The Philosophy of Sri Ramana Maharshi

by Bibhu Padhi (January 2015)


The Vedanta has been considered as one the most influential of the Indian philosophical systems. It obviously deserves the close attention it has been paid over the years. It has influenced most of the greatest Indian and western thinkers of the twentieth century. Vedanta is based on the Upanishads, one of the most ancient of Indian scriptures, although the “Vedanta” occurs in the Upanishads and includes some of the earlier portions of the Veda and includes the philosophy of the Gita.

Ramana Maharshi is the greatest of the advaitins (non-dualist) of the early part of the twentieth century. One is caught by the quiet intensity of his style and simplicity of his language. It is interesting to begin with Ramana Maharshi’s answers as to the nature of happiness:

If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external causes, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of passions and diminish in proportion to their diminution. …if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness would be nil …[However] in deep sleep the man is devoid of all possessions, including his own  …Everyone desires to sleep soundly….…[H]appiness is inherent in man and not due to external causes…. One must realise his Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness (Talks, 1-2).

He profiles the nature of reality He answers to the profound question: Who am I? “The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (dhatus), I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz., the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz. sound, touch, colour, taste and odour, I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz., the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion and procreation, which have as their respective functions, speaking, moving, grasping, excreting and enjoying, I am not; the five vital airs, prana, etc., which perform respectively the five functions of  in-breathing, etc., I am not; even the mind which thinks, I am not the nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects and in which there are no objects and no functionings, I am not. If I am none of these, then who am I? After negating all of the above mentioned as ‘not this’, ‘not this’, that  Awareness which alone remains – that I am” (Who am I?, 12-13).

Samadhi is the state in which the unbroken experience of existence-consciousness is attained by the still mind. That still mind which is adorned with the attainment of the limitless supreme Self, alone is the reality of God. The word ”Samadhi” refers to a stage in meditation, wherein lies a conscious experience of the Self, “an intense undisturbed absorption in the absorption in the object of meditation” (quoted in Godman, 148), holding on to the Self. There are differences in deep sleep, laya (a state of trance in which the mind is temporarily absent) and Samadhi. In deep sleep the mind is merged with the body and not destroyed. It may appear in meditation also. But the mind which is destroyed cannot reappear. The yogi’s aim must be to destroy it and not to sink into laya In the peace of meditation, laya sometimes ensues but it is not enough. The true destruction of the mind is the non-recognition of it as being apart from the Self.

The classification used by Maharshi works the various samadhis into a three-fold division—the Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Kebala Nirvkculpa Samadhi and the Sabikalpa Samadhi. Sahaja nirbikalpa samadhi is the state of a jnani (one who has self-knowledge), who has moved beyond the ego. In this state, one does function in a natural way like an ordinary person. “If you keep hold of the Self, you will not see the objective world.” In some ways or another, you are like a “child” (Talks, 3). There is no difference between himself and the existential world. Kebala nirvikalpa samadhi refers to a stage just under Self-realisation. In such a stage there is a temporary but “effortless Self-awareness” (Godman, 148), when the ego is not totally annihilated, but there is absence of the body-consciousness. One is not able to perceive sensory perception or function in the world. In the sabikalpa samadhi, the stage of Self-awareness has to be continued persistently. Nirbikalpa samadhi is effortless consciousness and is formless. A mind which is matured to being called “ripe,” nirbikalpa comes “as a flood.” After a long time, one has Self-realisation, and freedom, “a natural, effortless state” (Godman, 154). Mere non-perception of the differences (vikalpas) in things is not the real nature of effortless and firm nirbikalpa. It is said that the quake of the body is because of the residual ego-consciousness. However, “this dies completely, without leaving even a trace, one abides as the vast space of mere consciousness where bliss alone prevails” (Godman, 154).

Maharshi talks about Samadhi as a blissful and ecstatic, perfectly peaceful state. When the mind arises at the end of Samadhi, the mind remembers the peace. There are also, in some cases, “tears of joy, hair standing on end and vocal stumbling” (Godman, 154). In the Upanishads and other ancient texts, it is mentioned that true Samadhi must be experienced when one truly knows the Self. “If Self is known, samadhi will be known automatically” (Godman, 155). Godman further states: “Samadhi is one’s natural state. It is the undercurrent in all the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. The Self is not in these states: these are in the Self.

The body does not say ”I.” In sleep no one will say “I am not.” After the “I” rises, all rises. One must feel from where the “I” rises. Maharshi would say the Samadhi is our natural state. It is the “undercurrent” in all the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. “The Self,” he says, “ is not in these states, but these states are in the Self….The distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness belong to the realm of the mind, which is transcended by the state of the real Self” (quoted in Godman, 155).

There are times when meditation results in “spectacular side effects” (Goodman, 156). The visions of gods may appear and occasionally supernatural powers such as clairvoyance and telepathy. A long period of concentration on a mental image will sometimes result in visions. Maharshi said that these visions were products of the mind which might come on the way like hindrances to the state of Self-realisation and Self-liberation. When a man told him that he knew nothing and wanted to hear something from Maharshi, Maharshi replied that, “You know that you knew nothing. Find out that knowledge. That is liberation” (Talks

Maharshi said, the hindrances to realization of Self are “habits of the mind” (vasanas). It is the ego, which raises such difficulties, creating hindrances and then sufferings from the “perplexities of apparent paradoxes.” He asks, “Find out who makes the enquiries and the Self will be found.” Every desire is an obstacle. The Self is always there; it was so in the past and will be in the future. “Be the Self,” he said and the desires and doubts will disappear. Such Self is the witness in sleep, dream and waking states of existence. These states belong to the ego….The Self transcends even the ego” (Talks, 5). On being asked, if everything is an illusion, how can we live our ordinary lives and still attain Self-realisation? Maharshi replied: “To whom is illusion? Find out that! In fact everyone is a “killer of the Self (atmahan) every moment of his life” (Talks, 11).

For a realized being the Self alone is the reality; actions are only phenomenal, not affecting the Self. Even when he acts, he has “no sense of being the agent. His actions are only involuntary and he remains a witness to them without any attachment” (Talks, 12). On being asked as to how can one practice meditation, Maharshi says, “Find out ‘Who am I?’, the source of the ego. The pure ‘I’ is the reality, the Absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. When that is forgotten, all miseries crop up; when that is held fast, the miseries do not affect the person” (Talks, 12).

It is the mind’s nature to be restless. All external contacts – contacts with objects other than itself – make the mind restless. “Loss of interest in the non-Self (Vairagya) – is the first step. Then habits of moving within and concentration come. They are characterized by  the control of external senses … ending in Samadhi [undistracted mind]” (Talks, 27).


To the question of the relation between free will and the overwhelming nature of the Omnipotent, Maharshi says, “Freewill is the present appearing to a limited faculty of sight and will. The same sees its past activity as falling into a course of karma (action), ‘law’ or rules—its free-will being one of the links in that course of law. Pray to God for bliss and receive it by Grace. Therefore Ishwara (the all-pervading God) is also the Personal God of infinite power and bliss. Biologically, an organism functions because such functions are attended with happiness.”

Why then is samsara (the world)—creation and manifestationfinitised? It is God’s will. “It is inscrutable. No motive can be attributed to that Power—no desire, no end to achieve that can be asserted of that one Infinite …God’s will for the prescribed course of events is a good solution of the free-will problem… He carries all burdens and gives us peace” (Talks, 33). Are the god Iswara or Vishnu and sacred regions real? Maharshi replies: “As real as you are in this body … All thoughts are inconsistent with realization. The correct state is to exclude thoughts of ourselves … Thought is one thing and realization is quite another (Talks, 37). We are not the body. After all, as long as we think we are not the body there is no problem. The same is true of idol worship, we may go on with it—it leads to concentration of mind. The most important thing is, get one-pointed. “Freedom (moksha) is only knowing the Self within yourself….Your mind is the cycle of births and deaths’” (Talks, 39). What is important is “practice.” Then the concentration will be as easy as breathing.

