Question: Is not everything the work of God?
In the mere presence of the sun, which rises without desire, intention or effort, the magnifying glass emits hot light, the lotus blossoms and people begin, perform and cease their work. In front of a magnet a needle moves. Likewise, through the mere influence of the presence of God, who has no sankalpa [intention to accomplish anything], souls, who are governed by the three or five divine functions, perform and cease their activities in accordance with their respective karmas. Even so, He [God] is not someone who has sankalpa, nor will a single act ever touch him. This [untouchability] can be compared to the actions of the world not touching the sun, or to the good and bad qualities of the elements [earth, water, fire and air] not affecting the immanent space.
Sankalpa means ‘resolve’, ‘will’, or ‘intention’. God has no personal sankalpa. That is to say, He does not decide or even think about what he should do. Though mature devotees ‘bloom’ on account of his presence, it is not because He has decided to bestow His grace on these fortunate few. His presence is available to all, but only the mature convert it into realisation.
The three divine functions are creation, sustenance and destruction. The five divine functions are these three plus veiling and grace. According to many Hindu scriptures, God creates, preserves and eventually destroys the world. While it exists, He hides His true nature from the people in it through the veiling power of maya, illusion, while simultaneously emanating grace so that mature devotees can lift the veils of illusion and become aware of Him as He really is.
Question: For those who long for release, is it useful to read books?
It is said in all the scriptures that to attain liberation one should make the mind subside. After realising that mind control is the ultimate injunction of the scriptures, it is pointless to read scriptures endlessly. In order to know the mind, it is necessary to know who one is. How [can one know who one is] by researching instead in the scriptures? One should know oneself through one’s own eye of knowledge. For [a man called] Rama to know himself to be Rama, is a mirror necessary? One’s self exists within the five sheaths, whereas the scriptures are outside them. This self is the one to be enquired into. Therefore, researching in the scriptures, ignoring even the five sheaths, is futile. Enquiring ‘Who am I that am in bondage?’ and knowing one’s real nature is alone liberation.
In self-enquiry one is enquiring into the nature and origin of the individual self, not the all-pervasive Atman. When Self appears in capitals, it denotes Atman, the real Self. When self it appears in lower case, it refers to the individual.
The five sheaths or kosas envelop and contain the individual self. They are:
- annamayakosa, the food sheath, which corresponds to the physical body.
- pranamayakosa, the sheath made of prana.
- manomayakosa, the sheath of the mind.
- vijnanmayakosa, the sheath of the intellect.
- anandamayakosa, the sheath of bliss.
Sheaths two, three and four comprise the subtle body (sukshma sarira) while the fifth sheath, called the causal body, corresponds to the state of the individual self during sleep.
The individual ‘I’ functions through the five sheaths. Practitioners of the neti-neti (‘not this, not this’) type of sadhana reject their association with the five sheaths in the way described in the second paragraph of Who Am I? The idea behind this practice is that if one rejects all thoughts, feelings and sensations as ‘not I’, the real ‘I’ will eventually shine in a form that is unlimited by or to the sheaths.
Keeping the mind fixed in the Self at all times is called self-enquiry, whereas thinking oneself to be Brahman, which is sat-chit-ananda [being-consciousness-bliss], is meditation. Eventually, all that one has learnt will have to be forgotten.
One can distinguish different levels of experience in the practice of self-enquiry. In the beginning one attempts to eliminate all transient thoughts by concentrating on or looking for the primal ‘I’-thought. This corresponds to the stage Bhagavan described earlier in the essay when one cuts down all the enemies, the thoughts, as they emerge from the fortress of the mind. If one achieves success in this for any length of time, the ‘I’-thought, deprived of new thoughts to attach itself to, begins to subside, and one then moves to a deeper level of experience. The ‘I’-thought descends into the Heart and remains there temporarily until the residual vasanas cause it to rise again. It is this second stage that Bhagavan refers to when he says that ‘keeping the mind fixed in the Self alone can be called self-enquiry’. Most practitioners of self-enquiry will readily admit that this rarely happens to them, but nevertheless, according to Bhagavan’s teachings, fixing the mind in the Self should be regarded as an intermediate goal on the path to full realisation.
