Question: Then it is possible to be without effort, without strain.
Bhagavan: Not only that, it is impossible for you to make an effort beyond a certain extent.
Question: I want to be further enlightened. Should I try to make no effort at all?
Bhagavan: Here it is impossible for you to be without effort. When you go deeper, it is impossible for you to make any effort. If the mind becomes introverted through enquiry into the source of aham-vritti [the ‘I’-thought], the vasanas [latent desires] become extinct. The light of the Self falls on the vasanas and produces the phenomenon of reflection we call the mind. Thus, when the vasanas become extinct the mind also disappears, being absorbed into the light of the one reality, the Heart. This is the sum and substance of all that an aspirant needs to know. What is imperatively required of him is an earnest and one-pointed enquiry into the source of the aham-vritti.
Question: How should a beginner start this practice?
Bhagavan: The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ The thought ‘Who am I?’, destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre. If other thoughts rise one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire ‘To whom did they rise?’ What does it matter however many thoughts rise? At the very moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly enquires ‘To whom did this rise?’, it will be known ‘To me’. If one then enquires ‘Who am I?’, the mind will turn back to its source [the Self] and the thought which had risen will also subside. By repeatedly practising thus, the power of the mind to abide in its source increases.
Although tendencies towards sense-objects [vishaya vasanas], which have been recurring down the ages, rise in countless numbers like the waves of the ocean, they will all perish as meditation on one’s nature becomes more and more intense. Without giving room even to the doubting thought, ‘Is it possible to destroy all these tendencies [vasanas] and to remain as Self alone?’, one should persistently cling fast to self-attention.
As long as there are tendencies towards sense-objects in the mind, the enquiry ‘Who am I ?’ is necessary. As and when thoughts rise, one should annihilate all of them through enquiry then and there in their very place of origin. Not attending to what-is-other [anya] is non-attachment [vairagya] or desirelessness [nirasa]. Not leaving Self is knowledge [jnana]. In truth, these two [desirelessness and knowledge] are one and the same. Just as a pearl-diver, tying a stone to his waist, dives into the sea and takes the pearl lying at the bottom, so everyone, diving deep within himself with non-attachment, can attain the pearl of Self. If one resorts uninterruptedly to remembrance of one’s real nature [swarupasmarana] until one attains Self, that alone will be sufficient.
Enquiring ‘Who am I that is in bondage?’ and knowing one’s real nature [swarupa] alone is liberation. Always keeping the mind fixed in Self alone is called ‘self-enquiry’, whereas meditation [dhyana] is thinking oneself to be the absolute [Brahman], which is existence-consciousness-bliss [sat-chit-ananda].
Question: The yogis say that one must renounce this world and go off into secluded jungles if one wishes to find the truth.
Bhagavan: The life of action need not be renounced. If you meditate for an hour or two every day, you can then carry on with your duties. If you meditate in the right manner, then the current of mind induced will continue to flow even in the midst of your work. It is as though there were two ways of expressing the same idea; the same line which you take in meditation will be expressed in your activities.
Question: What will be the result of doing that?
Bhagavan: As you go on, you will find that your attitude towards people, events and objects gradually changes. Your actions will tend to follow your meditations of their own accord.
Question: Then you do not agree with the yogis?
Bhagavan: A man should surrender the personal selfishness which binds him to this world. Giving up the false self is the true renunciation.
Question: How is it possible to become selfless while leading a life of worldly activity?
Bhagavan: There is no conflict between work and wisdom.
Question: Do you mean that one can continue all the old activities in one’s profession, for instance, and at the same time get enlightenment?
Bhagavan: Why not? But in that case one will not think that it is the old personality which is doing the work, because one’s consciousness will gradually become transferred until it is centered in that which is beyond the little self.
Question: If a person is engaged in work, there will be little time left for him to meditate.
Bhagavan: Setting apart time for meditation is only for the merest spiritual novices. A man who is advancing will begin to enjoy the deeper beatitude whether he is at work or not. While his hands are in society, he keeps his head cool in solitude.
Question: Then you do not teach the way of yoga?
Bhagavan: The yogi tries to drive his mind to the goal, as a cowherd drives a bull with a stick, but on this path the seeker coaxes the bull by holding out a handful of grass.
Question: How is that done?
Bhagavan: You have to ask yourself the question ‘Who am I?’ This investigation will lead in the end to the discovery of something within you which is behind the mind. Solve that great problem and you will solve all other problems.
Question: Seeking the ‘I’, there is nothing to be seen.
Bhagavan: Because you are accustomed to identify yourself with the body and sight with the eyes, therefore you say you do not see anything. What is there to be seen? Who is to see? How to see? There is only one consciousness which, manifesting as ‘I’-thought, identifies itself with the body, projects itself through the eyes and sees the objects around. The individual is limited in the waking state and expects to see something different. The evidence of his senses will be the seal of authority. But he will not admit that the seer, the seen and the seeing are all manifestations of the same consciousness – namely, ‘I, I’. Contemplation helps one to overcome the illusion that the Self must be visual. In truth, there is nothing visual. How do you feel the ‘I’ now? Do you hold a mirror before you to know your own being? The awareness is the ‘I’. Realise it and that is the truth.
Question: On enquiry into the origin of thoughts there is a perception of ‘I’. But it does not satisfy me.
Bhagavan: Quite right. The perception of ‘I’ is associated with a form, maybe the body. There should be nothing associated with the pure Self. The Self is the unassociated, pure reality, in whose light the body and the ego shine. On stilling all thoughts the pure consciousness remains.
Just on waking from sleep and before becoming aware of the world there is that pure ‘I, I’. Hold on to it without sleeping or without allowing thoughts to possess you. If that is held firm it does not matter even if the world is seen. The seer remains unaffected by the phenomena.
What is the ego? Enquire. The body is insentient and cannot say ‘I’. The Self is pure consciousness and non-dual. It cannot say ‘I’. No one says ‘I’ in sleep. What is the ego then? It is something intermediate between the inert body and the Self. It has no locus standi. If sought for, it vanishes like a ghost. At night a man may imagine that there is a ghost by his side because of the play of shadows. If he looks closely, he discovers that the ghost is not really there, and what he imagined to be a ghost was merely a tree or a post. If he does not look closely the ghost may terrify him. All that is required is to look closely and the ghost vanishes. The ghost was never there. So also with the ego. It is an intangible link between the body and pure consciousness. It is not real. So long as one does not look closely at it, it continues to give trouble. But when one looks for it, it is found not to exist.
There is another story which illustrates this. In Hindu marriage functions the feasts often continue for five or six days. On one of these occasions a stranger was mistaken for the best man by the bride’s party and they therefore treated him with special regard. Seeing him treated with special regard by the bride’s party, the bridegroom’s party considered him to be some man of importance related to the bride’s party and therefore they too showed him special respect. The stranger had altogether a happy time of it. He was also all along aware of the real situation. On one occasion the groom’s party wanted to refer to him on some point and so they asked the bride’s party about him. Immediately he scented trouble and made himself scarce. So it is with the ego. If looked for, it disappears. If not, it continues to give trouble.