This Chapter taken from The book ‘Crumbs from His Table’ by Ramanananda Swarnagiri
D: Can I get knowledge of the “Self,” that is can I experience direct realization of the “Self “?
B: Why? Who is there without a knowledge of the “Self”? Everyone has experience of the “Self “.
D: But I do not realize it.
B: The fact is that all the while you know the “Self “. How can the self not know the Self. Only you, the self, have got into the habit of thinking that you are this, you are that and you are the other. It is the wrong notion that produces or constitutes viparita bhavana of the Self at present, and that is why you say you do not know the Self. What is to be done is to get rid of that wrong notion of the Self. That then clears up the Self-knowledge or Self-realization.
D: How can I get rid of that viparita bhavana? Can any ordinary man get rid of it? If so, how?
B: Yes. That is possible and is being done. There are many ways — Bhakti, Jnana, Karma, Yoga, etc., are being adopted — all for the removal of this viparita bhavana. But the main way is simple.
D: But I am ignorant of the method and of the ‘Self ‘.
B: Who is ignorant of what? Ask the question and pursue the enquiry as to who it is that is said to be ignorant. Once you put the question, trying to probe into the ‘I’, the ‘I’ disappears. Then what survives is Self-knowledge or Self-realization.
D: But how to get at that? Isn’t a Guru’s help needed? Isn’t God’s help needed?
B: Why? In practice all this is adopted. But on ulti- mate enquiry, i.e., after reaching the goal, the method and means adopted are found to be themselves the goal. The Guru turns out ultimately to be God and God turns out to be your own real “Self “.
D: But isn’t the Guru’s grace or God’s grace necessary for one’s progress in the vichara? (Enquiry).
B: Yes. But the vichara that you are making is itself the Guru’s grace or God’s grace.
D: I request you to bless me with your Grace.
The Maharshi remains silent for a while, showing that his very silent presence, in perpetual (i.e., sahaja) Samadhi, is an ever present help, which it is for the thirsty questioner to quaff and quench his spiritual thirst with. Then he said:
B: Go on with your enquiry.
D: How? I don’t know how to proceed.
B: Who doesn’t know? You say ‘I’ and yet you say you don’t know ‘I’. Can anyone be ignorant of himself? Isn’t that ludicrously impossible? If there were something else to be attained or known, then you might feel difficulty in attaining or knowing it. But in the case of the ever present, inescapable ‘I’, how can you be ignorant? You have constantly to fight out and get rid of your false notion of ‘I’. Do that.
D: In doing so isn’t a Guru’s help necessary and useful?
B: Yes, to start you on the inquiry. But you must yourself pursue your enquiry.
D: To what extent can I rely on the Guru’s Grace, in this? Up to what point is the enquiry itself to be carried on?
B: You must carry on this demolition of wrong idea by enquiry, till your last wrong notion is demolished — till the Self is realized.
D: How can I help others?
B: Who is there for you to help? Who is the ‘I’ that is to
help others? First clear up that point and then everything will settle itself.
D: As for Ishwara’s (God’s) help in my effort, isn’t that to be secured by prayer, worship, etc.? Won’t that be helpful?
B: Ishwara’s (God’s) grace and worship for it etc., are all intermediate steps adopted and necessary to be adopted so long as the goal is not reached. When it is reached, God is the self.
D: What particular steps will be helpful?
B: That depends on the circumstances in each case.
D: Which path is best suited to me? Won’t all help be provided by God?
B: Bhakti, Karma, Jnana and Yoga, all these paths are one. You cannot love God without knowing Him nor know Him without loving Him. Love manifests itself in everything you do and that is Karma. The development of mental perception (Yoga) is the necessary preliminary before you can know or love God in the proper way.
D: Can I go on thinking “I am God”? Is that right practice?
B: Why think that? In fact you are God. But who goes on thinking or saying “I am a man”, “I am a man”? If any contrary thought, for instance, that one was a beast had to be put down, then of course you might say “I am a man”. To the extent of crushing down the wrong notion that one is this or that, according to one’s erroneous fancies, to that extent the idea that he is not these but God or Self, may be indulged in, as a matter of practice but when practice is over, the result is not any thought at all (such as ‘I am God’) but mere Self-realization. That is beyond conceptual thought.
D: Doesn’t that all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God provide all that is needed for a man’s realization?
