The following article has been added to the website for the benefit of devotees who find it difficult to understand the process of self-enquiry. It was written by someone who is and wishes to remain anonymous.
Self Enquiry - The method and its fruit
Throughout his life at Arunachala, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi not only recommended but also taught the path of Self-enquiry to ardent devotees.
This teaching by word, example and by the granting of silent inner experience to those who were fit and ready for it, exemplified his supreme state; a state that few have ever attained.
Some of those who received this highest upadesa have chosen to write about it and to describe their experience, but most have remained silent, not wishing to reveal themselves; none however have tried to step into his shoes, because only the genuinely self-realised can understand the supreme and unequalled nature of his attainment – what He really was and is.
The steps to this attainment were clearly laid out by Bhagavan in words and by inner experience for some, and here it is important to understand that the mere experience of Self-realisation is not the finality, apart from exceptional cases like that of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. For the majority it is only the beginning of arduous tapas and sadhana to make the experience permanent.
The purpose of this article is to bring together Bhagavan’s direct teaching on the method of self-enquiry, culled from several books and to detail the experiences that can follow it.
First and foremost Bhagavan stated that self-enquiry should be performed with the same intensity as that of a drowning man struggling for air, only then can it succeed.
Self-enquiry is holding on to the awareness of being that ‘you already are’. There is only one awareness, the one who is reading this article is the ego and the Self all in one, but the ego is the apparition covering the pure Self and that has to die to the real Self in order that self-realisation can take place. This is a mystery at first, but once accomplished it is very clearly understood.
Bhagavan often made the comparison of the actor in a Play - during the Play the actor assumes a completely different role, yet retains his true nature and combines the two. A good actor truly believes he is the role that he is playing, but after it is finished he discards the role and reverts to his original nature. In our case we have forgotten who we are and believe that our role is the reality. Just as the actor is not two Beings, not two ‘I’s’, nor are we two ‘I’s’. It really is that simple. However, our ingrained belief that the role we play is in fact the Reality is so strong, that it requires intense and prolonged effort to remove it.
To do this you must concentrate totally upon the awareness of ‘you’, without thought of any kind, or try to catch the ‘I-thought’ as it rises from within and then hold on to that firmly to the exclusion of all else.
The ‘I’ thought that you have to catch is a tangible and distinct force that rises from within the apparition created by the ego. It is this force that sustains the apparition and gives it life, just as the actor gives life to his part in the play through his own personality. There is however an acute difference. The pure ‘I’ thought is devoid of personality as we normally understand it – it just IS. This process requires intense, unbroken concentration, and in the majority of cases takes many years of hard effort and should be carried out, if possible, with eyes open. This does not involve physical or emotional strain of any kind, and strain should always be avoided.
When successful, awareness withdraws from the body into the crown of the head – this is usually very fast and experienced as receding from the feet upwards. At this point the breath becomes automatically controlled separate from that awareness of ‘being’ and it might even stop altogether. Even in this minor stage there is no concern whether the breath stops or not, because the body is already perceived as a heavy, cold and totally lifeless thing, not ‘you’, but something alien to you, a burden that you do not want. The awareness focussed in the crown of the head is however pristine in clarity and thought is suspended. This expansion of consciousness though devoid of bodily attachment is still the dark ego/mind complex.
At this point and in all of the following experiences the attention should be carefully, but powerfully turned towards the witness of all of this, with an intense thought-free longing to know who it is that sees it. The focus of attention will now move to the nape of the neck and then after further enquiry to the middle of the spine above the solar plexus, but the body and outer world are still apparent, though dreamlike.
Once again attention must be turned back to the one who witnesses all of this and it is at this point that a full expansion of consciousness takes place and the awareness moves to the so-called heart-centre, which is NOT within the body. This heart-centre is the seat of dark ignorance, the point from which the ego rises. The body, world and everything else has now vanished, to be replaced by a perception of vast energy proceeding forth to give rise to the universe. This energy is perceived as darkness, a profound ignorance covering the light of Pure Being, but is arising from ‘you’, the witness, and it is to that source that the attention has to be turned and the enquiry continued. This is the point reached by those who experience the stars and the universe withdrawing into them, it is not the finality, not self-realisation, merely one more illusion, but a very powerful one.
When attention is once more silently focussed on the one who witnesses all of this, the final stage of the enquiry takes place. The transition through the knot of ignorance at the heart-centre is accomplished and the purity of the unlimited deathless Self is known. Yet even here at the fifth stage of the quest the mind remains potential. The light of pure consciousness is perceived, but it is still only ‘perceived’. This is NOT self-realisation, but a very seductive state to remain in for those who seek the finality.
Only when this final stage is transcended is Self-realisation complete. This cannot be accomplished by the same enquiry as the previous steps, but only by complete surrender, the total dissolution of the mind into the ‘being-consciousness-bliss’ of the One Reality. This is in fact the most difficult, yet the easiest of all; how it is accomplished can be understood only when it is reached.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi remained permanently in the Supreme State. It is the state of Supreme Solitude, where death is an impossibility, where time and timelessness are one, where a billion years and a fraction of a second are the same, where immeasurable energy and absolute stillness are one, where difference is impossible and bliss alone is. Where light brighter than a billion suns pervades all, yet pervades nothing, where awareness of Being, beyond measure, pristine and unchangeable is known as you! This is the supreme state … your true state! It is not a void, but is immeasurably full, it is pure awareness, pure Being, perfect bliss, without beginning, middle or end. You are all of That and more!
To overcome the cycle of birth and death this latter state has to become permanent, and nothing less should be accepted by the true seeker.
