Question: How will the mind become quiescent?
The mind will only subside by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ The thought ‘Who am I?’, destroying all other thoughts, will itself be finally destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre.
Question: What is the means for constantly holding on to the thought ‘Who am I?’ And what is jnana drishti?
If other thoughts arise, one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire, ‘To whom did they occur?’ What does it matter if ever so many thoughts arise? At the very moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly enquires ‘To whom did this appear?’ it will be known ‘To me’. If one then enquires ‘Who am I?’ the mind will turn back to its source and the thought that had arisen will also subside. By repeatedly practising in this way, the mind will increasingly acquire the power to abide at its source. When the mind, which is subtle, is externalised via the brain and the sense organs, names and forms, which are material, appear. When it abides in the Heart, names and forms disappear. Keeping the mind in the Heart, not allowing it to go out, is called ‘facing the Self’ or ‘facing inwards’. Allowing it to go out from the Heart is termed ‘facing outwards’ When the mind abides in the Heart in this way, the ‘I’, the root of all thoughts, [vanishes]. Having vanished, the ever-existing Self alone will shine. The state where not even the slightest trace of the thought ‘I’ remains is alone swarupa [one’s real nature]. This alone is called mauna [silence]. Being still in this way can alone be called jnana drishti [seeing through true knowledge]. Making the mind subside into the Self is ‘being still’. On the other hand, knowing the thoughts of others, knowing the three times [past, present and future] and knowing events in distant places — these can never be jnana drishti.
The word swarupa is another key word in the text. It means ‘one’s real nature’ or ‘one’s real form’. Each time the phrase ‘one’s real nature’ appears in this text, it is a translation of swarupa. Bhagavan’s repeated use of the word as a synonym for the Self indicates that the Self is not something that is reached or attained. Rather, it is what one really is, and what one always has been.
Mauna is another of the synonyms Bhagavan used to describe the Self:
Question: What is mauna [silence]?
Answer: That state which transcends speech and thought is mauna…. That which is, is mauna. Sages say that the state in which the thought ‘I’ does not rise even in the least, alone is swarupa, which means mauna. That silent Self is alone God… (Be As You Are, p. 13)
In jnana, the state of Self-knowledge or Self-realisation, there is no one who sees, nor are there objects that are seen. There is only seeing. The seeing that takes place in this state, called jnana drishti, is both true seeing and true knowing. It is therefore called ‘seeing through true knowledge’.
In Day by Day with Bhagavan (17.10.46) Bhagavan points out that this seeing is really being and should not be confused with or limited to the sensory activity that goes under the same name: ‘You are the Self. You exist always. Nothing more can be predicated of the Self than it exists. Seeing God or the Self is only being God or your Self. Seeing is being.’ The same concept was elegantly formulated by Meister Eckart, the medieval German mystic, when he remarked, during one of his sermons, ‘The eye by which I see God is the same eye by which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one and the same, one in seeing, one in knowing…’
Question: What is the nature of the Self?
The Self, one’s real nature, alone exists and is real. The world, the soul and God are superimpositions on it like [the illusory appearance of] silver in mother-of-pearl. These three appear and disappear simultaneously. Self itself is the world; Self itself is the ‘I’; Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.
At the beginning of this paragraph Bhagavan says, in effect, that the world, the soul and God are illusory appearances. Later he says that all three are the Self, and therefore real. This should be seen as a paradox rather than a contradiction. The following answer from Guru Ramana, 1974 ed., p. 65, clarifies Bhagavan’s views:
Sankara was criticised for his views on maya [illusion] without understanding him. He said that (1) Brahman [the Self] is real, (2) the universe is unreal, and (3) Brahman is the universe. He did not stop at the second because the third explains the other two. It signifies that the universe is real if perceived as the Self and unreal if perceived as apart from the Self. Hence maya and reality are one and the same.
The seeing of names and forms is a misperception because, in the Self, the one reality, none exist. Therefore, if a world of names and forms is seen, it must necessarily be an illusory one. Bhagavan explains this in verse 49 of Guru Vachaka Kovai:
Just as fire is obscured by smoke, the shining light of consciousness is obscured by the assemblage of names and forms. When, by compassionate divine grace, the mind becomes clear, the nature of the world will be known to be not illusory forms, but only the reality.
