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Reflections On Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
By S. S. Cohen



"Now what you should do is to learn what the Self is, and then directly seek it. Do not digress in irrelevant matters, in bodies, koshas, involution and evolution, birth and death; in supersensuous sights and sounds, etc., for all these are glamorous irrelevancies which trap and seduce you away from the reality of yourself and retain you in the delusion of the senses from which you are now attempting to escape.
What is of importance is not what you perceive, think or do, but WHAT YOU ARE.'' Sense-perceptions, conceptions, sensations, actions, are mere dreams, mere pictures in the consciousness that perceives them. They rise from it, like dreams from the dreamer, distract its attention for a while and disappear in it. They change incessantly, have a beginning and an end, but he, the thinker and knower, being pure intelligence, remains ever. The knower is thus indestructible. The light of knowledge comes only from him, the subject, never from the object, the body.


What we therefore call our Self is not the body, which is born, grows and dies, which is made of innumerable non-homogeneous parts which do not think, do not seek, do not perceive and do not understand. We are the intelligent indivisible unit 'I' - life itself, - which pervades and uses the body, which sees but cannot be seen, hears but cannot be heard, smells but cannot be smelt, knows but cannot be known; for it is always a subject, never an object. And because we cannot see, hear or smell our 'I', we mistake it for the body which can be seen, heard and smelt.


Thus the self-instinct, the 'I'-sense, getting mixed up with the sense-percepts, from which none can save it but the Supreme Guide, the divine Guru.


Thus the knower, or dreamer, is alone real; the known is sheer dream. This sums up the teachings of the Srutis, and conforms to the experience of Sri Ramana Bhagavan.


To follow up the Quest till the Self is realised, is the path of Jnana, of Supreme Knowledge, of Liberation and Bliss everlasting - a path which has been viewed by the Master from every side and discussed in every detail. He has said everything that needs be said and revealed everything that needs be revealed. And whatever he has not said and revealed is scarcely worth knowing.


S. S. Cohen


Chapter 1


Happiness and Misery


9. "Soul, mind and ego are mere words. These are not real entities. Consciousness is the only truth. Its nature is Bliss. Bliss alone is - enjoyer and enjoyment both merge in it. Pleasure consists in turning and keeping the mind within; pain in sending it outward. There is only pleasure. Absence of pleasure is called pain. One's nature is pleasure - bliss.''


Note: Consciousness, Self, Being are one and the same reality. As we have already seen, the Self is blissful; we, in our nature, are bliss, but when we "rush out'', to use the metaphor of the last note, when we extrovert and take the body for ourselves, giving it a special name, we become other than ourselves - the body and its name; - then we are not bliss. We take upon ourselves the suffering which the body of Mr. So-and-so is heir to. In other words we imagine ourselves the not-Self and likewise imagine in ourselves the suffering and pain of the not-Self. Extroversion is the cause of this false imagination. Instead of looking inwardly at the pure and blissful seer of the world, we look outwardly at the misery - and - disease - laden world and at the perishable body of the seer, which we mistake for the seer himself.


"Soul, mind, ego are mere words: consciousness is the only truth.'' This is a timely reminder that we should not lose ourselves in sounds that convey no sense at all. Bhagavan is supremely practical. Nobody knows what soul or ego is, although we repeat the words mechanically, but everybody knows what awareness is, what consciousness and unconsciousness mean, for we daily see before our eyes people in an unconscious state - in sleep, swoon, or under anaesthesia. Therefore the Master uses the word consciousness for the Self and for its synonyms - soul, spirit, mind, knowledge, intelligence, and even ego, which is a misnomer for the Self.


Chapter 7




4. "How is all-immanent God said to reside in the Ether of the Heart?''


Bhagavan: "Do we not reside in one place? Do you not say that you are in your body? Similarly God is said to reside in the Heart-lotus. The Heart-lotus is not a place. Some place is mentioned as the place of God, because we think we are in the body. This kind of teaching is meant for those who can appreciate only relative knowledge. Being immanent everywhere, there is no particular place for God. The instruction means 'look within'.''