Bhagavan’s death experience is a clear pointer to the method of enquiry, but the English version published so far is a far cry from the reality of it. Krishna Bhikshu continuously verified the accurate version with Bhagavan over many years (in Telugu) and nowhere in that version is it mentioned that Bhagavan mimicked a corpse. Below is the version from the English translation of Ramana Leela:
“Venkataraman was lying down upstairs. Nobody else was present. Suddenly for no reason, Venkataraman felt ‘I will die’, ‘I am dying’. There is no reason for so feeling, I do not feel any condition due to fear. There was no thought to consult elders or doctors.
What is death? How to escape it? This is the predominant problem, no other thought. It has to be solved this instant.
In death the legs become stiff. The lips tighten the eyes close. The breath ceases. Thus the feelings came upon strongly. My legs too have become stiff, lips tightly closed, eyes have closed, the breath stopped.
Yes, without losing consciousness everything is clearly intuited (the outgoing senses have disappeared with the senses getting established inwardly).
In spite of the death of the body, the ‘I consciousness’ remains. The intuition of the personality clearly remains. When the body is cremated and turned to ashes, ‘I’ will not be destroyed. Because ‘I’ am not the body.
Now the body is insentient without intelligence. But ‘I’ am endowed with intelligence. Therefore, death is for the insentient body. ‘I’ am the deathless, conscious Self.
When there are no bodily activities connected with indriyas, the realization that ensues is not indriya generated. That ‘I’ intuition is direct and self luminous. It is not subject to inference. The Self after death is ever-new true Self.
Thus this new realisation dawned upon Venkataraman in an instant.”
From 'Letters from Sri Ramanasramam'
Bhagavan said, “In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realised that it was that awareness that we call ‘I’, and not the body. This Self-awareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous. Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realised on that very day so clearly that that was ‘I’.”
From Sat Darshana Bashya
THE MUKTA AND THE SIDDHIS
D. - I have done. But one doubt more.
M. - What is it?
D. - You said ‘Heart’ is the one centre for the ego-self, for the Real Self, for the Lord, for all ...
M. - Yes, the Heart is the centre of the Real. But the ego is impermanent. Like everything else it is supported by the Heart centre. But the character of the ego is a link between spirit and matter; it is a knot (granthi), the knot of radical ignorance in which one is steeped. This granthi is there in the ‘Hrit’, the Heart. When this knot is cut asunder by proper means you find that this is the Self’s centre.
D. - You said there is a passage from this centre to Sahasrara.
M. - Yes. It is closed in the man in bondage; in the man in whom the ego-knot, the Hridayagranthi, is cut asunder, a force-current called Amrita Nadi rises and goes up to the Sahasrara, the crown of the head.
D. - Is this the Sushumna?
M. - No. This is the passage of liberation (Moksha.) This is called Atmanadi, Brahmanadi or Amrita Nadi. This is the Nadi that is referred to in the Upanishads.
When this passage is open, you have no moha, no ignorance. You know the Truth even when you talk, think or do anything, dealing with men and things.
D. - Hearing all this I am puzzled. I do not know how one can get such great experiences by simply bearing in mind the sayings “See the Seer”, “know thyself,” “I am Brahman”, etc.
M. - It is difficult indeed, but not impossible once you are earnest about it......
That is why they say you must have the touch of Grace. The influence of Jnanin steals into you in silence, He need not talk.
Bhagavan does not detail the transitional states in any book or publication that I know of, but there are hints here and there. If He ever gave precise instruction to any devotee by word of mouth then it has not been recorded.
The steps laid out above are the experiences that accompany effort, the course that most of us have to follow. Bhagavan’s Realisation was instantaneous and did not necessarily pass through those stages, though it is quite clear from careful reading of everything He said, that He was fully aware of them.
There are many other types of experience possible, but they are only minor experiences, with the exception of one. Mystics have recorded bliss arising from within and embracing them in an ocean of love, silencing the mind, a transitory experience lasting for hours, days or even weeks.
In this state, happiness beyond all description overwhelms everything. The world is still clearly seen, but the body is perceived as something separate, almost intangible, dreamlike. There is no desire because thought is almost impossible, yet the normal functioning of the individual continues. Discrimination between you and everything else is no longer possible, even though it is seen as separate through the senses – this non-difference is not a thought, not an impression, but a fact.
This state is identical to that of the Jnani acting His part in the world. It is the state experienced through complete surrender to the Self Supreme. Here there are no stages of effort, only the finality itself, but transitory, except in the rarest of cases; transitory because the one experiencing it simply enjoys it in the body and does not dive within to make it permanent.
Whoever attains this state completely, knows that the body is a useless object, a burden to be carried until the time arrives when it can be dropped, never to rise again. He is eternally free from desire of any kind and therefore has no motive. He sees all as only Himself and acts accordingly. He becomes the servant of all, never placing Himself first, but is always last. He avoids any special treatment and never inflicts suffering upon others. He knows that all before Him is only Himself. For Him there are no others and is therefore the very source of all charity and consideration. He is love incarnate, all giving, never taking.
Everything that He does or says arises from deep within. It is Parabrahman that speaks through His words and acts through His body. He is the Supreme Itself, the only true Brahmin, beyond body and mind, yet using both like the craftsman uses his tools.
Do not limit Bhagavan (Parabrahman) to the body, but find Him in your heart, because He is already there waiting for you.
Everything that you need to know is written above, it is based upon my own experience and presented here for the benefit of sincere seekers, so that those who know only empty words will not misguide them. Mukti is not a free gift, make the effort and succeed!
I pray to my Supreme Master, who through His grace and benevolence revealed to me, his unworthy devotee, the Supreme Truth in all its glory. May His grace be showered upon those who practice the highest Truth with faith and sincerity.