By Paul Brunton and Munagala Venkataramaiah
Revised Edition 1996
Note to the Second Edition
The book does not purport to be a comprehensive exposition of the Maharshi's teachings, nor is it a day by day account of life or conversations with the Maharshi. Rather, it is a compendium of topics as remembered and recorded by two devotees over a limited period. Some portions of the text have appeared in other Ashram publications, but the directness and lucidity of the teachings as presented here, inspires us to publish it in this form.
To facilitate fluency of reading, the language has been revised where appropriate, while remaining true to the content's meaning. For authenticity, in cases when the Maharshi was asked the same question by different people, we have repeated the question and the Maharshi's answer, and grouped such questions together. Readers can then see for themselves how the Maharshi's response varied, depending on who was talking. As he himself said, 'Questions are asked from a certain viewpoint and given from the same.' For this reason, when the Maharshi has used the same simile or story more than once, but in a different context, this has also been repeated.
However, in publishing this collection of the Maharshi's words, we would not wish to give the impression that he spoke as copiously as the format may suggest. As Brunton was at pains to point out, the Maharshi's main teaching was in silence.
1. On Daily Life
Q: Has the body any value to the Self?
M: Yes, it is through the body's help that the Self is realized.
Q: What about diet?
M: Food affects the mind. The right food makes it more sattvic. For the practice of any yoga, vegetarianism is absolutely necessary.
Q: What about those not accustomed to a vegetarian diet?
M: Habit is only adjustment to the environment. It is the mind that matters. The fact is that the mind has been trained to think certain foods tasty. Nourishment may be obtained from vegetarian food no less than from flesh. But the realized person's mind is not influenced by the food eaten. However, get accustomed to vegetarianism gradually.
Q: How can we root out the sex idea?
M: By rooting out the false idea of the body being the Self. There is no sex in the Self. Be the real Self, then there will be no trouble with sex.
Q: What is renunciation?
M: Giving up the ego.
Q: Is it not giving up possessions?
M: The possessor too.
Q: I have committed a sexual sin.
M: Even if you have, it does not matter, so long as you do not think afterwards that you have done so. The Self is not aware of any sin and renunciation of sex is internal, not merely of the body.
3. The Practice of Meditation
Q: How can the mind be controlled?
M: There are two methods. One is to see what the mind is, then it will subside. The second is to focus on something else - the predominant idea will eliminate all others. The object is up to the individual.
It is necessary to be aware while controlling thoughts, otherwise it will lead to sleep. Awareness is the chief factor, as indicated by the emphasis on pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, even after pranayama. Pranayama makes the mind steady and suppresses thoughts. Why is this not enough? Because awareness then is the one necessary factor. Such states are imitated by taking morphine, chloroform etc, but they do not lead to liberation.
Meditation is one approach that will drive away other thoughts. The one thought of God will dominate others. That is concentration. The object of meditation is thus the same as that of vichara.
Q: What is the difference between meditation and Self-enquiry?
M: Meditation is possible only if the ego is retained; there is the ego and the object meditated upon. This method is indirect. However, if we seek the ego-source, the ego disappears and what remains is the Self. This method is the direct one.
Q: (On another occasion) What is the difference between meditation and vichara?
M: Meditation can be upon an object, external or otherwise. Thus subject and object differ. In vichara, both subject and object are the same - the Self.
5. The Mind
Q: How can the mind be made to go?
M: No attempt should be made to destroy it. To think or wish is in itself a thought. If the thinker is sought, the thoughts will disappear.
Q: Will they disappear by themselves? It seems so difficult.
M: They will disappear because they are unreal. The idea of difficulty is itself an obstacle to realization. It must be overcome. To remain as the Self is not difficult. This thought of difficulty is the chief obstacle. A little practice in discovering the source of 'I' will make you think differently. Absolute freedom from thoughts is the state conducive to such recognition of the Self. Mind is but an aggregate of thoughts.
Q: I begin to ask myself 'Who am I?' and eliminate the body as not 'I', the prana as not 'I', the mind as not 'I' and I am not able to proceed further.
M: Well, that is as far as the intellect goes. Your process is only intellectual. Indeed all the scriptures mention the process only to guide the seeker to know the truth. The truth cannot be directly pointed out, hence this intellectual process. You see, the one who eliminates all the 'not-I' cannot eliminate the 'I'. To say 'I am not this,' or 'I am that', there must be the 'I'. This 'I' is only the ego or the 'I'-thought. Once the 'I'-thought has arisen, all other thoughts follow. The 'I'-thought is therefore the root-thought. If the root is eliminated all others are uprooted. Ask yourself 'Who am I?' Find its source. Then all these will vanish and the pure Self will remain. The 'I' is always there - there is always the feeling of 'I', otherwise could you deny your existence?
