Summary: Sri Ramana teaches the direct realization of the Self, requiring only tireless devotion. Grace is the reward for serving God wholeheartedly, with complete indifference toward the apparent world.
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Sudden death is happening—mass death—all over the world, for many different reasons; the karma of every soul is hitting the fan. And so, because we never know when our number is called, it is urgent to be in that state of Jivan Mukti as soon as possible, so that consciousness is free of karma, and free of any attachments that would bring one back into the womb of another mother just before the end. It’s wise to not have to return into the human world as it’s ending, but to abide in the Light, in that state of victorious transcendence over the illusion.
But to achieve that, there must be a very powerful practice that can withstand the shocks that may occur to the body and to the mind during that process of the body’s dying, and any of the attendant circumstances that surround such an event—and whatever happens in the environment that can cause shock and grief if one witnesses the death of others to whom one had attachments. And so it is of extreme importance to realize the one Self, the deathless and birthless Self, in order to be free of any such reactivity, and not to be brought down into a lower state of consciousness as a result of such karmic events.
So for that reason, as I said last night, we would return to the basics of the teachings of Sri Ramana. And I thought, I picked out a few semi-randomly, but not entirely, quotes from Talks, which is a book that was written by kind of a secretary at the ashram of Ramana during the period of the mid-thirties. And probably many of you have read the book already but I thought for those who haven’t especially, but even if you have it’s always good to return to these fundamental aspects of reality that Ramana expresses so clearly and concisely.
So I’ll start with this one. It’s a conversation he’s having with Mr. Evans-Wentz, who is a famous writer on Tibetan Buddhism, who asks:
“Is work an obstruction to Self-realization?”
By the way, this happens January 24th, 1935, if anyone wants to look it up. I think the pages are different in the most recent editions.
“Is work an obstruction to Self-realization?”
And Ramana says, “No. For a realized being, the Self alone is the reality, and actions are only phenomenal, not affecting the Self. Even when he acts, he has no sense of being an agent,”—this is extremely important—“his actions are only involuntary,” meaning spontaneous, without intention, “and he remains a witness to them without any attachment.”
OK, this is the meaning of karma yoga. No attachment, no sense of doership, and no intention.
So he goes on:
“There is no aim for such action. Even one who is still practicing the path of gyana can practice while engaged in work. It may be difficult in the earlier stages for a beginner, but after some practice it will soon be effective, and the work will not be found a hindrance to meditation.”
This is extremely important now because our workload will actually increase as we reach the period of the end, and have to plug holes in Noah’s Arc to keep it seaworthy. And we will have to be in a state of meditation while the body is functioning—and only if we have practiced this to such an extent that it’s second nature, in fact, first nature, having that we have returned to, will we not be disturbed by the bodily activity. But without having achieved this capacity, then the ability to go into a deep state while we’re sitting in meditation will not be of any use when we’re on the battlefield, and so this practice is essential.
OK, and then I’m going to skip to a conversation in the middle of a long conversation. Let’s see, where does this one begin? This is on 4th February, 1935, and this is Ramana speaking:
“As propounded by all,” in other words, all the sages of all the traditions, “and realized by all true seekers, fixity in the Supreme Spirit,” Brahmanishta is the word that he used, meaning Brahman, right? Fixity—in other words, being absolutely fixed in that state without any movement away from it—“Fixity in the Supreme Spirit alone can make us know and realize the spirit.”
So if we move in and out of it, you do not have realization of it. You can have glimpses of it, but that will not bring liberation.
“It being of us and in us, any amount of discrimination (Vivechana) can lead us only one step forward, by making us renouncers, by goading us to discard the seeming world as transitory, and to hold fast to the eternal truth and presence alone.”
So our understanding of it intellectually is useful only up to a point, and then that must be dropped as well, because that will get in the way, because any intellectual comprehension brings you into a state of duality. Because then it is as if you are not Brahman and you’re looking at Brahman, but Brahman is everything, and so it’s a delusion to think you can ever be aware of Brahman as an object. So it’s only by letting go of the mind in the sense of symbolic thought that one can realize the Self.
“The conversation turned upon the question as to whether Ishwara Prasad (divine grace) is necessary for the attaining of samrajya,” that means the Kingdom of God, really, “or whether a jiva’s honest and strenuous efforts to attain it cannot of themselves lead him to That from whence there is no return to life and death.”
“And Ramana says with an ineffable smile which lit up his face, which was all-pervasive shining upon the coterie around him, he replied in tones of certainty, and with the ring of truth, ‘Divine Grace is essential for Realization. It leads one to God realization. But such Grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee, or a yogi,’” in other words, a bhakta or a gyani, “who has striven hard and ceaselessly on the path toward freedom.”
So, in other words, we have to earn our grace. It doesn’t come gratuitously, it comes as a result of our effort. Our effort doesn’t cause it, but God’s mercy on one who has shown that level of strenuous effort and sincerity and yearning, the grace will be granted. But it has to come as grace because if it came as a result of the ego, you wouldn’t let go of the ego, it would just make the ego more megalomaniacal, thinking “I have achieved Godhood”, or whatever. So it is that final surrender of the sense of doership that is the grace that brings liberation.
OK, that’s enough from that conversation. OK, this one. On 6th July 1935, a question is asked:
“How is dhyana”—dhyana means meditation—“how is it practiced—with eyes open or closed?”
You know, in the ashram I was in in India they didn’t allow you to close your eyes when you meditate; you had to keep them open. Here we keep them closed because I think people in the West are more scattered and more open to distraction, but it’s very important to be able to meditate equally with eyes open as well as closed, and to be able to function without limitation. But in any case, Ramana answers like this:
“It may be done either way. The point is that the mind must be introverted and kept active in its pursuit.”
In other words, the pursuit of the realization of the source of the I Am-ness, or of attention itself. So activity, the mind doesn’t become passive. If the mind ever becomes passive, you’ll fall asleep or you’ll get distracted.
So: “Sometimes it happens that when the eyes are closed, the latent thoughts rush forth with great vigor.”
In other words, with your eyes closed the danger is you’re going to start having fantasies and memories, and reveries, and get lost in that. So if that’s happening, open your eyes and stare at a candle, or just return to atma vichara.
“It may also be difficult, however, to introvert the mind with eyes open. It requires strength of mind to do so, because the mind is contaminated when it takes in an object,” it becomes identified with it and it becomes interested in the object rather than in its own awareness, “otherwise the consciousness remains pure. The main factor in dhyana is to keep the mind active, but in its own pursuit of the Self, without taking in any external impressions or thinking of anything else.”
OK? So I think that’s a very good definition and explanation of dhyana. It goes on and deals with sphurana and other topics, but I think for tonight we’ll leave it at that. And now let’s go into the topic of death, since that’s how we started this evening.