Ramana Maharshi was one of the greatest philosophers India has seen. One does not need an introduction as much has already been written about him.
He used to direct people to the nature of I, not as the body mind individuality but the very aware-full being. He would relentlessly ask his followers to enquire into the individuality by probing into the innermost recesses with a ‘Who am I’ thought.
This ‘who am I’ should not be taken as a mental, mechanical repetition. Knowledge will not dawn on a person, by forcefully exterminating thoughts and contemplating on ‘Who am I’. Man has become habituated to identifying with the body mind and ‘who am I’ enquiry by an unprepared mind will lead one nowhere.
It can provide a temporary tranquility which can be got even through listening to good music or visiting a hill station. This ‘who am I’ is nothing but claiming the content of our very being as the only truth by negating all that one is not. Once the non self is negated, there is nothing to do. The truth is apprehended as one’s own self. His advice hence was not to get lost in unnecessary thoughts and questionnaires but know oneself, as the truth behind the very ego, the individuality which he thinks he is. One is not the ego, but the very truth behind it.
In the vedik scriptures, we come across different kinds of inquiries, viz. inquiry into individuality (jIva), inquiry into the world (jagat) and inquiry into God (Ishvara). Due to ignorance we falsely perceive an individuality and attribute reality to it. Once the notion of individuality comes, one sees oneself as limited by time and space. The notion of duality is created. There seems to be a world apart from oneself and there is this individual who considers himself a victim of circumstance in the world. Subsequently, there is the need for an intelligent overlordship which is gratified by another division called God.
Advaita teaches that the three are non-different from each other as the truth behind the three is only one and that truth is one’s real nature. Inquiry into one’s nature can hence be carried out by inquiring into any of the three members of this triad. All that is there is Brahman (self), meaning the underlying truth behind all appearances and notions is one and this can be arrived at though attentive analysis by a prepared mind.
The source of the mind, intellect, body, world and all appearances is the self (Atma). This source is within and it has to be affirmed as the only truth by rejecting duality as phony. Ramana Maharshi would usually guide questioners to the truth behind the individuality. This kind of enquiry requires an exceptionally dexterous and pure mind. What is the truth behind the notion of the ego (I) is the investigation he would suggest. The subject (self, Atma) alone is the truth.
The present text, which I chose to write upon, is in Sanskrit called “sad darshanam” (vision of truth)”. The original text was written in Tamil by Raman Maharshi himself which is known by the name “Ulladu narpadu”. Vedanta teaches that the reality, Atma, is the truth unlimited by time, space and attributes. It cannot be perceived as an object since it is the very subject in whose presence all else exists. This text brings out the teaching of advaita in a sophisticated yet direct manner.
The first two verses are invocatory verses.
satpratyayAH kim nu vihAya santam
hRRidyeSha chintA rahito hRRidAkhyA
tasya smRRitiH tatra dRRiDhaiva niShThA – 1
kim nu = can there be ; satpratyayAH = thoughts of existence of objects; santam vihAya
= without the existence principle; eSha hRRidAkhyA = this is known as consciousness;
chintA rahitAH = thought free; hRRidi = mind; amameyamekam = immesurable one;
katham smarAmas = how do we remember ?; tasya smRRitiH = its remembrance; tatra
dRRiDhaiva niShThA = in the form of firm abidance in it.
Can any thoughts of existence of objects happen without the existence principle? This existence principle, present in the mind is known as consciousness (hRRit). How can we remember the immeasurable one? Its remembrance is in the form of abidance in it.
This verse is a prayerful supplication unto the absolute truth.
Existence is the principle behind any existing name and form. In Sanskrit this existence is called sat. The is-ness, in short is this existence. We can take any object for e.g. a pen; a pen is, this is-ness behind a pen is the existence. The tree is, the branch is, the leaf is, the seed is. This is-ness is not limited by either the tree or the seed. In fact it is this is-ness which provides existence to all. It is eternal and has no limits space wise or time wise. This existence is reality. It does not depend on anything else to be. It provides existence to all and is not subject to negation. Any object that we come across, pen or tree, is not self existent. Objects borrow existence from the existence principle. They are limited by space and time. Without the existence principle nothing exists.
The existence outside (taking the body as the reference) is not different from the consciousness inside. That very existence principle within us, as the illuminator of thoughts is called consciousness. Two different words do not convey two different principles. Different names are used only for ease of understanding.
The consciousness within is called the hRRit. This is present in the mind. The verse mentions that the consciousness is present in the heart. In VedAnta, the mind is said to be located in the heart. Hence, the word heart is used to signify the mind. They are synonymous in vedAnta. The consciousness has its locus in the mind. It should not be mistaken that consciousness is limited by the mind. The statement “The consciousness is seated in the mind” only means that the consciousness is recognized within the mind as the illuminator of all thoughts. The existence outside is the same as the consciousness inside and this can be recognized as the sentiency behind the mind.
When one has pen knowledge, what one has, is actually pen thought plus consciousness. Hence pen knowledge = pen thought + consciousness. Any objective knowledge one has is due to the blessing of the consciousness.
This is what the first two lines convey- Can there be thoughts of any objects (can there be any objective knowledge) without the existence principle. For knowledge one needs corresponding thoughts which are possible due to consciousness. This consciousness (called hRRit) is within the mind, illuminating the thoughts. The objects exist due to the existence principle. This existence is eternal and all pervading. Within the mind this very existence is itself called consciousness. Nothing exists without this principle nor can any knowledge take place without it. This principle is the Atma which is sat and chit.