The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Work and Renunciation
D. The work may suffer if I do not attend to it.
M. Attending to the Self means attending to the work. Because you identify yourself with the body, you think
that work is done by you. But the body and its activities, including that work, are not apart from the Self.
What does it matter whether you attend to the work or not? Suppose you walk from one place to another:
you do not attend to the steps you take. Yet you find yourself after a time at your goal. You see how the
business of walking goes on without your attending to it. So also with other kinds of work.
D. It is then like sleep-walking
M. Like somnambulism? Quite so. When a child is fast asleep, his mother feeds him: the child eats the food
just as well as when he is fully awake. But the next morning he says to the mother, "Mother, I did not take
any food last night''. The mother and others know that he did, but he says that he did not; he was not aware.
Still the action had gone on.
A traveller in a cart has fallen asleep. The bulls move, stand still or are unyoked during the journey. He does
not know these events but finds himself in a different place after he wakes up. He has been blissfully ignorant
of the occurrences on the way, but the journey has been finished. Similarly with the Self of a person. The
ever-wakeful Self is compared to the traveller asleep in the cart. The waking state is the moving of the bulls;
Samadhi is their standing still (because Samadhi means Jagrat-Sushupti, that is to say, the person is aware but
not concerned in the action; the bulls are yoked but do not move); sleep is the unyoking of the bulls, for there
is complete stopping of activity corresponding to the relief of the bulls from the yoke.
Or again, take the instance of the cinema. Scenes are projected on the screen in the cinema-show. But the
moving pictures do not affect or alter the screen. The spectator pays attention to them, not to the screen.
They cannot exist apart from the screen, yet the screen is ignored. So also, the Self is the screen where the
pictures, activities etc. are seen going on. The man is aware of the latter but not aware of the essential former.
All the same the world of pictures is not apart from the Self. Whether he is aware of the screen or unaware,
the actions will continue.
The distinction between sleep, Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi can be clearly put
in a tabular form as given by Sri Bhagavan:-
Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi
Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi
(1) mind alive
(1) mind alive
(2) sunk in oblivion
(2) sunk in Light
(2) resolved into the Self
(3) like a bucket tied to a rope and
left lying in the water in a well.
(3) like a river discharged into
the ocean and its identity lost
(4) to be drawn out by the other
end of the rope.
(4) a river cannot be redirected
from the ocean
The mind of the Sage who has realized the Self is wholly destroyed. It is dead. But to the onlooker, he may
seem to possess a mind just like the layman. Hence the 'I' in the Sage has merely an apparent 'objective'
'reality'; in fact, however, it has neither a subjective existence nor an objective reality.
D. Other thoughts arise more forcibly when one attempts meditation!
M. Yes, all kinds of thoughts arise in meditation. That is only right; for what lies hidden in you is brought out.
Unless it rises up, how can it be destroyed? Thoughts rise up spontaneously, as it were, but only to be
extinguished in due course, thus strengthening the mind.
D. How can the rebellious mind be made calm and tranquil?
M. Either see its source so that it may disappear, or surrender yourself so that it may be struck down.
Self-surrender is the same as Self-knowledge, and either of them necessarily implies self-control. The ego
submits only when it recognizes the Higher Power.
D. How is Guru found?
M. God, who is immanent, in His Grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests Himself according to
the devotee's development. The devotee thinks that He is a man and expects a relationship as between two
physical bodies. But the Guru, who is God or the Self Incarnate, works from within, helps the man to see the
error of his ways and guides him in the right path until he realizes the Self within.
D. How can I obtain Grace?
M. Grace is the Self. That also is not to be acquired; you only need to know that it exists.
The sun is brightness only. It does not see darkness. Yet you speak of darkness fleeing on the sun's
approach. So also the devotee's ignorance, like the phantom of darkness, vanishes at the look of the Guru.
You are surrounded by sun-light; yet if you would see the sun, you must turn in its direction and look at it. So
also Grace is found by the proper approach you make, though it is here and now.
D. Cannot Grace hasten ripeness in the seeker?
M. Leave it all to the Master. Surrender to Him without reserve.
One of two things must be done; either surrender yourself, because you realize your inability and need a
Higher Power to help you; or investigate into the cause of misery, go into the Source and so merge in the
Self. Either way, you will be free from misery. God or Guru never forsakes the devotee who has surrendered
D. But is it not funny that the 'I' should be searching for the 'I'? Does not the enquiry, 'Who am I?' turn out in
the end an empty formula? Or, am I put the question to myself endlessly, repeating it like some mantra?
M. Self-enquiry is certainly not an empty formula; it is more than repetition of any mantra. If the enquiry,
"Who am I?'' were a mere mental questioning, it would not be of much value. The very purpose of
Self-enquiry is to focus the entire mind at its Source. It is not, therefore, a case of one 'I' searching for
Much less is Self-enquiry an empty formula, for it involves an intense activity of the entire mind to keep it
steadily poised in pure Self-awareness.
Self-enquiry is the one, infallible means, the only direct one, to realize the unconditioned, absolute Being that
you really are.
The Heart is the Self
D. Sri Bhagavan speaks of the Heart as the seat of Consciousness and as identical with the Self. What does
the Heart exactly signify?
M. The question about the Heart arises because you are interested in seeking the Source of consciousness.
To all deep-thinking minds, the enquiry about the 'I' and its nature has an irresistible fascination.
Call it by any name, God, Self, the Heart or the Seat of Consciousness, it is all the same. The point to be
grasped is this, that HEART means the very Core of one's being, the Centre, without which there is nothing
D. But Sri Bhagavan has specified a particular place for the Heart within the physical body, that it is in the
chest, two digits to the right from the meridian.
M. Yes, that is the Centre of spiritual experience according to the testimony of Sages. The spiritual
Heart-centre is quite different from the blood- propelling, muscular organ known by the same name. The
spiritual Heart-centre is not an organ of the body. All that you can say of the Heart is that it is the very Core
of your being, that which you are really identical (as the word in Sanskrit literally means), whether you are
awake, asleep or dreaming, whether you are engaged in work or immersed in Samadhi.
D. In that case, how can it be localized in any part of the body? Fixing a place for the Heart would imply
setting physiological limitations to That which is beyond space and time.
M. That is right. But the person who puts the question about the position of the Heart, considers himself as
existing with or in the body. While putting the question now, would you say that your body alone is here but
that you are speaking from somewhere else? No, you accept your bodily existence. It is from this point of
view that any reference to a physical body comes to be made.
Truly speaking pure Consciousness is indivisible, it is without parts. It has no form and shape, no 'within' and
'without'. There is no 'right' or 'left' for it. Pure Consciousness, which is the Heart, includes all; and nothing is
outside or apart from it. That is the ultimate Truth.
From this absolute standpoint, the Heart, Self or Consciousness can have no particular place assigned to it in
the physical body. What is the reason? The body is itself a mere projection of the mind, and the mind is but a
poor reflection of the radiant Heart. How can That in which everything is contained, be itself confined as a
tiny part within the physical body which is but an infinitesimal, phenomenal manifestation of the one Reality?
But people do not understand this. They cannot help thinking in terms of physical body and the world. For
instance, you say "I have come to this Asramam all the way from my country beyond the Himalayas''. But that
is not the truth. Where there is a 'coming' or 'going' or any movement whatever, for the one, all-pervading
Spirit which you really are? You are where you have always been. It is your body that moved or was
conveyed from place to place till it reached this Asramam. This is the simple truth, but to a person who
considers himself a subject living in an objective world, it appears as something altogether visionary!
It is by coming down to the level of the ordinary understanding that a place is assigned to the Heart in the
D. How then shall I understand Sri Bhagavan's statement that the experience of the Heart-centre is at the
particular place in the chest?
M. Once you accept that from the true and absolute standpoint, the Heart as pure Consciousness is beyond
space and time, it will be easy for you to understand the rest in its correct perspective.
D. It is only on that basis that I have put the question about the position of the Heart. I am asking about Sri
M. Pure Consciousness wholly unrelated to the physical body and transcending the mind is a matter of direct
experience. Sages know their bodiless, eternal Existence just as the layman knows his bodily existence. But
the experience of Consciousness can be with bodily awareness as well as without it. In the bodiless
experience of Pure Consciousness the Sage is beyond time and space, and no question about the position of
the Heart can then at all arise.
