This Chapter is taken From The Book ”Guru Ramana – Memories and Notes” by S.S.Cohen
Meditation means many things to many individuals and ranges from quiet brooding on a concept or an ideal to the beatitude of the highest spiritual contemplation. But in the sadhana propounded by the Maharshi it strictly means, whatever the method, the attempt to still the thinking faculty, the perpetually-surging waves of the mind, in order that the calm ocean of pure awareness, from which they rise and on which they move, may be experienced.
To beginners this mind control appears to be a formidable feat, yet the Master encourages them to go ahead and practise – at all events to make a beginning. He constantly dins into us the inspiring notion that we are already Self- realised and that, if we are not aware of it, the obstruction to that awareness should be removed by investigation – vichara – which is as logical as it is simple.
To hear it direct from him this “Self-knowledge”, rather the way to Self-knowledge, is “the easiest thing there is” (Atma Vidya); but, judging from the questions constantly asked of him, and later of his disciples, there appears to be the need for much spade work before its central idea takes a firm hold on the seeker. The Master’s obvious meaning seems to be that, even apart from the psychological efficacy of the vichara proper, preoccupying the mind with a single theme to the exclusion of all others, if doggedly practised, will not fail to produce beneficial results. It will tend to reduce the oscillations of the thinking
processes, and thus render the mind amenable to concentration on the supremely important work which is to follow, which by itself is a splendid achievement. Finding the answer to the query “Who am I?” is not the immediate burden of the practice in the beginning. Stability and fixity of the restless, mercurial mind is the first aim, and this can be achieved by constant practice and by frequently pulling oneself back to the subject of the meditation whenever the mind strays away.
When the mind has attained an appreciable degree of concentration, which means of depth, it will be time to think of the answer. Some sadhakas are fortunate enough to begin with a mind already accustomed to concentration, either “naturally”, or by training, or through intense fervour, so that they are able to go straight to the application of the vichara, and thus make a more or less rapid progress, according to the intensity of their determination, without much strain. For the Master tells us that mental calmness, that is, controlled mind, is essential for a successful meditation (vide p. 94).
The next idea in the vichara seems to be that wherever, and for however long, one may search for the answer in meditation, one will certainly not find it in the physical body; for no part of it is intelligent enough to stand the test of analysis or answer the call. Even if the meditator takes his body as a whole and confers on it his name, say, Krishna or Peter, sooner or later he will discover that it is only his mind which is responsible for this as well as all other thoughts and sensations. Thus diligent search and keen observation eventually lead to the mind as the perceiver, desirer and enjoyer of a world which is entirely its own thoughts; for the mind cognises naught but its own ideas. The final idea, one gathers, refers to the most vital stage
of the vichara, when the foregoing fact has become a settled conviction and the seeker unabatingly continues his inquiry, this time no longer into the insentient body, but into the very nature of the mind, from which he has discovered the ‘I’ thought to have arisen. Meditation has by then taken a firm grip and has turned from an erstwhile painful and apparently fruitless effort to a joyful, eagerly-looked- forward-to performance, which can no longer be abandoned or even slackened. The thinking processes have by now considerably slowed down and with it, naturally, the restlessness of the mind. Profound peace and inner joy impel more frequent and longer meditation, which in turn reduces thinking still further, till the moment of full maturity is reached, when all of a sudden all thoughts completely cease, and the meditator, the ‘I’, having nothing to disturb or preoccupy him, spontaneously finds himself in his pure Being, which is the Absolute State or Substratum. This is what the second and third sutras of Patanjali’s yoga mean by saying:
“Yoga is the suppression of the vritti (modifications of the thinking principle). Then the seer abides in himself.”
And what is that Self in actual experience? Sri Bhagavan tells us that it is the Light which ever shines in the Cave of the Heart as the flame of the Consciousness ‘I’ ‘I’ – the eternal and blissful Sat-chit-ananda. This is the answer to the vichara and its fulfilment. The ‘I’, which has carried out a determined and protracted search into its own nature, has at long last found itself to be not other than the Pure Mind, the immaculate Being, which is eternally wrapped in blissful stillness. This is Turiya, the Fourth, or Samadhi. There remains nothing more for one to achieve but to consolidate this state into the permanent experience of Sahaja Nirvikalpa, which is the Great Liberation.