Question: Are there any other means for making the mind quiescent?
To make the mind subside, there is no adequate means except enquiry. If controlled by other means, the mind will remain in an apparent state of subsidence, but will rise again. For example, through pranayama [breath control] the mind will subside. However, the mind will remain controlled only as long as the prana [see the following note] is controlled. When the prana comes out, the mind will also come out and wander under the influence of vasanas. The source of the mind and the prana is one and the same. Thought itself is the nature of the mind, and the thought ‘I’ which indeed is the mind’s primal thought, is itself the ahankara [the ego]. From where the ego originates, from there alone the breath also rises. Therefore, when the mind subsides, the prana will also subside, and when prana subsides, the mind will also subside. However, although the mind subsides in deep sleep, the prana does not subside. It is arranged in this way as a divine plan for the protection of the body and so that others do not take the body to be dead. When the mind subsides in the waking state and in samadhi, the prana also subsides. The prana is the gross form of the mind. Until the time of death, the mind retains the prana in the body. When the body dies, the mind forcibly carries away the prana. Therefore, pranayama is only an aid for controlling the mind; it will not bring about its destruction.
According to the Upanishads, prana is the principle of life and consciousness. It is the life breath of all the beings in the universe. They are born through it, live by it, and when they die, their individual prana dissolves into the cosmic prana. Prana is usually translated as ‘breath’ or ‘vital breath’, but this is only one of many of its manifestations in the human body. It is absorbed by both breathing and eating and by the prana vayus (mentioned earlier) into energy that sustains the body. Since it is assimilated through breathing, it is widely held that one can control the prana in the body by controlling the breathing.
According to yoga philosophy, and other schools of thought agree, mind and prana are intimately connected. The collective name for all the mental faculties is chitta, which is divided into:
- manas (the mind), which has the faculties of attention and choosing.
- buddhi (the intellect), which reasons and determines distinctions.
- ahankara, the individual feeling of ‘I’, sometimes merely translated as ego.
Chitta, according to yoga philosophy, is propelled by prana and vasanas and moves in the direction of whichever force is more powerful. Thus, the yogis maintain that by controlling the breath, which indirectly controls the flow of pranas, the chitta can be controlled. Bhagavan gives his own views on this later in the essay.
The reference to samadhi needs some explanation. According to Bhagavan (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 898,) ‘Samadhi is the state in which the unbroken experience of existence is attained by the still mind.’
Elsewhere he has said, more simply, ‘Holding onto reality is samadhi.’ (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 391)
Though Bhagavan would sometimes say that a person in samadhi is experiencing the Self, these samadhis do not constitute permanent realisation. They are temporary states in which the mind is either completely still or in abeyance.
The next section is a continuation of the answer to the previous question: ‘Are there any other means for making the mind quiescent?’
Like breath control, meditation on a form of God, repetition of sacred words and regulation of diet are mere aids for controlling the mind. Through meditation on a form of God and through the repetition of sacred words the mind becomes focused on one point. An elephant’s trunk is always moving around, but when a chain is given to it to hold in its trunk, that elephant will go on its way, holding onto the chain instead of trying to catch other things with it. Similarly, when the mind, which is always wandering, is trained to hold onto any name or form of God, it will only cling to that. Because the mind branches out into innumerable thoughts, each thought becomes very weak. As thoughts subside more and more, one-pointedness [of mind] is gained. A mind that has gained strength in this way will easily succeed in self-enquiry. Of all regulations taking sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best. Through [this], the sattvic quality of the mind gets enhanced and becomes an aid to self-enquiry.
A sattvic diet is one which is vegetarian and which also excludes stimulating substances – such as chillies, tobacco, alcohol – and food that is excessively sour, salty or pungent.
Some Indian systems of thought maintain that the mind is composed of three fluctuating components called gunas:
- sattva, purity or harmony.
- rajas, activity.
- tamas, inertia or sluggishness.
Since the type of food eaten affects the quality of the mind, non-sattvic foods promote rajas and tamas. The sattvic mind is the most desirable. One of the aims of spiritual practice is to increase the sattvic component at the expense of rajas and tamas.
Question: Is it possible for the vishaya vasanas, which come from beginningless time, to be resolved, and for one to remain as the pure Self?