As for the attainment of self-knowledge, “I” should be “destroyed.” Self is not something to be reached. “It is not new. Be as you are. What is new cannot be permanent” (Talks, 46). That which is real must exist all the time. In fact, we are in the Self, not in the world. If one asks if heaven and hell are there, we only carry them. “They are like dreams” (Talks, 47). To an interesting question about the Heart as the centre of meditation, Maharshi considers Heart as the centre of the Self, the centre. The Self is the “centre of the centres.” The Heart represents the “psychic centre and not the physical centre” (Talks, 51).


The ego is the origin of all thoughts. It creates the body and everything that is concomitant with it. Even if one leaves the ordinary world and decides to be a sannyasi (renouncer of the family and the world), “the mental obstacles are always there. They even increase in new surroundings. There is no help in the change of environment. The obstacle is the mind…. If you can do it in the forest, why not in the home?” (Talks, 60). One should be in spontaneous Samadhi—that is, in one’s pristine state—in midst of every environment continuously. Control of breath may be internal or external. The anta pranayama (internal breath-regulation) comprises three things: Naham chinta (I-am-not the-body idea) is ruchaka (exhalation); Koham (who am I?) is paripuraka (inhalation) and finally, Soham (I am He) is kumbhaka (retention of breath). Maharshi sees the thinker as the Being-consciousness and “must precede his thoughts, which is called the rising-consciousness” (Cohen, 56). The Being-Consciousness is always there, eternal and pure. “The rising-consciousness rises forth and disappears. It is transient” (quoted in Cohen, 56).  What matters most is the Being, which is the person himself—“as he is in himself—self-sufficient and perfect” (Cohen, 57). As Maharshi sees, it is useless to speculate about the mental state of the Jnani as “an idle labour” (Cohen 57), notwithstanding the appearance of activity in the Jnani. As Cohen writes, “This activity is …[indeed] inactivity, like the movements of pictures on the screen, which in reality do not exist … The ‘I’ is the screen, the sensient seer, and all pictures and worlds are the insentient” (Cohen, 58). Thinking is alone the world; it creates the world. Maharshi writes, “There is fire on the screen in a cinema show; does it burn the screen? There is a cascade of water: does it wet the screen?” The obvious answer is no. In the Gita, Krishna says that the fire does not burn the Self … nor can swords cut it” (Cohen, 64).

God alone is the doer. If we realize that all actions are God’s alone, one cannot distinguish the actions, all actions being induced by the intelligent worker. There is no human agency of any kind that can intervene between God and man. Only the self-realised mukta (free) can help—not as intermediary, but as a teacher of, and guide to, the absolute state of the Self. The body can be left alone, whereas the being is continuous.  Maharshi says, “Mind is like akasa (ether or space). Just as there are objects in space, so there are thoughts in the mind” (quoted in Cohen, 73). The space is the mind’s “extension,” containing the thoughts that appear to be external objects. As “pearls in the sky,” the world does not exist; it is as unreal as the … soul in the void of consciousness. The Reality is the experiencer of the states himself. God cannot be seen, tasted, smelt, heard or touched. However, the world appears to the Jnani as Divine. Cohen writes: “If the world is God, then why are we so starved after the vision of God?” (Cohen, 76).

“God,” writes Cohen, “is pure spirit, pure consciousness, which can be apprehended by the pure light of [the] personal consciousness, because it is one and the same consciousness which underlies and witnesses all the appearances” (Talks, 78). The external form has to be transcended through internal vichara (analysis) which would show forth the individual consciousness to be identically the same as the pure Consciousness, which is called Brahman or absolute Self. It is the “foretaste” of Realisation. It is pure. The subject and the object proceed from it. If the man mistakes himself for the subject, objects necessarily appear different from him. They are periodically withdrawn and projected, creating the world and the subject’s enjoyment of the same. If, on the other hand, the man feels himself to be the screen on which the subject and object are projected there can be no confusion, and he can remain watching their appearance without any perturbation to the Self” (Talks, 70). 

