Jivanmukta 2006 J. Glenn Friesen
This again caused some
people to comment that Ramana's life was really more like a householder than a sannyasi
(Narasimha, 127). We see here the conflict between the traditional view that a sannyasi
should aim to remove himself from life, and the tantric view of jivanmukti- that one can
be liberated in this life. We will later look at this conflict in more detail.
(After his death experience Ramana would go) to the temple in Madurai,
"where he would weep, and pray that his experience might become
perpetual." I would stand before Isvara, the Controller of the universe and the
destinies of all, the Omniscient and Omnipresent, and occasionally pray
for the descent of his grace upon me so that my devotion might increase
and become perpetual like that of the sixty-three saints (Narasimha, 23).
But the earliest biographer of Ramana, F.H. Humphreys, also gives an account of the
method of self-enquiry that is based on argument:
You argue your mind out of existence as a separate entity, and the result is
that mind and body physically (so to speak) disappear and the only thing
that remains is Being, which is at once existence and non-existence, and
not explainable in words or ideas.16
There is therefore some doubt as to the nature of Ramana's experience, the extent of
rational argument involved, whether he experienced it at age 12 or 16, and whether
Ramana had a sense of his selfhood as something beyond mind or spirit or whether it was
identified with mind and spirit.
This emphasis on trance is especially puzzling in view of Ramana's later teaching that
trance is not necessary for enlightenment. In fact, Ramana sometimes opposed the
practice of meditation. He says that those who are the most competent seekers take the
path of Self-enquiry. The less competent meditate on identity. Those who are even
lower practice breath control. And Ramana himself did not teach meditation or breath
Rama!a was opposed to trance in the sense of loss of consciousness. Ramana
discouraged meditation, especially meditation leading to trance. Ramana says that trance
is a state like drugs: "If you are so anxious for trance any narcotic will bring it about. Drug-habit
will be the result and not liberation. There are vasanas in the latent
state even in trance. The vasanas must be destroyed." 18
17 Self-Enquiry, pp. 17-38; CW 3-35; Osb 17-47.
18 Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Rama!asramam, 1994, first
published 1955), 280, para. 317 ["Talks"]. In this passage, Ramana distinguishes between
two kinds of vasanas- those that cause bondage (bandha hetuh) and those that give
enjoyment for the wise (bhoga hetuh). The latter do not obstruct realisation. Thus, in his
view, not all vasanas need be destroyed.
Vasanas are innate tendencies and the memory of past experiences. In the same passage,
Ramana says that trance is only an absence of thoughts. Such a state prevails in sleep.
But trance is only temporary in its effects. There is happiness so long as it lasts. After
rising from it the old vasanas return. Unless the vasanas are destroyed in sahaja samadhi
(effortless samadhi) there is no good of trance. Thus, if you want a trance, go to sleep!
Ramana also says that meditation strengthens the ego instead of liberating from it.
"Meditation is possible only if the ego be kept up" (Talks, 145, para. 174). And he says,
Who is the meditator? Ask the question first. Remain as the meditator.
There is no need to meditate (Talks, 174, para. 205).
and Why do you wish to meditate at all? Because you wish to do so you are
told Atma samstham manah krtva (fixing the mind in the Self); why do
you not remain as you are without meditating? (Talks, 257, para. 294).
Instead of seeking a trance state, or nirvikalpa samadhi, Ramana advises us to seek
sahaja samadhi. Sahaja means 'natural'. And sahaja samadhi is the consciousness of
the liberated person who returns to the world. That person does not live out of ego
anymore, but lives through Self. Sahaja is also pure consciousness:
There is no question of transition from unconsciousness to supreme pure
Consciousness. Giving up these two, self-consciousness and
unconsciousness, you inhere in the natural Consciousness, that is pure
Swarnagiri reports that Ramana said that the practitioner of self-enquiry must be on the
alert, and must enquire within as to who it is that is having this experience:
Failing this enquiry he will go into a long trance or deep sleep (Yoga
nidra). Due to the absence of a proper guide at this stage of spiritual
practice, many have been deluded and fallen a prey to a false sense of
salvation. One must not allow oneself to be overtaken by such spells of stillness of
thought: the moment one experiences this, one must revive consciousness
19 Swarnagiri, Ramananda: Crumbs from his Table (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam,
This is the point of divergence between the road to salvation and yoga nidra, which is
merely prolonged deep sleep. Ramana also says that trance and unconsciousness are only for the mind; they do not affect the Self (Crumbs, 40). He even rejects talk of "killing the mind," since mind is
also part of reality: Seeing ice without seeing that it is water is illusion, Maya. Therefore
saying things like killing the mind or anything like that also has no
meaning, for after all mind also is part and parcel of the Self. Resting in
the Self or inhering in the Self is mukti, getting rid of Maya. Maya is not a
separate entity (Crumbs, 41).
Ramana also opposes any view of meditation as a void. He says, "Absence of thought
does not mean a void. There must be one to know the void" (Conscious Immortality, 77).
His emphasis is on the Self, and not on the Buddhist emphasis in seeking sunyata
[emptiness] in meditation.
When we later look at the tantric influences on Ramana, we will see the source of some
of the confusion between an emphasis on the importance of trance and the ability of the
liberated one to live in the world.
3. Immediate Realization?
We have already seen that after his experience at the age of 16, Ramana was not without
doubts. He prayed at that time that the experience might be continuous. This seems to
imply a concern that he feared it was not permanent.
The first English reports about Ramana were by Frank H. Humphreys, a policeman
stationed in India in 1911. Humphreys published the book Glimpses of the Life and
Some of the interesting points in Humphreys' biography of Ramana are:
a) Humphreys is the first to report Ramana's pivotal enlightenment experience of the Self
at the age of 16. This account is used by all future biographers of Ramana. But we must
be careful in using this story, for Humphreys says that the story of Ramana's awakening
was not told to him by Ramana himself, but by a disciple or chela (Glimpses, 27).
Ramana's chief disciple at that time was Ganapati Muni, so Muni might be the source of
After his retirement, Humphreys returned to England where he entered a Catholic
monastery.23 Chadwick reports an interesting anecdote about Humphreys. Someone in
the hall of the ashram said that he had recently seen Humphreys, and that Humphreys had
denied receiving any benefit from Ramana's instruction. Ramana responded with the
strong words, "It's a lie!" (Chadwick, 21).
Paul Brunton confessed that he had used the book
A Search in Secret India as a "peg" on which to hang his own ideas:
It will therefore be clear to perspicacious readers that I used his name and
attainments as a convenient peg upon which to hang an account of what
meditation meant to me. The principal reason for this procedure was that
it constituted a convenient literary device to secure the attention and hold
the interest of western readers, who would naturally give more serious
consideration to such a report of the "conversion" of a seemingly hard
headed critically-minded Western journalist to yoga.29
26 Brunton, Paul: The Maharshi and his Message: A Selection from A Search in Secret
India, 13 th ed. (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 2002, no date of original
Brunton says that illuminations gained by yoga or by trance states are always
temporary ones. Although a trance may produce a feeling of exaltation, this feeling goes
away and one must repeat the experience daily. He cites Aurobindo:
Trance is a way of escape--the body is made quiet, the physical mind is in
a state of torpor, the inner consciousness is left free to go on with its
experience. The disadvantage is that trance becomes indispensable and
that the problem of the waking consciousness is not solved, it remains
imperfect (Hidden Teaching, 27; italics Brunton).
Brunton may also be referring to a hope that he would have received special magical powers or siddhis.
Chadwick says that he asked Rama!a about Richard Bucke's book Cosmic
Consciousness, and about Bucke’s report that illumination comes in a flash.39 Ramana
said that that which comes in a flash will disappear in a flash:
Actually it is not Self-realization they experience but Cosmic
Consciousness where they see all as one, identify themselves with Nature
and the Cosmic Heart. In Hinduism this is called Mahat. Here a trace of
ego remains even during the experience and a consciousness of the body
belonging to the visionary. This false sense of "I" must go entirely, for it
is the limitation which serves as bondage (Chadwick, 25).
And yet Ramana himself speaks of cosmic consciousness as that which lies behind the
ego. In answer to a question from Chadwick, Ramana says that cosmic consciousness
pervades even Isvara or the Absolute (Talks, 149; para. 177; March 10, 1936).
39 Richard Maurice Bucke: Cosmic Consciousness New York: E.P. Dutton, 1969, first
published 1901). Bucke was a Canadian doctor who in 1901 wrote about a sudden
experience of illumination.
And yet Sarma tries to reconcile the teachings of Shankara and Ramanuja regarding
maya. Ramanuja says that the world is real and there is no maya. Shankara tells us to
find out Reality underlying the ever-changing world. "What is called changefulness by
Ramanuja is called illusion by Sankara." (Maha Yoga 203).
Études sur Ramana Maharshi contains a long article by Dr. Sarma K. Lakshman. This
is in fact the same person I have referred to as Lakshmana Sarma, and the article is an
extract from his book Maha Yoga. Sarma here gives a monistic interpretation of
Ramana's teachings- that there is neither God nor world outside of Self.50 It is Sarma's
view that Ramana only learned this monistic view in later life, although his experience at
the age of 16 had given him an experience of the Self.
Monchanin believed that advaita could not account for love (bhakti). Love involves a
distinction between beings. According to advaita, love is in the realm of maya. But as
soon as we say "God is love," this is to confess a Trinity.80
80 Ibid., pp. 133-135. Harvey Cox makes the same point. Love presupposes genuinely
different selves. God and the world are both real, but different, and the relation between
them is love. Harvey Cox: Turning East (Simon and Schuster, 1977), 85, 86.
IV. Conflicts and tensions
We will look in detail at tantric, neo-Hindu and Christian influences on Ramana. These
influences often contradict each other. Each of these influences is also in tension with
traditional Hinduism. The first tension to be explored is that between traditional Hinduism and neo-Hinduism, or Hinduism that has been influenced by Western philosophical traditions.
The next tension to be explored is that of the Vedanta advaita versus tantra. Ramana has
been viewed as an authentic sage of Vedanta Advaita or nondualism. Vedanta Advaita
tends to emphasize the importance of liberation from a temporal world of illusion or
maya. But Ramana is also regarded as an example of a jivanmukta- one who becomes
liberated while still living in this temporal world. This idea of living liberation is a
tantric idea. And Ramana himself says that the world has some reality, thus
contradicting the Vedantic view of maya as illusion in favour of an idea of maya as the
creative power of Shiva.
(Vedantic) scriptures have their origin in the immediate personal experience of "seers" or rishis.
Hacker and Halbfass have therefore raised the issue of whether the idea of immediate
experience is really more Western than Hindu. But is this emphasis on experience or anubhava found in Shankara's Advaita Vedanta? Eliot Deutsch has interpreted Shankara in terms of a philosophy of experience.94 But Halbfass says that an emphasis on direct experience, or anubhava is absent in Shankara.
Shankara does not base any veridical claims upon personal experiences of his own; he
does not even speak about them. The Vedas are his ultimate authority, and particularly
92 Even if neo-Hindu ideas of direct experience derive from William James, this does not
mean that neo-Hinduism is irrational and subjectivistic. Gadamer's criticism of direct
experience may not apply to James, at least not in the same way that it applies to the
Romantics. James does not just invert the priority between rational concept and intuitive
experience; he sets out a new epistemology of 'pure perception'. And he insists that there
is a 'noetic' element in immediate experience- it is experienced as a kind of knowing.