Although vishaya vasanas, which have been recurring down the ages, rise in countless numbers like the waves of an ocean, they will all perish as meditation on one’s real nature becomes more and more intense. Without giving room even to the doubting thought, ‘Is it possible to destroy all these vasanas and remain as Self alone?’ one should persistently and tightly hold onto meditation on one’s real nature. However great a sinner one may be, one should, instead of lamenting, ‘Oh, I am a sinner! How can I attain liberation?’ completely give up even the thought of being a sinner. One steadfast in meditation on one’s real nature will surely be saved.
Question: How long should enquiry be practised? What is non-attachment?
As long as there are vishaya vasanas in the mind, the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is necessary. As and when thoughts arise, one should, then and there, annihilate them all through self-enquiry in the very place of their origin. Not giving attention to anything other than oneself is non-attachment or desirelessness; not leaving the Self is jnana [true knowledge]. In truth, these two [non-attachment and desirelessness] 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 on the bottom, so everyone, diving deeply within himself in a detached way can obtain the pearl of the Self. If one resorts uninterruptedly to remembrance of one’s real nature until one attains the Self, that alone will be sufficient. As long as there are enemies within the fort, they will continue to come out. If one continues to cut all of them down as and when they emerge, the fort will fall into our hands.
Question: Is it not possible for God or the Guru to effect the release of the soul?
God and Guru are, in truth, not different. Just as the prey that has fallen into the jaws of the tiger cannot escape, so those who have come under the glance of the Guru’s grace will never be forsaken. Nevertheless, one should follow without fail the path shown by the Guru.
Remaining firmly in Self-abidance, without giving the least scope for the rising of any thought other than the thought of the Self, is surrendering oneself to God. However much of a burden we throw on God, He bears it all. Since the one supreme ruling power is performing all activities, why should we, instead of yielding ourselves to it, think, ‘I should not act in this way; I should act in that way’? When we know that the train is carrying all the freight, why should we, who travel in it, suffer by keeping our own small luggage on our heads instead of putting it down and remaining happily at ease?
In the last three sections Bhagavan has used three terms, swarupa dhyanam (meditation on one’s real nature), swarupa smaranai (remembrance of one’s real nature), and atma chintanai (the thought of the Self) to indicate the process by which one becomes aware of the Self. They should not be understood to mean that one should try to focus one’s attention on the Self, for the real Self can never be an object of thought. The benedictory verse of Ulladu Narpadu explains what Bhagavan meant by such terms. It asks the question, ‘How to meditate on that reality which is called the Heart?’ since that reality alone exists, and it answers by saying, ‘To abide in the Heart as it really is, is truly meditating.’ That is to say, one can be the Heart by ‘abiding as it is’, but one cannot experience it as an object of attention.
This interpretation is confirmed by the sentence in the last extract from Who Am I? in which Bhagavan equates atma chintanai (the thought of the Self) with atma nishta (Self-abidance).
In a similar vein Bhagavan remarks later in the essay that ‘always keeping the mind fixed in the Self alone can be called self-enquiry’.
Question: What is happiness?
What is called happiness is merely the nature of the Self. Happiness and the Self are not different. The happiness of the Self alone exists; that alone is real. There is no happiness at all in even a single one of the [many] things in the world. We believe that we derive happiness from them on account of aviveka [a lack of discrimination, an inability to ascertain what is correct]. When the mind is externalised, it experiences misery. The truth is, whenever our thoughts [that is, our desires] get fulfilled, the mind turns back to its source and experiences Self-happiness alone. In this way the mind wanders without rest, emerging and abandoning the Self and [later] returning within. The shade under a tree is very pleasant. Away from it the sun’s heat is scorching. A person who is wandering around outside reaches the shade and is cooled. After a while he goes out again, but unable to bear the scorching heat, returns to the tree. In this way he is engaged in going from the shade into the hot sunshine and in coming back from the hot sunshine into the shade. A person who acts like this is an aviveki [someone who lacks discrimination], for a discriminating person would never leave the shade. By analogy, the mind of a jnani never leaves Brahman, whereas the mind of someone who has not realised the Self is such that it suffers by wandering in the world before turning back to Brahman for a while to enjoy happiness. What is called ‘the world’ is only thoughts. When the world disappears, that is, when there are no thoughts, the mind experiences bliss; when the world appears, it experiences suffering.