On being asked about the heart and sphurana, Maharshi refers to a time when an indescribable but a palpable centre of the heart shines through all that is covered by the day-to-day existence and the heart. Sphurana has something spontaneous and immensely poetic about it, even something lyrical and song-like. The Sphurana occurs not in the left side of the heart (physical heart); it occurs on the heart on the right side. Is there an authority that would reinforce Maharshi’s words? He explains, “The physical organ is on the left; that is not denied. But the Heart of which I speak is non-physical and is only on the right side, It is my experience, no authority is required by me” (Talks, 2). He finds a mention of it in a Malayalam Ayurvedic book and in Sita Upanishad. Maharshi says, “Sphurana is felt on several occasions, such as fear, excitement, etc. Although it  is always and all over, yet it is felt at a particular centre and on particular occasions. It is also associated with antecedent causes and is confounded with the body. Whereas it is all alone and pure, it is the Self. If the mind is be fixed on the sphurana one senses it continuously and automatically; it is realisation.”

The jiva is said to remain in the heart in deep sleep and in the brain in the waking state. Heart is not the muscular cavity which propels blood…The “I” has no location. There is nothing but the Self as the Self. So the heart must be said to be the entire body as well as the universe, conceived as “I.” To the questioning mind, Maharshi’s words may sound paradoxical who, on the other hand “makes Heart to be everywhere and nowhere” (Cohen, 107). The apparent confusion is due to our perception of the body, which is affiliated to the to the mind, or the “principle” which acts or perceived through it. The mind has a dual aspect—one as the pervader of the body, and thus “hypothetically limited to its scope, and the other, the intelligent principle which acts and perceives through it and is “limitless and free” (Cohen, 107).


As Maharshi sees, “silence” is never-ending speech. Consciousness is only a phenomenon and operates in the region of “reflected consciousness” or abhasa. Each time the question about the Self was raised, Maharshi asked: To whom is this doubt? If the source is traced the doubt will disappear. The thoughts are only predispositions (vasanas), traced to innumerable births. The Self does not need efforts in order to be realized. It remains as the eternal. Reality which never rises nor sinks.

Dhyana (concentration) is a necessary concomitant of meditation. Unselfish action purifies the mind and helps in meditation. Elsewhere in Talks, Maharshi says: “In deep sleep you exist; awake you remain. The same self is in both states. The difference is in the awareness and non-awareness of the world. The world rises with the mind and sets with the mind. That which rises and sets is not the Self. The Self is different, giving rise to the mind, sustaining it and resolving it. So the Self is the underlying principle” (Talks, 95). Maharshi discusses the “elimination of wrong knowledge….Such elimination results in Realisation” (Talks, 96).

“It is the nature of the mind,” says Maharshi, “to wander. You are not the mind Mind is impermanent, transitory, while “you are eternal. There is nothing but the Self.…Never mind the mind. If  its source is sought, it will vanish leaving the Self unaffected” (Talks, 96). When dhyana (meditation) becomes deeper and deeper, the Heart reveals itself without any effort to seek its corresponding place in the “physical body” (Cohen, 106). . Heart therefore  has “no locus at all”. Its other names are Self, being, pure mind…It is called Heart due to its being the source from which the universe rises. Maharshi remarks that “The Self is the Heart … it is self-luminous …The world is seen through the mind… by the reflected light of the Self. …If the mind is turned in towards the source of light, objective knowledge ceases and  Self alone shines forth as the Heart” (Talks, 96). “The apparent contradiction is due to the perception of the body, which has to be related to the mind, or the intelligent principle which acts and perceives through it. The mind is shown in a dual aspect, the one as the pervader of the body, and thus hypothetically limited to its shape, and the other as limitless and free” (Cohen, 107).

Maharshi considers the atma (Individual Self) as the heart itself. Here, the Heart is not physical; it is the spiritual Hridaya (hrit+ayam). It only means that “that is the centre”. The Heart is the centre of everything. The Upanishads or ancient scriptures see it as the Brahman. “Brahman is the Heart.” Thoughts rise from and subsist in and dissolve into the Heart–they shape the universe. “It makes the substance of the universe to be nothing but thoughts, a mere mental vapour” (Cohen, 109).”The Cosmic Mind, being limited by the ego, has nothing separate from itself and therefore only awake. This is what the Bible means by ‘I am that I Am’” (Cohen, 111). Consciousness itself is pure akasha (ether), in which the world spreads as it appears to do in space, which itself is ether. Thus in the manifested universe there exist nothing but qualities superimposed on the Consciousness.”


Maharshi talks about time and space and asks “Where is time, where is space, apart from us?” We are not the bodies, so we are not involved in time and space. “We are the same here, there and everywhere. Time is only an idea, a concept. There is only the Reality. In the state of awareness of Reality, there is ‘Being’ alone. There is no I, nor you, nor he, There is no present, nor past nor future.” (Maharshi, Talks, quoted  in Sithamparanatrhan, 59). Being is beyond time and space, beyond all kinds of expression. Being is always there and underlies the states of waking, dreaming and sleep. Time and space do not exist without consciousness, which is like “a lighted screen on which these are cast like pictures” (Talks, quoted in Sithaparanthan,  59). We cannot deny our existence in deep sleep, but there is no perception of space and time.

Time is the “interval between two states…[I]f the mind is not functioning there can be no concept of time. Time and space are in the mind, but one’s true state is beyond the mind. The question of time does not arise for one established in his true state” (quoted in, Sithamparanathan, 60). In fact, the new view of time and space argues that all measurements of space and time are relative. But the temporal order of events was considered to be independent of any observer. This applies to the world of our day to day existence. The sub-atomic world is deeply related to the concept of Brahman. “The Space-time continuum of modern physics represents a plane of consciousness beyond the ordinary physical plane. It permeates space and time on this plane—forming a continuum with all things and beings” (Jones, quoted in Sithamparanathum, 66).

“To those who have not realized the Self, the ‘I’ is only the measure of the body, but to those who have, within the body, realized the self, the ‘I’ shines without limit.” (Maharshi, quoted in Sithamaparanathan, 70). If the “I” turns away from the world appearance and seeks him that sees the world, the world and the seer would vanish together and the Self, alone, would remain. “The world is not other than the body. The body is not other than the mind; the mind is not other than the Primal Awareness; the Primal Awareness not other than Being. That (alone) exists unchanging, in Peace” (Guru, quoted in Sithamparanathan, 72).

“On the plane of relativity,” says Maharshi, “a separate being appears to know something apart from itself. There must be therefore a unity between the two and this, the ego, is of the nature of intelligence. It is akin to the seer rather than the seen, since the latter is insentient. Seeking the seer (the ego) until all the seen disappears, the seer becomes more and more subtle until the absolute alone remains. The process is thus the disappearance of the objective world” (Talks, quoted in Sithaamparanathan, 72). Conceptions are contained within the finite mind whereas the Self is  infinite. One must therefore transcend the mind to know the Self” (Talks, quoted in Sithamparanathen, 74).

The Vedas proclaim that whatever be the activity of Ishvara is a purposeless cosmic game (lila) proceeding from his own nature. In Hinduism, the universe is seen as a cosmic dance, preservation and destruction involving the several “energies.” “Akasha” (ether) is the ultimate source and basis of all things and beings. It is a living void, pulsating in endless rhythms of creation, preservation and destruction (Sri Aurobindo, 989). The profound nature of the universe in Vedic philosophy speaks of two principles—Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is the guiding consciousness while Shakti is his dynamic working power. As Sevetasvatara Upanishad says, “Shiva is the One who inheres in each and every thing. He is all that is.” The innermost nature of the world is continuous change, interminable flux. The reality is eternal and changeless being since nothing that changes is real. The “relation is not one of exclusion but one of polar opposition. The two are at the same time antithetic and correlative” (Sithaamparanathan, 90). The void is not empty; it contains unlimited number of particles that can come into being and vanish without end. “The void is not a state of mere nothingness, but contains the potentiality for all forms of the particle world” (Sithamparanathnan, 95).

