Samadhi Chronicles -
Maya Gaia - Evolution Involution
MAYA-GAIA INTRODUCTION & SITEMAP Page Update 08 24 07
Note:My Anthropic Trilogy web-book, evolving since 1997, is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion
through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.
Contradictions concerning the identity of the
highest state of realization of the Godhead-
and its role in attaining ultimate enlightenment
Notes and Excerpts from Hindu and Non-Hindu Concepts of Jivanmukta by Dr. John Glenn Friesen
Keywords: Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Sahaja Samadhi, Satori, Kensho, cosmic consciousness, siddhis, jivanmukti, jivamukti, tathagata, sataguru, Ramana Maharshi, Ganapati Muni, Ganapati Sastri, John Glenn Friesen.
The process of innovation that characterizes much of the evolution of the non-dual tradition has created a major controversy as to the identity and nature of the supreme realization of the Godhead. Hindu and Buddhist traditions identify Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Bodhi respectively as the ultimate state of non-dual realization of Brahman or becoming a Buddha. Schools have arisen however that propose both these doctrinaire concepts of ultimate states are in error and- no surprise- identify even higher states of realization that are attained through practices proprietary to their new disciplines that infer the older concepts of 'ultimate' are really inferior.
For instance in regards to how Zen is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism- in An Introduction to Zen Buddhism D. T. Suzuki writes: "Zen is not a system of Dhyana (meditation) as practiced in India and by other Buddhist schools in China. By Dhyana is generally understood a kind of meditation or contemplation directed toward some fixed thought; in Hinayana Buddhism it was a thought of transiency, while in the Mahayana it was more often the doctrine of emptiness. When the mind has been so trained as to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of mental activity are swept away clean from the field of consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every speck of cloud, a mere broad expanse of blue, Dhyana is said to have reached its perfection. This may be called ecstasy or trance, or the 'First Jhana', but it is not Zen. In Zen there must be not just Kensho, but Satori. There must be a general mental upheaval which destroys the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for new life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which will review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle of observation. In Dhyana there are none of these things, for it is merely a quieting exercise of mind. As such Dhyana doubtless has its own merit, but Zen must not be identified with it."
Zen holds that there is a higher permanent realization beyond where Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism say Dhyana has reached its perfection in Bodhi which Zen refers to as Kensho. Zen's ultimate state of realization is Satori which results in a permanent mental upheaval which destroys the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for a new life as a tathagata.
This is clearly analogous to Ramana's concept that the Nirvikalpa Samadhi of Advaita, that he calls 'trance', is not the ultimate Samadhi but that the higher realization of Sahaja is necessary so that all the [bad] vasanas (worldly illusions) are burned away resulting in the experiencer returning to life as a fully realized jivanmukta.
Now the apparent distinction between Atman Self and Anatta No Self may be simply the result of aspects of specific features of the Advaita tradition so that Ramana's "I (am) I" Self of oneness with Brahman and No Self of the Tathagata vanishes. In some respects the complete body of Ramana's commentaries has the body of the elephant of the perennial non-dual philosophies and devotees who examine it are like the blind trying to permutate a proprietary form out of sometimes contradictory parts. If that is the case, I wonder if all the mystery, and confusion and ambiguity over exactly what "practice" best expresses Ramana's teachings is SIMPLY all of the above so long as it leads to the realization of the Self/NoSelf of Atman/Anatta - Brahman/Bohdi.
Inner Explorations In his autobiography David Loy writes that he came to a similar conclusion- that although there are extraordinary very sharp differences between the Bhagavad-Gita Adviata and Mayhayana Buddhism- in fact, opposed, that the phenomenology of the experience they were trying to describe is, in fact, very, very similar, perhaps identical...
Whether this perennial knowledge comes from jnana or any other form of yoga or practice or direct transcendent experience it unveils the mystery of what becomes of our consciousness at bodily death. Despite the realization of the ultimate reality of nonduality, unless we can found an ashram supported by devotees to spend our lives in contemplation - we must deal with the fact that everything we touch collapses the wave function and so live in the imperative paradigm of the material world consensus- yet overlain with the precious knowledge of ultimate freedom. Consequently for all practical purposes- aside from integrating our awakening to love of God and all of nature, it is as unrealistic to apply knowing absolute truths to determine life goals or career plans anymore than we can safely navigate urban streets on a bicycle while meditating in a non-dual state of consciousness.
Here are some references for how Ramana's Self Inquiry teachings have evolved with components which cause some confusion.
The "Lost Years" of Ramana Maharshi By Peter Holleran - Two Deaths, Two Hearts, Two Teachings. "...thus, only when one obtains realization of the Supreme Identity through Nirvikalpa Samadhi will ignorance be destroyed without vestige and the knot of the heart loosed. Thus the discriminating soul must know the Atma tattva in order to be free from the bondage of samsara....Brahman can be clearly experienced without any barrier only through Nirvikalpa Samadhi." ( The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, edited by Arthur Osborne (London: Ryder & Company, 1969 edition), p. 155-157)
Ramana Maharshi, His Life and Teachings by David Godman (First published in The Mountain Path, 1991, pp. 79-88.) - a reply to a Reader's Query: I have been reading Ramana Maharshi for about twenty years and frequently find him using the expression. 'I-I' but I'm not clear on his meaning. Why 'I-I' rather than simply 'I'? Also presents the distinctions Ramana made among kevala, nirvikalpa and sahaja samadhi.
Update: 12 29 07
I am just discovering that much of Ramana's concept of sahaja has its origin in the concepts of Nath bhakti yoga and its adaptation in the 16th century by Nanak the founding Sikh sant who replaced its fundamental character of renunciation with that of the householder which has connection to the evolution of defining jivanmukta, concepts that later found their way into some Tantric teachings.
The Concept of Sahaj in Guru Nanak's Theology by Late Prof. Nihar Ranjan Ray: What is this Sahaj experience, what is its nature and character? How does one achieve it, how does one recognize it? In common with Sant Kabir and other sants of medieval India,
Guru Nanak came to recognize and accept that religious and spiritual quest was a matter which was altogether internal to man. Positively, it was a matter, first, of cleansing and purifying one's heart and mind; secondly, of filling them with an intense love for - and devotion to - God, the Ultimate and the Absolute, and waiting cravingly for His grace (kirpa, prasad, daya etc.,), and thirdly, striving unceasingly for a complete, unalloyed and absolute blending of one's individual self, or atma, with the Universal Self or Paramatma who is none other than God Himself.
Yoga and Freedom: a reconsideration of Patanjali's classical yoga by Ian Whicher. (This page a synopsis of excerpts including views on sahaja and jivanmukta from the full text available in InfoTrac (library access) An exceptionally lucid examination of what the author sees as ontological and epistemological misinterpretations, reductionist hermeneutics and misleading definitions of Sanskit yogic terms in many scholarly interpretations of Patangali's Yoga Sutras.
The teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi Edited by David Godman; Arthur Osborne, Kavyakantha G.Muni, Kurt Friedrichs, Mouni Sadhu.
Question: "Is samadhi, the eighth stage of raja yoga, the same as the samadhi you speak of?"
Ramana:"In yoga the term samadhi refers to some kind of trance and there are various kinds of samadhi. But the samadhi I speak of is different. It is SAHAJ SAMADHI. From here you have samadhan (steadiness) and you remain calm and composed even while you are active. You realize that you are moved by the deeper real Self within. You have no worries, no anxieties, no cares, for you come to realize that there is nothing belonging to you. You know that everything is done by something with which you are in conscious union.
Question: "If this sahaj samadhi is the most desirable condition, is there no need for
Ramana: "The nirvikalpa samadhi of raja yoga may have its use. But in Jnana yoga this sahaj sthiti (natural state) or sahaj nishtha (abidance in the natural state) itself is the nirvikalpa state. In this natural state, the mind is free from doubts. It has no need to swing between alternatives of possibilities and probabilities. It sees no vikalpas (differences) of any kind. It is sure of the truth because it feels the presence of the real. Even when it is active, it knows it is active in the reality, the Self, the Supreme Being."
Ramana says that a trance is only temporary in its effects; there is no use of trance, unless it brings about enduring peace of mind. There is happiness so long as the trance lasts. But after rising from it the old vasanas (latent ideas and forms of the mind) return. Unless the vasanas are destroyed in sahaja samadhi there is no good in trance. To a questioner who continued to ask about the importance of trance, Ramana replied, 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.(Abhishiktananda's Non-Monistic Advaitic Experience p.212)
Elsewhere Ramana says those seeking 'trance' can find it by going to sleep.
So it seems apparent that the discipline of Self-inquiry associated with Ramana is largely an adaptation of Guru Nanak's theology which featured "looking inside the self" and "going to the heart", except that the original balance between bhakti and jnana aspects is transformed into a jnana philosophical focus on discovery of "Who Am I". This non-religious approach held great appeal to theosophists and other Western intellectuals seeking non-dual enlightenment in the early 20th century and eventually led to raising Ramana Maharshi's status as one of the most eminent and revered Hindu sages.
While later denegrating the importance of 'trance' the term Ramana used to refer to Nirvikalpa Samadhi which is the classical "direct experience" of non-duality, his writings frequently stress the primacy of (sic) direct experience by which he means 'realizaion' of the Self through his intellectual practice of Self-Inquiry. He frequently defines his Self Realization in terms that are indistinguishable from the direct experience of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, turiya, Satori, Moshka or Brahman realization. He later also denegrates the practice of meditation which conflicts with some later commentaries below.(ef)
See Wikipedia Article - Trance Trance is increasingly used as a meta-paradigm and inclusive term for different states of consciousness and what has come to be known as altered states of consciousness. No value judgement on the states is intended. The trance as meta-paradigm model has been developing through the confluence of various fields and disciplines since the 1970s - see tranceresearch.org Hoffman (1998: p.10) writes further that "...as the anthropologists and ethnologists (for example Felicitas Goodman) tell us, there are no traditional rituals or ceremonies that truly work and change our reality without the use of trance." Wier, in his 1995 book, "Trance: from magic to technology", defines a simple trance (p.58) as being caused by cognitive loops which always result in various sets of disabled cognitive functions. With this simple definition, Wier defines meditation, hypnosis, addiction and charisma as complex forms of the simple definition. In Wier's 2007 book, "The Way of Trance," he elaborates on these forms, adds ecstasy as an additional form and discusses the ethical implications of his model, including magic. John Horgan in Rational Mysticism (2003) explores the neurological mechanisms and psychological implications of trances and other mystical manifestations. Horgan incorporates literature and case-studies from a number of disciplines in this work.
Kelamuni Blogspot Re: 3rd tier stage? or else? kelamuni said Oct 26, 2009: Generally, I am skeptical towards all descriptions of “states” (which are invariably presented as non-states), or stages, that somehow or other lie “beyond” what is called nirvikalpa samadhi, asmaprajnata samadhi, nirodha sammapati, samjna nirodha, as well and temporary experiences of kensho and “satori.” I have written on this in my blog and in the End of Enlightenment thread. I feel [sic] that “sahaj samadhi” is not really a descriptive term, but a placeholder for the belief that there is something called “enlightenment,” with all the baggage that that term carries, that lies at the end of the path.
Ramana was insistent that “nirvikalpa samadhi” was a temporary state, and so, according to what I call the “logic of (absolute) being,” it could not be the final state of moksha (or nirvana). That state must be permanent, by definition, and so it cannot be the temporary nirvikalpa samadhi (or what the Buddhists called nirodha sammapati) of yoga. Ramana used the term “sahaja-samadhi” to describe the state of moksha, at the same time implying that the “nirvikalpa samadhi” of the yogins was not this final state. Here he appears to be evoking aspects of the teachings of Shaivism, and Tantrism in general.
Also gives perspectives regarding ultimate state by Ramakrishna, the Yogavasitha, Korean Son (Zen) Adi Da and Wilber.
The following are excerpts from a study of Ramana Maharish by Dr. Glenn Friesen in which the term 'experience' infers that Ramana's recognition of the self has the same qualities as attaining Atman, moksha, satori, nirvana or Brahman.(ef)
Ramana emphasized the primacy of direct experience. The scriptures are only meant to make a man retrace his steps to his original source (Teachings,63)
Study of the Scriptures becomes unnecessary because there is nothing else to be gained; you must actually experience the Self. The great sayings like "I am Brahman" will not remove bondage without direct experience. It is like a treasure trove, which is not obtained by hearing about it, but by being told by a friend who knows about it and then digging. We experience the Self directly through constant meditation. (Talks, 114, CW, 217).
We also see in Ramana the neo-Hindu emphasis that experience is more important than the Vedas. "Mere knowledge of Scripture is not sufficient." (Teachings, 14)
"Nor can the experience be expressed in words. Realization is beyond expression. Expression always fails to describe it. Although the expression of realization is impossible, still its existence is indicated. Samadhi transcends thought and speech and cannot be described. (...) You know samadhi only when you are in samadhi." (Reflections, 152).
"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).
Direct experience (anubhava) is present in the non-traditional Vedas and an early awareness of the four states of consciousness. These states are: waking, dreaming, deep sleeping and the fourth state turiya that is beyond the other three states. (Friesen: Ramana)
A traditional Hindu source emphasizing experience is the Bhagavad Gita. It refers to Arjun's direct experience of Krishna. This vision is said to be one that could not be attained by the Vedas of study (BG 11:48). The Bhagavad Gita also refers to the experience of reaching the Self (BG 6:20).(Friesen: Ramana)
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." (Friesen: Ramana)
In view of all these sources, it is inaccurate to dismiss Ramana's emphasis on the importance of direct experience as merely based on western ideas or as merely neo_Hindu. (Friesen: Ramana)
Arguing Reality Presents a synopsis of the three main approaches to arguments about the nature of reality, enlightenment and consciousness and raises questions about some specific assumptions in Ramana's self-inquiry teachings.
Following is a post I made to the The Broken Yogi - Conrad Goehausen's perspectives in his practice of Sri Ramana's self-inquiry.
