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The following explanation of the 'Talks' is from S.S. Cohen from his book Reflections on Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
The Talks are a record in the form of diary of some of the conversations which the visitors and disciples have had with the Master on Spiritual matters for almost exactly four years - April 1935 to May 1939. In those years it used to called "The Journal". Roughly half of this period it used to be written in the Darshan Hall itself by the diarist, or recorder, Sri M. Venkataramiah, the late Swami Ramanananda Saraswati at the end of each particular conversation at which he was present. Sri Bhagavan scarcely ever answered in English, but invariable in Tamil, which very often the diarist himself translated into English to the questioner in the hearing of the whole audience. But questions in Telugu and Malaayalam, Bhagavan answered in the same languages, and the answers in the latter language may be said to have been lost to the diarist, who did not understand Malayalam.
Therefore the language of this diary is of the recorder, more often it is a paraphrase of the Master's answers, occasionally His very words, rendered into English, for it is impossible to write down afterwards all He had said, or to kep pace with Him even if the answers were to be taken down vertabium on the spot.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Three Volumes in One

Munagala Venkatramiah

Eighth Edition , 1989

University of Madras
August 11th, 1958

Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan


"Sri Bhagavan always stressed the one essential truth that was necessary for Liberation, that there is only one Self and nothing but the Self. Know that and everything else is known. This cannot be repeated too often. You are the Self, he tell us, nothing but the Self, anything else is just imagination, so BE the Self here and now. There is no need to run off to a forest or shut oneself in room; carry on with your essential activities but free yourself from association with the doer of them. Self is the witness, you are That.

Example after example is given in these talks, in language to suit all tastes and mentalities. The reading of the book automatically drives one inward to the source. It is itself a sufficient Sadhana. Do not delude yourself, you are already That, there is nothing more to be obtained, only false association to be shed, limitation to be recognised as illusory.

What more is there to say, but to advise one and all to read this book and try to make it a part of themselves? Not one word to be passed over lightly, or one conversation to be dismissed as superfluous.''

Sri Ramanasramam,
1st January, 1955.

Sadhu Arunachala
Major A. W. Chadwick, O.B.E.

9th November, 1935

93. All are aware of their own Self only. Wonder of wonders! They take what is not as what is, or they see the phenomena apart from the Self. Only so long as there is the knower is there knowledge of all kinds ( direct, inferential, intellectual etc. ); should the knower vanish they all vanish together with him; their validity is of the same degree as his.

6th January, 1935

12. A man asked the Maharshi to say something to him. When asked what he wanted to know, he said that he knew nothing and wanted to hear something from the Maharshi.

M.: You know that you know nothing. Find out that knowledge. That is liberation (mukti).

22nd September, 1936

41. D.: What is that one thing, knowing which all doubts are solved?

M.: Know the doubter. If the doubter is held, the doubts will not arise. Here the doubter is transcendent. Again when the doubter ceases to exist, there will be no doubts arising. From where will they arise? All are jnanis, jivanmuktas. Only they are not aware of the fact. Doubts must be uprooted. This means that the doubter must be uprooted. Here the doubter is the mind.

D.: What is the method?

M.: 'Who am I? is the investigation.

D.: May we perform japa?

M.: Why should you think I am this? Investigate and the thoughts cease. What is, namely the Self, will be revealed as the inescapable residue.

D.: Is hatha Yoga necessary?

M.: It is one of the aids --- not that it is always necessary. It depends upon the person. Vichara surpasses pranayama. In "Yoga Vasistha'' Chudala advises investigation (vichara) to Sikhidvaja for killing the ego.

Reality can be reached by holding on to prana or intellect. Hatha Yoga is the former; Vichara is the latter.

D.: Is there any individuality for the jnani after Realisation?

M.: How can he retain individuality?

Even ordinarily the elders advise achamana and pranamaya before undertaking any work --- be it worldly or other-worldly. That means, concentration of mind accomplishes the work.

D.: I meditate neti-neti (not this - not this).

M.: No-that is not meditation. Find the source. You must reach the source without fail. The false 'I' will disappear and the real 'I' will be realised. The former cannot exist apart from the latter.

28th March, 1935

43. Mr. Raghaviah: How shall we co-relate the higher experience with the lower experience (meaning spiritual experience with mundane affairs)?

