A visitor to Ramanasramam told Ramana, “I have been meditating for several years. Yet I have to force myself to do it. Please guide me as to how I should meditate.” Even persons who used to be practically inmates of Ramanasramam would express their disappointment to Ramana that their meditations often ended in sleep. Whenever we turn in ‘Talks’ we find this sorry story repeated. A Maharani who is in tears, speaking in a choked voice tells Ramana, “I have all that I want, a human being would want …But…But I..I..Probably my destiny” Another, a Maharashtrian lady, also in tears says, “I know it is impossible to attain ‘Mukti’ in one's life. Can I not at least have peace of mind?” Pannalal, Chief Secretary to the Government of Uttar Pradesh complains of lack of peace and wishes to know if he should abandon his previous sadhana and take to the direct path of Ramana to attain it.
What is the common factor in all these woes of the different seekers, having different backgrounds and varying degrees of spiritual earnestness? It is obvious that they are missing out on the desserts, the fruits of their effort. It is also obvious that they had lost spontaneous interest in meditation, and were hanging on to it for want of an alternative. Having given up a totally worldly life and having lost interest in it, they are in no man’s land. Neither do they have the taste of the natural bliss nor does the sensate life hold its old unqualified attraction. This is all the more sad for after years of meditation, after years of effort at an inner life if one is back at square one, or rather thinks he is back, then somewhere along the line he has missed out on essentials. For, in the spiritual field as in any other effort, sadhana if properly directed should produce results. Here it should be in terms of happiness and peace born out of inner and outer harmony.
What exactly has gone wrong? Let us ponder over our life. Is it not always one hurry-burry from jumping out of bed, scurrying to catch the bus or train, social calls of well wishers and helpers, chats with friends, enjoying TV and video and so on? It is an endless list of things we want to do. We find time for gossip too in our daily milieu. Would this not be a far cry from the contemplative and reflective way of life so repeatedly advised to Paul Brunton by Ramana? Should we be caught up in this business of trying to chew too much, of nibbling at different things, of concerning ourselves with ‘others’? What are we here for? Why this human chance? Is it for this external whirl? If only we care to look we can readily see how loaded we are with purposeless thoughts and actions. Proper management of time is not only a virtue in the field of business but in all walks of life. More so in the spiritual life. It is of utmost importance. It is the thing which matters. This demands a constant look at our daily doings to prune away wastage of time on non-essentials, to find time for the inner life which fortunate karma has opened up for us. Once the heat of mental pressure is off, there would be time for cool headed meditation.
Having found the time, we have to remember constantly, in season and out of season, our essential nature. The forgotten truth that the Self is ever blissful, that it is the fullness of consciousness, has to be recalled time and again. What we are aiming at is to cut at the root of the illusion of separateness, the thought that something has to be done for getting happiness. This process is hastened by repeatedly recollecting the truth of our real nature. Then gradually “false knowledge would end and the memory of the truth would dawn”. It is due to our carelessness, our ‘avichara’, our loss of the spirit of enquiry, that we have been reduced to this plight. The remedy lies only in regaining what is lost by attention to the essential truth of our nature, attention to ensure that we do not lapse back to our old ruts.
Then of course there is the need to steer clear of compartmentalising of meditation, of treating it as a thing apart. It is generally regarded as one of the jobs on hand to be attended to religiously, willy-nilly. This takes the joy out of it. Why not treat all free time as meditative time? Why not utilise the idle time for it? Why not avail of the all important sattvic moods which each has a share of every day, to turn the mind within? This alone would dovetail spiritual effort into the life stream. Then the meditative mood becomes a constant undercurrent, pulling us to the magnetic zone of the spiritual heart within.
Often we stultify ourselves with negative thoughts. We literally seem to cover ourselves with such thoughts as ‘Self-knowledge is difficult’, ‘it is not for me’, ‘it will take time’ and so on. Ramana says it is precisely ‘the thinking of hindrances that forms such hindrance’.
There is really no truth in them. Our essential nature being always the same it has to be so even now. This reminds one of the case of Ramaswami Pillai. Once he searched for a key. After some time he found it. Ramana said, “The key was in the usual place. It was not lost. Only he did not remember it. The Self is always there, everywhere. Not being aware due to lack of experience we keep searching for it”.
There is also the paramount need for being aware of the presence of the Sadguru Ramana within and without. Though his grace has no preconditions, in practice one becomes aware of it only to the extent to which one has done all one can to work towards understanding of one’s true nature.
The interweaving of grace and effort gradually opens up the door to the experiencing of Self-abidance, during ‘abhyasa’, during practice, until at last, we are always that bliss steadily.
A.R.Natarajan Founder President, Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore