Manu Subedar

Manu Subedar, M.L.A. (Central)

It is a privilege to be invited to say something in praise of the great Sage and Teacher of Arunachalam and I shall be glad to pay my humble tribute to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It will do great good to me to concentrate my thoughts on him and his teachings, because, for the Sage who is a Brahmanishta, censure and praise as well as all the other dualities and the intricate hold of the gunas, from which the common man cannot get free, have lost all meaning. In his case it is the same as Dattatreya, who says in the beginning of the Avadhoota Gita:

“How can I bow to Him, Who is Formless,
Undifferentiated and Indestructible, Who is the essence of
Bliss, and Who has through Himself by Himself and in
Himself filled up everything.”

The Maharshi’s Realisation being of this order, what we say about him is of little concern to him. In his person, he has revealed the highest teachings that we have inherited. He has gone beyond not only the limits of thought, but the limits of experience. For over three years I resisted the invitation of my friend, Mr. Shankerlal Banker, to go to Ramana Ashram. I pleaded with him that I was not ready; that “if I went into a very large shop, I would feel ashamed to come out with my hands empty.” At last I decided that I would pay a visit and I prepared myself for about two months prior to that visit by reading nothing else except those two very outstanding books, viz. the Ashtavakra Gita and the Avadhoota Gita. After finishing some work, which I had at Cochin, I set out for Tiruvannamalai. I decided that I should ask a few questions in order to solve some of my doubts and framed a few questions. I was alone in a car from Katpadi and wanted to go over my questions and revise them if necessary. As I formulated each question, I found that I knew the answer! So when I went and had the Darshan of the Maharshi, I had really no question to ask. I permitted myself to observe others and to absorb the elevating atmosphere of the Ashrama. I presented to the Maharshi a commentary on the Gita by the sage Dnyandeo, a great Marathi classic, which I had rendered in English after eight years of effort. He was much pleased with it. I had with me extra copies of the Avadhoota Gita and the Ashtavakra Gita published by the Sastu Sahitya Mudranalaya Trust of Ahmedabad, of which I am the Chairman. I presented these also to the Maharshi. I mentioned that I had been reading these books and I drew his attention to the very first verse in the Avadhoota Gita, which is as follows: “It is only through the Grace of God that in men with knowledge is born a desire to experience cosmic unity (Advaita), a desire which protects them from the great dangers of samsara.” I further drew his attention that most of the matter in these books was for the advanced Siddha, i.e., the adept. For new seekers, who were attempting to learn, there was not much of direct guidance. With infinite compassion in his eyes, the Maharshi looked at me and instructed one of the followers to bring a book. This was the Maha Bhakta Vijayam of Nabhaji.

Bhagavan opened the book and began to read. (I noted with awe that the book opened exactly at the page where he intended to read.) This is a discourse between Dnyaneshwar Maharaj and his father, in which the young son, who has achieved Realisation, is arguing with his father, who is still afraid, still seeking, and still groping. The Maharshi seemed to relish reading the discourse. Those who were present thoroughly enjoyed the reading and I discovered that I was given exactly what I needed. I am for ever grateful to the Sage for what he taught me. The best Teacher is he, who takes you from where you are to the next stage. It is not the totality of the Teacher’s knowledge, which the pupil must consider, but the appropriateness of that which is imparted at the proper moment. As a rule, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi speaks little. But there is spiritual communication and kindliness in his look, eliciting what is best in a person. His presence during the silent hour acts as a catalyst, enabling the concentration of every person’s spiritual yearning and zest. There is grace and benignity in the way he looks at the devotees as a mother looks at her children. In the Indian tradition there is a silent look known as "Kurma Drishti". The full meaning of this is realised only by those who have benefited themselves by a visit to Ramanasramam. The look, which the Maharshi gives you, is a question. At least I felt like it so. The question is: “I see a unity, but you keep grasping at the variety. Why don’t you know yourself properly and realise your true Self? You can then march on to the realisation of the unity of self with the Self.” Nothing is so helpful as the august presence of the Maharshi for those who seriously intend to progress in the spiritual path. The Grace of God, without which progress is impossible, comes not merely invisibly, but through the presence of the pure and great sages, who during the balance of their physical life have no other purpose than the dissemination of knowledge, offer of kindly help and friendly guidance. It is the Maharshi’s teachings and his presence, which proclaim to the world that knowing oneself and realising the Truth is the highest purpose and function of life. Self-knowledge deserves exclusive pursuit in preference to everything else. It is infinitely more important than anything else. To be in the Sage’s presence is for most of us to have a kindly rebuke that progress on the spiritual path is regarded as an intermittent hobby to be undertaken when there is leisure from worldly pursuits. To put it mildly, it is a reproach to our moral being to take interest in spiritual matters only as a pose, and to indulge in it as if it were a supplement to our activities in life. Even when a man slackens in his pursuit of selfish objects for the advancement of his own career and attends partly to the service of others, he stands justly reprimanded in the presence of the Maharshi for dereliction of the highest duty, namely, the gaining of true knowledge of oneself. Spiritual realisation is not less difficult than the accomplishment of any other task in life, and the general experience is that people content themselves with a superficial performance of outside duties and ceremonials. If they go a little further, they are tired and they are in search for some excuse to stop. They often make an attempt in the wrong direction half-heartedly and without concentration, and then they get exhausted. They have a vague idea that there is something high and noble, but they modestly disclaim fitness for the great task. The final excuse, in which the slackness of many devotees expresses itself, is that they are now engaged in the service of others! They owe it to others to raise their status.

