Ramana Maharshi & Advaita (Non – Duality)

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Advaita Vedanta is the main philosophy in the Hindu religion and it is Advaita Vedanta that is accepted as the principle truth to spirituality and is accepted widely among most saints and jnani’s who were enlightened on the basis of the principle of Adavita Vedanta.

The Vedas are four collections of Hindu scriptures dating from 2000 BC to 500 BC. To the Hindus the Vedas are the ultimate source of authority. The Veda scriptures were revealed by ancient Rishis. Vedanta is a metaphysical philosophy derived from the Upanishadic texts. The Upanishads are the concluding portions of the Vedas. The Upanishads are the text from which all Vedanta philosophy is derived.Among them the most accepted and followed ideology is Advaita Vedanta.

Advaita Vedanta is a doctrine of Non-duality. Which mean that nothing exists apart from the soul – self (atman).Every form in the universe is assumed by the Spirit. Non-duality also means only the Absolute exists. This also means that the entire cosmos exists within the Absolute. The Absolute manifests as everything in the cosmos, but the Absolute itself is eternally unchanged throughout.

All the items, things and sentient beings come into existence and disappear all the time in a state of flux, but the Absolute remains totally unmoved, untouched, and unborn. The Absolute is also the Self, which is also the cosmos and of every being. Summarizing, the Self is the Absolute which is also the Spirit. These three are synonymous and identical: Self, Absolute (Brahman) and Spirit.

Here we try to view and practice Advaita based on Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi teaching of self enquiry of “who am I” ? and see the self within ourself. Ramana’s entire teaching was based essentially on ADVAITA, the philosophical teaching of non-duality.

Ramana Maharshi at the age of sixteen realized his identity with the Absolute, which is the the true self that prevails within us and which is the supreme lord that pervades as the entire world . He did not know then that there was an essence underlying everything and he and God were identical with it. Non-duality means the entire cosmos exists within the Absolute, but itself has no intrinsic reality.

The cosmos merely manifests the Absolute, which itself remains eternally unchanged and unmanifest.(unmanifested means the Absolute, the pure and formless ground of being from which creation and manifestation arise. As such, the unmanifested is free from change, the unmoved mover. It also, necessarily, cannot be explained or comprehended in terms of any manifest reality.

This also means the Absolute is the Self of the cosmos and of every being. Therefore by self enquiry of ‘Who am I’, a person can possibly identify with his or her “Self” and Universal Being. This is pure Advaita.

Adi Shankara too explained Advaita in the same way. He made three statements: that Brahman is real, that the universe is unreal, and that Brahman is the universe. He did not stop with the second statement. The third statement explains the first two; it signifies that when the universe is perceived apart from Brahman that perception is false and illusory. What it amounts to is that phenomena are real when experienced as the Self and illusory when seen apart from the Self.

The human’s inner “Self” is the pure being, pure consciousness and pure bliss but the mind creates an illusory separate individual. In deep sleep, the man is with the “Self” as the mind is stilled, but in an unconscious way. In samadhi he is one with the Self in a fully conscious way. If the mind can be emptied and stilled, the Self can prepare to be identified with this bliss and radiant knowledge which is pure “I am oneness”. That is why we meditate to empty the mind so that we can go deeper and deeper to reach that ground of universal cosmic consciousness, which is our Self.

The term “SELF” is defined as the real Self or real ‘I’, which is a non-personal, all-inclusive awareness. This is not to be confused with the individual self, which is a fabrication of the mind. This individual self also obscures the true experience of the real Self. The real Self is always present but one can be consciously aware of it only when the mind ceases to function. Permanent and continuous Self-awareness is known as Self-realization.

The “Self” is being beyond the real and the unreal. It is also beyond knowledge and ignorance. It is really indefinable. When one realizes the Self, there is no seeing of anything. There is no reaching any goal or attaining something new. One just has to be one self. Just Be.

This stage transcends the seer and the seen. The seer who is seeing all this now ceases to exist and the Self alone remains. One cannot have one self knowing the other Self, meaning the presence of two selves. Therefore realization is simply being oneself. One is that which alone is and which alone has always been. It is ineffable. In this state one is also without thoughts, meaning silence. Any other knowledge or wisdom or thoughts is not-self.

When the mind turns inwards it is the Self and when turned outwards it becomes the ego and the entire world.The Self being sat-chit-ananda is also perfect bliss. It is also peace. Once the Self is realized, the bliss and peace are eternal. It is not dependent on external causes, e.g. possessions or status. In deep sleep, a person is without any possessions yet he or she is in bliss.

If we accept that we are the body, then there are multiple selves in the world. If one realizes that one’s true Self is not the body or mind, then there is only one Self. In other words, the world does not exist without the body, the body never exists without the mind, the mind never exists without consciousness and consciousness never exists without reality.

So the person who is self-realized knows only the Self, because the ego which mistakenly identifies the body as ‘I’ has been destroyed. Therefore he is left with the formless existence-consciousness (sat-chit-ananda). The jnani (the enlightened one) knows that nothing else exists except the Self. To a jnani the presence or absence of a body is immaterial. Actually, realization is not quite the right word. It is more like getting rid of all the deluding, untrue coverings of the Atman.