The main issue I have with Ramana's concepts is the equivalency he suggests between his 'direct experience' of realization of the "I" consciousness via his methodology of 'self-inquiry and that of the 'Direct Experience' inherent in moksha, satori, nirvana or nirvikalpa samadhi.
From the perspective of two different 'direct experiences' I was aware of a seizing, sweeping-up and possession of my mind that was an expressly 'felt-emotional state' unique and distinct from any of the states of discriminating consciousness - intellectual, contemplative, or beholding or even my one experience with altered consciousness from taking psilocybin mushroom in which my being was threatened with annihilation by an objective force.
The first was a strictly 'psychic'episode in which I had joined about thirty Afro-Americans celebrants in a Goombay dancing/drumming festival who got 'swept up' (or possessed) for about 20 seconds which converted our free-form boogie-dancing to a highly orchestrated 'jump-dance' that resembled the Masai, except we threw our arms over our heads and 'whooped' at the height of each jump. I assumed some kind of collective Overmind had precipitated out of our ecstatic dancing/drumming. I think this is an example of how psychic events are even more problematic for our comprehension than are even the enigmatic issues associated with spiritual realization. At least the perennial non-dual philosophies have created a body of language and concepts by which we can attempt synthesis with study of the mind, consciousness and new physics reality.
My other direct experience - a nirvikalpa samadhi - you've already referred to in your post Allowing Nirvikalpa but the point is that I went from a state of ecstasy of mind to become seized and swept-up in a 'felt' consciousness that had full control of the samadhi scenario that was orchestrated from dual to non-dual and back to dual with just one moment when I was confronted by an object consciousness to make a free-will choice between life and death for my journey to continue.
Neither of these 'direct experiences' confirm that such episodes are 'graced' or that they are orchestrated from separate and even distinct psychic consciousness in the Goombay incidence or transcendent consciousness in the case of samadhi but they certainly suggest that the non-dual 'direct experience' is a uniquely 'felt' deterministic program in which we are essentially surrendered and swept-up into.
It seems Ramana proposes that self-inquiry can provide realization through a seamless progression of greater and greater suppression of mind to attain 'direct-experience' of non-duality with God and specifically without benefit of 'trance'. He in fact disparages 'trance' or what I am referring to as this 'swept-up' orchestrated episode by which we are lifted to union with Atman. No question that had I practiced self-inquiry before my samadhi experience I'd have integrated the experience to infinitely greater benefit perhaps even to becoming enlightened as a Jivanmukta. On the other hand I suspect the odds that any jnana yoga practice would bring me to samadhi are pretty slim. Leaves me to conclude that practice may bring us to the brink of transcendence but 'trance' is what carries us over into the temporary embrace of Brahman and that self-inquiry would be one path for integration.
In some instances, even major sources of tradition diminish the importance of experiencing this ultimate numinous state to attain enlightenment. The Upanishads only briefly refer to turiya as a fourth state of consciousness, Shankara hardly mentions 'experience' and holds that study of the revealed scriptures of the Veda is the path to enlightenment and Ramana made disparaging comments regarding 'trance' as something one can replicate by 'taking drugs or going to sleep' and dismissed attaining it in favor of his discipline of Self-inquiry. Aurobindo was also dismissive of 'trance' saying it is a way of escape and does not solve the problem of the waking consciousness which remains imperfect. He conceived a mentalist discipline of integral yoga by which aspirants attained an ultimate transformation into the Supermind.
On the Term Sahaj Samadhi Posted by kelamuni on January 31, 2011 [Integral Postmetaphysics] An overview of perspectives according to the traditions in Wilber's integral spirituality; the Shaiva tinged Neo-Advaita of Ramana Maharshi; the classical Advaita of Shankara and neo and traditional Advaita, classical Yoga, and tantric Shaivism (See also Ashtavakra Gita and Saraha's Doha-kosha. (m-g comment: Where each in turn essentially depreciates the practice of samadhi and holds nirvikalpa as inferior to the more profound and permanent realization of Sahaj and have become petrified into various unjustified dogma of jnana absolutism.
But overall, the non-dual traditions as typified in Advaita, Tantra, Jainism and various forms of Buddhism tend to place the realization of this singularity at the pinnacle of their spiritual agenda and their dharma are almost entirely devoted to prescription for its attainment.
Update 02 20 10: But in another post kelamuni subjects sahaja to greater skepticism that approaches my position.
Kelamuni thread on sahaja (server discontinued) kelamuni said Oct 26, 2009 (re: 3rd tier stage? or else?) Hi X, Generally, I am skeptical towards all descriptions of "states" (which are invariably presented as non-states), or stages, that somehow or other lie "beyond" what is called nirvikalpa samadhi, asmaprajnata samadhi, nirodha sammapati, samjna nirodha, as well and temporary experiences of kensho and "satori." I have written on this in my blog and in the End of Enlightenment thread. I feel [sic] that "sahaj samadhi" is not really a descriptive term, but a placeholder for the belief that there is something called "enlightenment," with all the baggage that that term carries, that lies at the end of the path.
Ramana was insistent that "nirvikalpa samadhi" was a temporary state, and so, according to what I call the "logic of (absolute) being," it could not be the final state of moksha (or nirvana). That state must be permanent, by definition, and so it cannot be the temporary nirvikalpa samadhi (or what the Buddhists called nirodha sammapati) of yoga. Ramana used the term "sahaja-samadhi" to describe the state of moksha, at the same time implying that the "nirvikalpa samadhi" of the yogins was not this final state. Here he appears to be evoking aspects of the teachings of Shaivism, and Tantrism in general. (end Kelamuni commentary)
From these examples, it seems evident there is a fundamental imperative at work in the historic process of altering traditional doctrine- for the new paradigm to propose practices and states of realization that rise above those previously deemed ultimate. It is a paradox that Shankara, Ramana and Aurobindo and Zen masters- satgurus who most categorically dismiss Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Bodhi- the ground for traditional dharma- are the most famous and revered for their spiritual wisdom particularly so in the West. I suggest for explanation that the supreme non-dual singularity is not something achieved through worship, prayer or meditation as prescribed in traditional dharma but by grace alone. That those satgurus who dismiss Nirvikalpa Samadhi and advocate alternatives such as the study of scripture or self-inquiry or integral yoga or mind upheaval as the path to enlightenment may have never experienced it and displaced it with some neologism that infers a superior state of realization attained via their proprietary practice. That their jnana yoga mentalist disciplines deemphasize devotional aspects, a revisionism which appeals to the intellectual, post-modern Western mind by empowering it with method for control over a logical progression to realization rather than the often futile wait for the uncertain grace of Nirvikalpa Samadhi to occur via the passive traditions of Bhakti and Dhyana. It may be that these alternative practices can result in high levels of philosophical knowledge and comprehension but fall short of the supreme experiential realization of the Godhead singularity which is still dependent on the incident of grace.
Nirvikalpa Samadhi is often used in a generic sense in reference to the highest state of non-dual consciousness conceived over a broad range of spiritual disciplines including the turiya of the Upanishads,
the moksha of Jainism, the
bodhi and Tathagata of Buddhism, the satori of Zen, the Supreme State of Being of Taoism, the fana fillah of Sufism, the Unio Mystica of mysticism, the Gate of Distance of the Zulu shaman, the gnosis of Christianity and the charism of Christian mysticism.
Modern metaphysical and new science writers identify states analogous to Nirvikalpa Samadhi with secular terms such as Cosmic Consciousness and Peak Experience and the integral spiritual and transpersonal psychology communities are inventing neologisms for their ongoing effort to map the landscape of transcendent consciousness described in the non-dual traditions.
Update 04 19 09: My further Reflections on Sahaja and Jivanmukta:
Rising from tradition, certain attributes of samadhi are so often cut and pasted that they have attained a credibility that - due to the lack of any experiential evidence- is totally undeserved. It is alleged that in samadhi the hair stands on end, that the heart stops beating but [sic] samadhi can last for hours, days or even weeks; that tathagata go in and out of samadhi at will; that all who experience Nirvikalpa attain pure 'enlightenment', etc. etc. I am convinced these 'attributes' are simply myths that inevitably accumulate around the definitions of all numinous epiphenomena. A major construct regarding samadhi is the notion of Sahaja Samadhi...a state of such spiritual superiority beyond Nirvikalpa that transforms the experiencer into a jivanmukta- one who remains in a permanent state of non dual consciousness yet who is able to function in a phenomenal environment.
Therein lies a fundamental paradox in that in Nirvikalpa consciousness, there is no self or subject-object reality so that were one in a state of non duality there would be no sense to hunger or awareness of a hand to raise a spoon into a mouth much less hop on a bicycle to ride to a store for groceries. Even in the best analogy- in how one afflicted with hysterical blindness can navigate in an invisable environment without colliding with objects- consciousness, subject, ego and objects are clearly in a state of duality. Likewise with subjects under the influence of LSD or other potent entheogens, their consciousness usually remains in a state of duality and although altered, they can function in a phenomenal environment with varying degrees of normalcy. In the relatively rare case where their consciousness has briefly raised to the state of absolute non duality comparable to Nirvikalpa they are reduced to a comotose trance during the brief moments the non dual state lasts. So to suggest that the Jivanmukta functions literally in a permanent state of non dual consciousness comparable to Nirvikalpa Samadhi is simply too
far-fetched to be believable. Admirers of Ramana Maharshi applied the terms sant and jivanmukta to the rishi but he regularly enjoyed preparing food in the ashram kitchen, petting the animals and holding audience in conversation with visitors- hardly behaviors of one in a state of perpetual non dual consciousness. My conclusion is that the notions regarding Sahaja and jivanmukti are myths perpetuated out of the
meme complex surrounding authentic Nirvikalpa samadhi.
Excerpts from Hindu and Non-Hindu Interpretations of a Jivanmukta by Dr. John Glenn Friesen
In the following, I have excerpted passages from another of Dr. John Glenn Friesen's scholarly and penetrating essays that like his Abhishiktananda again provides an intimate look into the minds of the sage-philosopher of non-dual tradition- in this case those of Ramana Maharshi, his co-satguru Ganapati Muni, some of his devotees and some biographers. My selection is intended to emphasize the sometimes arbitrary, often self-contradictory and regularly confusing nature of precepts that emanate from both insight and imagination in an ashram environment often saturated with spiritual devotional passion wherein both metaphysical paradigms and mystical accounts arise insulated from challenge or skepticism (A sage never criticizes another sage.) to become codified into legend.
For disciples of a sage such as Ramana- every utterance is taken as an expression of divine truth and what are intellectually conflicting premises are rationalized as appropriate to the stage of development of the disciple. Ramana taught that realization of the Self is not acquired through books, meditation or even samadhi yet in every instance his foundation arose from these very sources. All of his fundamental concepts of self realization are adaptations from a variety of Hindu texts as cataloged in Dr. Friesen's essay- in particular the Ribhu Gita the
Yoga Vasistha and the Tripura Rahasya on (pages 95-102 here). Although Ramana constantly stresses "direct experience" he is referring to self examination- not samadhi transcendence- yet his practice is essentially a compilation of precepts extracted from Hinduism and neo-Hinduism, yoga, tantric and Buddhist literature he regularly recommended his disciples read. Certainly there is nothing that detracts from his status as a sage in assembling an adaptive practice for realization. To what extent intellectual extrapolation overlay punctuated episodes of revelation in the entire body of the nondual tradition is always open to question and arises in the credibility of any particular discipline.
See my perspective that the term sahaja really defines a supreme integration of a Nirvikalpa Samadhi rather than a higher samadhi experience.
Ramana cared for his aging mother so there were criticisms (by traditional Hindus) based on the view that Ramana's life was really more like a householder than a sannyas"
(Narasimha, 127). We see here the conflict between the traditional view that a 'sannyasi was supposed to have no family and should aim to remove himself from life. But Ramana seemed to adopt the tantric view of 'jivanmukti' - that one can be liberated in this life. We will later look at this conflict in more detail.
To understand Ramana's life and teachings, we need to examine how he himself understood it. And we need to look at how others interpreted him, especially those interpreters within his own lifetime, who had experienced his living presence. We can also use comparative philosophy to better understand these descriptions and interpretations, and to test whether they are internally consistent, and consistent with other Hindu traditions.
(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, Rama!a 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 control.17 Ramana 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.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 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 sam!dhi, 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 Consciousness.19 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, 1995), 41[Crumbs].
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. 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
Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Rama#a Maharshi. Humphreys was interested in occult powers and in Blavatsky?s kind of theosophy. Gershom Scholem says that ?theosophy? should not be understood in the sense of Madame Blavatsky?s later movement of that name: See Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd's Philosophy
Some of the interesting points in Humphreys' biography of Rama!a 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 this information.
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.
Ramana advises us to seek 'sahaja samadhi'. Sahaja means 'natural'. And 'sahaj samadhi' is the consciousness of the liberated person who returns to the world. That person does not live out of ego anymore, but lives therough 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 Consciousness.
Swarnagiri, Ramananda: 'Crumbs from his Table (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1995, 41['Crumbs'] 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 and inquire within as to who it is who experiences this stillness (Crumbs, 27: italics in original)
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 entiry ('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.
Ramana tells him [Humphreys] that one and only one illimitable force is responsible for both the phenomena that we see and the act of seeing them ('Glimpses, 18). This seems to be a 'tantric' kind of nondualism that does not deny the reality of the world, but instead regards the world as created by the power of 'shakti' of God.
Brunton 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).
Chadwick says that he asked Ramana 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.
Ramana does criticize Bucke's idea that cosmic consciousness is only possible at a certain stage of life ('Talks', 307; Jan 23, 1967).
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).
etudes 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 was aware of the criticism of Ramana by traditional 'sannyasins. In 1949, Monchanin referred to a 'sannyasi' named Suddhacaitanyasive, who says that Ramana's serene indifference comes "out of stupidity rather than out of 'jivanmukti'."
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 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.
Monchanin urged Abhishiktananda to discover the communion ('samsat') beyond the 'advaitic' experience. Abhishiktananda writes that Monchanin is too Greek to understand 'advaita'.