They argue that those who have an advantage in the matter of health, intelligence and resources must help others who are not equally well-placed in life. This is also the form which doubt often takes. It is fatal. The Maharshi, in his teachings, has made it quite plain that the pretence of doing good to others is a snare. It is more important, he teaches, to know oneself and to realise the true meaning of that which is. Who is asking the question, “Should I not serve the world at large?” Who is watching in you, while you put the question? Who is to answer the question? It is the final ‘I’, which is the self, and it stands in direct relation with the universal Self. The Maharshi has said “There are no others.” The Maharshi teaches that there is a cosmic existence with the common thread of life running through all individuals, persons and things. There is only one Element. There is only one Power, That which a seeker feels he is out to accomplish, for the welfare of others is but a phase of this common existence. That Power, which is functioning here, is functioning everywhere. That, which animates one person, animates the whole universe. That Being is supreme. He is the repository of all accomplishments. He encompasses all ends. It is better to pursue the path of the Self than to seek other ends, because nothing happens except through the Will of the Paramatman. Or sometimes that seeker has a sort of spiritual experience, which he seeks to understand and stabilize. He formulates a question and puts it to the Maharshi. The Sage clarifies the position in such a way that he not only removes all doubt from the seeker’s mind but also impar ts new faith and conviction. Let me illustrate the above by a quotation from “Maharshi’s Gospel” (Book I).

Question: One has at times vivid flashes of a consciousness whose centre is outside the normal self, and which seems to be all-inclusive. Without concerning ourselves with philosophical concepts, how would Bhagavan advise me to work towards getting, retaining and extending those rare flashes? Does Abhyasa in such experience involve retirement?

Maharshi: Outside! For whom is the inside or outside? Those can exist only so long as there are the subject and object. For whom are these two again? On investigation you will find that they resolve into the subject only. So, who is the subject? This enquiry leads you to pure Consciousness beyond the subject. The normal self is the mind. This mind is with limitations. But pure Consciousness is beyond limitations, and is reached by investigation as above outlined. Getting The Self is always there. You have only to remove the veil obstructing the revelation of the Self.

Retaining Once you realise the Self, it becomes your direct and immediate experience. It is never lost.

Extending There is no extending of the Self, for it is as ever, without contraction or expansion. Retirement. Abiding in the Self is solitude. Because there is nothing alien to the Self.

Retirement must be from some one place or state to another. There is neither the one nor the other apart from the Self. All being the Self, retirement is impossible and inconceivable.

Abhyasa is only the prevention of disturbance to the inherent peace. You are always in your natural state whether you make abhyasa or not..... To remain without question or doubt is your natural State. Compare the following from the Ashtavakra Gita:

My son, have faith, have faith. Don’t get confused. You are above creation. You are in the form of Realisation, you are the Lord, you are the Self.

There are teachers who mystify in order to impress the pupil. Sri Ramana Maharshi on the contrary has the direct method. He discloses the truth and the whole truth in the simplest form in which he has not only formulated it as a thought, but lived it as an experience. Consider carefully the following:

Question: Does my Realization help others?
Maharshi: Yes, and it is the best help that you can possibly render to others. Those who have discovered great truths have done so in the still depths of the Self. But really there are no ‘others’ to be helped. For the Realized Being sees only the Self, just as the goldsmith sees only the gold, while valuing it in various jewels made of gold. When you identify yourself with the body, name and form are there. But when you transcend the body-consciousness the ‘others’ also disappear. The Realized One does not see the world as different from Himself.

