Swami Rajeswarananda


Sri Swami Rajeswarananda & Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan, M.A., Ph.D.
(Head of the Department of Philosophy, University of Madras)

The intellect cannot understand how it becomes possible to realise the non-dual Self while yet tenanting a body. Still more difficult it is to reconcile the fact of Self-realisation with the continuance of the physical body. But that only shows how poor an instrument the intellect turns out to be, when it oversteps the bounds of the empirical. The heart has its reasons which the intellect cannot understand. The authentic evidence for Liberation-in-life (Jivanmukti) provided by the experience of those rare souls who have broken through the bonds of finitude cannot be ignored or set aside. Sankara says in his commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, “There is no need to dispute, whether the knower of Brahman bears the body for some time or not. How can another object to one’s own experience, realised in the heart, of Brahman-knowledge as well as continuance of the body?” In these words the great Advaita-teacher gives expression to his conviction of Jivanmukti, the state which he himself had attained. And in our own day, Sri Ramana Maharshi stands as an eloquent witness to the reality of such an experience. From his abode at Arunachala, he blazons forth to humanity the path of light which leads to Immortality and everlasting Bliss.

To the sceptics who ask, “What difference is there between the Maharshi and any of us? He too eats and sleeps, laughs and speaks,” no reply could be given. The question itself is irrelevant, because it has no bearing on Self-realisation. Moksha does not mean a change in the normal modes of physical behaviour. It only means of realisation of one’s eternal nature as the non-dual Self. Arjuna betrayed only his ignorance when he asked Krishna: “What is the mark of a Sthitaprajna, one who has a steadied mind, and is established in Samadhi? How does the man of stable mind speak, how doe he sit, how does he walk?” In his reply the Lord of the Gita does not refer to the Sthitaprjna’s food or posture or gait, but gives a glorious description of the God-realised soul as one who is firmly established in Wisdom and is above the passions and storms of temporal existence. He says, “Arjuna, when one abandons completely all the cravings of the mind, and is satisfied in the Self through the Self, then he is called a Sthitaprajna.” We who presume to judge the Jnani from the side of the world are in the same predicament as Arjuna was in. We are inquisitive to know whether he experiences the world or not, and if he does, how he is different from us. To a questioner who asked, “Is the world perceived after Self-realisation?” the Maharshi once replied, “Why worry yourself about the world and what happens to it after Self-realisation? First realize the Self. What does it matter if the world is perceived or not. Do you gain anything to help you in your quest by the nonperception of the world during sleep? Conversely, what would you lose now by the perception of the world? It is quite immaterial to the Jnani or ajnani if he perceives the world or not. It is seen by both, but their points of view differ.” What, then, is the difference between the Jnani and ajnani? The Maharshi’s answer is: “Seeing the world, the Jnani sees the Self which is the Substratum of all that is seen; the ajnani, whether he sees the world or not, is ignorant of his true Being, the Self.” Thus what matters is a change in outlook. To the Jnani the world is not real, and there is naught else than the Self of Brahman; whereas to the ajnani the world seems to be all too real. It is we that see the Jnani as if inhabiting a body and living as an individual in the world. But from his own point of view - if we may use the expression his own in the language of ignorance - there is no body and no world. Because we are world-bound, we seek for external marks of Wisdom in a Jnani. But there is no universality about these marks nor are they always sure guides. The ultimate guide in such matters is our own conscience or heart-conviction. Describing his impression of the Maharshi, Grant Duff says, “There it did not take me long to see that I was in direct contact with one who has passed beyond the boundaries of the senses and was indeed already merged in the Absolute of his true Self, though manifesting here for our benefit for a few brief years.” But if one should ask him how it was that he received such an impression, he frankly confesses there could be no reasoning about it. “I can only reply,” he says, “as I should to one who asked me how I saw the sun on looking out of the window, by saying that I did so by the use of my eyes and incidentally of all my other senses collaborating. I did not need any algebraic or other proof of the existence of the sun. I do not need any other proof of the divinity of Ramana Maharshi.” In these words of Grant Duff many of us who have enjoyed the sacred peace in the presence of the Maharshi will find an echo of our own experience.

The Maharshi seldom talks. He believes, like the Sages of yore, that the Self is best taught in Silence. Silence is the language of the Spirit; and speech can give only a distortion of the Truth. The Absolute Self which is beyond speech and thought cannot be attained through these. It is realised in the still Silence where the storms of words and the waves of thought have ceased. “Silence is everspeaking,” says the Maharshi, “it is the perennial flow of ‘language.’ It is interrupted by speaking; for words obstruct this mute ‘language’ . . . Oral lectures are not so eloquent as Silence. Silence is unceasing Eloquence. . . It is the best Language.” Even the scriptures must have a stop. After indicating the direction, they too must turn back. For the benefit of those who cannot understand the language of Silence the Maharshi sometimes talks; but he warns them at the same time that questions and answers lie within the region of avidya. Till the dawn of Wisdom, doubts will necessarily arise. When the Self is realised there will be no problem to be solved. The quintessence of Sri Ramana’s gospel is that the only Reality is the non-dual Spirit, and that it is to be realised through Self-enquiry or Atma-vichara. The Self is all; there is nothing else which is real. The Self is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Sat-Chit-Ananda. Existence, Consciousness and Bliss are not qualities or features of the Absolute. They are but different expressions indicative of one and the same Reality. That in the Self, Existence and Consciousness are identical is evidenced by the experience “I exist”. “Unself-conscious existence is a contradiction in terms. It is no existence at all. It is merely attributed existence whereas true Existence, the Sat, is not an attribute, it is the substance itself. It is the Vastu. Reality is therefore known as Sat-Chit, Being-Consciousness, and never merely the one to the exclusion of the other.” The Self is also self-existent Bliss. True happiness, verily, is the Self. The Upanishads define Brahman as Satya, Jnana and Ananda.

The Absolute is unborn. In fact, nothing whatever is born. To the question, “Do not one’s actions affect one in after-births?” the Maharshi once answered, “Are you born now? Why do you think of other births? The fact is, there is neither birth nor death. Let him who is born think of death and the palliative thereof!” This is the final truth. Acharya Gaudapada declares in the Mandukya-karika, “No jiva is born; there is no cause for such birth; this is the supreme truth, nothing whatever is born.”

The doctrines of karma and re-incarnation have no relevance from the standpoint of the Absolute Self. This is what the Maharshi teaches: “Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no incarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.” The unborn Self which has neither beginning, nor middle, nor end is the sole Reality. It is this which should be realized. What is the way to Realization? The Maharshi’s clear and unambiguous answer is: Vichara or Enquiry. Other methods do not take us beyond the mind; only Vichara can. The Maharshi compares the attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through sadhanas other than Atma-vichara to the thief turning out a policeman to catch the thief, that is, himself. Self-enquiry ends in mental suicide; it provides an instrument whereby the mind destroys itself, thus revealing the Self. The scriptures ask us to enquire into the nature of the Self.