Jung had serious disagreement with Ramana and never visted him during his visit to India. Issues over Ramana's "emphasis" on meditation and detachment from the temporal world.
While Ramana is considered a sage of 'Vedanta Advaita' or nondualism he is also regarded as an example of a 'jivanmukta'- one who becomes liberated while still living in this temporal world- a 'tantric' idea, and Ramana himself says that the world has some reality, thus contradicting the Vedantic view of 'maya' as illusion in favor of an idea of 'maya' as the creative power of Shiva. Ramana frequently refers to the 'Yoga Vasistha' and other tantric works.
The Indologist Paul Hacker used the term 'neo-Hinduism' to refer to the interpretation of Hinduism by Hindus in response to the concerns of the non-Hindu West, and the use of the terminology and assumptions of the West. Hacker contrasts neo-Hinduism with "surviving traditional Hinduism." This is represented by 'pandit' literature, often written in Sanskrit, and be devotional tracts. It is often bitterly opposed to any Western interpretation of Hinduism.
Ramana is often regarded as a follower of traditional 'Advaita Vedanta, as expressed in the teachings of Shankara but Ramana said: "Bhagavan's teaching is an expression of his own experience and realization. Others find that it tallies with Sri Shankara's." Ramana's emphasis on direct experience contrasts with Shankara and traditional Hinduism where priority is held for the revealed word of the Vedas. The use of the word 'anubhava' in neo-Hinduism to refer to personal experience is therefore open to the criticism that it is due to the influence of Western ideas in neo-Hinduism.
(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
Shankara uses the word 'anubhava' not in the sense of "personal experience" or "observations" which one could use as evidence for or against the Vedas. It is rather used to refer to an ultimate experience, a goal, the knowledge of 'Brahman' (brahmajnana)'.
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 Kr?ger. 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.
The neo_Hindu emphasis on experience is also evident in Aurobindo, who denied that his philosophy was derived from Shankara: "...That is not true...The only two books that have influenced me are the 'Gita' and the 'Upanisads. What I wrote was the work of intuition and inspiration working on the basis of my spirtual experience...experience and formulation of experience I consider as the true aim of philosophy. The rest is merely intellectual work and may be interesting but nothing more." 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
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, 28')
Nor can the experience be expressed in words. Realization is beyond expression. Expression always fails to describe it. Although the expression of realization is impossible, still its existence is indicated. '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. Even the 'Gita' says, 'Meditate on the Self.' It does not say, 'Meditate upon the book of the 'Gita' ('Conscious Immortality, 83').
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)
There are non Western sources of the idea of direct experience. Hindu sources predate European Romantics by many centuries.
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.
Also the poet-saints like Tukaram and others from the Maharashtra who glorify personal Samadhi (Sanskrit, lit. "establish, make firm") is a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object (Diener Michael S., Erhard Franz-Karl and Fischer-Schreiber Ingrid - The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen), and in which the mind becomes still (one-pointed or concentrated) but the person remains conscious. Sahaj samadhi is the effortless and continual state of perfection of a satguru ("God Speaks" by Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd ed. p.316l)
There are also traditions in Yoga that emphasize direct experience ('anubhava') like the 'Yoga Vasistha' and the 'Vivekacudamani, a work that is often attributed to Shankara and in 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]."
Another Hindu source that emphasizes immedite experience is Kashmir "Saivism", which emphasizes consciousness and internality. It also pre-dates any possible European Romantic influence.
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 in 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 'BG' also refers to the experience of reaching the Self
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 (jhana) 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).
Monism, Advaita and Maya
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
Ramana's teaching have qualities of Perennialism (that all religions are a path to God, or at least to realization) in that he compares his to Jesus, or to the Buddha. This is in contrast to traditional Hinduism, which regarded non-Hindus as 'mleccha' (barbarians, foreigners).
Is traditional "Vedanta Advaita' monistic? For Shankara, what is important is not personal experience, but overcoming ignorance or 'avidya' of one's true nature- once one has overcome, and realized one's true nature, then one also realizes that what one thought was real was onlyl illusion or 'maya'. Only Brahman is real. Question arises whether Shankara therefore interprets 'advaita' in a monistic sense.
Western interpretations of 'advaita' often apply their ideas of monism to describe it. Ninian Smart describes Vedantic 'advaita' as monistic:
"Though the non-dualism of Shankara is well known, it is useful to recapitulate briefly its main features. 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 within the individual is identical with Brahman, The Absolute or Ultimate Reality. This rigorous insistence on the non-dualism betweeen the soul and the divine Reality is paralleled by an equally uncompromising monism in relation to the world.
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 often contradicts himself on this point. "If the world be taken as 'chit' (consciousness), it is always real."
'Siva' is the Being assuming these forms and the Consciouness seeing them.
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, Rama!a 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
and nondualism: "...let the earnest seeker first find out what the "I" is. Then it will be time enough to know what the final State will be, whether the "I" will get merged in the Supreme Being or stand apart from Him." ('Maharshi's Gospel,55')
This emphasis on experience is quite different from Shankara's detailed theoretical expositions of the meaning of 'advaita', and his opposition to those who held contrary viewpoints.
Andrew Fort comments: There is a state where 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 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)
Someone who has seen this true has an understanding that is said to be unodified ('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 the objects.
In the tantric work "The Tripura Rahasya' there is reference to the Supreme Goddess by various names. She is called tripura, because Her Body consists of three "saktis' (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). Ramana considered this as one of the greatest works of 'advaita'.
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 Ramana. 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).
The 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 [sic] 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 vittis 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 turiyitata, 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? is 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).
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
Vasistha, 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
Vasistha, 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.
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. 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 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: 89-90).
Return to Top
Ramana accepted that one could be a jivanmukta, one who is liberated in this world. The
one who is liberated in the body is the jivanmukti. Full liberation is only gained after
death (in videhamukti). But this idea of jivanmukti allows for the continuing the liberated
person to continue functioning within the world of diversity. This idea of jivanmukti is
not at all universally accepted within Hinduism. Indeed, as Fort has shown, the entire
idea of the jivanmukti probably derives from tantric sources, and is connected with the
tantric ideas of the reality of the world, and of maya in terms of the sakti or energy of
The jivanmukta sees Brahman within all things. But there is an inconsistency between
the state of kevala (the experience of the aloneness of the atman) and this state of sahaja
(seeing Brahman within all things). As Fort says, Vedanta has two ideas of mukti:
freedom from samsara and knowledge of Brahman/Atman. The first view, freedom from
samsara, is a more negative idea of liberation. It usually requires some form of world
renunciation, and some kind of yogic practice; it ends in the perfect isolation (kaivalya)
of the spirit (Fort, 6). This view is also connected with seeing the world as maya in terms
The second view of liberation is knowledge of Brahman/Atman. In this second view,
some Vedantic thought holds that there can be liberation when one is in a body, with the
mind and the senses.
Even for those who believe in the possibility of jivanmukti, there is a further problem.
There are those who argue that the only reason that the jivanmukti can continue to
function in the world is because of his or her prarabdha karma. This is the karmic
energy that continues from before liberation, like the continued spinning of the potter's
wheel. On this view the jivanmukti is not really participating in the world, since the
energy of acting in the body comes from the past. However, another opinion is that the
jivanmukti is participating in the world out of a mission to save the world or to do good in
the world. Fort argues that this second opinion is not found within traditional Hinduism;
it is a Western conception (Fort, 13). It may also be linked to the Buddhist idea of the
For those who accept the idea of jivanmukti, it is often unclear what the idea means. If
the liberated person has attained to unity with Brahman, how does he or she deal with the
diversity of the world? Is the jivanmukta conscious of his or her actions? Are rational
distinctions still made after liberation? Is there a distinction between subject and object,
between self and others? And what are the jivanmukta's ethical obligations to others?
As revealed in the forgoing opinions regarding Jivanmukti it is clear that it is essentially a mythical concept whose character is limited only by the imagination of countless sages. It is plausible that the Jivanmukta can live a normal life as a fully realized being but the notion that he/she is literally living in a permanent state of non duality as in Nirvikalpa Samadhi is catagorically absurd since in that state there is no conscious Self or dual object with which to take action. See also Myth of Jivanmukta Non Duality
3. Tantric view of maya
We have already discussed differing views as to whether advaita is monistic.
'Tantra' does not regard the world as totally illusory. 'Maya' is regarded as the creative power of 'Brahman' (or more frequently, of 'Siva"). The world has a relative reality. It is real insofar as it is related to 'Siva', as the field play of 'Siva's' creative power or 'shakti'. We have seen how this view of relative reality is supported by the'Vivekacudamani'.
In his translation of the Vivekacudamani, Ramana also refers to the world as having
emanated from Brahman:
"Thou are That" because this whole world emanates from Brahman, which
alone IS, and is Brahman Itself, just as pots come from clay and are clay
itself and indeed are made of clay (CW, 149).
Scholars have raise the question whether the 'Voivekacudamani' was written by Shankara as this view of 'maya' as a relative reality is more closely related to 'tantra'.
The view that 'Brahman' emits or emanates the world is not emphasized in Vedanta. It tends to regard the world as a result of ignorance and illusion although it does acknowledge some reality in its doctrine of 'anirvacaniya', the emphasis on the full reality of the world as an expression of 'sakti' is more a 'tantric' doctrine. Loy says that both Hindu and Buddhist 'tantra' hold that the ultimate nondual reality possesses two aspects in its fudamental nature- negative and positive, static and dynamic, 'Siva' and 'Sakti','Prajna' and 'Upaya', 'Sunyata 'and'karuna'. The ultimate goal of 'tantra ' is union between these two aspects of the reality. In this union, one realizes the non-dual nature of the self and the not-self. 151
Ramana says that tantric 'advaita' admits world, soul, God.
"There is the 'Tantric Advaita' which admits three fundamentals 'jagat', jiva, Isvara'- 'world, soul, God'. These three are also real. But the reality does not end with them. It extends beyond. That is the 'Tantric Advaita'. The Reality is limitless; the three fundamentals do not exist apart from the Absolute Reality. All Agree that Reality is all-pervading...('Talks, 118')
151 Nonduality, 270. Loy refers to the idea of emanation as "a weaker kind of monism."
On this view, instead of there being only a monistic One, there is only one type of thing
(such as Mind) of which the many particulars are manifestations. It is unclear why he
still refers to it as monism, since both the One and its manifestations are real. Why not
just refer to it as nondualism? It appears that Loy's reluctance to refer to emanation as
nondualism is that he regards it as a reification of emptiness.
Kashmir 'Saivism'provides a 'tantric' positive valuation of the world. The world is seen as a real manifestation of Shiva's 'sakti'. (Abhinavagupta: "Shiva the independent and pure Self that always virates in the mind, is the Parashkti that rises as joy in various sense experiences. Then the experience of this outer world appears as its Self. I do not know where this word 'samsara' has come from.")
Lilian Silburn writes about the Shaivite doctrine of the emanation of the world from Shiva: "In the dance of Shiva, the sound vibrations from his drum give rise to the universe as they generate time and spce. With his other hand, he holds the fire of resorption. This fire consumes the I. There is therefore both emanation and resorption. The creative emission takes place when the Goddess energy ('sakt') is churned by Bhairava. This is the "gross aspect of vibration" in which Shiva differentiates himself from his energy in order to contemplate her. After this separation there is a return into unity. The 'yogi' dwells at this junction of the twofold movement of emanation and resorption. The 'yogi' is returned to the primordial oneness, the vibration of the universal heart. In this union, Shiva takes back the divided energy, turning it inward by a series of withdrawal to the initial viration of the peaceful center."
Ramana translates the Devikalottara, one of the minor Agamas, as saying: "The mere consciousness of being as Awareness is itself 'Shakti' and all this world is the projection of this 'Shakti'. Recognition of the world as the manifestation of 'Shakti' is worship of 'Shakti'." ('CW 173; Osb. 112').
Ramana was questioned whether Shankara was correct in his view that Brahman is real and that the world is illusion. He said that both are true, and that these refer to different stages of development:
The aspirant starts with definition that the Real always exists, and then eliminates the world as unreal because it is changing and hence cannot be Real. Ultimately he reaches the Self and there finds unity. Then that which was originally rejected as being unreal, is found to be part of the unity. Being absorbed in the Reality, the world is also real. Vedantins say 'maya's' manifestation is the display of the cosmos on pure Consciousness like images in a mirror. Just as the images cannot remain in the absence of a mirror, so the world cannot have an independent existence ('Conscious Immortality, 107').
The Vedantins do not say the world is unreal. That is a misunderstanding. If they did, what would be the meaning of the Vedantic text: "All this is Brahman"? They only mean that the world is unreal as world, but it is real as Self. If you regard the world as not-Self it is not real. Everything, whether you call it world or 'maya' or 'lila' or 'sakti' must be within the Self and not apart from it. There can be no 'sakti' apart 'from the 'sakta' ('Day by Day,233; Cf. Teachings, 19')
Shankara has been criticized for his philosophy of Maya (illusion) without understanding his meaning. He made three statements: that Brahman is real, that the universe is unreal, and that Brahman is the universe. He did not stop with the second. The third statement explains the first two; it signifies that when the Universe is perceived apart from Brahman, that perception is false and illusory. What it amounts to is that phenomena are real when experienced as the Self and illusory when seen apart from the Self ('Teachings, 16').
Even the idea of illusion is itself illusory ('Teachings, 17'). Both of the following statements are true: "The world ('jagat') is illusion" and "The world is reality." The statements refer to different stages of development, and are spoken from different points of view ('Talks, 41').
Sometimes Ramana's view that the world is a manifestation of God's power seems to be like panentheism:
'Iswara' is immanent in every person and in every material object throughout the universe. The totality of all things and beings constitutes God. ('Conscious Immortality 127').
There are four states of consciousness: waking, sleep, deep sleep, and the fourth state, the
turiya. Rama!a interprets the turiya as beyond both the waking and sleeping states. He
says that this fourth stage is really our natural [sahaja] state, the under-current in all the
three states (Talks, 121). It is not a state of trance, since this sahaja state is the state of
the jivanmukta who moves about and acts in the world. This point has not been
emphasized enough by interpreters of Ramana's experience.
