Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was one of the most glorious spiritual thinkers of twentieth century. When he was merely seventeen, he gained the deep and beatific experience of cosmic reality within and, from then on, remained established in this perfect poise throughout his mortal existence. After a period of earnest meditation, he finally started answering to the deep inquiries, pertaining to self and salvation, put to him by ardent seekers from all over the globe.
Disciple: Is Self different from God?
Sri Ramana: There is no difference between the two. This inquiry crops up in mind only because you identify yourself with your ego-self. It looses its hold the moment you behold your real Self. Then you realize that the Self is none other than the Supreme Being. 'I am' is the perfect synonym of God. A Biblical statement vividly explicates- 'I am that I am' (Exodus 3). Upanishads voice out the same fact when they proclaim- Brahmaivaham (Brahman am I), Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman), and Soham (I am He). Of all these proclamations, the name Jehovah is strikingly direct which means- 'I am'. The Absolute Being is none other than the 'I'. And 'I' is the Self. Lord Krishna, in Gita, also says: I am the Self, O Gudakesha, which abides within all the beings.
- Bhagavad Gita, Ch.10, Verse 20
At present, you feel that you are a separate identity, and that there is the cosmos apart from you and that God is beyond this cosmos. Hence, comes up the sense of differentiation! However, this notion must be effaced; for God is not detached from Self and the cosmos. So, when you know your Self, God also becomes known.
Disciple: But, what hinders my knowing myself or God?
Sri Ramana: Your wandering mind and perverted ways! People often inquire from me how to stabilize mind and make it steady. I tell them, 'First, show me the mind and then, you will know what to do'. Actually, the mind is only a bunch of thoughts. So, how can it be stabilized by another thought of doing so? For, your thoughts are not different from the mind. So, by producing them, we basically do nothing but feed up the mind more. Thus, it is quite irrational to try to extinguish the mind by means of the mind. The sole method of doing it is to discover its source (the true self within) and realise your identity with it. Then, the mind will itself lose its existence. (So, it is round the circle, in the sense that it is your mind that hinders the realization of Self, but it is the realization of Self that annihilates your mind.)
“To appoint the mind to eliminate the mind is like giving the thief the status of a policeman. He will pose as though he is helping you to nab the thief, but finally nothing good comes out. So, you must turn inward and witness the birthplace of mind; consequently, it will die away.”
Disciple: When and in what form does a Guru showers his Grace upon a disciple?
Sri Ramana: There are times in life when, despite numerous possessions, one feels a strange kind of agonising hollowness. He experiences a sort of void in his life. At such moments, his mind triggers a sincere desire for happiness. He turns to God, and prayers emanate from his heart. He longs for God's Grace not for worldly riches but for peace and contentment. It is then that God's Grace becomes evident. God manifests himself as a Guru and enters in devotee's life to impart him the knowledge of the Truth.
Attaining this knowledge, the aspirant, then, is able to turn inward through meditation. The deeper he dives into his inner world, the purer his thoughts become. This continues till his mind becomes free from all ripples. Thus, by extending His divine association, the Guru purifies the aspirant's mind and hence strengthens him from inside.
The Guru is present both inside as well as outside of his devotee. From outside, the Guru gives him a push which sets his mind into motion directed inwards; while from inside, He pulls his mind and takes it towards the Self. When this union is accomplished, the aspirant's mind gains peace and tranquillity. This is the Grace of the Guru, who, in actuality, is no different from God and Self.
Disciple: Is not social reformation more important than Self reformation?
Sri Ramana: Self reformation is the root of social reformation. Unless and until the root is nourished, the shoot cannot have a healthy growth. So, take care of the Self, and the society will automatically be reformed!