Self-Atma: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
"That state which transcends speech and thought is mouna (silence). That which is, is mouna. How can mouna be explained in words? Sages say that the state in which the thought “I" (the ego) does not rise even in the least, alone is Self (swarupa) which is silence (mouna). That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the jiva (individual soul). Self alone is this ancient world. All other kinds of knowledge are only petty and trivial knowledge; the experience of silence alone is the real and perfect knowledge. Know that the many objective differences are not real but are mere superimpositions on Self, which is the form of true knowledge." - Ramana Maharshi
Q: What is Reality?
Ramana Maharshi: Reality must be always real. It is not with forms and names. That which underlies these is the Reality. It underlies limitations, being itself limitless. It is not bound. It underlies unrealities, itself being real. Reality is that which is. It is as it is. It transcends speech. It is beyond the expressions 'existence, non-existence', etc. The reality which is the mere consciousness that remains when ignorance is destroyed along with knowledge of objects, alone is the Self (Atma). In that Brahma-swarupa (real form of Brahman), which is abundant Self-awareness, there is not the least ignorance. The reality which shines fully, without misery and without a body, not only when the world is known but also when the world is not known, is your real form (nija-swarupa). The radiance of consciousness-bliss, in the form of one awareness shining equally within and without, is the supreme and blissful primal reality. Its form is silence and it is declared by jnanis (the Self-realised) to be the final and unobstructable state of true knowledge (jnana). Know that jnana alone is non-attachment; jnana alone is purity; jnana is the attainment of God; jnana which is devoid of forgetfulness of Self alone is immortality; jnana alone is everything.
Q: What is this awareness and how can one obtain and cultivate it?
Ramana: You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it. All that you have to do is to give up being aware of other things, that is of the not-self. If one gives up being aware of them then pure awareness alone remains, and that is the Self.
Q: If the Self is itself aware, why am I not aware of it even now?
Ramana: There is no duality. Your present knowledge is due to the ego and is only relative. Relative knowledge requires a subject and an object, whereas the awareness of the Self is absolute and requires no object. Remembrance also is similarly relative, requiring an object to be remembered and a subject to remember. When there is no duality, who is to remember whom? The Self is ever present. Each one wants to know the Self. What kind of help does one require to know oneself? People want to see the Self as something new. But it is eternal and remains the same all along. They desire to see it as a blazing light etc. How can it be so? It is not light, not darkness. It is only as it is. It cannot be defined. The best definition is 'I am that I am'. The Srutis (scriptures) speak of the Self as being the size of one's thumb, the tip of the hair, an electric spark, vast, subtler than the subtlest, etc. These descriptions have no foundation in fact. It is only being, but different from the real and the unreal; it is knowledge, but different from knowledge and ignorance. How can it be defined at all? It is simply being.
Q: When a man realises the Self, what will he see?
Ramana: There is no seeing. Seeing is only being.
The state of Self-realisation, as we call it, is not attaining something new or reaching some goal which is far away, but simply being that which you always are and which you always have been. All that is needed is that you give up your realisation of the not-true as true. All of us are regarding as real that which is not real. We have only to give up this practice on our part. Then we shall realise the Self as the Self, in other words, 'Be the Self.' At one stage you will laugh at yourself for trying to discover the Self which is not self-evident. So, what can we say to this question? That stage transcends the seer and the seen. There is no seer there to see anything. The seer who is seeing all this now ceases to exist and the Self alone remains.
Q: How to know this by direct experience?
Ramana: If we talk of knowing the Self, there must be two selves, one a knowing self, another the self which is known, and the process of knowing. The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realised, one is that which alone is and which alone has always been. One cannot describe that state. One can only be that. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realisation, for want of a better term. How to 'realise' or make the real that which alone is real?
Q: You sometimes say the Self is silence. Why is this?
Ramana: For those who live in Self as the beauty devoid of thought, there is nothing, which should be thought of. That which should be adhered to is only the experience of silence, because in that supreme state nothing exists to be attained other than oneself.