The criticism of subjectivity may also not apply to James. His theory allows for an
experience that is prior to any subject/object division. This rules out any initial
subjectivity. Furthermore, James's view of the self is not individualistic, but extends
outwards to the world. It is connected with other human beings and the surrounding
environment. James also speaks of this being a trans-personal experience, and therefore one that is not
caught by individual subjectivity. The model of immediate experience is currently not in fashion among scholars. However, there has been a renewed interest in James's ideas of 'pure perception'. In
addition to Barnard, I would refer to Wilber and Krüger. Despite Wilber's criticism of
Romanticism, he defends the idea of immediate experience, using James's ideas of pure
experience. See Ken Wilber: The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone
Slightly Mad (Boston: Shambhala, 1998), 5, 6.
Aurobindo's emphasis on experience is significant in view of his influence on Ganapati
Muni and Kapali Sastri, who in turn influenced Ramana (see below). Ramana makes many references to the necessity of direct experience. Here are some examples:
The intuitive knowledge of the Heart is direct immediate experience.
We also see in Ramana the neo-Hindu emphasis that experience is more important than
the Vedas. We experience the Self directly through constant meditation (Talks, 114, CW,
Ramana is against philosophy and the intricacies of distinctions (Conscious Immortality,
178). The ultimate Truth is so simple. It is nothing more than being in the pristine state.
After Realization all intellectual loads are useless burdens and are to be thrown overboard (Teachings, 13,
Samadhi transcends thought and speech and cannot be described.
You know samadhi only when you are in samadhi (Reflections, 152).
Ramana compares the experience to poetry and music. In poetry or music, when you
experience bliss, you are plunging into the Self, albeit unconsciously. "If you do so
consciously, you call it realization. I want you to dive consciously into the Self, i.e. into the Heart" (Conscious Immortality, 43).
And yet to some extent, this experience is not knowledge, since knowledge depends on
distinctions. The transcendental state is beyond experience, because it involves
dissolution of mind (CW, 33). Reality lies beyond and beyond the triad of knower-knowledge-
known (Teachings, 174).
Ramana says that we must even give up meditating on Scripture like the Bhagavad Gita:
Even books like the Bhagavad Gita and Light on the Path, must be given
up to find the Self by looking within.
As for intuitive understanding, a person may laboriously convince himself
of the truth to be grasped by intuition, of its function and nature, but the
actual intuition is more like feeling and requires practice and personal
contact. Mere book learning is not of any great use. After Realization all
intellectual loads are useless burdens and are to be thrown overboard.
(Teachings, 13; also in Talks, 31)
Non-western sources of the idea of direct experience
If Ramana uses the word anubhava in the sense of direct experience, does this mean that
Ramana was influenced by Western ideas, like other neo-Hindus? It can be argued that
Ramana's emphasis on direct experience does not derive from European influence but
rather from Hindu sources that pre-date the European Romantics by many centuries.
Halbfass does acknowledge that there are non-traditional advaitic sources that emphasize
direct experience and that these sources are independent of any European influence.102
He refers to the "vision" of the Vedic poets, and to the Upanishads, which show an early
awareness of the four states of consciousness. These states are: waking, dreaming,
sleeping and the fourth state turiya that is beyond the other three states.
Non-western sources of the idea of direct experience
Another pre-Romantic source of the importance of experience are the poet-saints like
Tukaram and others from Maharashtra who glorify personal experience or anubhava.
Ramana refers in his teachings to these poet-saints, and to the Tamil poet-saints.
There are also traditions in Yoga that emphasize direct experience. One source from
these traditions is the Yoga Vasistha. Another work that is popular among yogic
practitioners of advaita is the Vivekacudamani, a work that is often attributed to
Here we can point out that the Vivekacudamani itself speaks of anubhava.
For example, verse 62 states:
An illness is not cured just by pronouncing the name of the medicine
without drinking it, and you will not be liberated by just pronouncing the
word God without direct experience. [anubhava].103
Another Hindu source that emphasizes immediate experience is Kashmir Saivism, which
emphasizes consciousness and internality.104 It also pre-dates any possible European
A traditional Hindu source emphasizing experience is the Bhagavad Gita. It refers to
Arjuna's direct experience of Krishna. This vision is said to be one that could not be
attained by the Vedas or study (BG 11:48). The Bhagavad Gita also refers to the
experience of reaching the Self (BG 6:20).
Buddhist traditions also emphasize the experiences and visions of the Buddha. And as
Halbfass points out, the very title of the Buddha indicates an event of awakening, a
"radical transformation of awareness." Western scholars also see the influence of
Buddhism in Hindu works like the Yoga Vasistha. Ramana himself sometimes refers to
In view of all these sources, it is unfair to dismiss Ramana's emphasis on the importance
of direct experience as merely based on western ideas, or as merely neo-Hindu.
Nevertheless, the western influence must not be disregarded, since Ramana was aware of
Vivekananda's teachings. And Westerners like Major Chadwick and Paul Brunton also
influenced Ramana. As we shall see, even Ganapati Muni, one of the most important
influences on Ramana, was himself influenced by western ideas of philosophy and
103 Vivekacudamani The Crest Jewel of Wisdom, tr. John H. Richards.
Narasimha says that Ramana shed tears of devotional fervour when
81 he listened to devotional songs or music. He reports Ramana as saying that devotion
(bhakti) and realization (jnana) are the same. In bhakti, one dwells on a Personal God
that one worships until one loses oneself or merges in Him. In the path of inquiry, one
dwells on oneself, which one loves most, and loses oneself or merges in that. In both
cases, emotion or personality characterizes the beginning. The end is beyond emotion,
thought, will and personality (Narasimha 133).
4. Monism, Advaita and Maya
Is traditional Vedanta Advaita monistic? For Shankara, what is important is not personal
experience, but overcoming ignorance or avidya of one's true nature. And for Shankara,
once one has overcome ignorance, and realized one's true nature, then one also realizes
that what one thought was real was only illusion or maya. Only Brahman is real. The
question arises whether Shankara therefore interprets advaita in a monistic sense.
For Shankara the 'That art thou' is to be taken in the starkest, clearest sense. It means that the eternal self
within the individual is identical with Brahman, the Absolute or Ultimate
Reality. This rigorous insistence on the non-dualism between the
soul and the divine Reality is paralleled by an equally uncompromising
monism in relation to the world.119
The term advaita is negative. It does not imply a monistic ideal, but
implies a negation of dualism. That is why the negative expression 'non-dual', or 'not-two (advaita), is preferred.123
There are therefore differing views, even by Hindu philosophers, as to whether or not
advaita is monistic. If it is not monistic, then it may not be correct to speak of the
individual's identity with Brahman. And if advaita is not monistic, then the ideas of
maya and of the unreality of the world may also be reinterpreted.
Ramana has inconsistent views of what maya means. Sometimes he takes a thoroughly
monistic view of reality, regarding as illusory everything other than the Self. We have
seen this in his attitude towards ethics, sometimes arguing that only the Self is real, and
that there are no "others."
But at other times, Ramana says that the world has a relative reality, and that it is illusory
only when it is regarded apart from Brahman:
Everything from (the threefold appearance of) Personal God, individual
being, and world down to the minutest atom is merely a form of Brahman
(CW 250; Osb 160).
Ramana says that both ideas mean the same thing. Maya is not and has no real being.
Images in a mirror cannot in any way be real. But the world is real if it is seen as a
manifestation of consciousness. "If the world be taken as chit (consciousness), it is
always real." In a dialogue with one of his disciples, Ramana refused to speculate regarding dualism
Brunton also influenced Ramana in taking over some of this terminology,
such as speaking of the 'Overself.' 130
Many of Ramana’s followers (both Hindu and non-Hindu) used Western ideas to
interpret Rama!a. Several devotes used the ideas of William James to describe Ramana’s
religious experience. Others viewed Ramana's experience in terms of a dualistic
spiritualism, of mind over matter. This spiritualist interpretation appears in the writings
of Humphreys and Brunton.