The reality of yourself cannot be questioned. The Self is the primal reality. The ordinary person unconsciously takes reality to be their true inner reality plus everything which has come into their consciousness as pertaining to themselves - body, etc. This they have to unlearn.
11. The Guru and Sagehood
Q: Does the guru have to have a human body?
M: Because you identify yourself with your body you ask this question. Find out if you are the body. The Bhagavad Gita says that those who cannot understand the transcendental nature of Sri Krishna are fools, deluded by ignorance. The master appears in order to dispel that ignorance. As Tayumanavar puts it, he appears to dispel a person's ignorance, just as a deer is used as a decoy to capture another deer in the jungle. The master has to appear with a body in order to eradicate our ignorance, the 'I am the body' idea.
Q: Is a teacher necessary?
M: With any kind of physical and mental training we look for a competent teacher - the same rule applies to spiritual matters.
Q: Is a guru needed for spiritual progress?
M: Yes, but the guru is within you; he is one with your own Self.
Q: Is the guru necessary?
M: Yes, the guru is necessary. He shows the road to the Self and carries a light for you. The guru sees all people as the Self. To him there are none who are ignorant; he finds no difference between them and himself.
Q: Is a guru absolutely necessary?
M: So long as duality persists in you, a guru is necessary. Take the guru to be the Self, and yourself to be the individual self. Because you identify yourself with the body you think the guru is also somebody, but you are not the body and neither is the guru. This knowledge that you are the Self and so is the guru is gained by what you call realization.
Q: How can we meet the appointed guru?
M: Intense meditation brings about the consummation. The sage's glance has a purifying effect. If you understand your own reality, the rishi's reality will be clear to you.
There is only one Master and that is the Self. The One Initiator works through all the gurus in the world, thus there is no difference between them and Him. He bestows His teaching and initiation - which is the highest - in silence.
Q: How can one identify a competent guru?
M: By the peace of mind in his presence and by the sense of respect you feel for him.
12. The Self
Q: How can the all-immanent God reside in the Heart?
M: Do we not reside in one place? Do you not say you are in your body? Similarly, God is said to reside in the Heart. The Heart is not one place. Some name is mentioned for the place of God because we think we are in the body. This kind of instruction is meant for those who can appreciate only relative knowledge. Being immanent everywhere, there is no place for God. Because we think we are in the body, we also believe that we are born. However, we do not think of the body, of God, or of a method of realization in our deep sleep. Yet in our waking state, we hold onto the body and think we are in it. Paramatman is that from which the body is born, in which it lives and unto which it revolves. We, however, think that we reside within the body, hence such instruction is given. The instruction means, 'Look within.' The Heart is not physical. Meditation should not be on the right or the left.
Meditation should be on the Self. Everyone knows 'I am'. Who is the 'I'?
It will be neither within nor without, neither on the right nor the left. 'I am,' that is all. The Heart is the centre from which everything springs. Because you now see the world, the body etc, it is said that there is a centre for them called the Heart. But when actually in it, the Heart is neither in the centre nor at the circumference as then there is nothing else.
Q: If 'I' am always here and now, why don't I feel it?
M: That's is the point! Who says that it is not felt? Does the real 'I' say it or the false 'I'? Examine it. You will find it is the wrong 'I'. The wrong 'I' is the obstruction. It has to be removed in order that the true 'I' might not be hidden.
The feeling, 'I have not realized,' is the obstruction to realization. In fact, you are already realized; there is nothing to realize. If there were, it would have to be something new, not existing so far, that would occur sometime in the future.
What has birth will also die. If realization were not eternal it would not be worth having. Therefore, what we seek is not that which must happen afresh. It is only that which is eternal and which is not known, due to obstructions, that is what we seek. Ignorance is the obstruction. Remove it, and all will be well.
The ignorance is identical with the 'I'-thought. Find its source and it will vanish. The 'I'-thought is like a spirit which is not palpable, and it rises up simultaneously with the body, flourishes on it and disappears with it. The body-consciousness is the wrong 'I'. Give it up! This is done by seeking the source of the 'I'. The body does not say 'I am'. It is you who says, 'I am the body.' Find out who this 'I' is. Seeking its source, it will vanish.
Q: What is to be our sadhana?
M: The sahaja of siddha! Sahaja is the original state so that sadhana amounts to the removal of obstacles for the realization of this abiding truth.
By repeated practice one can become accustomed to turning inwards and finding the Self. One must always and constantly make an effort, until one has permanently realized. Once the effort ceases, the state becomes natural and the Supreme takes possession of the person with an unbroken current. Until it has become permanently natural and your habitual state, know that you have not realized the Self, only glimpsed it.
The soul that realizes the Self may still be connected with a working body, senses, and mind, without identifying itself with that body.
There can be satisfaction only when you reach the source, otherwise there will be restlessness.