July - September 2001
Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India
|| Home | 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 bondage.
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.