Ramana had what is described as a visual photism- a vision of dazzling light suddenly
streaming forth and pervading the place. Narasimha (p. 99) refers to William James's
Varieties of Religious Experience in support of such a phenomenon. And yet Ramana
discouraged his disciples from seeking such photisms. Ramana says that this experience of
a blaze of light is an indication that the mental predispositions (vasanas) are not yet
destroyed (Talks, 166).
Other disciples asked Ramana about 'cosmic consciousness' (Conscious Immortality,
137). Cosmic consciousness is an idea that was made known by Bucke's book of the
same name.131 But Ramana says that it is possible to lose Self-realization after having
achieved cosmic consciousness. He says that the vasanas are not destroyed by a flash of
cosmic consciousness (Chadwick, 52).
Ramana's method of "self-enquiry" emphasizes the primacy of direct experience. In his
translation of the Vivekacudamani, True liberation can be achieved by Self-enquiry or vichara, and not by book
learning (CW, 125). This idea of self-enquiry is itself an idea that derives from the
Vivekacudamani. Verse 32 speaks of an inquiry into the reality of one's own nature.
Verse 15 speaks about knowing one's own nature. Verse 472 is recognition of the
supreme truth about one's self.
One of the most important influences on Ramana's teaching is the Yoga Vasistha, which
he first read while he was living in the caves of Arunachala.
The Yoga Vasistha was known at least as early as 13th century CE, but may date from as
early as the 6th or 7th centuries. Olivier Lacombe dated it in the interval between
Gaudap"da and Shankara.135 The Yoga Vasistha is attributed to Valmiki, the author of
the Ramayana. Western scholars say that the work is syncretic, with borrowings from
Yoga, Samkhya Saiva Siddhanta and Mahayana Buddhism.136 Some have said that it is
specifically related to Yogacara Buddhism. Parallels to Yogacara Buddhism are found in
its description of mind as a creative force, the negation of the reality of the world and the
claim that all appearances proceed from the mind.137 Insofar as the Yoga Vasistha denies
the reality of the world, it is inconsistent with Ramana's understanding of the reality of
the world as set out in the Vivekacudamani. But the Yoga Vasistha also speaks of the
power or energy (sakti of infinite consciousness (Yoga Vasistha, 73). This sakti brings
into manifestation the infinite variety of beings, from the Creator to the blade of grass; it
also sustains these beings (Yoga Vasistha, 193). Sakti is always dynamic and active. The
Yoga Vasistha therefore supports the doctrine that the world has some reality. It
specifically refers to the world as an object in a mirror that is neither real nor unreal
(Yoga Vasistha, 230). Two attitudes are conducive to liberation. One is that "I am the
extremely subtle and transcendent self." The other is that "I am all and everything"
(Yoga Vasistha, 234).
One of the issues that must be addressed in interpreting Ramana's experience is whether
the advaitic experience is necessarily monistic. The Yoga Vasistha lends support to the
view that nondualism is different from mere unity or monism. It says that when the mind
drops the perception of duality there is neither duality nor unity (Yoga Vasistha, 75).
Unity is seen only in opposition to duality. We are to be freed from the conditions known
as duality and non-duality (Yoga Vasistha, 209). The all-pervading consciousness is not
an object of knowledge; it is beyond the concepts of unity and diversity. It is that "other
than which nothing else is "(Yoga Vasistha, 214).
Yoga Vasistha also played a role in developing what Fort refers to as "Yogic
Advaita" (Fort, 85). Yogic Advaita continued Shankara's idea that knowledge of the nondual Self
brings liberation. It also emphasized certain Buddhist ideas, as well as Yogic practices,
such as exerting control of mental states. It urged "destroying the mind." We should destroy the vasanas, mental impressions that are the cause of bondage. The Yoga
Vasistha speaks of the state of nirvikalpa samadhi in which "there is no movement of
thought." 138 But what is interesting is that when the Yoga Vasistha speaks of a state of
nirvikalpa samadhi, there remains a kind of perception. It tells the story of Lila, who
enters into nirvikalpa samadhi. It is said that she was in the infinite space of
consciousness, and yet she can see the king, although he cannot see her (Yoga Vasistha,
53, 57). She was on another plane of consciousness. The Yoga Vasistha played a large role
in popularizing the idea of the jivanmukta. It says
that a liberated person may act in the world. It tells how the sage named Vasistha gives
instruction to Rama. Rama becomes enlightened, and returns to rule his kingdom. This
is an example of a jivanmukta (one who is liberated in this life). Such a person can lead
an active life without incurring any further bondage or karma from one's actions.
Vasistha tells Rama that samadhi is where one realizes the objects of the senses in a state
of "not-self" and thus enjoys inner calmness and tranquility at all times. If one can
mentally renounce all false identification of the self with objects, one can then live where
one likes, either at home or in a mountain-cave. If the mind is at peace and if there is no
ego sense, even cities are as void. On the other hand, forests are like cities to him whose
heart is full of desires and other evils (Yoga Vasistha, 223).
The continuance of perception is probably related to the idea of jivanmukti. For the one
who is liberated in this life, certain vasanas remain. But they are pure (Buddha) vasanas
that are free from joy and sorrow and cause no further birth. Andrew Fort comments:
Even though awake, the mukta's vasanas and vrttis are at rest. Thus, the
liberated being is often described as "asleep while awake": detached and
desireless, doing all while doing nothing, having perfect equanimity in
activity. When acting with a one-pointed "sleep mind," this being is not a
doer and acts without bondage (Fort, 94).
Just as in deep sleep one experiences no duality or suffering, so in the vasana-less state,
the knower has equanimity and "a kind of coolness within." This is the turiya or fourth
state. There is a state beyond even this, called the turiyatita, a nondual "state" beyond
great bliss. It is associated with bodiless liberation, which is even higher than liberation
in the body.
The Yoga Vasistha says that in order to attain liberation, one must abandon the aspect of
the mind called the "I" notion, ahamkara, ahambhava (Fort, 920.) Samadhi is specifically
said to be the same whether one is engaged in constant action or in contemplation. Thus,
it is not limited to a state of trance, since in a trance, one would not be able to be in a state
of action. The emphasis is on attaining a state of egolessness:
Knowledge of truth, Lord, is the fire that burns up all hopes and desires as
if they are dried blades of grass. That is what is known by the word
samadhi in which there is eternal satisfaction, clear perception of what is,
egolessness not being subject to the pairs of opposites, freedom from
anxiety and from the wish to acquire or to reject ( Yoga Vasistha, 227)
In samadhi there is "clear perception of what is." This is not a cessation of
consciousness, but a state of egolessness. This egolessness is obtained when one realizes
that the light rays are not different from the sun, that the waves are not different from the
ocean, that the bracelet is not different from gold, that the sparks are not different from
the fire. Someone who has seen this true has an understanding that is said to be
unmodified (nirvikalpa). We are to abandon the perception of diversity or objectification
and remain established in the nirvikalpa consciousness. Then we do not get enmeshed in
It is clear that, like the Vivekacudamani, the Yoga Vasistha was a source for Ramana's
teaching of self-enquiry. According to the Yoga Vasistha, liberation is achieved only by
the conquest of the mind by self-enquiry, and specifically the question "Who am I?":
What is inquiry? To inquire thus: Who am I? How has this evil of
samsara (repetitive history) come into being? True inquiry- knowledge
of truth arises from such inquiry (Yoga Vasistha, 34)
Not everyone enquires into the truth of the self. But the self alone is to be sought, adored
and meditated upon (Yoga Vasistha, 194). By this enquiry of self-knowledge, one
obtains infinite consciousness. There is no other way of liberation from bondage (Yoga
The Yoga Vasistha advises abandoning the aspect of the mind called the "I" notion,
ahamkara ahambhava (Fort, 92). There is no liberation as long as one clings to the
reality of 'you' and 'I'. We are to rest in the self (Yoga Vasistha, 107). We are warned
against taking our stand on concepts and percepts of the mind (Yoga Vasistha, 211). We
139 Yoga Vasistha, 400. Part of this realization is also that the world is unreal. Whatever
the self contemplates is materialized on account of the inherent power in consciousness.
That materialized thought then shines as if it is independent. Whether this view of
unreality is consistent with the view that Brahman permeates everything is open to
Immediate experience is
described: "whatever vision arises within oneself, that is immediately experienced.
Consciousness (as subject) itself becomes, as it were, the object of knowledge" (Yoga
V!)i)tha, 62). You cannot merely verbally deny a dual notion of existence. Such denial
itself becomes a further distraction (Yoga Vasistha, 39). We are to become conscious of
the self in all states of awareness.
We are to be free from egoism, with mind detached as in sleep, pure like the sky, ever
untainted. Inwardly cool but outwardly full of fervour, we should act playfully in the
Ramana also refers to the Yoga Vasistha in Self-Enquiry- in support of his view that we
should not search for the Self outside ourselves. It constantly shines as "I-I" within the
Heart (CW 6; Osb. 27).
Ramana cited the Yoga Vasistha regarding the futility of searching for the Self outside
oneself, oblivious of its constantly shining as 'I-I' within the Heart (Osb. 27). Nambiar's
The Guiding Presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi has an appendix of verses from the Yoga
V!)i)&ha, selected by Ramana to describe the state of Jivanmukti. Sarga 18, verses 17-26
Ramana refers to the Ribhu Gita many times, including a reference in his earliest book,
Who Am I? Ramana was acquainted with this work from an early date. In 1908, he often
gave V. Ramaswamy Iyer the Ribhu Gita to read (Narasimha, 98). Ramana later said that
readings from the Ribhu Gita are as good as samadhi (Narasimha, 208). Narasimha
reports that he also read Kaivalya Navaneetha.
The Ribhu Gita is an extract from a much longer epic, the Sivarahasya. It tells of the
experience of nonduality by the sage known as Ribhu. The focus of the text is on the
Self. In order to achieve bliss, one must discard the mind. There is nothing that is not-self
(1:11). Verse 24 says that if there is no "you", there is no "I". The Ribhu Gita refers
to the heart-space within all beings (1:59). It is also significant in its view of nonduality
as something that cannot be conceptualized:
But whereas the Ribhu Gita confirms that nonduality cannot be conceptualized, this view
of nonduality, as denying that there is in fact anything to see, is inconsistent with the
view that Ramana takes from other texts that refer to seeing Brahman in all things.
e) The Tripura Rahasya
One of the publications still for sale at Ramana's ashram is the Tripura Rahasya. Its
English translation contains the subtitle: "The Mystery Beyond the Trinity." 141 It is
unclear who chose this title for the work. It may have been the English disciple of
Ramana, Major Chadwick. Chadwick wrote the Foreword to the book. The Tripura
Rahasya is a tantric work. It refers to the Supreme Goddess by various names. She is
called Tripura, because Her Body consists of three saktis (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).142
Chadwick says that Ramana considered this as one of the greatest works of advaita and
that he often quoted from it. Ramana regretted that it was not available in English.
According to this work, the Pure Self sometimes unfolds itself as the cosmos, and at other
times withdraws Itself and remains unmanifest. Therefore cosmos and the Self are only
the same, but different modes of the one Reality, which is Consciousness.143 The cosmos
is therefore not unreal. It is real in the same way that an image in a mirror is real; the
cosmos is a real image of the Self. This book helps to explain Ramana's view that the
world is real, although only insofar as it is dependent on Brahman.
The Tripura Rahasya also emphasizes the importance of direct experience. It says,
Second-hand knowledge of the Self gathered from books or gurus can
never emancipate a man until its truth is rightly investigated and applied to
himself; direct Realisation alone will do that. Therefore, follow my advice
and realise yourself, turning the mind inward (Tripura Rahasya 18: 89-