Note: That the Almighty God, who is infinite and boundless, can squeeze Himself in such a small and uncomfortable hole as the human heart, poses a tremendous problem to the sense-bound person. Bhagavan explains that the heart-lotus is not a physical place, but an apt simile made for the sake of those who "appreciate only relative knowledge,'' that is, sensuous experience. But the designation of Heart for God is not without foundation: the experience of absolute Being is felt in samadhi as pure consciousness in one's inmost being, rather, to be precise, in the heart of one's being, because it is blissful as well as being. We are all agreed that joy or any emotion is only felt in the heart - not the muscular heart, but somewhere in our being, which we locate in the chest, though not in the flesh and ribs of the chest. It is in this heart, this subtle emotional centre, that the bliss of the pure consciousness or God is felt in samadhi. This is the meaning of the saying that God is bliss and resides in the ether of the heart. If the whole universe resides in this consciousness, it follows that consciousness pervades the universe. God is thus immanent and resides in the Heart as well. And if you wish to verify it, Bhagavan exhorts you to "look within.''


Chapter 9


The Self or Reality


15. "There is no being who is not conscious and therefore who is not Siva. Not only he is Siva but also all else. Yet he thinks in sheer ignorance that he sees the universe in diverse forms. But if he sees the Self he will not be aware of his separateness from the universe. Siva is then seen as the universe. But (unfortunately) the seer does not see the background. Think of the man who sees only the cloth and not the cotton of which it is made; or the pictures and not the screen; or the letters which he reads and not the paper on which they are written. Siva is both the Being assuming the forms in the universe as well as the consciousness that sees them. That is to say Siva is the background underlying both the subject and the object - Siva is repose and Siva is action. Whatever it is said to be, it is only Consciousness, whether in repose or in action.''


Note: It is now evident that Siva is not other than the seer. The last part of this text which makes the absolute consciousness to be "in repose'' as well as "in action'' is a good answer to the doctrinaire theory that Chaitanya does not include the active senses. If it does not include them, whence then do they arise and enact a world? They answer that the senses do not exist at all - all is Maya, which implies that Maya is the creator of the senses, which is absurd. The senses are, like memory, space-sense, time-sense, etc., undeniable, for they are responsible for the appearance of an external world, whereas Maya is the name given to this appearance, this illusion. Maya is thus not the parent but the offspring of the senses. Therefore, the senses are the activity of Chaitanya, the Pure Consciousness, but, to repeat, an APPARENT activity, which displays a world that does not exist, like a dream. It is an activity which is within the consciousness, though it appears to be without it, an activity which does not affect the consciousness itself. And, being an appearance within the consciousness, it is the consciousness itself, that is, of the same nature as its substratum; for it cannot be of an alien nature, since there exists nothing but pure consciousness. Thus the world is Siva Himself. He is BEING as well as DOING - Repose as well as Action. And this will not be realised as such until Siva is first realised as BEING, because BEING is His very nature, whereas DOING is only an appearance in Him.


Unless action is understood to be a mere appearance in Being, the true nature of the object will ever remain a puzzle to the student of metaphysics. This is of fundamental importance for the proper comprehension of the relation of the perceptions to their seer, of the changeless Self to the ever-changing phenomena, of the screen, to use Bhagavan's analogy, to the pictures which move on it.


Chapter 13


Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi


9. "The Srutis speak of the Self as being of the size of the thumb, the tip of the hair, a spark, subtler than the subtle, etc., etc. They have no foundation in fact. It is only Being. It is simply Being. People desire to see it as a blazing light, etc. How can it be? It is neither light nor darkness. It is only as it is, It cannot be defined. The best definition for it is 'I am that I am'.''


