B. C. Sengupta, M.A., B.L. (Principal, K. C. College, Hetampur, West Bengal.)

Everybody wants happiness untainted by sorrow. But we find few people obtaining such happiness. Looking at the phenomenal existence of ours we find that it is almost an invariable law that, like night alternating with day, happiness always alternates with misery. If it is in the nature of things that happiness must always alternate with misery then it would be impossible for anybody to obtain perpetual peace and happiness. But Prophets, Sages and Saints, all the world over, have emphatically declared that it is possible to transcend this phenomenal existence of ours and to attain a state of perpetual peace and happiness untainted by sorrow. This they have declared, not as a theoretical possibility based on rational arguments, but as a fact of their own personal experience, as a state actually realised by them. They declare that Bliss is the very nature of man’s true being, and to obtain perpetual happiness one has only to search for and abide in the primal state of one’s true being - which is the Self. They declare that happiness does not lie in and cannot be obtained from any one of the countless objects of the mundane world. It is through sheer ignorance we fancy that happiness is obtained from them.

The truth is, they declare, that every time one’s desire gets fulfilled, the mind becomes introverted (ceases to get externalised), thus touching its source (though unconsciously) and for an instant experiences that happiness which is natural to the Self. Immediately, another unfulfilled desire rises in the mind and extroverts it. The mind thus losing its contact with the Self becomes unhappy again. If we can always firmly abide in the Self we shall constantly experience perpetual Bliss, which is the very nature of the Self. For thus firmly abiding in the Self, the Sages have also prescribed practical methods, following which we may also realise such a state of perpetual happiness in our own lives.

Description of such methods we find recorded in all our ancient scriptures. But the main drawback of such written records is that in course of time men miss the spirit underlying these teachings and engage themselves in vain theoretical and verbal discussions. It is also notable that, during such periods of degeneration, great men, whom we call Avataras, appear on our earth to restore these methods to their original form, imparting life to them and enabling a vast number of people to attain the state of supreme Peace and Bliss through the right method. Such a one is Sri Ramana Maharshi of Arunachala. after realising and completely merging His own identity with the Supreme Self, He has designed to remain on this earth for the uplift of humanity and to help really ripe souls to attain the same state.

In India it is generally recognised that the help of a Guru is necessary for transcending this life of diversity, full of pain and misery, and reaching the supreme state of perpetual Bliss. To reach this state one has to transcend the mind. As any number of squares can never produce a cube, similarly no amount of mental activity can make one transcend the mind and reach the supreme state of egolessness. It is stated that, except at the feet of the Master and in His divine presence, it is impossible for the seeker to reach and abide in that primal state of pure Being or the Self, where the mind is entirely subdued and all its activity has completely ceased. Hence the necessity for the Grace of the Guru. But this Grace is eternal, ever present and ever active. We need have no doubt as to whether we shall obtain this Grace or not. To the question, “Has God or the Guru any solicitude for us?” Maharshi replies: “If you seek eitherthey are not really two but one and identicalrest assured that they are seeking you with a solicitude greater than you can ever imagine.” Sri Ramakrishna also declared: “If you approach one step towards God, God moves ten steps towards you.” But we must move one step. With the firm conviction that Grace is ever present, the seeker must, on his part, earnestly strive to qualify himself for this Grace. This striving of the seeker is called Sadhana and may take many forms as there are many recognised methods of approach to the Supreme, according to the moral and intellectual equipment of the seeker. Maharshi recognises many such methods. But he prescribes one particular method which he himself calls the method par excellence. It is the method of Self-enquiry, the quest of the Self - Vichara Marga. This method is unique, simple and most scientific. It has no mystery about it. It does not demand any obedience to particular creeds or metaphysical theories. It starts from the very fundamental fact of our experience that “I exist” and directs us to find out this “I”. Happiness is our true being. It is always with us here and now. Forgetting this we have strayed out from the primal Blissful state of our being and have thus enmeshed ourselves in misery and unhappiness. To obtain perpetual happiness we have only to find out and abide in the true state of our being - which is Bliss itself. Maharshi directs us to find out “Who am I?”

Do we know this “I” - which is ever present and without which no knowledge, not even existence, is possible? Even the greatest of the Western philosophers have confessed that whenever they tried to find the “I”, they stumbled only on some state of the “I” but could never find the “I” itself. The majority of us, however, without any strictly critical examination, have unquestioningly assumed that “I am the body.” Before engaging in the quest of the Self, this ignorant assumption has to be removed by strict and careful examination. Before proceeding to know what the “I” is, we have to find out what it is not. The body cannot be the “I”. The body changes continually. It was small and it has grown bigger whereas the sense of “I”ness remains always the same. I am the same identical I as I was years agothough the body has changed enormously during this period. Even if a man loses a whole limb, the sense of “I”-ness in him is not even slightly diminished thereby. During sleep or a swoon, there is no consciousness of the body but on awaking the same identical “I” appears as before. Again, if the body were identical with the Iconsciousness, I could never lose the I-consciousness during deep sleep, as the body was there all the time quite intact. On examining all reflex, automatic and habitual actions of the body (like walking etc.) it is found that these go on without any conscious participation of the “I”. If the body were identical with the “I” then all such actions could not go on without the conscious participation of the “I”. Moreover, the body is insentient like a log of wood and therefore cannot be the conscious “I”.

Similar considerations will show that the mind is not the “I”. The mind is changing very frequently whereas the sense of “I”-ness in me remains the same. The mind can be made an object of observation and therefore must be distinct from the observing “I”. Again I try to still my mind but it does not come under my control showing that it is distinct from “I”. During deep sleep or swoon there is no mind, but the “I” must exist; otherwise how could I get the sense of the identical “I”-ness after waking up? Thus the “I” is not the mind.

Now if I am neither the body nor the mind, what then am I? The problem is most fascinating. The “I” which is ever present, without which there can be no knowledge nor even existence, always eludes our grasp. To obtain a direct answer to this problem Maharshi gives out his unique method of self-enquiry. This method is not at all intellectual. No amount of intellectual analysis or study will ever reveal the “I” since it is about the intellect. It is not even necessary hypothetical idea as to the final naure of the “I” or of the ultimate reality or whether the “I” is one with the Supreme or distinct from it. Says Maharshi – “Why speculate as to what will happen some time in the future? All are agreed that the ‘I’ exists. Let the earnest seeker first find out what the ‘I’ is. Then it will be time enough to know what the final state will be. Let us not forestall the conclusion but keep an open mind. Instead of indulging in mere speculation devote yourself here and now to the search for the truth that is ever within you”.

Though not imperatively necessary, it will help us in preparing the proper mood for the search if we accept, on the authority of the Sages and the Scriptures, that we are always the Self, so that finding the Self is like finding the lion in a puzzle-picture of a jungle. Though the lion is always there we cannot find the lion so long as we look at the picture as a jungle. But if we withdraw our attention from the jungle and look intently for the lion, the lion appears to us never to be lost sight of again. The search for the Self - the truth behind our “I” - is a similar process. It is the ever-present reality. But so long as our attention is drawn away by the phenomenal world, we do not find it.

When we withdraw the whole of our attention from the world of phenomena and direct it towards its own source, the Self reveals itself spontaneously. The process of finding the “I” is similar to the process of recollecting a forgotten thing. When we try to recollect a forgotten thing we do not rake out, one by one, all the hidden contents of our mind - the number of which is legion - and go on rejecting each one of these, as not this, till we find the desired one. The true process of recollecting is to keep the mind quite still, only keeping the desire to recollect the thing at the back of the mind. When the conscious mind is thus kept quite still, the forgotten thing flashes forth of itself in the mind. There are two essentials in this process - a desire to recollect the forgotten thing (without which the forgotten thing will not appear in mind) and keeping the surface mind quite still. In the quest of the Self also these are the two essentials: first, there must be a keen and earnest desire to know the Self and, secondly, with this will in the background, the mind must be completely stilled. The will to know the Self, which expresses itself as an intent, unbroken, watchful gaze within, is the dynamical element in the quest. In fact, this intense and steady watchful inward gaze forms the essence of this method. Simply stilling the mind without this is inoperative. On the other hand, this inward watchfulness, when steadily kept up, will itself still the mind and destroy all its latent tendencies to run after objects. The mind will be gradually made pure - reduced to its state of Suddha Sattva, in which state it firmly inheres in the Self. It is only when the mind is contaminated by the qualities of “activity” and “inertia” that it strays out from the Self and crates objects and becomes enmeshed thereby. We have to destroy this outgoing tendency of the mind and make it perfectly still. Now, how are we to still the mind? If one thought is rejected another comes in its place and there seems to be no end at all. But there is an end. Says Maharshi: “If you cling to yourself, say the I-thought, and when your interest keeps you to that single idea, other thoughts get rejected, automatically they vanish.”

There can be no thought without attention, either voluntary or involuntary. If we withdraw our attention from a thought it vanishes. But the attention must have an object. To what then must it be directed? Maharshi directs us to fix our attention on the source of the “I”-thought. The “I”- thought is the very first thought. Every other thought rises after the rise of the “I”-thought and involves this “I”-thought. When I see, hear or think of anything, the “I”-thought is involved in every one of these operations as, “I see, I hear, I think” etc. Without this “I” there can be no mental operations. Says Sri Ramana: “When there is not the “I”- thought there will be no other thought. Until that time, when other thoughts arise, the question ‘To whom’ (is this thought)? will call forth the reply ‘To me’. He who pursues this closely, questioning ‘What is the origin of the I?’ and diving inwards reaches the seat of the mind within the Heart, becomes there the Lord of the Universe.” We are here directed to dive inwards following the clue of the “I- am”-ness to its source. He says, “Self-enquiry by following the clue of the Ahamvritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The master may be at some distant, unknown place, but that does not stand in the way of the dog tracing him. The master’s scent is an infalliable clue for the animal; and noting else, such as the dress he wears or his build and stature etc., counts. To that scent the dog holds on undistractedly while searching for him and finally it succeeds in tracing him. “Likewise in your quest for the Self, the one infallible clue is the Aham-vritti, the ‘I-am’-ness which is the primary datum of your experience”. This clue is infallible. By steadily and undistractedly following this Aham-vritti we are invariably led to its Source - the Self.

At the initial stages of the enquiry, innumerable thoughts will rise in the mind, due to past tendencies. We are directed to kill these thoughts at the source, by the method of Selfenquiry, by enquiring deeply within, “To whom has this thought occurred?” “For”, says Maharshi, “if you would with acute vigilance enquire immediately as and when each individual thought arises as to whom it has occurred, you would find it is to ‘me’. If then you enquire ‘Who am I?’ the mind gets introverted and the rising thought also subsides. In this manner as you persevere more and more in the practice of ‘Self-enquiry’ the mind acquires increasing strength and power to abide in the Source.” Strong perseverance is necessary in this path. Day after day, month after month, year after year we have to steadily persevere in this enquiry. Vasanas, latent mental tendencies, have been accumulated and cultivated in us for ages past and long-cultivated tendencies can only be eradicated by long continued practice. As we persevere in this method, the tendencies of the mind gradually become weaker and ultimately die out. At the initial stages we may have some fixed hours of meditation but as we persevere in this process the mind becomes stronger and the mental tendencies which cause obstruction become weaker and weaker. We are then to keep the mind constantly turned within and fixed on the Self even while engaged in action. By a steady and continuous practise of this method the mind will get absorbed in its own primal state. Such absorption leads to supreme Bliss and the Self reveals Itself spontaneously.