It is interesting to note that Bhagavan restricts the term ‘self-enquiry’ to this phase of the practice. This unusual definition was more or less repeated in an answer he gave to Kapali Sastri:
Question: If I go on rejecting thoughts, can I call it vichara [self-enquiry]?
Answer: It may be a stepping stone. But real vichara begins when you cling to yourself and are already off the mental movements, the thought waves. (Sad Darshana Bhashya, 1975 ed., p. ix)
The following optimistic answers by Bhagavan, on keeping the mind in the Heart, may provide encouragement to those practitioners who often feel that such experiences may never come their way:
Question: How long can the mind stay or be kept in the Heart?
Answer: The period extends by practice.
Question: What will happen at the end of that period?
Answer: The mind returns to the present normal state. Unity in the Heart is replaced by a variety of perceived phenomena. This is called the outgoing mind. The Heart-going mind is called the resting mind.
When one daily practises more and more in this manner, the mind will become extremely pure due to the removal of its defects and the practice will become so easy that the purified mind will plunge into the Heart as soon as the enquiry is commenced. (Be As You Are, p. 66)
Bhagavan noted that ‘thinking oneself to be Brahman… is meditation’, not enquiry. Traditional advaitic sadhana follows the path of negation and affirmation. In the negative approach, one continuously rejects all thoughts, feelings and sensations as ‘not I’. On the affirmative route one attempts to cultivate the attitude ‘I am Brahman’ or ‘I am the Self’. Bhagavan called this latter approach, and all other techniques in which one concentrates on an idea or a form, ‘meditation’, and regarded all such methods as being indirect and inferior to self-enquiry.
Question: Is not affirmation of God more effective than the quest ‘Who am I?’ Affirmation is positive, whereas the other is negation. Moreover, it indicates separateness.
Answer: So long as you seek to know how to realise, this advice is given to find your Self. Your seeking the method denotes your separateness.
Question: Is it not better to say ‘I am the Supreme Being’ than ask ‘Who am I?’
Answer: Who affirms? There must be one to do it. Find that one.
Question: Is not meditation better than investigation?
Answer: Meditation implies mental imagery, whereas investigation is for the reality. The former is objective, whereas the latter is subjective.
Question: There must be a scientific approach to this subject.
Answer: To eschew unreality and seek the reality is scientific. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no 338)
Question: Is it necessary for one who longs for release to enquire into the nature of the tattvas?
Just as it is futile to examine the garbage that has to be collectively thrown away, so it is fruitless for one who is to know himself to count the numbers and scrutinise the properties of the tattvas that are veiling the Self, instead of collectively throwing them all away.
Indian philosophers have split the phenomenal world up into many different entities or categories which are called tattvas. Different schools of thought have different lists of tattvas, some being inordinately long and complicated. Bhagavan encouraged his devotees to disregard all such classifications on the grounds that, since the appearance of the world is itself an illusion, examining its component parts one by one is an exercise in futility.
Question: Is there no difference between waking and dream?
One should consider the universe to be like a dream. Except that waking is long and dreams are short, there is no difference [between the two states]. To the extent to which all the events which happen while one is awake appear to be real, to that same extent even the events that happen in dreams appear at that time to be real. In dreams, the mind assumes another body. In both the dream and the waking [states] thoughts and names-and-forms come into existence simultaneously.
The final two paragraphs of the essay are taken from an answer to a question that has already been given:
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?
There are not two minds, one good and another evil. the mind is only one. It is only the vasanas that are either auspicious or inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious tendencies, it is called a good mind, and when it is under the influence of inauspicious tendencies, a bad mind. However evil people may appear, one should not hate them. Likes and dislikes are both to be disliked. One should not allow the mind to dwell much on worldly matters. As far as possible, one should not interfere in the affairs of others. All that one gives to others, one gives only to oneself. If this truth is known, who indeed will not give to others? If the individual self rises, all will rise.
If the individual self subsides, all will subside. To the extent that we behave with humility, to that extent will good result. If one can continuously control the mind, one can live anywhere.