M.: There is only one experience. What are the worldly experiences but those built up on the false 'I'? Ask the most successful man of the world if he knows his Self. He will say "No''. What can any one know without knowing the Self? All worldly knowledge is built upon such a flimsy foundation.

Mr. Ramamurthi: How to know the 'Real I' as distinct from the 'false I'.

M.: Is there any one who is not aware of himself? Each one knows, but yet does not know, the Self. A strange paradox.

The Master added later, "If the enquiry is made whether mind exists, it will be found that mind does not exist. That is control of mind. Otherwise, if the mind is taken to exist and one seeks to control it, it amounts to mind controlling the mind, just like a thief turning out to be a policeman to catch the thief. i.e., himself. Mind persists in that way alone, but eludes itself.''

9th June 1936

197. Gul and Shirin Byramjee, two Parsi ladies of Ahmedabad, arrived this day. They spoke at night to Maharshi: "Bhagavan! We have been spiritually inclined from our childhood. We have read several books on philosophy and are attracted by Vedanta. So we read the Upanishads, Yoga Vasishta, Bhagavad Gita etc. We try to meditate, but there is no progress in our meditation. We do not understand how to realise. Can you kindly help us towards realisation?''

M.: How do you meditate?

D.: I begin to ask myself "Who am I?'', eliminate body as not 'I', the breath as not 'I', the mind as not 'I' and I am not able to proceed further.

M.: Well, that is so 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. After the rising up of this 'I'-thought all other thoughts arise. The 'I'-thought is therefore the root-thought. If the root is pulled out all others are at the same time uprooted. Therefore seek the root 'I', question yourself "Who am I?''; find out its source. Then all these will vanish and the pure Self will remain ever.

D.: How to do it?

M.: The 'I' is always there - in deep sleep, in dream and in wakefulness. The one in sleep is the same as that who now speaks. There is always the feeling of 'I'. Otherwise do you deny your existence? You do not. You say 'I am'. Find out who is.

D.: Even so, I do not understand. 'I', you say, is the wrong 'I' now. How to eliminate this wrong 'I'?

M.: You need not eliminate the wrong 'I'. How can 'I' eliminate itself? - All that you need do is to find out its origin and abide there. Your efforts can extend only thus far. Then the Beyond will take care of itself. You are helpless there. No effort can reach it.

D.: If 'I' am always-here and now, why do I not feel so?

M.: That is it. Why says it is not felt? Does the real 'I' say it or the false 'I'? Examine it. You will find it as the wrong 'I'. The wrong 'I' is the obstruction. It has to be removed in order that the true 'I' may not be hidden. The feeling that I have not realised is the obstruction to realisation.
In fact it is already realised; there is nothing more to be realised. Otherwise, the realisation will be new; it has not existed so far, it must take place hereafter. What is born will also die. If realisation be not eternal it is not worth having. Therefore what we seek is not that which must happen afresh. It is only that which is eternal but not now known due to obstructions; it is that we seek. All that we need do is to remove the obstruction. That which is eternal is not known to be so because of ignorance. Ignorance is the obstruction. Get over this ignorance 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, although not palpable, rises up automatically with the body, flourishes and disappears with it. The body-consciousness is the wrong 'I'. Give up this body-consciousness. It is done by seeking the source 'I'. The body does not say 'I am'. It is you who say, 'I am the body!' Find out who this 'I' is. Seeking its source it will vanish.

D.: Then, will there be bliss?

M.: Bliss is coeval with Being-Consciousness. All the arguments relating to the eternal Being of that Bliss apply to Bliss also. Your nature is Bliss. Ignorance is not hiding that Bliss. Remove the ignorance for Bliss to be freed.

D.: Should we not find out the ultimate reality of the world, individual and God?

M.: These are all conceptions of the 'I'. They arise only after the advent of the 'I'-thought. Did you think of them in your deep sleep? You existed in deep sleep and the same you are now speaking. If they be real should they not be in your sleep also? They are only dependent upon the 'I'-thought. Again does the world tell you 'I am the world'? Does the body say 'I am body'? You say, "This is the world'', "this is body'' and so on. So these are only your conceptions. Find out who you are and there will be an end of all your doubts.

D.: What becomes of the body after realisation? Does it exist or not? We see realised beings acting like others.

M.: This question need not arise now. Let it be asked after realisation, if need be. As for the realised beings let them take care of themselves. Why do you worry about them?
In fact, after realisation the body and all else will not appear different from the Self.

