The past is the present misery

In each birth we bring forward thoughts in seed forms as psychological memories and the marks of experience we have been through.

Published: 16th October 2013 09:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2013 09:29 AM   |  A+A-


In each birth we bring forward thoughts in seed forms as psychological memories and the marks of experience we have been through. To this opening stock is added a further load of incomplete experiences in the form of more seed thoughts. There is also factual memory required for functioning, be it as a student, as a professional, a businessman and so on. Factual memory is fine, for without it one cannot live at all. Without such memory everything would be a regular jumble. To illustrate, one’s wife name would be forgotten, the route to the office would not be remembered, and the know-how of a job would not be there. But what about the dead-weight of the psychological and needless experiential memory of the past? Quite clearly it has no use for it makes for a blinkered or jaundiced view of life. The thought clouds of the past prevent the joy of a spacious mind freed from them. It is not that we voluntarily choose the crowding of thoughts in the mind, though we do hug some memories, the pleasant ones.Generally, however, we do not wish to be victims of the past. But still we are. Why? Because the thoughts are latent in the heart in seed forms and they keep sprouting up as thoughts. Sometimes they even become a holocaust. Occasionally, unable to curb them or prevent their sovereignty over us we are devoured by their momentum. Actions follow which we often regret in retrospect. 

The question therefore arises as to how such memories can be reduced to ashes. How do we prevent their constant overflow into the present? One of the methods suggested is to allow these thoughts to sprout forth. It is only the seed thought becomes active as an actual thought that one can tackle it. In order to be aware of the rubbish heap within, the rising of thoughts good and bad is necessary. It may be for this reason that when Rangan wondered whether he was actually becoming more ego-ridden, Ramana told him, “If the ego has to go all that is hidden inside has to come out. When you keep water on a stove for heating, it will boil and spill over, will it not?” In his reminiscences, Venkatakrishnayya recollects the case of a devotee who kept complaining that he had not changed. He told Bhagavan, “I have been coming here for the past several years but still there has been no progress. I am just as bad a sinner as before”. Ramana chided him mildly saying, “How can you be sure as to how far you have travelled?” Because we wish that only auspicious thoughts should arise, we get scared when the ugly side shows up. Let it come up, for what has been hidden comes to the gaze of one’s attention. Otherwise one might be immersed in ego’s negative forms, that one is a ‘sinner’, that one is ‘impure’. A capacity to handle such thoughts as they surface is the best antidote for this negativism.

Then we also have the time honored method of cultivating the opposite thoughts, the sacred ones and the strength giving ones. Repeated dose of this medicine would wean one away from enervating thoughts arising due to negative tendencies.

However it would appear that all these techniques are in the nature of palliatives. The root and branch remedy lies in learning to be Self-aware through vigilant self-enquiry. Ramakrishna Swami, a long time resident and disciple, was bothered about his predisposition and wanted to know how best its annihilation could be effected. Ramana told him that the tendencies “will themselves be scorched if only you remain as you truly are”.

 Constant linking with the pure Self will dry up the thought seeds, dry up potential thoughts. They will become lifeless. The mountainous accumulations of past tendencies need not and cannot be tackled individually. The sure way to make a bonfire of them is to be attentive to the surfacing of thought itself by focusing attention on its source.

A devotee enquired of Ramana whether it would be sufficient to practice self-enquiry in the mornings or whether it should be always done?

Ramana told him that it has to be pursued “until one is established in the state of pure being”. Ramana would also repeatedly point out that incessant self-enquiry is possible because it can be practiced in all circumstances.

It will be the undercurrent of action and its benefits will overflow throughout the waking time.

It might be added that the question itself appears to be by one who has not already deeply taken to the path. For, once the taste of the natural state is experienced through self-enquiry that itself would act as an automatic spur to it.

If it is so simple why is it not being attempted with full faith and confidence?

As Ramana once told Chadwick, the very directness of this method makes one wonder whether it is not a tall claim. Our minds are used to complications and simplicity is anathema. Hence we find the tendency of some devotees to question Ramana’s assertion of the simplicity of self-enquiry. A devotee told Ramana, “You say it is easy, but we find it difficult”. Ramana advised him, “Find out who it is that is weighing the paths. Find out who it is that is finding it difficult”.

Another hurdle on the way is the inability to take advantage of the Guru’s grace. Ramana told Rangan that it is difficult to overstate the value of the Guru, “For they weave the yarn and give the cloth ready-made”. But owing to want of sufficient reverence on the part of the disciple, “Grace may become effective only after a long time”. One would do well to remember the identity of the Guru with God and the Self. When you can feel the Master’s presence, “the doubts are easily overcome, for the Master’s role consists in removing the doubts of the seeker”.

Leaning heavily on Ramana’s grace if one sticks to self-enquiry, then the past can be totally negated. Functional memory alone would survive when the mind is submerged in its source. Thereafter everything would be perceived with a new look, with breath-taking freshness and joy.

All this would seem to suggest that self-enquiry and surrender are integral  and not two alternative ways on the Ramana path. One might ask “Has it not been said that either one should seek the source of ego so that it may disappear or one should let the Sadguru strike it down?” But this is only an apparent division. In practice it is not. This point would be clear if one refers to Ramana’s statements like “Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one’s being, one’s source within. That makes you seek the source and merge in it”. Or again he would say “Surrender takes effect only after enquiry”.

All this is to say that if we wish to give a practical turn to our love for Ramana, to our faith in his power of protection and guidance, we have to demonstrate it by steadfast adherence to self-enquiry. Then only ‘I am the body’ idea and its companion ‘I am the doer’ will be put to the sword. Otherwise we will be like the images on top of the temple tower which have a harassed look on their faces. They imagine that they bear the load of the tower little realizing that it is the foundation and masonry structure which matter. Wrinkles, long faces and a problem ridden life will be our lot if we miss out on self-enquiry. Should we not put Ramana at the helm to direct our endeavour of ending the sense of individuality which separates us from him? To the extent to which we do so we have learnt to leave things to Ramana.

A.R.Natarajan Founder President,Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore

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