Question: If a person is engaged in work, there will be little time left for him to meditate.
Bhagavan: Setting apart time for meditation is only for the merest spiritual novices. A man who is advancing will begin to enjoy the deeper beatitude whether he is at work or not. While his hands are in society, he keeps his head cool in solitude.
Question: Then you do not teach the way of yoga?
Bhagavan: The yogi tries to drive his mind to the goal, as a cowherd drives a bull with a stick, but on this path the seeker coaxes the bull by holding out a handful of grass.
Question: How is that done?
Bhagavan: You have to ask yourself the question ‘Who am I?’ This investigation will lead in the end to the discovery of something within you which is behind the mind. Solve that great problem and you will solve all other problems.
Question: Seeking the ‘I’, there is nothing to be seen.
Bhagavan: Because you are accustomed to identify yourself with the body and sight with the eyes, therefore you say you do not see anything. What is there to be seen? Who is to see? How to see? There is only one consciousness which, manifesting as ‘I’-thought, identifies itself with the body, projects itself through the eyes and sees the objects around. The individual is limited in the waking state and expects to see something different. The evidence of his senses will be the seal of authority. But he will not admit that the seer, the seen and the seeing are all manifestations of the same consciousness – namely, ‘I, I’. Contemplation helps one to overcome the illusion that the Self must be visual. In truth, there is nothing visual. How do you feel the ‘I’ now? Do you hold a mirror before you to know your own being? The awareness is the ‘I’. Realise it and that is the truth.
Question: On enquiry into the origin of thoughts there is a perception of ‘I’. But it does not satisfy me.
Bhagavan: Quite right. The perception of ‘I’ is associated with a form, maybe the body. There should be nothing associated with the pure Self. The Self is the unassociated, pure reality, in whose light the body and the ego shine. On stilling all thoughts the pure consciousness remains.
Just on waking from sleep and before becoming aware of the world there is that pure ‘I, I’. Hold on to it without sleeping or without allowing thoughts to possess you. If that is held firm it does not matter even if the world is seen. The seer remains unaffected by the phenomena.
What is the ego? Enquire. The body is insentient and cannot say ‘I’. The Self is pure consciousness and non-dual. It cannot say ‘I’. No one says ‘I’ in sleep. What is the ego then? It is something intermediate between the inert body and the Self. It has no locus standi. If sought for, it vanishes like a ghost. At night a man may imagine that there is a ghost by his side because of the play of shadows. If he looks closely, he discovers that the ghost is not really there, and what he imagined to be a ghost was merely a tree or a post. If he does not look closely the ghost may terrify him. All that is required is to look closely and the ghost vanishes. The ghost was never there. So also with the ego. It is an intangible link between the body and pure consciousness. It is not real. So long as one does not look closely at it, it continues to give trouble. But when one looks for it, it is found not to exist.
There is another story which illustrates this. In Hindu marriage functions the feasts often continue for five or six days. On one of these occasions a stranger was mistaken for the best man by the bride’s party and they therefore treated him with special regard. Seeing him treated with special regard by the bride’s party, the bridegroom’s party considered him to be some man of importance related to the bride’s party and therefore they too showed him special respect. The stranger had altogether a happy time of it. He was also all along aware of the real situation. On one occasion the groom’s party wanted to refer to him on some point and so they asked the bride’s party about him. Immediately he scented trouble and made himself scarce. So it is with the ego. If looked for, it disappears. If not, it continues to give trouble.
Question: If I try to make the ‘Who am I?’ enquiry, I fall into sleep. What should I do?
Bhagavan: Persist in the enquiry throughout your waking hours. That would be quite enough. If you keep on making the enquiry till you fall asleep, the enquiry will go on during sleep also. Take up the enquiry again as soon as you wake up.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings