Question: If I try to make the ‘Who am I?’ enquiry, I fall into sleep. What should I do?
Bhagavan: Persist in the enquiry throughout your waking hours. That would be quite enough. If you keep on making the enquiry till you fall asleep, the enquiry will go on during sleep also. Take up the enquiry again as soon as you wake up.
Question: How can I get peace? I do not seem to obtain it through vichara [enquiry].
Bhagavan: Peace is your natural state. It is the mind that obstructs the natural state. If you do not experience peace it means that your vichara has been made only in the mind. Investigate what the mind is, and it will disappear. There is no such thing as mind apart from thought. Nevertheless, because of the emergence of thought, you surmise something from which it starts and term that the mind. When you probe to see what it is, you find there is really no such thing as mind. When the mind has thus vanished, you realise eternal peace.
Question: When I am engaged in enquiry as to the source from which the ‘I’ springs, I arrive at a stage of stillness of mind beyond which I find myself unable to proceed further. I have no thought of any kind and there is an emptiness, a blankness. A mild light pervades and I feel that it is myself bodiless. I have neither cognition nor vision of body and form. The experience lasts nearly half an hour and is pleasing. Would I be correct in concluding that all that was necessary to secure eternal happiness, that is freedom or salvation or whatever one calls it, was to continue the practice till this experience could be maintained for hours, days and months together?
Bhagavan: This does not mean salvation. Such a condition is termed manolaya or temporary stillness of thought. Manolaya means concentration, temporarily arresting the movement of thoughts. As soon as this concentration ceases, thoughts, old and new, rush in as usual; and even if this temporary lulling of mind should last a thousand years, it will never lead to total destruction of thought, which is what is called liberation from birth and death. The practitioner must therefore be ever on the alert and enquire within as to who has this experience, who realises its pleasantness. Without this enquiry he will go into a long trance or deep sleep [yoga nidra]. Due to the absence of a proper guide at this stage of spiritual practice, many have been deluded and fallen prey to a false sense of liberation and only a few have managed to reach the goal safely.
The following story illustrates the point very well. A yogi was doing penance [tapas] for a number of years on the banks of the Ganges. When he had attained a high degree of concentration, he believed that continuance in that stage for prolonged periods constituted liberation and practised it. One day, before going into deep concentration, he felt thirsty and called to his disciple to bring a little drinking water from the Ganges. But before the disciple arrived with the water, he had gone into yoga nidra and remained in that state for countless years, during which time much water flowed under the bridge. When he woke up from this experience he immediately called ‘Water! Water!’; but there was neither his disciple nor the Ganges in sight.
The first thing which he asked for was water because, before going into deep concentration, the topmost layer of thought in his mind was water and by concentration, however deep and prolonged it might have been, he had only been able temporarily to lull his thoughts. When he regained consciousness, this topmost thought flew up with all the speed and force of a flood breaking through the dykes. If this is the case with regard to a thought which took shape immediately before he sat for meditation, there is no doubt that thoughts which took root earlier would also remain unannihilated. If annihilation of thoughts is liberation, can he be said to have attained salvation?
Sadhakas [seekers] rarely understand the difference between this temporary stilling of the mind [manolaya] and permanent destruction of thoughts [manonasa]. In manolaya there is temporary subsidence of thought-waves, and though this temporary period may even last for a thousand years, thoughts, which are thus temporarily stilled, rise up as soon as the manolaya ceases. One must therefore watch one’s spiritual progress carefully. One must not allow oneself to be overtaken by such spells of stillness of thought. The moment one experiences this, one must revive consciousness and enquire within as to who it is who experiences this stillness. While not allowing any thoughts to intrude, one must not, at the same time, be overtaken by this deep sleep [yoga nidra] or self-hypnotism. Though this is a sign of progress towards the goal, yet it is also the point where the divergence between the road to liberation and yoga nidra takes place. The easy way, the direct way, the shortest cut to salvation is the enquiry method. By such enquiry, you will drive the thought force deeper till it reaches its source and merges therein. It is then that you will have the response from within and find that you rest there, destroying all thoughts, once and for all.
Question: This ‘I’-thought rises from me. But I do not know the Self.
Bhagavan: All these are only mental concepts. You are now identifying yourself with a wrong ‘I’, which is the ‘I’-thought. This ‘I’-thought rises and sinks, whereas the true significance of ‘I’ is beyond both. There cannot be a break in your being. You who slept are also now awake. There is no unhappiness in your deep sleep whereas it exists now. What is it that has happened now so that this difference is experienced? There was no ‘I’-thought in your sleep, whereas it is present now. The true ‘I’ is not apparent and the false ‘I’ is parading itself. This false ‘I’ is the obstacle to your right knowledge. Find out from where this false ‘I’ arises. Then it will disappear. You will then be only what you are, that is, absolute being.
Question: How to do it? I have not succeeded so far.
Bhagavan: Search for the source of the ‘I’-thought. That is all that one has to do. The universe exists on account of the ‘I’-thought. If that ends there is an end to misery also. The false ‘I’ will end only when its source is sought.
Again people often ask how the mind is controlled. I say to them, ‘Show me the mind and then you will know what to do’. The fact is that the mind is only a bundle of thoughts. How can you extinguish it by the thought of doing so or by a desire? Your thoughts and desires are part and parcel of the mind. The mind is simply fattened by new thoughts rising up. Therefore it is foolish to attempt to kill the mind by means of the mind. The only way of doing it is to find its source and hold on to it. The mind will then fade away of its own accord. Yoga teaches chitta vritti nirodha [control of the activities of the mind]. But I say atma vichara [self-inquiry]. This is the practical way. Chitta vritti nirodha is brought about in sleep, swoon, or by starvation. As soon as the cause is withdrawn there is a recrudescence of thoughts. Of what use is it then? In the state of stupor there is peace and no misery. But misery recurs when the stupor is removed. So nirodha [control] is useless and cannot be of lasting benefit.
How then can the benefit be made lasting? It is by finding the cause of misery. Misery is due to the perception of objects. If they are not there, there will be no contingent thoughts and so misery is wiped off. ‘How will objects cease to be?’ is the next question. The srutis [scriptures] and the sages say that the objects are only mental creations. They have no substantive being. Investigate the matter and ascertain the truth of the statement. The result will be the conclusion that the objective world is in the subjective consciousness. The Self is thus the only reality which permeates and also envelops the world. Since there is no duality, no thoughts will arise to disturb your peace. This is realisation of the Self. The Self is eternal and so also is realisation.
Abhyasa [spiritual practice] consists in withdrawal within the Self every time you are disturbed by thought. It is not concentration or destruction of the mind but withdrawal into the Self.