Question: Would it not be better if the Saints mix with others?
Maharshi: There are no ‘others’ to mix with. The Self is the only Reality.

Question: Should I not try to help the suffering world?

Maharshi: The power that created you has created the world as well. If It can take care of you, It can similarly take care of the world also........ If God has created the world, it is His business to look after it, not yours.

Question: Is it not our duty to be patriots?

Maharshi: Your duty is TO BE, and not to be this or that. ‘I AM THAT I AM’ sums up the whole truth; the method is summarized in “BE STILL”. And what does Stillness mean? It means ‘Destroy yourself ’; because every name and form is the cause of trouble. ‘I-I’ is the Self. ‘I am this’ is the ego. When the ‘I’ is kept up as the ‘I’ only, it is the Self. When it flies off at a tangent and says, ‘I am this or that, I am such and such,’ it is the ego.

Question: Who then is God?
Maharshi: The Self is God. ‘I AM’ is God. If God be apart from the Self, He must be a Self-less God, which is absurd. All that is required to realize the Self is to BE STILL. What can be easier than that? Hence Atma-vidya is the easiest to attain.
Compare with this the following from the Ashtavakra Gita:

2(23): In me, who am the ocean of infinity, the wind in the form of the mind is blowing and suddenly numerous waves arise in the form of this world.
2(24): In me, who am the ocean of infinity, the wind in the form of the mind stops blowing and the ship in the form of this world belonging to the merchant in the form of jiva is, unfortunately wrecked.

2(25): It is marvellous that in me, who am the ocean of infinity, many waves in the form of jiva, arise through their own tendency, rise, dash against one another, play and subside.

7(1): In me, the ocean of infinity, the ship in the form of this universe, moves hither and thither impelled by the wind in the form of the mind.

7(2): I am neither increased nor diminished when waves in the form of this world arise or calm down in me, who am the ocean of infinity.

7(3): In me, who am the ocean of infinity, the world is born of imagination. But I stand where I am, perfectly calm and formless. It is the high distinction of India to have produced sages who have risen to the highest stature in this land, because the atmosphere created by the old traditions and teachings is favourable to such growth. The West has failed in its thought-processes beyond a certain point, with the result that the moral direction needed both for individuals and for human groups, has been lacking there. This conclusion is clearly indicated inthe age of the atom bomb. The relation of man with his Maker is better understood in India than anywhere else in the world. In one sense, during the last five thousand years, there is very little new, which has been added to what can be called the Brahma Vidya. It cannot be otherwise, since truth to be the Truth is eternal; when realised, it is realised in its perfection. But books and book-knowledge alone will not help. A man may die in a chemist’s shop, if he does not know which medicine is good, though he is in the midst of every kind of medicine. But even the knowledge of the right medicine is not enough; he must take it in and make it a part of his system. Then alone will the ailment go.

Every age produces in India its outstanding Yogis and Teachers. They shed their light wherever they are and guide others to the true path. They keep the torch of spiritual experience burning and pass the light to others just as they received it. Every student of Adhyatma Vidya knows that at every stage he needs the kindness and the blessings of someone who is advanced. It is really a divine favour, but it is given through someone. Sri Ramana Maharshi is one who bestows this favour on whoever is ready to take it. Seeds may be sown all over, but they will sprout only where other conditions are favourable. Is Sri Ramana an Avatara? It is a tempting question to put, but who is to decide? How many recognized Sri Rama and accepted him as an Avatara in his life-time? In the case of Sri Krishna, was it not the humbler men like Sudama, Vidura and Uddhava who knew him, rather than his lofty contemporaries? is but a truism. Those who wish to benefit themselves, do not need anything more than what the Sage of Arunachala offers. As for those whose curiosity is irrepressible, let them remember that the final knowledge of all that He (paramatman) is, is only known to Himself.
Let me quote from Avadhoota Gita:

2(40): Where words and mind cannot reach and encompass, there how can the Teacher teach the Truth? It is only when a Teacher, who has been through the experience and who has realised, tells his story, that the light of the Self, Who is acting simultaneously and is common in all, shines forth. This would be realised by any one who has “prepared” himself and who pays a visit to Sri Ramana Maharshi. I humbly bow to this great Sage.