Sadhakas take courage from the personal assurance of Sri Maharshi and the testimony of those who have found the Ultimate Peace, and relentlessly continue their efforts however sterile these may at first appear to be, strong in the belief of the descent of the Divine Grace on their endeavour to crown them with the greatest of all crowns, that of Supreme Enlightenment.
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16th May, 1936
1. Mr. C. relates how the reading of Patanjali Sutras in 1926 had greatly impressed him. The first few sutras had convinced him of the truth of the teaching, but unfortunately there was no one to give him proper guidance till he met Sri Bhagavan early in 1936.
Bh. Patanjali’s first sutras are indeed the climax of all systems of yoga. All yogas aim at the cessation of the vritti (modification of the mind). This can be brought about in the variety of ways mentioned in the scriptures through mind control, which frees consciousness from all thoughts and keeps it pure. Effort is necessary. In fact effort is itself yoga.
C. I suppose efforts have to be made in the waking state, which implies that moksha can be gained only in jagrat.
Bh. Quite so, awareness is necessary for mind control; otherwise who is to make the effort? You cannot make it in sleep or under the influence of drugs. Also mukti has to be gained in full awareness, because the Reality itself is pure awareness.
C.There seems to be nothing but awareness, for to know anything there must be knowledge – we cannot get over that.
Bh. Certainly. Subjective knowledge – knowledge knowing itself is jnana. It is then the subject as the knower, the object as the known and the knowledge which connects them.
C. This last is not clear to me in this case.
Bh. Why so? Knowledge is the light which links the seer to the seen. Suppose you go in search of a book in a library in pitch darkness. Can you find it without light, although you, the subject, and the book, the object, are both present? Light has to be present to unite you. This link between the subject and the object in every experience is chit, consciousness. It is both the substratum as well as the witness of the experience, the seer of Patanjali.
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18th June, 1936
2. A retired District Superintendent of Police started thinking of the life contemplative after his 60th birthday. He found meditation a serious affair and approached a disciple for guidance; but the latter advised him to place his difficulties before the Master, which he did today.
Visitor. Bhagavan, whenever I meditate, I feel great heat in the head and, if I persist, my whole body burns. What is the remedy?
Bh. If concentration is made with the brain, sensations of heat and even headache ensue. Concentration has to be made in the heart, which is cool and refreshing. Relax and your meditation will be easy. Keep your mind steady by gently warding off all intruding thoughts, but without strain – soon you will succeed.
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1st July, 1936
3. A devotee, long before he got attached to this Ashram, used off and on to fall into a sort of trance in which he saw not the Self but a sky-like blank, and told Sri Bhagavan about it.
Bh. He who sees the blank is the Self.
D. Meditation is possible only with control of mind, which can be achieved only through meditation. Is this not a vicious circle?
Bh. They are interdependent: in fact meditation includes mind control, the subtle watchfulness against intruding thoughts. In the beginning efforts for control are greater than for actual meditation, but in due course, meditation wins and becomes effortless.
D. Your Grace is needed for it.
Bh. Practice is necessary, there is Grace.
D. In meditation are there words to be repeated mentally?
Bh. What is meditation but mental repetitions of a concept?
It is a mental japam, which begins with words and ends in the silence of the Self.
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A visitor is experiencing great difficulty in meditation when he fights with what he imagines to be his ego. He went to the Master for verification.
V. In my meditation I try to eliminate the wrong ‘I’, but so far without success.
Bh. How can ‘I’ eliminate itself? All you have to do is to find its source and abide in it as your real Self. Your efforts can extend thus far, the Beyond will take care of itself.
V. Bhagavan, you always say that the Self is ever present: if I am present then why do I not feel it?
Bh. Do you not now feel that you exist? Your doubt is whether you will ever continue to exist. Why should you have any doubt? A little thinking will convince you that the destructible part of your being, the body, is a mere machine, a tool in the service of the indestructible, the mind, which is the all-in-all, the knower and the master – you yourself. Your doubts and difficulties arise from your thoughts, which perceive the body and mistake it for yourself. Stop the thoughts, which are your enemy (the ego), and the mind will remain as your pure being, the immortal ‘I’. That is the best way of eliminating the ego.
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2nd January, 1937
5. Visitor. I am taught that Mantra Japam is very potent in practice.
Bh. The Self is the greatest of all mantras and goes on automatically and eternally. If you are not aware of this internal mantra, you should take to do it consciously as japam, which is attended with effort, to ward off all other thoughts. By constant attention to it, you will eventually become aware of the internal mantra, which is the state of Realisation and is effortless. Firmness in this awareness will keep you continually and effortlessly in the current, however much you may be engaged on other activities. Listening to Veda chanting and mantras has the same result as conscious repetitions of japam – its rhythm is the japam.