When all these are eradicated, then one just sits back to become the true Self.This is pure consciousness, Sat-Chit-Ananda.This Sanskrit term means being-consciousness-bliss, which is the soul. The Self is also sat-chit-ananda. The Self is pure being, a subjective awareness of ‘I am’, but not ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’. There is only an awareness of being without subject or object in this Self. Synonymously this awareness is also consciousness. 

The direct experience of this consciousness is also accompanied by bliss. Being, consciousness and bliss are experienced as a holy trinity and not as separate attributes of the Self. They are inseparable.

Turriya and turyatita

There are three levels of relative consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep. Ramana Maharshi stated that the Self underlies the temporary appearances of these three states. With this reasoning he called the Self as turiya avastha or the fourth state. Turriyatita means ‘transcending the fourth’ and this indicates that there is truly one transcendental state, not four.

Reality is always real without forms and names. It is the underlying Self, universal consciousness, without limitations. It is unbound. It underlies the real and the unreal. Reality is that which is. It is as it is. It is beyond existence and non-existence.

Ramana Maharsi always maintained that the universe is sustained by the power of the Self, the Absolute (Universal Consciousness). Since theists attribute this power to God, he often used the word God as synonymous to Self. The Hindu names Brahman,Paramatman and Arunachala Shiva are also similarly used.

Ramana’s god is not a personal one. It is a universal, formless consciousness sustaining the universe.It is the self within. The experience of Self is called jnana or enlightenment – liberation – realization. In this state of Self-awareness there is no knower and there is nothing that is separate from the Self that can be known.

True knowledge, or jnana, is not an object of experience, nor is it an understanding of a state which is different and apart from the subject knower. It is a direct and knowing awareness of the one reality in which subjects and objects have ceased to exist. A person who is in this state continuously is a jnani.

When there is no more ignorance or knowledge of objects, the Self (Atman), alone remains. This is pure consciousness, pure Self-awareness. One awareness is the radiance of being-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda) shining equally within and without and is the supreme blissful primal reality. Its form is silence. Jnana alone is non-attachment. It is purity. It is the attainment of God. When it is not forgetful of the “Self” it is immortality. Jnana alone is everything.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi classified his devotees into three categories: 1) the most advanced ones are those who realize the Self, the minute they are told about its real nature. 2) The second class needs to reflect for some time before Self-awareness is established. 3) The third class of individual needs many years of spiritual practice before Self- realization can be achieved.

For the first two categories they merely have to cease attributing the ideas and notions of non-self to the real Self. The main misconception is that the “Self” is limited to body and mind. In more detail, the real Self is not the body and it is also not the five senses and it is not the organs of action nor the breath or vital force (prana), nor the mind including the three states of waking, dreaming and sleep.The Self is also not the five sheaths covering the Atman (sat-chit-ananda).

After rejecting all these things, a person is left with only consciousness in silence (mouna). With this logical reasoning, one must also accept that the world, ego and god are one and the same thing. This means that a person really need not practice but simply needs to realize that the Self is not to be attained. One simply has to discard the limiting attributes of the non-self and the person is left with the true Self.

One of the methods is to eradicate the thought that ‘one is not realized’. When you are still or at peace you are realized. You are always the Self. As long as one is in doubt and identifies oneself with the attributes of the non-self, one is veiled from one’s true Self. There is no reaching the Self, because one is already the Self. Ignorance covers the pure Self with wrong knowledge that the body and mind is Self. When this wrong knowledge is removed one is left with pure bliss of the true Self. This being the case, there is also no bondage. One is always liberated but ignorance clouds this fact.

The Self is pure consciousness and it is this consciousness that is continuous throughout the states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. That the awareness of the world and the body is present only when one is awake. When in deep sleep there is no awareness of the world and the body. So the Self is continuous in the three states but there is no continuity of the individual and other objects (world). The Self is permanent and real and the individual is discontinuous and false.

Therefore being-consciousness, the true Self is the screen and the body and world are the cinema projected onto the screen. Everybody including a child knows the real ‘I’. So being the Self, why does one need to attain the Self. Just give up the thoughts that ‘I am the body’ and all the external objects and all things that are not-Self. That means eradication of the ego, which is composed of the body and mind.

Memory and oblivion are thought-forms, which are dependent on the individual self. This individual ‘I’ is not real. It is an illusion due to ignorance. Spiritual practice is to remove this ignorance so that one becomes aware, which is jnana.

Jnana is eternal and natural. The difficulty is the destruction of mental tendencies. The mind and thoughts always brings doubt and confusion. It is the mind that is the culprit. With the arising of the mind, the whole world arises. With the mind subsides then the Self presents itself and it is self-luminous. The advanced seekers become Self-realized after hearing the truth only once.Thus Self-realization will return the self to That, after which the realized man, the Jnani, is in pure bliss and in boundless Consciousness of Being  – Sat-Chit-Ananda.

The teachings of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi which is to go to the source of your thoughts by diving deep into the heart through self enquiry of Who am I ? and to seek the very roots of the source and to merge the mind with the heart ( Hrudayam) is the highest teaching of Advaita Vedanta, which is knowledge( Jnana) of there is “no two” – “non duality” There is no other. There is only Brahman and you are That.

This is the philosophy and truth of Advaita.