ‘holy indifference’ that we are gradually cultivating through our practice of self-attentive being. Therefore in the last two paragraphs of Nan Yar? Sri Ramana gives us some valuable tips regarding the inward attitude with which we should interact with other people and conduct ourself in this world. In the nineteenth paragraph he says: There are not two [classes of] minds, namely a good [class of] mind and a bad [class of] mind. Only vasanas [impulsions or latent desires] are of two kinds, namely subha [good or agreeable] and asubha [bad or disagreeable]. When [a person’s] mind is under the sway of subha-vasanas [agreeable impulsions] it is said to be a good mind, and when it is under the sway of asubha-vasanas [disagreeable impulsions] a bad mind. However bad other people may appear to be, disliking them is not proper [or appropriate]. Likes and dislikes are both fit [for us] to dislike [or to renounce]. It is not proper [for us] to let [our] mind [dwell] much on worldly matters. It is not proper [for us] to enter in the affairs of other people [an idiomatic way of saying that we should mind our own business and not interfere in other people’s affairs]. All that one gives to others one is giving only to oneself. If [everyone] knew this truth, who indeed would refrain from giving?

All our selfish attitudes, feelings, emotions, reactions and behaviours, such as our possessiveness, greed, lust, anger, jealousy,pride and egoism, are rooted in our likes and dislikes. Therefore to the extent to which we are able to free ourself from our likes and dislikes, we will accordingly free ourself from all forms of selfishness and from all the disagreeable feelings and emotions that they arouse in us. Since our interactions with other people tend to bring to the surface of our mind all our deep-rooted likes and dislikes, they are God-given opportunities for us not only to identify our likes and dislikes but also to curb them.

Therefore, to avoid contributing to the sufferings of others, the most essential thing that we must do is to root all selfishness and greed out of our own mind,and we can do this effectively only by turning our mind inwards to drown it in our own self-conscious being, which is the source from which it rises together with all its selfishness and greed.

Moreover, in the final analysis, this world and all the sufferings that we see in it are created by our own power of imagination and exist only in our own mind, just as the world and the sufferings that we see in a dream are. If we feel compassion on seeing the sufferings of other people and animals in our dream, and if we wish to alleviate all such suffering, all we need do is to wake up from that dream.
Likewise, if we truly wish to put an end to all the sufferings that we see in this world, we must strive to wake up from this dream that we mistake to be our waking life, into the true waking state of perfectly non-dual self-knowledge, by tenaciously practising the art of selfattentive being.

Moreover, not only was he equally kind to and caring about individual animals of every species, but he also showed his strong disapproval whenever any person treated unkindly or caused any harm to any animal. He would not tolerate or allow people to kill even poisonous animals such as snakes and scorpions, and he pointed out that our fear of such animals is caused only by our attachment to our own bodies. He said that just as we cherish our life in our present body, so every other creature equally cherishes their life in their present body, and hence we have no right to deprive any creature of its cherished life, or to cause it harm or suffering of any kind whatsoever.

However, our love, compassion and concern for other people and animals should not lead us to believe that we can do any great good in this world, or that this world needs us to reform it. Whenever any person told Sri Ramana that he had an ambition to reform the world in some way or to do any other such ‘good’, he would say, “He who has created this world knows how to take care of it. If you believe in God, trust him to do whatever is necessary for this world”. On many occasions and in many ways, Sri Ramana made it clear that our duty is not to reform the world but only to reform ourself.

Sri Ramana says in the nineteenth paragraph of Nan Yar?:

… It is not proper [for us] to let [our] mind [dwell] much on worldly matters. It is not proper [for us] to enter [or interfere] in the affairs of other people…

Source: Happiness and The Art of Being Book
which is a layman’s introduction to the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana By Michael James
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