Scene 5: The nature of the state of pure being
Unlike other teachers of jnana, Bhagavan neither followed any of the traditional practices such as giving diksha, recognising the guru-disciple relationship or training disciples in rules and regulations, nor did he give upadesa in the conventional fashion. When he spoke, he simply cleared the doubts of seekers, giving advice that corresponded to their spiritual maturity.
Bhagavan was always absorbed in the Self. Hence, just as the presence of light is sufficient for the removal of darkness, his darshan was often sufficient for the removal of ignorance.
This illustrates Thayumanavar’s conclusion: ‘Those who speak will not get collected in nishta [Self-abidance]; those who are firmly established in nishta will not teach [by verbal instructions].’
12 He bestowed grace without regarding himself as a Guru
Despite not following any of the practices and displays prevalent in the various religious establishments that function in the names of Sadgurus of yore, Sri Ramana was always surrounded by a great many devotees. However, in the early days, pseudo-vedantins used to debate among themselves about Bhagavan:
‘What instruction does Sri Ramana give, and to whom? Does he at least prescribe rules and regulations for his disciples? If only he had approached some other Guru and learned something, at least a few of the characteristics of a teacher would be present in him. While a student, still at school, he became a victim of some delusion. Suddenly he left home and came to Arunachala, shaved his head and started wearing a loincloth. He spent many years in silence. That is all.
‘Does he have the proper qualification of hearing, reflection, etc.? Only one who has become a Brahma-nishta [one who is firmly established in Brahman] through hearing, reflection, etc. can be a Sadguru. If his qualifications are so poor, what can one say about all the fools who have gathered around him? That is why all the devotees of Sri Ramana are seen to be without any discipline!’
Such used to be the talk among the pseudo-vedantins.
Others complained, ‘He is spending all his time just observing mere silence, without knowing anything. At least let me teach him something and put him on the right path.’
With such benevolent ideas some came to Sri Ramana to give him upadesa but finally took him as their Sadguru. Such was their good fortune. Some with depraved minds came with the idea that they would become famous by mesmerising him through their initiation tricks, but they had to return disappointed.
It is ignorance, taking the form of the I-am-the-body feeling, that makes one regard oneself as a guru. As the word ‘guru’ connotes the removal of ignorance, how can he who has not got rid of his own ignorance become the Sadguru who removes others’ ignorance? A firm jnani is alone fit to be adored as a Guru. Since such a one has no ego, he perceives only the Self and is not aware of superficial differences.
According to Brahma Gita, ‘A jnani is none other than God. To stay where he stays is liberation.’
Those who regard someone who is firmly established in jnana, a jivanmukta, as their Guru are, following the wasp-grub argument, certain to be blessed by him through the power of their meditation. This is the method of showering grace that was demonstrated by Lord Dakshinamurti, the primal Guru who truly personified non-dual knowledge in the form of supreme silence.
[There is a belief that a wasp larva is terrified of being bitten by a wasp. Since it is always thinking of a wasp, and a possible stinging attack, it eventually becomes a wasp.]
In order to revive this blemishless path to the ultimate state, Sri Ramana incarnated as the gracious Guru. How can the marks imagined by those ‘who act as gurus to get worship from others’ be appropriate in Sri Ramana?
Right from the beginning Bhagavan remained without any sense of doership. He never used to prescribe disciplines for anyone. His nature was to instruct by following himself all the disciplines of conduct enjoined upon spiritual aspirants. However, he never permitted excesses by those who relied entirely on him, for he used to correct them in private with kind words. There were some who complained that Bhagavan was not openly censuring the deficiencies in their conduct.
Coming to realise the distress of one such soul, Bhagavan revealed his views on the matter through the following words of grace: ‘Who is to correct whom? Is it not the Lord alone who has the authority to correct everyone? All that we can do is correct ourselves. That itself is correcting others.’
Although Bhagavan felt that all should follow the path of righteousness, he never had any sense of doership with regard to correcting others. The sages such as Buddha, Sankara and Ramakrishna in their essential nature shone as Brahman. However, their biographies say that for the sake of devotees they took upon themselves the pure sense of doership to some extent. But right up to the end Bhagavan shone as the transcendental supreme without even that pure form of ego.
There were many proud ones who proclaimed themselves to be a ‘Siva yogi’ or a ‘supreme jnani’. But Sri Ramana showed himself to be one who never made such tall claims. In his later days, however, he was surrounded by thousands of Brahma-nishtas and appeared as Dakshinamurti himself. The subtle reasons behind this are investigated next.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings