July-September 2001 Issue
Search for Soul
by M. N. Ambardar
Religion is theory, whether it is theology,
cosmology or metaphysics, could cause confusion not only to the beginner
but also to the advanced seeker. The problem is : which theory is correct?
Or even for practice, which path is most efficacious - Karma, Bhakti, Yoga
or Jnana. The deeper we delve into theory, the more we flounder in doubts.
Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharishi
does not bind you to any theory, so no theoretical doubt will ever assail
you. No theory is required to that one exists. The search into the one
existing Self will keep away searchers or researchers outside the Self.
Even as a start, this liberation from theory is a great thing. It is most
intense and intensity personal, spiritual experimentation, one does not
have to believe anything except oneself.
Only the enquiry into the
nature of the true Self by incessantly putting the question "Who am I ?"
will lead one to Mukti. Therefore Self-enquiry is the most important meditational
practice of the Yoga knowledge, which itself can be regarded as the highest
of the Yogas. Self-enquiry is the culmination practice through which Self-realisation
- the realisation of our true nature beyond mind and body - can be achieved.
It is emphasised in the entire Vedantic traditions since early Upanishads.
A number of Advaitic texts describe it. In modern times, 'Self-enquiry'
has become known through the teachings of Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharishi,
who made it accessible to the general public. Traditionally, it was given
mainly to monks.
Though Self-enquiry is mentioned
in the scriptures, the actual method of practicing is not clearly given.
The scriptures give clues, it is true, such as 'You are not the body, prana,
mind etc. You are Brahman. But these clues do not emphasise how to put
it into practice. It was Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi who gave easier clue
to find the Truth that can be easily understood, practices and realized
by common man. The traditional Vedantic sadhna, consisting of Sravana,
Manana and Nididhyasana meant respectively the learning from a Guru at
the Upanishadic truth of 'Thou art that' then reflecting upon it, and then
meditating on it till the Self was realised. The Bhagwan on the other hand,
while insisting on the importance of a Guru taught that meditation on one's
own self, rendering its vials one after another till the divine spark at
its centre was realised to be the universal Self was a surer method. Pranayama,
Dhyana and Japa are the only aids to 'control' the mind and make it one
pointed. But it is Vichara of Self-enquiry that makes the one pointed
mind liquidate itself in the Heart. The traditional Vedanta suggests that
one should fix one's mind on the formula 'I am That' till the absolute
is realized the Bhagwan suggests that one should fix one's mind on 'I am
not this' till 'I' is universalized and realization of 'I am That I am'
takes place. Accordingly, he gives a different interpretation of
the traditional formula of Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana in his method.
Bhagwan says' "Self-enquiry is the most intense and intensely personal
spiritual experimentation. One does not have to believe in anything except
oneself. Even if someone believes that nothing exists, he still admits
by implication that he exists. If nonexistence were the truth, to whom
one should tell it, except oneself? If you cling to the Self, all else
will be transcended, the Self exists all through. Thus the method does
away with the necessity for belief.
When other thoughts arise,
we should focus our attention on the 'I' thought. All the time one's attention
should be unwavering directed to the feeling of 'I or the 'I thought. When
we are filled with thoughts, how to bring back the attention from other
thoughts to the 'I' thought. When we have other thoughts, we have to pose
the question for whom is this thought? The answer would come 'To me'. Then
ask "Who am I?" This questioning "Who am I?" again draws back our attention
to the 'I' or the 'I' again draws back our attention to the 'I' or the
'I' thought and this attention leads to its source. Thus, focussing one's
attention on one's self is the sole effort one has to put forth to find
out one's true identity.
When one is probing into
oneself, enquiring into the 'I' through persistent questioning "Who am
I", one gets in touch with the inner reality, the Eternal 'I'. To be oneself
is not only a straight path but also the easiest since you do not at all
need any outer aid. Only the enquiry into the nature of the true Self by
incessantly putting the question "Who am I" will lead one to Mukti from
The mind can be successfully
controlled only by enquiring "Who am I". This enquiry will destroy all
other thoughts and then it will itself die. The Atma-Sarupam will shine.
When the thoughts of 'I' stop, breathing will also stop. There are no other
suitable methods except that of Atmatic enquiry. If the mind is controlled
by other methods, it will keep quite only for a short time and then resume
its activity. The mind can also be controlled by the control of breath.
But, only so long as Prana remains quite. So by pranayama the mind cannot
be entirely controlled and dissolved into Self. But Pranayamam, meditation,
muttering of Mantram will only serve as an aid.
It may be asked whether the
way indicated by the Maharishi is not an extremely difficult one though
it may appear very simple. Well, Jnana Marga is steep, a difficult path
being a short cut to the goal of man. That is why Hinduism prescribes so
many alternative ways of approach, which are easy, but long and circuitous.
Maharishi's method is not difficult provided the aspirant gets a competent
Guru and deserves his grace. Therefore, it is the Atman or Self that should
be known and when this is achieved, everything in the universe is known.
Bhagwan says, "As often as the mind is turned within ... Restraint of the
outgoing mind and its absorption in the Heart is known as introversion,
Antar Mukhta Drishti.
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan says'
"Bhagwan Sri Raman Maharishi gives us the outline of a religion based on
the Indian scriptures, which is essentially spiritual with dogmas and ceasing
to be rational and ethical. We are given here a religion of the spirit
which enables us to liberate ourselves from dogmas and superstitions, rituals
and ceremonies and live a free spirits".
The essence of all religions
is an inner personal experience an individual relationship with the Divine.
It is not worship so much as a quest. It is a way of becoming of liberation.