D.: Being always Being-Consciousness-Bliss, why does God place us in difficulties? Why did He create us?

M.: Does God come and tell you that He has placed you in difficulties? It is you who say so. It is again the wrong 'I'. If that disappears there will be no one to say that God created this or that.
That which is does not even say 'I am'. For, does any doubt rise 'I am not'?
Only in such a case should one be reminding oneself 'I am a man'. One does not. On the other hand, if a doubt arises whether he is a cow or a buffalo he has to remind himself that he is not a cow, etc., but 'I am a man'. This would never happen. Similarly with one's own existence and realisation.

23rd January, 1937

347. The mind is a bundle of thoughts. The thoughts arise because there is the thinker. The thinker is the ego. The ego, if sought, will automatically vanish. The ego and the mind are the same. The ego is the root-thought from which all other thoughts arise.

24th January, 1939

615. Another from the group asked: How is the ego to be destroyed?

M.: Hold the ego first and then ask how it is to be destroyed. Who asks this question? It is the ego. Can the ego ever agree to kill itself? This question is a sure way to cherish the ego and not to kill it. If you seek the ego you will find it does not exist. That is the way to destroy it.

In this connection I am often reminded of a funny incident which took place when I was living in the West Chitrai Street in Madura. A neighbour in an adjoining house anticipated the visit of a thief to his house. He took precautions to catch him. He posted policemen in mufti to guard the two ends of the lane, the entrance and the back-door to his own house. The thief came as expected and the men rushed to catch him. He took in the situation at a glance and shouted "Hold him, hold him. There-he runs-there-there.'' Saying so he made good his escape.

So it is with the ego. Look for it and it will not be found. That is the way to get rid of it.

20th June, 1936

213. Mr. B. C. Das asked why the mind cannot be turned inward in spite of repeated attempts.

M.: It is done by practice and dispassion and that succeeds only gradually. The mind, having been so long a cow accustomed to graze stealthily on others' estates, is not easily confined to her stall. However much her keeper tempts her with luscious grass and fine fodder, she refuses the first time; then she takes a bit; but her innate tendency to stray away asserts itself; and she slips away; on being repeatedly tempted by the owner, she accustoms herself to the stall; finally even if let loose she would not stray away. Similarly with the mind. If once it finds its inner happiness it will not wander outward.

15th October, 1938

551. A man asked Sri Bhagavan; "How is it that Atma vidya is said to be the easiest?''

M.: Any other vidya requires a knower, knowledge and the object to be known, whereas this does not require any of them. It is the Self. Can anything be so obvious as that? Hence it is the easiest. All that you need do is to enquire, "Who am I?''

A man's true name is mukti (liberation).

1st February, 1939

620. D.: "Not this - not this''. That is the teaching to the seeker. He is told that the Self is Supreme. How is it to be found?

M.: The Self is said to be the hearer, thinker, knower, etc. But this is not all. It is also described as the ear of ear, the mind of the mind, etc.; and by what means to know the knower?

D.: But this does not say what the Self is.

M.: "Not this --- not this''

D.: It only negates.

M.: (Silence).

The devotee complains that the Self is not pointed out.

6th January, 1936

130. Lakshman Brahmachari from Sri Ramakrishna Mission asked: Enquiry of 'Who am I?' or of the 'I'-thought being itself a thought, how can it be destroyed in the process?

M.: When Sita was asked who was her husband among the rishis (Rama himself being present there as a rishi) in the forest by the wives of the rishis, she denied each one as he was pointed out to her, but simply hung down her head when Rama was pointed out. Her silence was eloquent.

Similarly, the Vedas also are eloquent in 'neti' - 'neti' (not this-not this) and then remain silent. Their silence is the Real state. This is the meaning of exposition of silence. When the source of the 'I'-thought is reached it vanishes and what remains over is the Self.

D.: Patanjali Yoga Sutras speak of identification.

M.: Identification with the Supreme is the only the other name for the destruction of the ego.

3rd January, 1937

Drops of Nectar

314. In yesterday's answers, Sri Bhagavan said that the Self is pure consciousness in deep slumber, and He also indicated the Self of the transition from sleep to the waking state as the ideal for realisation. He was requested to explain the same. Sri Bhagavan graciously answered: The Self is pure consciousness in sleep; it evolves as aham ('I') without idam ('this') in the transition stage; and manifests as aham ('I') and idam ('this') in the waking state. The individual's experience is by means of aham ('I') only. So he must aim at realisation in the way indicated (i.e., by means of the transitional 'I'). Otherwise the sleep-experience does not matter to him. If the transitional 'I' be realised the substratum is found and that leads to the goal.
Again, sleep is said to be ajnana (ignorance). That is only in relation to the wrong jnana (knowledge) prevalent in the wakeful state. The waking state is really ajnana (ignorance) and the sleep state is prajnana (full knowledge). Prajnana is Brahman, says the sruti. Brahman is eternal. The sleep-experiencer is called prajna. He is prajnanam in all the three states. Its particular significance in the sleep state is that He is full of knowledge (prajnanaghana). What is ghana? There are jnana and vijnana. Both together operate in all perceptions. Vijnana in the jagrat is viparita jnana (wrong knowledge) i.e., ajnana (ignorance). It always co-exists with the individual. When this becomes vispashta jnana (clear knowledge), It is Brahman. When wrong knowledge is totally absent, as in sleep, He remains pure prajnana only. That is Prajnanaghana.
Aitareya Upanishad says prajnana, vijnana, ajnana, samjnana are all names of Brahman. Being made up of knowledge alone how is He to be experienced? Experience is always with vijnana. Therefore the pure 'I' of the transitional stage must be held for the experience of the Prajnanaghana. The 'I' of the waking state is impure and is not useful for such experience. Hence the use of the transitional 'I' or the pure 'I'.
How is this pure 'I' to be realised? Viveka Chudamani says, Vijnana kose vilasatyajasram (He is always shining forth in the intellectual sheath, vijnana kosa). Tripura Rahasya and other works point out that the interval between two consecutive sankalpas (ideas or thoughts) represent the pure aham ('I'). Therefore holding on to the pure 'I', one should have the Prajnanaghana for aim, and there is the vritti present in the attempt. All these have their proper and respective places and at the same time lead to realisation.

Again the pure Self has been described in Viveka Chudamani to be beyond asat, i.e., different from asat. Here asat is the contaminated waking 'I'. Asadvilakshana means sat, i.e., the Self of sleep. He is also described as different from sat and asat. Both mean the same. He is also asesha sakshi (all-seeing witness).

If pure, how is He to be experienced by means of the impure 'I'? A man says, "I slept happily''. Happiness was his experience. If not, how could he speak of what he had not experienced? How did he experience happiness in sleep, if the Self was pure? Who is it that speaks of that experience now? The speaker is the vijnanatma (ignorant self) and he speaks of prajnanatma (pure self). How can that hold? Was this vijnanatma present in sleep? His present statement of the experience of happiness in sleep makes one infer his existence in sleep. How then did he remain? Surely not as in the waking state. He was there very subtle. Exceedingly subtle vijnanatma experiences the happy prajnanatma by means of maya mode. It is like the rays of the moon seen below the branches, twigs and leaves of a tree.
The subtle vijnanatma seems apparently a stranger to the obvious vijnanatma of the present moment. Why should we infer his existence in sleep? Should we not deny the experience of happiness and be done with this inference? No. The fact of the experience of happiness cannot be denied, for everyone courts sleep and prepares a nice bed for the enjoyment of sound sleep.
This brings us to the conclusion that the cogniser, cognition and the cognised are present in all the three states, though there are differences in their subtleties. In the transitional state, the aham ('I') is suddha (pure), because idam ('this') is suppressed. Aham ('I') predominates.
Why is not that pure 'I' realised even now or even remembered by us? Because of want of acquaintance (parichaya) with it. It can be recognised only if it is consciously attained. Therefore make the effort and gain consciously.

7th November, 1935

92. A visitor said: Some say that one should practice meditation on gross objects only: it may be disastrous if one constantly seeks to kill the mind.

M.: For whom is it disastrous? Can there be disaster apart from the Self?

Unbroken 'I - I' is the ocean infinite; the ego, 'I' - thought, remains only a bubble on it and is called jiva, i.e., individual soul. The bubble too is water; when it bursts it only mixes in the ocean. When it remains a bubble it is still a part of the ocean. Ignorant of this simple truth, innumerable methods under different denominations, such as yoga, bhakti, karma ......, each again with many modifications, are being taught with great skill and in intricate detail only to entice the seekers and confuse their minds. So also are the religions and sects and dogmas. What are they all for? Only for knowing the Self. They are aids and practices required for knowing the Self.

Objects perceived by the senses are spoken of as immediate knowledge (pratyaksha). Can anything be as direct as the Self - always experienced without the aid of the senses? Sense-perceptions can only be indirect knowledge, and not direct knowledge. Only one's own awareness is direct knowledge, as is the common experience of one and all. No aids are needed to know one's own Self, i.e., to be aware.

The one Infinite Unbroken Whole (plenum) becomes aware of itself as 'I'. This is its original name. All other names, e.g., OM, are later growths. Liberation is only to remain aware of the Self. The mahavakya "I am Brahman'' is its authority. Though the 'I' is always experienced, yet one's attention has to be drawn to it. Then only knowledge dawns. Thus the need for the instruction of the Upanishads and of wise sages.

18th June, 1936

205. Mr. Cohen had been cogitating on the nature of the Heart, if the 'spiritual heart' beats; if so, how; if it does not beat, then how is it to be felt?

M.: This heart is different from the physical heart; beating is the function of the latter. The former is the seat of spiritual experience. That is all that can be said of it.

Just as a dynamo supplies motive power to whole systems of lights, fans, etc, so the original Primal Force supplies energy to the beating of the heart, respiration, etc.

D.: How is the 'I' - 'I' consciousness felt?

M.: As an unbroken awareness of 'I'. It is simply consciousness.

D.: Can we know it when it dawns?

M.: Yes, as consciousness. You are that even now. There will be no mistaking it when it is pure.

D.: Why do we have such a place as the 'Heart' for meditation?

M.: Because you seek consciousness. Where can you find it? Can you reach it externally? You have to find it internally. Therefore you are directed inward. Again the 'Heart' is only the seat of consciousness or the consciousness itself.

D.: On what should we meditate?

M.: Who is the meditator? Ask the question first. Remain as the meditator. There is no need to meditate.

11th March, 1936

180. Later, the same gentleman said that sleep was a state of oblivion and the wakeful state was the mind's activity. The mind was in a potential state in sleep.

M.: Were you not in sleep?

D.: Yes, I was. But in a state of oblivion. There must be a witness of oblivion and of the mind which says that 'I' am continuous in both states.

M.: Who is this witness? You speak of 'witness'. There must be an object and a subject to witness. These are creations of the mind. The idea of witness is in the mind. If there was the witness of oblivion did he say, 'I witness oblivion'? You, with your mind, said just now that there must be a witness. Who was the witness? You must reply 'I'. Who is that 'I' again? You are identifying yourself with the ego and say 'I'. Is this ego 'I', the witness? It is the mind that speaks. It cannot be witness of itself. With self-imposed limitations you think that there is a witness of mind and of oblivion. You also say, "I am the witness''. That one who witnesses the oblivion must say, "I witness oblivion''. The present mind cannot arrogate to itself that position.

The whole position becomes thus untenable. Consciousness is unlimited. On becoming limited it simply arrogates to itself the position. There is really nothing to witness. IT is simple BEING.

15th January, 1936

137. Lakshman Brahmachari of Sri Ramakrishna Mission asked: "Can one imagine oneself as witness of the thoughts?''

M.: It is not the natural state. It is only an idea (bhavana) - an aid to stilling the mind. The Self is ever the witness, whether so imagined or not. There is no need to so imagine except for that purpose. But it is best to remain as one's Self.


23rd January, 1937

348. D.: There are times when persons and things take on a vague, almost transparent, form as in a dream. One ceases to observe them as from outside, but is passively conscious of their existence, while not actively conscious of any kind of selfhood. There is a deep quietness in the mind. Is it, at such times, ready to dive into the Self? Or is this condition unhealthy, the result of self-hypnotism? Should it be encouraged as a means of getting temporary peace.

M.: There is consciousness along with quietness in the mind; this is exactly the state to be aimed at. The fact that the question has been framed on this point, without realising that it is the Self, shows that the state is not steady but casual.

The word 'diving' is appropriate to the state of outgoing tendencies when the mind is to be diverted and turned within, so as to dive below the surface of externalities. But when deep quietness prevails without obstructing the consciousness, where is the need to dive? If the state be not realised as the Self, the effort to do so may be called 'diving'. The state may in that way be said to be suitable for realisation or 'diving'. Thus the last two questions in the paragraph are unnecessary.

5th February, 1936

155. The same man again asked about the nature of samadhi and the means to get samadhi.

M.: When the one who asks the nature of samadhi and the method of getting into it vanishes, samadhi will result.

Maj. Chadwick: It is said that one look of a Mahatma is enough; that idols, pilgrimages, etc, are not so effective. I have been here for three months, but I do not know how I have been benefited by the look of Maharshi.

M.: The look has a purifying effect. Purification cannot be visualized. Just as a piece of coal takes long to be ignited, a piece of charcoal takes a short time, and a mass of gunpowder is instantaneously ignited, so it is with grades of men coming in contact with Mahatmas.

Mr. Cohen: I get into meditation and reach a point which may be called peace and a contemplative mood. What should be the next step?

M.: Peace is Self-Realisation. Peace need not be disturbed. One should aim at Peace only.

D.: But I do not have the satisfaction.

M.: Because your peace is temporary. If made permanent it is called Realisation.

27th December, 1936

307. Mr. Shamanna from Mysore asked Sri Bhagavan: Kindly explain Aham Sphurana (the light of 'I' - 'I').

M.: 'I' is not known in sleep. On waking 'I' is perceived associated with the body, the world and the non-self in general. Such associated 'I' is aham vritti. When Aham represents the Self only it is Aham Sphurana. This is natural to the jnani and is itself called jnana by jnanis, or bhakti by bhaktas. Though ever present, including in sleep, it is not perceived. It cannot be known in sleep all at once. It must first be realised in the waking state, for it is our true nature underlying all the three states. Efforts must be made only in the jagrat state and the Self realised here and now. It will afterwards be understood and realised to be continuous Self, uninterrupted by jagrat, svapna and sushupti.
Thus it is akhandakara vritti (unbroken experience). Vritti is used for lack of a better expression. It should not be understood to be literally a vritti. In that case, vritti will resemble an 'ocean-like river', which is absurd. Vritti is of short duration; it is qualified, directed consciousness; or absolute consciousness broken up by cognition of thoughts, senses, etc. Vritti is the function of the mind, whereas the continuous consciousness transcends the mind. This is the natural, primal state of the jnani or the liberated being. That is unbroken experience. It asserts itself when relative consciousness subsides. Aham vritti ('I'-thought) is broken, Aham sphurana (the light of 'I'-'I') is unbroken, continuous. After the thoughts subside, the light shines forth.

6th July, 1935

62. Mr. Ekanatha Rao: What is sphurana (a kind of indescribable but palpable sensation in the heart centre)?

M.: Sphurana is felt on several occasions, such as in fear, excitement, etc. Although it is always and all over, yet it is felt at a particular centre and on particular occasions. It is also associated with antecedent causes and confounded with the body. Whereas, it is all alone and pure; it is the Self. If the mind be fixed on the sphurana and one senses it continuously and automatically it is liberation.

Again sphurana is the forestate of Realisation. It is pure. The subject and object proceed from it. If the man mistakes himself for the subject, objects must necessarily appear different for him. They are periodically withdrawn and projected, creating the world and the subject's enjoyment of the same. If, on the other hand, the man feels himself to be the screen on which the subject and object are projected there can be no confusion, and he can remain watching their appearance and disappearance without any perturbation to the Self.

4th February, 1939

624. A devotee asked Sri Bhagavan: With every thought the subject and the object appear and disappear. Does not the 'I' disappear when the subject disappears thus? If that be so how can the quest of the 'I' proceed?

M.: The subject (knower) is only a mode of mind. Though the mode (vritti) passes, the reality behind it does not cease. The background of the mode is the 'I' in which the mind modes arise and sink.

D:. After describing the Self as srota (hearer) manta (thinker), vijnata (knower), etc., it is again described as asrata, amanta, avijnata, non-hearer, non-thinker, non-knower. Is it so?

M.: Just so. The common man is aware of himself only when modifications arise in the intellect (vijnanamaya kosa); these modifications are transient; they arise and set. Hence the vijnanamaya (intellect) is called a kosa or sheath. When pure awareness is left over it is itself the Chit (Self) or the Supreme. To be in one's natural state on the subsidence of thoughts is bliss; if that bliss be transient - arising and setting - then it is only the sheath of bliss (Anandamaya kosa), not the pure Self. What is needed is to fix the attention on the pure 'I' after the subsidence of all thoughts and not to lose hold of it. This has to be described as an extremely subtle thought; else it cannot be spoken of at all, since it is no other than the Real Self. Who is to speak of it, to whom and how?

This is well explained in the Kaivalyam and the Vivek Chudamani. Thus though in sleep the awareness of the Self is not lost the ignorance of the jiva is not affected by it. For this ignorance to be destroyed this subtle state of mind (vrittijnanam) is necessary; in the sunshine cotton does not burn; but if the cotton be placed under a lens it catches fire and is consumed by the rays of the Sun passing through the lens. So too, though the awareness of the Self is present at all times, it is not inimical to ignorance. If by meditation the subtle state of thought is won, then ignorance is destroyed. Also in Viveka Chudamani: ativa sukshmam paramatma tattvam na sthoola drishtya (the exceedingly subtle Supreme Self cannot be seen by the gross eye) and esha svayam jyotirasesha sakshi (this is Self-shining and witnesses all).

This subtle mental state is not a modification of mind called vritti. Because the mental states are of two kinds. One is the natural state and the other is the transformation into forms of objects. The first is the truth, and the other is according to the doer (kartrutantra). When the latter perishes, jale kataka renuvat (like the clearing nut paste in water) the former will remain over.

The means for this end is meditation. Though this is with the triad of distinction (tripuri) it will finally end in pure awareness (jnanam). Meditation needs effort; jnanam is effortless. Meditation can be done, or not done, or wrongly done, jnanam is not so. Meditation is described as kartru-tantra (as doer's own), jnanam as vastu-tantra (the Supreme's own).

25th December, 1935

118. Mr. Rangachari, a Telugu Pandit in Voorhees' College at Vellore, asked about nishkama karma. There was no reply. After a time Sri Bhagavan went up the hill and a few followed him, including the pandit. There was a thorny stick lying on the way which Sri Bhagavan picked up; he sat down and began leisurely to work at it. The thorns were cut off, the knots were made smooth, the whole stick made of a spiky material. A shepherd boy put in his appearance on the way as the group moved off. He had lost his stick and was at a loss. Sri Bhagavan immediately gave the new one in his hand to the boy and passed on.

The pandit said that this was the matter-of-fact answer to his question.

15th October, 1938

535. Once 'A' asked: How can one be worshipful while engaged in daily work?

Sri Bhagavan did not reply. Ten minutes passed. A few girls came for darsan of Sri Bhagavan. They began to sing and dance. Their song was to the effect:
"We will churn the milk without losing thought of Krishna.''

Sri Bhagavan turned to the Swami and said that there was the reply to his question. This state is called Bhakti, Yoga and Karma.

22nd March, 1939

650. An Andhra gentleman of middle age asked Sri Bhagavan how he should make his japa.

M.: The japa contains the word namah. It means that state in which the mind does not manifest apart from the Self. When the state is accomplished there will be an end of the japa. For the doer disappears and so also the action. The Eternal Being is alone left. Japa should be made until that state is reached. There is no escape from the Self. The doer will be automatically drawn into it. When once it is done the man cannot do anything else but remain merged in the Self.

D.: Will bhakti lead to mukti?

M.: Bhakti is not different from mukti. Bhakti is being as the Self (Swarupa).
One is always that. He realises it by the means he adopts. What is bhakti? To think of God. That means: only one thought prevails to the exclusion of all other thoughts. That thought is of God which is the Self or it is the Self surrendered into God. When He has taken you up nothing will assail you. The absence of thoughts is bhakti. It is also mukti.

The jnana method is said to be vichara (enquiry). That is nothing but 'supreme devotion' (parabhakti). The difference is in words only.

You think that bhakti is meditation on the Supreme Being. So long as there is vibhakti (the sense of separateness), bhakti (reunion) is sought. The process will lead to the ultimate goal as is said in Srimad Bhagavad Gita:

arto jignasush artharthi jnani cha Bharatarshabha
tesham jnani nityayukta ekabhaktir visishyate
* Ch. VII (16,17)

Any kind of meditation is good. But if the sense of separateness is lost and the object of meditation or the subject who meditates is alone left behind without anything else to know, it is jnana. Jnana is said to be ekabhakti (single-minded devotion). The jnani is the finality because he has become the Self and there is nothing wrong to do. He is also perfect and so fearless, dwitiyat val bhayam bhavati - only the existence of a second gives rise to fear. That is mukti. It is also bhakti.