Rama!a does not advocate achieving a trance state. He says that trance is the state of
nirvikalpa samadhi, a lower state of realization than sahaja samadhi. Rama!a
distinguishes these levels of samadhi:
(1) Holding on to Reality is samadhi.
(2) Holding on to Reality with effort is savikalpa samadhi. He subdivides
savikalpa sam!dhi into four kinds. All involve effort.
(3)Merging in Reality and remaining unaware of the world is
nirvikalpa samadhi. He subdivides these into two kinds.
(4) Merging in Ignorance and remaining unaware of the world is sleep. In
sleep, the mind is alive, but sunk into oblivion.
(5) Remaining in the primal, pure natural state without effort is sahaja
nirvikalpa samadhi (Teachings, 185; also Talks, 357-58; Cf CW 272-
73; Osb. 176-77.
In savikalpa samadhi, the mind jumps from one object to another. All kinds of thoughts
rise up from the Reality within and "manifest themselves." The distinction between
Knower, Knowledge and Known is not lost.
In nirvikalpa samadhi, which Ramana also calls kevala samadhi, the mind is alive, but
"sunk in life, - like a bucket with a rope left lying in the water in the well to be drawn
out." The distinction between Knower, Knowledge and Known is lost (CW 272; Osb
176). One can come out of the state. It is therefore temporary, a mere suppression (laya)
For those who reach only this stage, everything
appears different from themselves, unlike sahaja samadhi, where there is nothing
different from themselves.154 Ramana is ambivalent as to whether or not nirvikalpa
samadhi is a necessary stage to attaining sahaja samadhi. He says that a scholar who has
not had a firm experience of nirvikalpa samadhi, however learned he may be, will not be
capable of destroying the ego (CW 245, Osb 155). And he says in order not to fall back
into samsara, practice nirvikalpa samadhi by concentration on Brahman, which is
experienced in the heart as one's own radiant Self, free from all limitations and as Being-consciousness-
Bliss. This will destroy the individual consciousness, which is the cause
of all error, and thus you can unravel the knot of the heart, which causes the ills of birth
and death (CW 252, Osb 161). Elsewhere he says,
When we have tendencies that we are trying to give up, that is to say when
we are still imperfect and have to make conscious efforts to keep the mind
one-pointed or free from thought, the thoughtless state which we thus
attain is nirvikalpa samadhi. When, through practice, we are always in
that state, not going into samadhi and coming out again, that is the sahaja
state. In sahaja one sees the only Self and sees the world as a form
assumed by the Self. (Teachings, 184)
Elsewhere, Ramana says that the trance of nirvikalpa samadhi is not necessary in order to
achieve the sahaja state. The method that he recommends for enlightenment is that of
Self-Enquiry. Ramana criticized meditation as often leading to the inflation of the ego of
the meditator.155 Liberation can't be attained through yoga or ritual (CW 277; Osb. 133).
Ramana says that Shankara emphasized sahaja samadhi in preference to nirvikalpa
samadhi (Reflections, 52). Now although it is true that Shankara did not emphasize the
experience of trance, or nirvikalpa, it is unlikely that he advocated sahaja, which is more
tantric. For Ramana refers to the Vivekacudamani in support of the preference of sahaja
samadhi to nirvikalpa samadhi (Talks, 59). Sahaja is in any event experiential,
something that Shankara did not emphasize.
155 His view that meditation is not necessary is similar to Shankara's opinion.
"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" (Talks, 280).
Ramana's rejection of trance is related to his acceptance of the idea of jivanmukti, or
living liberation. If one can be liberated while still alive, then liberation cannot mean
trance, at least not in the sense of a loss of consciousness.157 Some kind of consciousness
is necessary in order to function while alive. Ramana calls this kind of consciousness
sahaja samadhi. It is the highest state of consciousness. Ramana expressly contrasts it
In yoga the term [samadhi] is used to indicate some kind of trance and
there are various kinds of samadhi. But the samadhi I speak to you about
is different. It is sahaja samadhi. In this state you remain calm and
composed during activity. You realize that you are moved by the deeper
Real self within and are unaffected by what you do or say or think. You
have no worries, anxieties or cares, for you realize that there is nothing
that belongs to you as ego and that everything is being done by something
with which you are in conscious union (Teachings, 185).
This is an important passage for understanding Ramana. He expressly says that while in
sahaja samadhi, we may participate in activity. The emphasis in sahaja samadhi is on
remaining calm and composed during that activity. This is an emphasis that is found in
the Yoga Vasistha. It describes the liberated being is detached and indifferent. The
liberated person appears always the same: constant, equable, impartial and even-minded,
calm in all states of awareness, unchanging in joy and despair, as one who has lost all
desire and anger. These liberated beings wander the world with detached minds, whether
they are rulers like Janaka or renouncers of the world. The reason for this detachment is
to avoid any further karma accruing to one's actions. Because the jivanmukti does not act
out of desire, there is no action in the karmic sense- no action that brings fruit. Even
while acting, the jianmukti is not a doer. Unliberated people often do not recognize the
jivanmukti as liberated, because of this apparent worldliness (See Fort, 87-88)
157 Brunton reports that Ramana says, "When mind subsides an unconscious 'blank' state
is produced, a swoon or trance-like state. Although that is the natural state, a person who
has not controlled the mind is dazed and merged in it." (Conscious Immortality 35).
Ramana acknowledges the principles of Kundalini result in Samadhi but are inferior to going directly to the "heart center".
Ramana invisions a unique anatomy in describing the course of Kundalini which features the (spiritual) heart as the final destination which is reached via a route starting at the solar plexsus, traveling up the spinal cord to the high chakras and then looping back down to the heart.
The entire universe is in the body and the whole body is in the Heart. Hence the universe is contained within the Heart (Ramana Gita, 54). In fact, the symbols of 'kundalini yoga' are just for purposes of concentration. "The 'chakras' are for concentration purposes and are interpreted symbolically. The current 'kundalini' is ourselves... Mind is the real 'kundalini'. The representation of 'kundalini' as a serpent is merely to assist duller minds. The forms of representation of the chakras are also illusory (p. 39)."
Kundalini is just one name given for what is encountered by other paths: "Both the yogi and the jnani achieve the same result of sending the life-force up the sushumna nadi severing the chit-jada granthi. Kundalini is only another name for atman or Self or sakti. We talk of it being inside the body, because we conceive ouselves as limited by this body. But it is in reality both inside and outside, being no other than Self or the 'sakti' of Self ('Day by Day, 14, Aug 14/45')."
Ramana: The whole cosmos is contained in one pinhole in the Heart. A tiny hole in the heart remains always closed and is opened by 'vichara'. the result is 'I'I' consciousness, the same as samadhi. ('Concious Immortality, 166').
Ramana's idea of the heart as the centre seems itself to be realted to 'tantric' sources.
