Our daily experience is three-dimensional. One dimension consists of the waking hours with their bustle of activity, pulsating with thoughts, with people, full of things which we call life. We hug its joys and go through its sorrow for we know no better. We keep chasing, unendingly, the pleasure of the senses, afraid to look beyond, afraid to adventure beyond the confines of the mind.
Then we have our daily quota of sleep which overcomes us when the exhausted mind and body demand it. We know little or nothing about this state. How can we know of it when individuality and thoughts are absent? All that we know if this experience is indirect, through recollection. On waking we recall its pleasantness, its refreshing quality, peace. Yet we would certainly not trade our waking for sleep, for where is vitality and vibrancy in it?
We also have our dream experience in which we have all that we enjoy or suffer while waking. However, there is often a confusion of identity. A king may be a beggar in his dream moving from door to door piteously begging for alms. A virile youth may be an ailing heart patient living in constant dread of death, kept alive by a pacer. The solution for dream problems are found within the dream’s framework. Neither the king’s wealth nor the youth’s health can be transferred from the waking person to the dreaming person whose identity is different. Yet on waking we look down on what we have dreamt about calling it ‘unreal’ in contrast to our waking experience which we are so sure is ‘real’.
Some go through these three states with their illusory experiences, content or discontent, happily or sour-faced. Can there be anything more tragic than the ignorance of the ignorant ? Why not look beyond the immediate and waste the wonder that is life?
For the fortunate the Sadguru steps in. One cannot rationally understand why, among the teeming millions, they have been chosen. Does it matter when we are the recipients of the Sadguru’s grace which opens up the gates of knowledge? Ramana is the epitome of the timeless wisdom which he directly experienced. Not only was he reveling in a constant state of bliss but he also broadcast its secret.
What is Ramana talking about in the statement quoted at the outset? What is the joy which inundates when truth is attained? What is the real Self? What is the loss of ego? All this is Greek and Latin to us. For, our experience is confined to a mental framework. What lies beyond or behind is unknown to us. We do not know. Nor have we cared to find out. But then should we not care? Should we not try to find out?
When Ramana refers to the real Self and attainment of it, what is he drawing our attention to? Ramana’s use of the words ‘real Self’ and ‘attainment’ is for the limited purpose of communicating the idea that one should seek to find out what one really is. One has to become aware of that bliss which is naturally ours. The purpose is to take a good look at our assumptions so that our life may be radically changed, so that we may tap our inner strength.
The first necessity is to cut away from ego’s debilitating suggestions, that Self-knowledge is difficult, it needs time, it needs preparatory purification, it requires renouncing of home, of activity and so on. For, impurities and lack of strength of mind and mental dissipations have come about due to ‘avichara’, out of the failure to enquire who we really are. These are encrustations of the ego which will be ‘crest-fallen’ once an enquiry about it is afoot. Integral to this step is the remembrance of the essential purity of our nature.
The next step in the process of self-discovery is patience and trust in Ramana’s timings. The impatience for instant or speedy results, typified by the case of the ladies who requested Ramana to bestow Self-knowledge immediately as they had to catch a train, is often one’s undoing. Though for convenience of understanding we say Self-knowledge is the goal, it is pre-existing. Only the awareness of it is not there. This is what is increasingly fostered and secured through self-enquiry.
The next step is to stay with the experience. The mind, used as it is to do something or the other, to be active for achievement, sometimes misses out on the ‘sattvic’ mood of peace. It comes unnoticed and one has to be sensitive and hold on to it and not lose it due to lack of experience or under the usual impulse of getting on with the job. For here the job is altogether of a different kind. It is the opening up of the heart. The arteries which have been hardened and clogged by many lives lived in exclusive self-concern are being opened up, rejuvenated. Ramana would say that spiritual life is the flowering of love. When the limited idea of looking only for what is good for oneself and the attitude ‘What is there in this for me?’ ceases, then this expansion of the heart happens automatically.
As we steadfastly pursue self-enquiry we get exposed to the bliss of the Self. For self-enquiry itself makes the mind dead gradually. One might wonder what is gradual death of the mind. Is not the mind’s death instantaneous? Does not its sudden death happen the moment the mind merges in its source? It is not so since the thrust of tendencies would be pushing the mind out.
However, these spells of merger would purify the mind increasingly, and the mind would be on the way to its ultimate death.
Here we might remember, Ramana has explained to Kapali Sastri that the death of the mind only means its complete purification resulting in its capacity to reflect consciousness fully, without distortions born of limited identification. This stage of going in, enjoying the natural bliss, and moving out again in the world of senses could perhaps be termed ‘turiya’ or the fourth dimensional experience. For, in this state one has gone beyond the three mental modes which cause the normal three dimensional experience, but has not yet become stabilized in it.
Gradually the dipping in of the mind is almost instantaneous, till it does not rise again. When this happens we are in the fifth dimension, “turiya atita’ a joyous state where contact with objects, activity, thoughts - nothing can disturb that fullness of existence.
Then the statement of Ramana quoted in the beginning ceases to be mere words, ceases to be merely intellectual. The bliss of steady Self-awareness becomes one’s own experience.
A.R.Natarajan Founder President, Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore