In the sequence of questions and answers that begins with the query about gold ornaments we have a typical response from the Maharshi. Although he would sometimes give detailed replies to questions of a philosophical nature, at other times he would try to divert the questioner’s attention away from theoretical matters and instead talk about the Self, the impediments that prevented one from being aware of it, and the means by which a devotee could make himself aware of his own, inherent real nature. In the following sequence of questions and answers we see the Maharshi expounding on these practical topics. The first few questions about Self-knowledge were asked by a Gujarati visitor, the remainder by the other visitors.
Q: In order to make an effective effort for Self-knowledge, does one have to reduce other activities or not?
M: The Self has no relationship with either activity or non-activity. The Self remains as it is by its own sakti. Think of that.
Q: How to get Self-knowledge?
M: To whom does this question occur? You should think of him.
Q: Is mula prakritti [the seed or root out of which all material things evolve] the form of consciousness?
Q: Is lower prakritti [matter] inert?
M: It appears to be inert. In reality there is only one essence and that is why everything is consciousness only.
Q: As a tree grows out of a seed, likewise does multiplicity come from the one?
M: When you realise the one, the many will not be seen.
Q: Then how did multiplicity come into being?
M: It is because of delusion that it is seen like that.
Q: How did delusion occur?
M: To whom does this question arise? Think of that.
Q: How to do that?
M: The delusion that has come by wrong thinking will go by correct thinking.
Q: What is the thing called jivatma [individual self]?
M: To whom does this question occur? Think of that, meaning, think of who you are. And by thinking of what you really are, all the difficulties will be removed.
Q: In one of your books it is written that the mind should be annihilated. How to do this work?
M: It will be easy to destroy the mind if one knows the real nature of the mind.
Q: Is the remembrance of past samskaras [the ingrained habits of the mind that cause it to behave in a particular way] called ‘mind’?
M: The samskaras and the results of those samskaras are not real. During sleep they go away.
Q: How to control such a mind?
M: Except for enquiry into the self, there is no way that the mind can be destroyed.
Q: How to meditate?
M: Being aware of the Self is the real meditation. When the mind gives up its habit of choosing and deciding, it turns towards its own real nature. At that time it gets into the established state. When the ego gets more powerful, entry into this state does not take place.
Q: Should we be patriotic and should we not serve our country?
M: First be what you are. Therein lies all truth and happiness. While trying to become someone else, the ahankara gets in. You think that the world will be conquered by your power, but when you turn inwards towards the Self, you will know that a higher power is working everywhere.
Q: Does God bestow grace on jivas or not?
M: However much you remember God, God remembers you much more.
Q: Why does God allow so much injustice to go on and why is there so much insufficiency among us?
M: Go to God and ask him about it.
Q: I cannot go there to him.
M: If you cannot go to him, how to ask the question? Weak people do not get liberation.
Q: What I cannot see with my eyes I do not believe in. God is not seen by me, so I do not believe in him.
M: I cannot see your brains. So what is wrong if I believe that you have no brains?
Q: Will we have to undergo the fruits of our present karma in the next birth or not?
M: Are you born now? Why do you think of other births? The fact is, birth and death are not real. The thoughts of rebirth are the thoughts of ignorance. Through the thoughts of Self-knowledge the thoughts of birth and death get snapped and one gets established in the Self. Truly, actions do not trouble us. It is only the sense of performing actions that does. The idea of doing the actions or leaving them is false. Think of the one who does the karma.
Q: We should make all men the same.
M: Put everyone to sleep and everyone will be the same.
Q: Who is sleeping?
M: The knower, pramata, is sleeping. Adhistana does not wake up or sleep. During sleep, the knower, the means of knowing and the known get dissolved, leaving the activityless state of Atman.
Q: If the Atman is without activity at that time, how then does it know itself?
M: For the Atman there is nothing to know or be known. It is the one who has no knowledge who has to make an effort to gain knowledge. This is what takes place in the waking state. Anatman, which is the not-Self, which can also be called chidabhasa, the reflected consciousness, has the ignorance, so this reflected consciousness has to make an effort for jnana, or knowledge. Knowing and not knowing happen in the not-self.
The Self does not have to obtain knowledge, for it is knowledge itself. When the knower, the reflected consciousness, is felt, at that time ajnana or ignorance is present. The one who feels this ignorance then makes an effort to attain jnana, which is knowledge. When the reflected consciousness gets the knowledge, it no longer remains. This is because the reflected consciousness always remains with ignorance or mityajnana [false knowledge].
During sleep there is no reflected consciousness. So, [at that time], the false knowledge is not to be obtained. To know the Self means to know the form of the Self. This [explanation] is all from the point of view of the current conversation. In reality, there is only the Atman. Because this is so, there is nothing to know and nothing to be known.
Q: In Mysore State somebody has written a book called Mulavidyanirasa [The Removal of Basic Ignorance]. Have you seen it?
M: In the Self there is no ignorance, so there is no need to remove it.
Q: I do not know how to give up karma.
M: Why do you believe that you are the one who does the karma? Let me give you an example: think of how you came here. You got into a bullock cart at your house, reached the station and boarded the train. Then the train started and eventually reached the station where you got down. Then you got into a bullock cart again and now you are sitting here. When I ask you [about your trip] you say, ‘I came here from my village’. Is this true? The cart and the train moved, not you. Just as, through a mistake, you believe the movement of the cart and the train to be your own, so also all other actions, through a similar mistake, you believe to be yours. These actions are not yours, they are Bhagavan’s.
Q: If one were to keep such a state of non-action, the mind would become void and no worldly activities could be done.
M: First obtain this state where no differences arise and then tell me whether actions can be done or not. Truly speaking, so long as the body is there, some activity is bound to happen. Only the attitude ‘I am the doer’ has to be given up. The activities do not obstruct. It is the attitude ‘I did’ that is the obstruction.
Q: If such a sight of unity is given to everyone, they are likely to remain in this mode and fall into immorality.
M: Misconduct, hatred and attachment are the result of the differences caused by the discriminative intellect. When the proper sense of oneness comes, thoughts of misconduct will not arise.
Q: In the nirvikalpa state [the state in which no differences arise], if there is nothing there except the Atman, how does one get ananda [bliss]?
M: You think that you can only get happiness when there is contact with something separate from you. But that is not the truth. Ananda is the very nature of the Self. The happiness that you get from other things is part of the happiness of the Atman, but it is not the complete happiness. So long as an external object is required [for happiness], incompleteness is felt. When it is felt that the Atman alone is there, permanent happiness stays. If it were not so and if happiness were to be obtained from external things, then, to give an example, as the number of people in a family increases, and the amount of one’s wealth increases, happiness should increase to the same extent. And as the quantity of these things decreases, happiness should decrease by the same amount. Furthermore, during sleep, when external objects have all gone away, at that time unhappiness should be felt. In sleep, though, you feel that there is nothing. Yet, when a man wakes up from sleep, he says, ‘I slept very happily’. So, when nothing exists except the Atman, then there is happiness.
Whenever the things we like appear before the Atman, at that time the mind feels the Atman. Truly speaking, ananda exists only within the Atman, and apart from it there is no other ananda. And that ananda is not separate or far away. If you are in a state that is giving you the experience of ananda, at that time you are actually diving into the Atman. It is because of this diving into the Atman that you get the bliss of the Atman. However, because of your association with incorrect thoughts, you project [the cause of] the ananda on to external things. When you experience ananda, you are unknowingly diving into the Atman. The truth of one’s own real nature, which is the Atman, is that it is an undivided oneness. One’s own reality is ananda. That is what you are. If you were to dive knowingly into the Atman, with the conviction born of this experience, then the state of Self would be experienced.
Q: Worries of worldly life trouble me much and I do not find happiness anywhere.
M: Do these worries trouble you in sleep?
M: Are you the same person now as you were in sleep, or are you not?
M: So, it proves that the worries do not belong to you. Those who believe the mind to be real will not be able to subdue it. In the state in which the mind appears to be real, the thief [the mind] cheats by putting on the dress of the policeman [in order to pretend to catch himself]. Hence, we must know how to destroy the mind by knowing its real nature.
People ask me how to control the mind. The answer is, ‘Show me the mind’. It is but a bundle of thoughts. How will the mind, which is a collection of thoughts, come under control by a thought of controlling it? Reach its source, therefore. Seek the Atman. All misery will come to an end if you turn your mind inwards. If you feel that the world is created by the imagination of the individual soul, then that imagination must be given up. If you think that God has created the world, then surrender to Him all your responsibilities and leave the burden of the whole world to Him.