3rd October, 1938

526. A visitor asked Sri Bhagavan:

People give some names to God and say that the name is sacred and repetitions of the name bestow merit on the individual. Can it be true?

M.: Why not? You bear a name to which you answer. But your body was not born with that name written on it, nor did it say to any one that it bore such and such a name. Any yet a name is given to you and you answer to that name, because you have identified yourself with the name. Therefore the name signifies something and it is not a mere fiction. Similarly, God's name is effective. Repetition of the name is remembrance of what it signifies. Hence the merit.

But the man did not look satisfied. Finally he wanted to retire and prayed for Sri Bhagavan's Grace.

Sri Bhagavan now asked how mere sounds assuring him of Grace would satisfy him unless he has faith .

Both laughed and the visitor retired.

6th April, 1937

391. The same sanyasi visitor, Swami Lokesananda, asked about Samadhi.

M.: (1) Holding on to Reality is Samadhi.
(2) Holding on to Reality with effort is savikalpa samadhi.
(3) Merging in Reality and remaining unaware of the world is nirvikalpa samadhi.
(4) Merging in Ignorance and remaining unaware of the world is sleep (Head bends, but not in samadhi).
(5) Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi.

They can be further subdivided thus:

Savikalpa Samadhi
Nirvikalpa Samadhi
(Bahya) External
(Antar) Internal
(Bahya) External
(Antar) Internal

The mind jumps from one object to another. Keep it steady, fixed on the Reality behind them.

The mind is afflicted by kama, krodha, etc. See wherefrom they arise and how they have their being. Hold on to their source.

Merging in the one Reality underlying all the phenomena and remaining un aware of the transitory manifestations.

Merging in the Inmost Being which is the One Reality giving rise to all thoughts, etc., and remaining unware of anything else.


There are the external phenomena which are said to have their origin from the Single Reality. Search for it and hold on to it.

There are all manner of thoughts which rise up from the Reality within and manifest themselves. Hold on to that Reality.

This state is compared to the waveless ocean whose waters are still and placid.

This state is compared to a flame unagitated by currents of air, but burning quite steady.

All these four kinds of savikalpa samadhi are attended with effort.

When these kinds of nirvikalpa samadhi are not attended with effort and it is realised that the waveless ocean of external samadhi and the steady flames of internal samadhi are identical, the state is said to be sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi.

15th October, 1938

543. Many visitors came on one occasion and they all saluted Sri Bhagavan with the single prayer, "Make me a bhakta. Give me moksha.'' After they left Sri Bhagavan said, thinking aloud: All of them want bhakti and moksha. If I say to them, 'Give yourself to me' they will not. How then can they get what they want?

10th June, 1936

198. D.: What is Guru's Grace? How does it work?

M.: Guru is the Self.

D.: How does it lead to realisation?

M.: Isvaro gururatmeti ........ (God is the same as Guru and Self ...........). A person begins with dissatisfaction. Not content with the world he seeks satisfaction of desires by prayers to God; his mind is purified; he longs to know God more than to satisfy his carnal desires. Then God's Grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee; teaches him the Truth; purifies the mind by his teachings and contact; the mind gains strength, is able to turn inward; with meditation it is purified yet further, and eventually remains still without the least ripple. That stillness is the Self. The Guru is both exterior and interior. From the exterior he gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps the mind to achieve quietness. That is Grace.

Hence there is no difference between God, Guru and Self.

4th February, 1935

29. The conversation turned upon the question as to whether Iswara Prasad (Divine Grace) is necessary for the attaining of samrajya (universal dominion) or whether a jiva's honest and strenuous efforts to attain it cannot of themselves lead him to That from whence is no return to life and death. The Maharshi with an ineffable smile which lit up His Holy Face and which was all-pervasive, shining upon the coterie around him, replied in tones of certainty and with the ring of truth; "Divine Grace is essential for Realisation. It leads one to God-realisation. But such Grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee or a yogin, who has striven hard and ceaselessly on the path towards freedom.''


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"The perfect among the sages is identical with Me. There is absolutely no difference between us"
Tripura Rahasya, Chap XX, 128-133


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