Q: What is Mouna (silence)?
Ramana: That state which transcends speech and thought is mouna. That which is, is mouna. How can mouna be explained in words? Sages say that the state in which the thought “I" (the ego) does not rise even in the least, alone is Self (swarupa) which is silence (mouna). That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the jiva (individual soul). Self alone is this ancient world. All other kinds of knowledge are only petty and trivial knowledge; the experience of silence alone is the real and perfect knowledge. Know that the many objective differences are not real but are mere superimpositions on Self, which is the form of true knowledge.
Q: As the bodies and the selves animating them are everywhere actually observed to be innumerable how can it be said that the Self is only one?
Ramana: If the idea 'I am the body' is accepted, the selves are multiple. The state in which this idea vanishes is the Self since in that state there are no other objects. It is for this reason that the Self is regarded as one only. Since the body itself does not exist in the natural outlook of the real Self, but only in the extroverted outlook of the mind which is deluded by the power of illusion, to call Self, the space of consciousness, Dehi (the possessor of the body) is wrong. The world does not exist without the body, the body never exists without the mind, the mind never exists without consciousness, and consciousness never exists without the Reality. For the wise one who has known Self by diving within himself, there is nothing other than Self to be known. Why? Because since the ego, which identifies the form of a body as “I" has perished, he (the wise one) is the formless existence - consciousness. The jnani (one who has realized the Self) knows he is the Self and that nothing, neither his body nor anything else, exists but the Self. To such a one what difference could the presence or absence of a body make? It is false to speak of realization. What is there to realize? The Real is as it always is. We are not creating anything new, or achieving something, which we did not have before. The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or the well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth, which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long Samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.
Q: But how to do this and attain liberation?
Ramana: Liberation is our very nature. We are that. The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is to get rid of the false notion that we are bound. When we achieve that, there will be no desire or thought of any sort. So long as one desires liberation, so long, you may take it, one is in bondage.
Q: For one who has realized his Self, it is said that he will not have the three states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Is that a fact?
Ramana: What makes you say that they do not have the three states? In saying, 'I had a dream; I was in deep sleep; I am awake', you must admit that you were there in all three states. That makes it clear that you were there all the time. If you remain as you are now, you are in the wakeful state; this becomes hidden in the dream state; and the dream state disappears when you are in deep sleep. You were there then, you are there now, and you are there at all times. The three states come and go, but you are always there. It is like a cinema. The screen is always there but several types of pictures appear on the screen and then disappear. Nothing sticks to the screen, it remains a screen. Similarly, you remain your own Self in all the three states. If you know that, the three states will not trouble you, just as the pictures which appear on the screen do not stick to it. On the screen, you sometimes see a huge ocean with endless waves; that disappears. Another time, you see fire spreading all around; that too disappears. The screen is there on both occasions. Did the screen get wet with the water or was it burnt by fire? Nothing affected the screen. In the same way, the things that happen during the wakeful, dream and sleep states do not affect you at all; you remain your own Self.
Q: Brahman (the Supreme Reality) is said to be sat-chit-ananda. What does that mean?
Ramana: Yes. That is so. That which is, in only Sat. That is called Brahman. The luster of Sat is Chit and its nature is Ananda. These are not different from Sat. All the three together are known as Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Q: As the Self is existence (Sat) and consciousness (Chit) what is the reason for describing it as different from the existent and the non-existent, the sentient and the insentient?
Maharshi: Although the Self is real, as it comprises everything, it does not give room for questions involving duality about its reality or unreality. Therefore it is said to be different from the real and the unreal. Similarly, even though it is consciousness, since there is nothing for it to know or to make itself known to, it is said to be different from the sentient and the insentient. Sat-Chit-Ananda is said to indicate that the Supreme is not asat (different from being), not achit (different from consciousness) and not an ananda (different from bliss). Because we are in the phenomenal world we speak of the Self as Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Edited by David Godman