Since, however, the physical body cannot subsist (with life) apart from Consciousness, bodily awareness has
to be sustained by pure Consciousness. The former, by its nature, is limited and can never be co-extensive
with the latter, which is infinite and eternal. Body-consciousness is merely a monad- like, miniature reflection
of the pure Consciousness with which the Sage has realized his identity. For him, therefore, body
consciousness is only a reflected ray, as it were, of the self-effulgent, infinite Consciousness which is himself.
It is in this sense alone that the Sage is aware of his bodily existence.
Since, during the bodiless experience of the Heart as pure Consciousness, the Sage is not at all aware of the
body, that absolute experience is localized by him within the limits of the physical body by a sort of
feeling-recollection made while he is with bodily awareness.
Aham and Aham Vritti
D. How can any enquiry initiated by the ego reveal its own unreality?
M. The ego's phenomenal existence is transcended when you dive into the Source wherefrom arises the
D. But is not the Aham-vritti only one of the three forms in which the ego manifests itself? Yoga Vasishta and
other ancient texts describe the ego as having a threefold form.
M. It is so. The ego is described as having three bodies, the gross, the subtle and the casual, but that is only
for the purposes of analytical exposition. If the method of enquiry were to depend on the ego's form, you may
take it that any enquiry would become altogether impossible, because the forms the ego may assume are
legion. Therefore, for purposes of Jnana-vichara, you have to proceed on the basis that the ego has but one
form, namely that of Aham-vritti.
D. But it may prove inadequate for realizing Jnana.
M. Self-enquiry by following the clue of Aham-vritti is just like the dog tracing its master by his scent. The
master may be at some distant,unknown place, but that does not at all stand in the way of the dog tracing
him. The master's scent is an infallible clue for the animal, and nothing else, such as the dress he wears, or his
build and stature etc., counts. To that scent the dog holds on undistractedly while searching for him, and
finally it succeeds in tracing him.
Likewise in your quest for the Self, the one infallible clue is the Aham-vritti, the 'I-am'-ness which is the
primary datum of your experience. No other clue can lead you direct to Self-realization.
D. The question still remains why the quest for the Source of Aham-vritti, as distinguished from other vrittis,
should be considered the direct means to Self-realization.
M. The word 'Aham' is itself very suggestive. The two letters of the word, namely (A) and (HA), are the first
and the last letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. The suggestion intended to be conveyed by the word is that it
comprises all. How? Because Aham signifies existence itself.
Although the concept of 'I'-ness or 'I-am'-ness is by usage known as Aham-vritti, it is not really a vritti like
the other vrittis of the mind. Because unlike the other vrittis which have no essential inter-relation, the
Aham-vritti is equally and essentially related to each and every vritti of the mind. Without the Aham-vritti
there can be no other vritti, but the Aham-vritti can subsist by itself without depending on any other vritti of
the mind. The Aham-vritti is therefore fundamentally different from other vrittis.
So then, the search for the Source of the Aham-vritti is not merely the search for the basis of one of the forms
of the ego but for the very Source itself from which arises the 'I-am'-ness. In other words, the quest for and
the realization of the Source of the ego in the form of Aham-vritti necessarily implies the transcendence of the
ego in every one of its possible forms.
D. Conceding that the Aham-vritti essentially comprises all the forms of the ego, why should that vritti alone
be chosen as the means for Self-enquiry?
M. Because it is the one irreducible datum of your experience; because seeking its Source is the only
practicable course you can adopt to realize the Self. The ego is said to have a casual body, but how can you
make it the subject of your investigation? When the ego adopts that form, you are immersed in the darkness
D. But is not the ego in its subtle and casual forms too intangible to be tackled through the enquiry into the
Source of Aham-vritti conducted while the mind is awake?
M. No. The enquiry into the Source of Aham-vritti touches the very existence of the ego. Therefore the
subtlety of the ego's form is not a material consideration.
D. While the one aim is to realize the unconditioned, pure Being of the Self, which is in no way dependent on
the ego, how can enquiry pertaining to the ego in the form of Aham-vritti be of any use?
M. From the functional point of view the form, activity or whatever else you may call it (it is immaterial, since
it is evanescent), the ego has one and only one characteristic. The ego functions as the knot between the Self
which is the pure Consciousness and the physical body which is inert and insentient. The ego is therefore
called the Chit-jada granthi. In your investigation into the Source of Aham-vritti, you take the essential Chit
aspect of the ego; and for this reason the enquiry must lead to the realization of the pure Consciousness of the