To the question whether it is possible for a householder to attain this Supreme State without relinquishing his home, Maharshi answers in the affirmative. He says: “It is quite possible for the wise grihastha, who earnestly seeks Liberation, to discharge his duties in life without any attachment, considering himself as merely instrumental for the purpose, i.e., without any sense of doership. Such karma is not an obstacle in the way of attaining Jnana. Nor does Jnana stand in the way of discharging one’s duties in life. Jnana and karma are never mutually antagonistic and the realisation of the one is not an obstacle to the performance of the other.” What is necessary is perfect detachment. Attachment increases dehatma-buddhi and thus makes bondage stronger. Also the tendency of the mind to run after objects is made stronger by acquiescence and our attempts to still it will be frustrated. One should therefore cultivate a spirit of detachment and remain unconcerned and indifferent to external happenings.

Performance of his duties in life with complete detachment and without any sense of doership will purify his mind and will thus rather help him in this path. When after assiduous practise of this method of Self-enquiry the mind becomes perfectly still, the seeker has only to keep his lakshya firmly fixed on the Self, and steadfastly maintain an inward prayerful watch, for the Self to reveal itself. What will happen now does not depend on his efforts. As a matter of fact he cannot make any further effort. He will have simply to watch and wait. Grace will now manifest itself and do the work for him. The best condition for the manifestation of Grace will be complete self-surrender. As one perseveres in this enquiry, one’s “I”-consciousness gradually separates itself from the body and the mind and one actually perceives that all actions of the body and mind go on,without the “I” taking any active part in these,the “I” remaining an unattached observer of these actions. The conviction gradually grows in him that everything is being ordained and controlled by some higher power. The best thing now is to submit to this higher power. The ego, which has been carefully nurtured and strengthened for ages past, now offers itself as a willing sacrifice to be struck down by the Supreme and devoured by It.

The real Self, which has been all along there, waiting to take the Sadhaka in, now takes hold of him and fixes him in Eternity. He becomes identical with the Supreme Self and remains perpetually immersed in the Ocean of Bliss. This is the method, - the method of enquiry, of Atma-Vichara enjoined by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi for Selfrealisation. Self and Bliss are identical. So when one realises his own Self he remains perpetually immersed in Bliss. He becomes Bliss Itself. The finite mind cannot comprehend his state, - a state attaining which nothing remains to be attained and from which state no calamity, however great, can ever dislodge him. Even while engaged in action he remains immersed in perpetual peace and happiness.

The process is simple but requires the strongest perseverance, a perseverance which has been likened to that of the birds which attempted to dry up the ocean for recovering their eggs. But as in their case a superior being intervened, dried up the ocean and restored them their eggs, so in our case also, the Supreme Being in the form of the Guru intervenes and grants us the desired end, which we are incapable of achieving by our unaided efforts.

But there is an easier method available to earnest seekers of this present age. It is the association with a Sage - a Jivanmukta - one who has become identified with the Supreme even in this life. We find the following scriptural dictum: “To that fortunate one who habitually associates with Sages with a devout mind, of what use are all these observances for winning the highest goal? When the cool south wind blows giving relief from heat, say what is the use of keeping a fan in the hand?” “The holy bathing places - which are but water - are never equal to those great ones; nor are the Deity forms - made of stone or earth - which are worshipped; through these a man gets purity of mind, if he has devotion, after immeasurable time; by the sight of the Sages he may become pure at once.”

Such a Sage is now adorning the Arunachala Hill with his presence. He is easily accessible, always ready to inspire ardent seekers. No introduction or intermediary is necessary. It is a unique opportunity and privilege to the earnest seeker which he cannot afford to forego. Such an opportunity does not occur in every life.

To quote the words of Mr. Grant Duff: “Should those who have it in their power to visit the Asramam delay, they will have only themselves to blame in future lives..... Never perhaps in world history was the Supreme Truth - Reality, Sat, - placed within such easy reach of so vast a multitude. Here and now through no special merit of our own, we may approach Reality. The sole difficulty is that of paying for the journey, there is no danger, and the reward is Knowledge of the Self.”

So, brother, don’t tarry; have the end of your human existence fulfilled by seeking the Divine Presence.