This part is written by Swami Prasannananda Guru
Following was the conversation which took place on 2nd January 1942, when some visitors from northern India well-versed in Hindu Sastras, visited Sri Ramanasramam.
Visitor: If the ultimate Reality is one and absolute, why does the world appear as an object, seen and as different from the subject who sees it? Who is it that sees the object as distinct from himself, the subject?
Maharshi: Who is it that is putting this question? V: One who seeks the Truth.
M: Who is he?
V: He who desires to know the Truth.
M: Instead of having a mere desire to know the truth, if he has the anubhava (experience) such questions as these would not arise.
V: True, after Realization they cannot arise. But until he has the experience, he has not only the desire for it, but also some doubts regarding the nature of ultimate Reality. Hence arises the question, why the world should appear as an object different from the subject who sees it. I do admit that the question has significance only until the desire for Realization is fulfilled. But till then, the question remains, and it has to be answered.
M: That there is no answer to your question is the only answer, because the question does not really arise. In order to know the truth, you who seek to know it should exist as such, i.e., as yourself, the primal being. It is therefore yourself that you should know in the first instance. It is of you that knowledge or ignorance is predicated. You said you do not know the Truth and desire to know it. Instead of engaging your mind with such thoughts as “I know,” “I am ignorant,” etc., you should direct it towards the enquiry as to what the ‘I’ itself is. Through such enquiry you will find, as a matter of experience and not merely as something to think and argue about, that what remains alone and absolute is the Self. So that your question, viz., why the world should appear as an object seen by a subject, cannot and does not at all arise. A question that does not arise cannot have an answer.
V: How then should I know the ‘I’?
M. By investigation into this question itself, and thereby will you get the experience or atmanubhuti. The ardent desire to know the Truth has a beneficial purpose to serve until one has such experience.
V: Mental activity during meditation does not seem to converge at a point, as it should, on the object of meditation and it does not stay there but gets diverted into numerous thought channels. Why is it so? How can the mind be made to overcome this tendency towards diffused thinking and attain its Primal State of freedom from thought?
M: It is the mind’s attachment to objects constituting the non-self that makes the mind wander about during meditation. Therefore, the mind should be withdrawn from the non-self, and an effort should be made to fix it in Self-enquiry. All extraneous thought is effectively eliminated when you attune the entire mind to the one question, “Who is it that is making the enquiry?”
V: In spite of having come to the definite conclusion as a result of one’s investigation that ‘I’ has no essential relation with the non-self, i. e., with the body, senses and the objects perceived by the senses, the mind persists in going after these very same things which constitute the non-self. What is it due to and how can it be remedied?
M: It is due to lack of abhyasa and vairagya. When Self-enquiry has become steady through practice, and the spirit of renunciation firm through conviction, your mind will be free from the tendency of thinking about the non-self.
V: How can I gain steadiness in practice? M: Only through more practice.
The cynosure of all eyes in the hall is Bhagavan, whose silence is much more potent. Those who sit in the hall within his presence have a splendid opportunity for the practice of dhyana. A genuine devotee cannot but experience what is called the peace that passeth all understanding, which is Bliss Divine.
What is more valuable than the realization of such Bliss?
Is not every man really in quest of such happiness, consciously or unconsciously? Alas, many a one out of ignorance, would not adopt the proper course with the result that he must be whirling in the wheel of births and deaths. Every aspirant has to qualify himself to receive that love and grace of the Sadguru in order to expedite one’s own spiritual development. In this dark-age of Kali Yuga, during which dharma is said to be standing on only one of its four legs, how deep and abiding should be our sense of gratitude to Sri Bhagavan who leads us along the true path of
eternity, saving us from the pitfalls of maya?
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the eternal and universal Self which is all pervading and all sustaining is the only Reality, whereas to those who are steeped in avidya, it is something hidden, something inaccessible. They remain oblivious to the self-evident Reality and labour under the illusion of its shadows. Each individual identifies himself with the fragmentary ego, the little ‘I’, which functions with a sense of separateness, confounding the knowledge of the external world derived through the senses in the wakeful state with the Reality. Such knowledge is entirely absent in the state of dreamless sleep. That which is real is unchanging in all the three states of consciousness, and our quest is not for something new but for what is always present, which however is not recognized on account of the veil of maya covering it. It is that first mahavakya, prajnanam Brahman, Pure consciousness or knowledge is Brahman.
“Self-enquiry is certainly not an empty formula; it is more than the repetition of any mantra. If the enquiry ‘Who am l?’ were a mere mental questioning, it would not be of much value. The very purpose of Self-enquiry is to focus the entire mind at its source. It is not, therefore, a case of ‘I’ searching for another ‘I’. Self-enquiry is the one infallible means, the only direct one, to realize the unconditional absolute Being that you really are.”