Loy says that Shankara was also of the view that there is no necessity for yogic practice except for those of "inferior intellect." ('Talks, 576) See 'Nonduality', 239.
Ramana advises against 'kundalini yoga', or claims not to know much it. In fact he did not hold any yoga in great esteem.
'Kundalini' is only another name for 'atma' or Self or 'sakti'. We talk of it as being inside the body, because we conceive ourselves as limited by this body. But it is in reality both inside and outside, being no other than Self or the 'sakti' of Self ('Day by Day, 14').
The 'chakras' are merely mental pictures and are meant for beginners in yoga ('CW,29')
The 'chakras' are for concentration purposes and are interpreted symbolically. The current of 'kundalini' is ourselves ('Conscious Immortality,39').
He translated one of the agamas, which says not to waste time meditating on 'chakras, nadis, padmas' or 'mantras ' of deities, or their forms ('CW 173;Osb, 112').
Ramana told Nembiar that if heart center were really in the 'anahata chakra', why not go directly to it instead of to the other centers (why meditate on the base of spine ('muladhara') or the tip of the nose or the space between the eyebrows). If you want to go to Tiruvannamalai from Madras, why go to Benares first? (Nembiar, 53).
So this is an unusual teaching about 'kundalini yoga'- there is not only an ascent that exits from the topmost 'chakra', but there is an ascent and then a descent back to the heart center (which is distinguished from the 'anahata' heart 'chakra'). (R describes it as being on the right side of the chest [opposite the anatomical heart]. The fianl step (after attaining the 'sahasrara chakra') is to come down to the Heart ('Talks,450').
[mg note: R employs a scholar's protocol to justify a concept by refering to the Upanishads and Yoga texts which identify the heart center as being in the right side of the chest. In fact this appears to be a pervasive modus operandi by which R finds confidence in proclaiming various tenants in his philosophy although it is not his habit to reference the texts that support (or inspired) a particular notion.]
Siddhis or occult powers
Ramana insisted that the 'siddhis' were not worth attaining and that they were in fact a distraction from realization of the Self.
Ramana is inconsistant as to whether or not we can continue thinking after liberation. On the one hand, he says there is an annihilation of mind, a state of no-mind where one is not aware of any others ('Talks, 552'). This acosmic state is related to a monistic view of reality. In this viewpoint, the world of 'maya' is not given much (if any_ reality. Ramana sometimes says that the phenomenal world is nothing but thought.
But elsewhere, Ramana rejects the idea of "killing the mind" and speaks of not of ceasing thought, but of going beyond it. David Loy describes this not as a rejection of thinking altogether, but as a kind of nondual thinking- when there is no sense of "I" while thinking. For someone liberated, thoughts still arise, but there is no clinging to them, no linking in a series. You negate the thinker distinct from the thought ('Nonduality, 135').
The ego is like the worm which leaves one hold only after it catches another. Its true nature is known when it is out of contact with objects or thoughts. You should realize this interval as the abiding, unchangeable Reality, your true Being.
Abhishiktananda comments on the difficulty of understanding what Ramana's consciousness as a 'jivanmukta' was like:
They say that for him who is no longer aware of 'sariram' (the body], all is clear. But what exactly does that mean? Ramana for example, took his meals, was 'interested' in food, its preparation, etc. I am afraid that the 'idea' that we make for ourselves of this (experience of) non-awareness is false. - it is only ignorance that sees a difference between the 'jivan-mukta' and the 'other'. I think that this duality which we assert between 'advaita' and 'dvaita' is precisely our mistake.
This viewpoint,of being able to participate in the world as a 'jivanmukta', but participating from a standpoint beyond ego, relies on 'tantric' ideas of the relative reality of the world. "The world is not real apart from the reality which underlies it." ('Reflections, 63')
Ramana consistantly refers to religious or spiritual experience start from the name of God given to Moses, "I am that I am." The experience of "I am" is stillness. "Know I am God""- it is said, and not "Think I am God." ('Talks 322-23')
Sri Ramana Maharshi is the same as Sri Bhagavan
The Influence of Ganapati Muni (Ganapati Sastri)
Ramana's first disciple and his own disciple T.V.K. Kapili
Aurobindo considered the Mother the divine Conscious Force dominating all existence. She is venerated as a yogi (Mirra Alfassa) and was in charge of A's ashram until her death in 1973.
The one supreme Reality is termed as "Shakti' by some, as 'Self' by other learned ones and by yet others as a 'Person' ('Ramana Gita, 158;XII').
Ramana's five verses begin with a prayer for divine grace. Self-inquiry
('vicara') cannot be taken without grace ('arul').
Muni and Ramana have a concurrent psychic meeting while Muni was meditating at the temple dedicated to the Goddess Tripurasundari in Tiruvottyur he had a vision of Ramana. Shankaranarayanan says that Ramana, while sitting in the cave at Virupaksha, traveled to meet Muni in Tiruvottiyur. (Shankaranarayanan 15)
Muni told his disciples that had become active in him. Ramana told him not to worry and advised annointing his crown with various oils after his bath. It is said that smoke was seen coming from the crown of Muni's head, and that kundalini caused an aperture at the top of his skull. Smoke and vapour was seen coming from his head for 10 days. (Shankaranarayanan 20-21)
In 1931 the relationship between Muni and Ramana was a quintessential spiritual bonding. Shankaranaryanan comments: It is no exaggeration to say that those who want to understand the message of the Maharshi in its pristine purity have to drink deep at the fountain sources of the Muni's writings of the Maharshi. It is said that Ramana's mother, once liberated , became the Sakti and provided the pitha for the Marharshi and his teachings.
As we shall see, the influence of Muni on Ramana included his emphasis on tantra, his view of the importance of women, his views of meditation, and of kundalini.
Muni was a scholar of Sanskrit and it is possible that much of what Ramana is reputed to have written was in fact written by Muni. Muni probably helped with Ramana's Sanskrit (Narsimha 93-95) but is reported to have given Ramana the credit for what was written- evidently regarding himself as the Maharshi's instrument.
Muni earlier had substantial relations with the Theosophical Society and Humpreys and it seems likely that Muni was the source for Humpreys' biography of Ramana. Thus, Muni's influence may extend even to the very basic information we have about Ramana and his enlightenment.
Kapali Sastri was Muni's deciple and became a scholar of the Vedas and Sanskrit- a language less fixed than English. It is fluid and vague, and the parent and former of ideas (Nandakumar, 47) Sastro eventually choose to follow Aurobindo and the Mother in Pondicherry.
Sastri attributes Ramana's cancer to the accumulted sins of his visitors (Sastri, 83,87)
For Ramana, the terms 'heart', Brahman', 'atman' and 'self' are interchangeable (Ramana Gita 20)
Ramana Gita: uses ideas from Kundalini yoga to describe the heart. But the Anahata chakra (on the right side of the body) is not the Heart center; it is the chakra lying behind the Heart (Talks. 367) Sastri comments that "The ego, individuality is the link, the knot, which has to be cut." The 'knot' is the link between the self and the body.
See MY PERSPECTIVE that the term sahaja really defines a supreme integration of a Nirvikalpa Samadhi rather than a higher samadhi experience.
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