Note: That settles it: we are not to take literally all the descriptions of the Self found here and there. If we do, then we will be giving form to the formless, name to the nameless, and attributes to the attributeless. All objective descriptions and comparisons of the Self are meaningless, and must stop at a point not too far away. Bhagavan does not wish to slight the Srutis, because he himself very often quotes them. What he declares is only the lack of uniformity and cohesion which almost always confounds and confuses the casual student and biased theologian who finds in them a vast field for adverse propaganda. The beginner feels himself honestly lost in what appears to be a maze of inconsistencies and exaggerations, as witness these descriptions of the Self. The Jnani knows how to tackle the Upanishads. The veteran seeker likewise skims much of their cream, according to his intuitive maturity. The others take them literally and allow their imagination to run riot, or hold to their letter tenaciously but allow the spirit to slip through their fingers.


Bhagavan is keen that we have a notion of the Self which is divested of all analogies and sensory descriptions. The Self is pure Being. To be, by its very definition, means to exist, which negates non-existence. Being therefore means eternal existence, which can be said of only an indestructible substance. But all objective things are destructible, being insentient. Therefore eternal existence can be predicted on only the be-ing which is pure sentience. This we call the Infinite Self or Supreme Consciousness which transcends all objectivity. What description or analogy can therefore fit it? Bhagavan finds a single definition which can do so, namely 'I am that I am', that is, the "undefinable Being''.


Chapter 14


The Jnani or Jivan Mukta


6. "Is there no 'I-am-the-body' idea for the Jnani? If, for instance, Sri Bhagavan is bitten by an insect, is there no sensation?


Bhagavan: "There is the sensation and there is also the 'I-am-the-body' idea. The latter is common to both the Jnani and the ajnani with this difference, that the ajnani thinks 'only the body is myself', whereas the Jnani knows 'all this is the Self' or 'all this is Brahman'; if there be pain, let it be. It is also part of the Self. The Self is perfect''.


"Now with regard to the actions of the Jnanis, they are only so called because they are ineffective. Generally the actions get embedded as samskaras (impressions) in the individual. That can be only so long as the mind is fertile, as is the case of the ajnani. With a Jnani the mind is only surmised; he has already transcended the mind. Because of his apparent activity the mind has to be inferred in his case, and that mind is not fertile like that of an ajnani. Hence it is said that the Jnani's mind is Brahman. Brahman is certainly no other than the Jnani's mind. Vasanas cannot bear fruit in that soil, His mind is barren, free from the vasanas, etc.


"However, since prarabdha is conceded in his case, vasanas also must be supposed to exist. But they are only vasanas for enjoyment, leaving no impressions to be the seeds for future karma.''


Note: In this text we have a full view of the Jnani's state: in pains, in action, in the working out of an old, and the generation of a new, karma, etc. It all amounts to this; his perceptions of pain and pleasure and of the world are exactly like those of the ajnani, as we have discussed in Note 45 of the last chapter. He sees other bodies and his own exactly as others see them, but, unlike others, he knows the truth about them. A peasant who, for the first time goes to a cinema-show and sees fierce fire raging on the screen, starts screaming and tries to run out of the theatre, taking the fire to be real; whereas the others sit back in their chairs unconcerned. This is the exact difference between the Jnani and the ajnani in their perceptions. Both see the very same sights, yet their knowledge of them vastly differs.


As for the actions of Jnani they are equally productive - often even more so - as those of the ajnani (the word 'ineffective' in the text is likely to be misrepresented as qualifying actions, whereas it qualifies the production of samskaras, but they are without vasanas, although they appear as if they were. They resemble Coleridge's wonderful pen picture of "a painted ship on a painted ocean'', though ship and ocean are real. The actual ship is there, the actual ocean is also there, but there is no movement in either on account of the curse. The same are the vasanas of the Jnani which leave no impressions on his mind. The driving force in an action which produces Karma is its motive, which is absent in the Jnani's; hence there is no creation of a new karma for him. The actor is there, the action is also there, but the driving force of the action is, in his case, automatic, being impersonal, vasana free. The Srutis compare it to the fried seed which can no longer sprout. That is why the action of the Jnani is viewed as inaction. The Jnani appears to act, and efficiently too, but he is not acting at all. This is the significance of inaction in action and action in inaction. The motiveless mind is Brahman Itself. This is one of the most revealing statements of Bhagavan.


Back to - Compilations and Expositions of Bhagavan's Writings

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