T.M.P. Mahadevan

BHAGAVAN WAS UNIQUE. He was unique in that he was not unique. What struck even a casual visitor to the Ashrama was Bhagavan’s naturalness. He did not impress any one as if he were non-natural, even supra-natural. There was no affectation at all in Sri Ramana. Let me illustrate what I, mean. In South India sadhus refer to themselves, while speaking, in the third person. They would say ‘this was walking’ or ‘this wants to go there ‘while referring to themselves.They would not use the first person singular ‘I’. But Bhagavan quite naturally used to say ‘I go’, ‘I walk’, ‘I sit’ and so on. One who has the experience of the plenary illumination constantly, naturally, has no use for such affectations. And always he used to behave in the most natural manner. There was nothing which would make others think that there was some unnaturalness about Bhagavan.But yet once in his presence there was no need for prompting from outside. One would be convinced in one’s own heart that one was in the presence of the non-dual Reality. Now, this was an experience that almost everyone had in the presence of Bhagavan.

He was an open book for all at all times. He did not make any distinction between what is private and what is public. So far as Bhagavan was concerned, there was no privacy. In those days, devotees used to be with him in the small meditation hall all day and night. We used to sleep in the same hall where we used to sit during daytime. And he was a silent witness to all that happened around him. Any one could walk in at any time. He was easily accessible not only to humans but also to animals. Squirrels used to play with him. The cow Lakshmi used to walk in at her own pleasure. The monkeys used to come into the Ashram without any let or hindrance. Bhagavan remarked about a trespassing cow,“Who is to be taken to task? If you had no fence and the cow walked in through your garden, who was responsible for this, you or the cow?”

Bhagavan’s love and grace knew no limits.In his presence there was no high and no low.All were the same. There was no distinction between a Maharaja of old days who visited him and the rustics who wanted to have his darshan. He could understand the language of the mute creation. In earlier days when he was on the Hill Arunachala, the monkeys used to go to him for arbitration. This shows how Bhagavan taught the plenary experience to others — the experience which makes no distinction between one level of creation and another.

Others might think that Bhagavan practised austerities during the early years of his stay in Arunachala, that his Mauna, silence, was deliberate, that his sitting posture for days and weeks in the sub-terranean temple was sadhana, but some of us have heard him say that all this was not tapasya, although it seemed to be so. The time factor did not enter into the realisation of Bhagavan. There was no earlier preparation; there was no evolution thereafter. Of what is referred to in Advaita as sadyomukti, instantaneous release, we had a glowing example in Bhagavan Sri Ramana. One does not know what led to this instantaneous illumination. There was no growth, no procedural technique, no yogic meditation, no other sadhana. All of a sudden, the experience came without his inviting it. Now, this is unique; the entire history of sagehood holds no parallel. A boy at school who had no particular interest in spirituality, who was not even a brilliant boy in studies, that such a lad should, all of a sudden, become transformed into a sage, I think, is unique.And what was the nature of the realisation? It admitted no stages, required no effort. It was all complete. Completeness, fulness was there when Sri Ramana had in a trice solved the mystery of death. Nachiketas had to go to Yama, wait at his house for three-days and nights, and put to him questions. The fear of death was only an occasion for solving the mystery. The non-dual Self which knows no death and no birth came to Sri Ramana in a flash; but that did not vanish like a flash, it remained as His sahajasthiti.

I am not saying that the process of meditation has no place in sadhana, but that what one gains through the method of thought-control, emptying of mind, is not the plenary experience of the non-dual Atman. In the case of Bhagavan this pinnacle- was gained without the least conscious effort. That is his uniqueness. Ordinarily, a study of scripture comes first and then experience. But in the case of Bhagavan, experience came first and only later an acquaintance with what scriptures teach.

It was when scholarly devotees came to him and wanted some doubt or other to be cleared that he listened to the readings from scriptures and then told them that His own experience confirmed what the texts taught.

The great scholars, both traditional and modern, were astounded at the simple words that fell from the lips of Bhagavan. Ganapati Sastri was one instance. He was a master of Sanskrit. He was a great teacher. He practised mantra-sadhana all through his life. He was accepted as a Guru by a large number of disciples.

But he was tormented and went to Sri Ramana. It was Ganapati Muni that announced to the world the greatness of Sri Ramana, finding the culmination of his earlier sadhana in Bhagavan. Elsewhere, I have tried to compare these three great teachers of Advaita: Dakshinamurti, Sankara and Ramana. Dakshinamurti is the Adi Guru, the first preceptor. He sat beneath the banyan tree, a youthful figure surrounded by elderly disciples, and instructed them in the language of silence. Most of us cannot understand the language of silence. So, Dakshinamurti rose from His seat beneath the banyan tree and broke His silence. He appeared in the form of Sankaracarya. He is constantly going around this world, rousing it from its slumber.

All the great ones who came after him, whether they would acknowledge it openly or not, are but reflections of this form of Sankara. In the form of various masters it is Sankara that is moving in this world. It is the same Sankara that appeared to us as Sri Ramana.

The times have changed. The present world can be saved neither by the Guru who is seated in a particular place nor by the one who is perpetually moving about. The Guru who is required for our times is neither the one who keeps absolute silence, nor the one who, speaks profusely. We had this need satisfied in the avatara of Sri Ramana. He did not move out of the limits of Arunachala. He did not talk profusely or read extensively. Day in and day out, most of the time, he was in silence. People used to come with long lists of perplexing questions formulated in their minds; some of them, lest they might forget, used to write out those questions. But what happened? When they came and sat before Bhagavan they forgot all about those questions. I happened to be present when Paul Brunton came. P. B. had seen other saints in India. He had written out the questions which he wanted to ask. He sat there for a long time without opening his mouth. The friend who had come with him had to prompt him. It was only then that he read out his questions. This was not an isolated instance. This was the daily experience. The questioning mind was silenced in his presence.

And what is the quantum of his “writings”? But they are so potent that even a single line could transform the lives of people. Here, we have a middle course between silence and speech. Silently but surely the influence of Bhagavan is felt. No one could have thought some years ago that the influence would be felt so strongly in the capital of our country. But this is what is now happening all over the world. In Europe and America there are seekers, who when they get even a glimpse of Bhagavan’s teachings feel that they have turned a new leaf in their lives. What is, again, significant in Bhagavan’s teaching is that it involves no mystification. There is nothing by way of creed. It is an open book of wisdom from which one could draw according to one’s capacity. There is no narrowness or parochialism of any sort in the Master’s teachings.

All the teachings of all the sages are put in a capsule form in this single sloka, Hridayakuhara-madhye which says that in the cave of the heart Brahman shines. He made known to sadhakas the bardavidya. He was the one who discovered that the spiritual heart is the Self itself. The hridaya is the non-dual spiritual Self. The ‘I’ is manifest in the region of the hear; When a person refers to himself he points to the right side of the chest. The ‘I’ shines in the heart; the Self is manifest in the cave of the heart. This manifestation of the Self in the form of ‘I’ is direct, immediate to every one. It does not require any belief, or faith or creed. One need not read Sastra to realise it, one realises it every moment: And the Upanishads tell us that in deep sleep one goes into it. Thus, one cannot deny oneself however much one might try. In a famous verse Sankara says ‘It is this ‘I’ which is immediately, directly experienced in the region of the heart by every one; but this Self is not realised to be the non-dual Brahman on account of ignorance. There is no realising the Self. Because the Self is real, you cannot realise or make it real.

What is to be done is to unrealise the unreal. We imagine that this world is real, while in fact it is not. Today the scientists are approaching Vedanta through science. Nuclear physics tells us that even in the hardest piece of matter there is no hardness. If you can accept the evidence of the physicist that what you regard as a concrete piece of matter is not concrete after all, then from a higher level is there anything which is unintelligible or impossible in the proclamation of the Sage that the entire world is Maya? Maya does not mean that there is no reality. In fact, the Self is the real and the world is only an appearance. And so, Bhagavan tells us that this Aham-spburana, the ‘I’-manifestation, is a pointer that, if we are judicious enough to discern the truth, we shall realise the identity of the Self with Brahman. This is what we have to experience. Self-realisation is no more than this. It is losing the individuality in the non-dual Reality. How is one to gain this? What is the way? Hrdi visa. Enter into the heart. Use the mind, but there is a stage where you have to transcend the mind and be what you are always. You can throw off your body; it is difficult to throw off your mind. It is with you all the time you are empirically conscious. You have to make use of it. It is in jagrat that you have to perform the sadhana not in deep sleep. We have to work this out during our conscious moments, moments of wakefulness. And what functions in wakefulness is the mind, which is to be made use of. Enter into the heart with your mind. The direct road is Self-enquiry. It is by Self-enquiry that you have to reach the heart. But if that becomes impossible for the moment, then adopt the technique of surrender. If even for this your mind is not ready, practise pranayama. You begin at the physical, vital level. Bhagavan says in the Upadesa Saram that the source of both the vital principle and the mind is the same. By controlling the vital principle you can control the mind. Begin then with the practice of regulating the breath.

You will find the mind settling down through the practice of pranayama, and then you will be ready for the right royal road. Very often people consider jnana-yoga to consist in intellectual analysis. This is not so. It is not intellectual speculation. Up to a point the mind can go; but there it stops.

Bhagavan has taught a simple mode by which one goes beyond mind. What is that mode? The ‘I’-thought is the first of all thoughts. All other thoughts arise after the I-thought. Only later on ‘this’, ‘that’ and ‘the other’ arise in your mind. Trace the source of the I-thought and the practice will reveal to you that the I-thought arises from the Self. Because we may not have either the competence or the time to go through the Sastras and discover the path ourselves, this technique is taught to us as it can be pursued by one and all at any time. This certainly is not an easy path. We must not delude ourselves by imagining that it is easy. It requires preparation, constant practice; it requires all the other sadhanas. But along with those sadhanas the enquiry can be practised. And if the Grace of the Guru is there, we will be helped on this road faster than we may imagine.