The enquirer’s inner thought was — “Should we always depend upon the whims and fancies of a Guru, however great he may be? If so, where is freedom of the Self and Self-reliance”.
Quick and straight as an arrow came the answer from Him as if He understood the enquirer’s inner trouble better than himself.
B: Do not think that this body is the Guru (pointing to his body).
D: I fear that Self-realization is no easy thing to reach. B: Why stultify yourself by anticipating failure in your course. Push on. There you are. Self-realization will come to an earnest seeker in a trice.
Story of Janaka
In illustration of this, Sri Bhagavan once told the following story:
King Janaka was listening to a philosophical treatise by the State Pandit, wherein a passage occurred to the effect that a rider who had placed one foot upon the stirrup, contemplating realization, could realize himself before he lifted the other foot on to the other stirrup i.e., that realization, when it does come, would be so sudden and quick. He stopped the Pandit from proceeding further, and desired him to experimentally prove that statement. The Pandit admitted that he was only a theoretician and was unable to impart practical wisdom. Janaka suggested that the text was either false or exaggerated, but the Pandit would not admit this.
Though he was himself not able to impart practical wisdom he stated that the text could not be false or exaggerated, as they were the words of the wise sages of the past. Janaka was annoyed with the Pandit and in a fit of rage condemned him to prison. He inflicted similar punishment on every Pandit who passed for a wise man and was unable to prove the scriptural text.
For fear of being imprisoned, some of the Pandits left the country in voluntary exile, and while two or three of them were fleeing through a thick forest, a sage with eight deformities (called Ashtavakra because of this — Ashta = eight and Vakra = bends) happened to meet them and, having learnt their plight, he offered to explain the text to the King and get the imprisoned Pandits released. Impressed by his bold assurance, they took him before the King. At the sight of the sage, the King stood up and saluted him with great reverence. Ashtavakra commanded him to release all the Pandits. Janaka thought such an imperative suggestion could only emanate from one who had the capacity to set his doubts at rest and released them all.
The King and Ashtavakra then adjourned to a forest nearby. Janaka, then putting one step on the stirrup of a horse, asked Ashtavakra to prove the scriptural text. The sage asked him whether the position in which they stood to one another indicated the relationship of master and disciple. Janaka readily understood the meaning of this query, got down from the horse and, bowing before Ashtavakra, prayed to be taught.
Ashtavakra then told him that a disciple should surrender himself, his possessions and all to his Master, before being taught Brahma Jnana. Janaka surrendered all. Then Ashtavakra said: “All right!” Janaka became dazed and stood like a statue. Ashtavakra disappeared from the scene. Time passed by, and the citizens who were awaiting the return of Janaka, finding no sign of his approach, grew anxious and began to search for him. They came to where Janaka was still standing, and were surprised and dismayed to find him unaware of their presence and indifferent to their earnest enquiries. They looked out for Ashtavakra who, they thought, must be a charlatan who had worked some spell upon their King, and vowed vengeance on him. But as they were concerned with the King’s condition and wanted to minister to him, they brought him to the city on a palanquin. The King, however, continued in the same condition.
The ministers entreated Ashtavakra to remove the alleged spell on the King and bring him back to his normal condition; at the same time the ministers charged him with the responsibility for having wrought the spell. Ashtavakra treated their ignorant remarks with contempt and called upon Janaka who immediately saluted him and responded to his call. The ministers were surprised. Ashtavakra told the King that he was being maliciously accused by the people of having brought him to some sad plight and asked him to resume his normal functions, adding that Brahma Jnana could be taught to competent persons only and as he had successfully come out of the test, he would impart it to him. So saying he composed the Ashtavakra Gita, the main theme of which is: “Brahman is not anything new or apart from one and no particular time or place is needed to realize Brahman,” and concluded by saying “Tat Twam Asi” meaning “That Thou Art.” That is the Self, eternal and infinite.
The next morning the ministers saw the King call the assembly and perform his functions as usual. In the assembled court Ashtavakra asked the King if his former doubt cleared, as to whether Brahma Jnana could be had as suddenly and as quickly as mentioned in the scriptures, and if so to bring the horse and demonstrate the truth of it.
The King was all humility now and said: “Lord! Because of my immaturity, I doubted the correctness of the scriptural text. I now realize that every letter of it is true.”
The ministers thanked the sage.
OM! OM!! OM!!!