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5th July, 1936
6. Visitor. How to prevent falling asleep in meditation?
Bh. If you try to prevent sleep it will mean thinking in meditation, which must be avoided. But if you slip into sleep while meditating, the meditation will continue even during and after sleep. Yet, being a thought, sleep must be got rid of, for the native state has to be obtained consciously in jagrat (the waking state) without the disturbing thoughts. Waking and sleeping are mere pictures the screen of the native, thought-free state. Let them pass unnoticed.
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27th July, 1942
7. A Chief Engineer of Railways from North India stayed in the Ashram for over a month to have a first hand guidance in meditation.
Eng. I am a beginner in meditation. I pray Bhagavan to guide me. You exhort us to go on enquiring “Who am I?” May I know where it will lead me?
Bh. It is not mere asking; you must go into the meaning of it. Many meditate on certain centres in the body till they merge in them, but sooner or later they will have to enquire into their own nature, which is unavoidable. Then why not straightaway concentrate on yourself till you merge in its source?
E. Yes, for twenty years I have been concentrating on certain chakras and have been seeing things and hearing sounds, but I got nowhere nearer theTruth. Now shall I go on asking “Who am I?” as soon as a thought arises in my mind?
Bh. Quite so. So long as you are not disturbed by outside thoughts dwell on its meaning. The aim is to reach the root of the ‘I’-sense, through constant suppression of the mental processes…
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10th November, 1936
V. As far as I can see it, it is impossible to realise the Self until one has completely succeeded in preventing the rushing thoughts. Am I right?
Bh. Not exactly. You do not need to prevent other thoughts. In deep sleep you are entirely free from thoughts, because the ‘I’-thought is absent. The moment the ‘I’-thought rises on waking, all other thoughts rush out spontaneously. The wisest thing for one to do is therefore to catch hold of this leading thought, the ‘I’-thought, and dissect it – who and what it is – giving thereby no chance to other thoughts to distract one. There lies the true value of the vichara and its efficacy in mind control.
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19th February, 1937
9. A visitor asked:
V. What meditation (dhyana) is the best?
Bh. The best meditation is that which continues in all the three states. It must be so intense as not to give room even to the thought “I am meditating”. As waking and dream states will thus be fully occupied by it, deep sleep may also be deemed to be an undifferentiated dhyana…..
V. What is the difference between sushumna nadi and atma nadi?
Bh. Sushumna is the central nadi which functions in the
practice of yoga, that is, in dynamic dhyana and for the attainment of siddhis (psychic powers) and which the yogis claim to end in the sahasrara, the brain. Atmanadi, Paranadi or Amritanadi is the force current which rises from Heart to the sahasrara in the static dhyana of the jnana marga, which leads to Self-realisation. Sushumna has finally to merge in the Atmanadi which supports it.
The nadis are the nervous system along which consciousness flows from Heart to the whole organism.
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12th February, 1936
10. Mr. C. caught Sri Bhagavan on his way back from the hill.
C. Sri Aurobindo speaks of two forces which affect the yogic practice; one horizontally and the other vertically. I do not understand it.
Bh. All forces come from the Self, which has no directions.
But Sri Aurobindo may be speaking figuratively for the dynamic force which results from concentration in the head centre (or on kundalini shakti) and the static which results from the vichara dhyana in the Heart.
Later in the evening Mr. C. asked:
C. Bhagavan speaks of samadhi, trance. I take it to mean total loss of body consciousness. I am afraid I shall never be able to attain it. I find it hard to send myself to sleep even. Is it necessary before Self-Realisation?
Bh. (laughing) You have to take chloroform in that case. Samadhi is itself the state of the Self. What do you understand by total loss of body consciousness? You do not imagine it to be falling into a sort of catalepsy or
deep sleep. In samadhi the mind is in jagrat, but, being free from thoughts, it enjoys the bliss of sushupti, in which the mind is withdrawn. In samadhi the mind is so alert that it experiences Brahman. If it were not so fully awake, how would it know Brahman? In fact it itself becomes Brahman. Does trance convey that idea? If not, it is a wrong word for samadhi.
C. Do Karma yogis and Bhaktas also pass through samadhi? Bh. Samadhi is merging in the Heart through concentration and mind control. Karma and bhakti yogis also attain samadhi if they practise. In fact most of them attain mukti eventually by the vichara method.
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15th July, 1936
11. Mr. C. reads the “Forty Verses” of Sri Bhagavan to himself in the Hall. Verse 30 fascinates him. He reads it aloud and says: “From this verse I understand that the quest must start with the mind and not the Heart, but Bhagavan always speaks of the Heart, perhaps as the last stage in the practice.”
Bh. Quite so: it has to begin with the mind turned inward to oppose the rushing thoughts and to understand the location of the ‘I’. When the mind eventually sinks in the Heart, undisturbed bliss is overwhelmingly felt. There is then feeling which is not divorced from pure awareness, i.e., head and heart become one and the same.
C. In verse 266 of Vivekachudamani Sri Shankaracharya says that Brahman can be realised by Buddhi, the subtle intellect, which means that the intellect can be of great help; in fact indispensable for Realisation.
Bh. The word “buddhi” is rightly translated as the subtle intellect, but here it means the cave of the Heart. Nevertheless the subtle intellect can also realise Brahman and is therefore of the utmost importance. (Reads aloud – verse 266:)
“In the cave of the Buddhi (subtle intellect) there is the Brahman, distinct from gross and subtle, the Existence Absolute, Supreme, the One without a second. For one who lives in this cave as Brahman, O Beloved, there is no more entrance into a woman’s womb.”
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30th July, 1936
12. Mr. C. Vivekachudamani speaks of the ‘I’-‘I’ Consciousness as eternally shining in the Heart, but no one is aware of it.
Bh. Yes, all men without exception have it, in whatever state they may be – the waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, – and whether they are conscious of it or not.
C. In the Talks section of Sat-Darshana-Bhashya, the ‘I’-‘I’ is referred to as the Absolute Consciousness, yet Bhagavan once told me that any realisation before Sahaja Nirvikalpa is intellectual.
Bh. Yes, the ‘I’-‘I’ Consciousness is the Absolute.Though it comes before Sahaja, there is in it as in Sahaja itself the subtle intellect; the difference being that in the latter the sense of forms disappears, which is not the case in the former.
C. Bhagavan, you said yesterday that there exists in the human body a hole as small as a pinpoint, from which consciousness always bubbles out to the body. Is it open or shut?
Bh. It is always shut, being the knot of ignorance which ties the body to consciousness. When the mind drops in the temporary Kevala Nirvikalpa it opens but shuts again. In Sahaja it remains always open.
C. How is it during the experience of ‘I’-‘I’ Consciousness? Bh. This Consciousness is the key which opens it permanently.
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13. Mr. C. Does the enquiry “Who am I?” lead to any spot in the body?
Bh. Evidently, self-consciousness is in relation to the individual himself and therefore has to be experienced in his being, with a centre in the body as the centre of experience. It resembles the dynamo of a machine, which gives rise to all sorts of electrical works. It not only maintains the life of the body and the activities of all its parts and organs, conscious and unconscious, but also the relation between the physical and the subtler planes, on which the individual functions. Also, like the dynamo, it vibrates and can be felt by the calm mind that pays attention to it. It is known to the yogis and sadhakas by the name of sphurana, which in samadhi scintillates with consciousness.
C. How to reach that Centre, where what you call the Ultimate Consciousness – the ‘I’-‘I’ – arises? Is it by simply thinking “Who am I”?
Bh. Yes, it will take you up. You must do it with a calm mind – mental calmness is essential.
C. How does that consciousness manifest itself when that centre – the Heart – is reached? Will I recognise it?
Bh. Certainly, as pure consciousness, free from all thought. It is pure, unbroken awareness of your Self, rather of Being – there is no mistaking it when pure.
C. Is the vibratory movement of the Centre felt simultaneously with the experience of Pure Consciousness, or before, or after it?
Bh. They are both one and the same. But sphurana can be felt in a subtle way even when meditation has sufficiently stabilised and deepened, and the Ultimate Consciousness is very near, or during a sudden great fright or shock, when the mind comes to a standstill. It draws attention to itself, so that the meditator’s mind, rendered sensitive by calmness, may become aware of it, gravitate towards it, and finally plunge into it, the Self.
C. Is the I-I Consciousness Self-Realisation?
Bh. It is a prelude to it: when it becomes permanent (Sahaja), it is Self-Realisation, Liberation.