The metaphor of a cosmic dance is beautifully expressed in the image of the dance of Shiva (tandava): The dance symbolizes “the direct experience of the mystics that the universe and all life are part of a great rhythmic process of creation and destruction that goes on in endless cycles. The dance is the dancing universe—the ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety pf patterns that melt into each other. Shiva’s dance corresponds to the dance of sub-atomic matter. It is a continuous dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos” (Sithamparanathannan, 160).


Maharshi says that the Self is the Heart, which is self-luminous. The world is seen with the mind by the reflected light of the Self. When the mind turns inwards, towards the source of light, “objective knowledge ceases and the Self only shines forth as the Heart” (Talks, 96). When the room is dark a lamp is necessary, but when the self-luminous sun rises there is no need of a lamp. Maharshi explains the basics by a simple diagram:


The Supreme

(Knowledge Absolute; witness; the Self-shining core; The Supreme; the Heart; the Self)

The individual

[the jiva, the knower consisting of vritti (the mode of mind-stuff) and reflected light, in the latent form]

The internal intellect and the outgoing mind

Modes taking shape as objects common knowledge

Together form the world as we perceive it


The self (Pure Knowledge)

The jiva (pramatr=the knower)

The intellect and the mind

pramana = perception

modes seen as objects      knowledge

The undulating mind (i.e., the mind associated with rajas=activity and tamas=darkness), as Maharshi explains, “is commonly known as the mind, devoid of rajas and tamas, it is pure and self-shining. This is self-realisation. Therefore the mind is said to be the means for it” (Talks, 98).


Pure Consciousness

(said to be the Eternal or the Ever-present Witness)



Inner organ + the reflected light (jiva:pramtr)

Modes together with the light are said to be prameya =the known; of these, the objects are gross and the light is called phala chaitanya


In the jiva the inner organ (antahkarana) consists of –






Modes of mind

Intellect, mind

Gross objects

The world

Similarly for the cosmos –

The Cosmic mind (the Eternal Being)





the Lord of the universe

the individual


the universe


Brahman =       Sat                               Chit                                       Ananda

                   Being called                   Knowledge                                Bliss
                   the adhara=
substratum             Called visesha = differentiation by maya

                                                       natural                                     artificial

                                              the universe or the world         multiplicity of objects

Maya cannot obscure Sat, but it does obscure Chit and Ananda, making them appear as particulars.


A rope (corresponds to)             in dim light                  appears as a snake


Being the substratum                             maya                        the artificial particular

                                                                             Illusion                          as shown in E


Thus Sat= Being = the substratum (adhara). From this proceeds the particular …the jiva who, darkened by unawareness, identifies him with the gross body. Here unawareness stands for not exploring the Self further. Jiva is in fact knowledge only; yet owing to ignorance the wrong identity with the gross body results.


Again, Maharshi illustrates it with the red-hot iron ball. A ball of iron + fire together form red-hot iron ball. The world is chit = (Pure Knowledge) together form the jiva=the individual. The confusion arises from unawareness of it. “You are always in the heart. You are never away from it in order that you should reach it” (Talks, 99-100). However, the state of deep sleep and state of wakefulness are to be meditated upon. These states are not your own. They are of the ego. The consciousness is retained and it is the same and undifferentiated all through. When someone said he did not understand it, that he understood but could not feel it so, Mararshi asks, “whose if the is the ignorance? Find it out … the idea of difficulty is itself wrong. It will not help you to gain what you want. Again I ask: ‘Who finds it difficult?’ The idea of difficulty is itself wrong.…You are always and never away from that. There is nothing so simple as being the Self. It requires no effort, no aid. One has to leave off the wrong identity be in his eternal, natural, inherent state.”

According Maharshi, there are two schools in Adwaita—Drishti sriti (simultaneous creation) and Shrti drishti (gradual creation). There is also Tantric Advaita, which admits three fundamentals—jagat, jiva, Isvara (world, soul and God). These three are also real. But the reality does not end with them but extends beyond. The reality is limitless. The three fundamentals do not exist apart from the Absolute Reality. The image of gods are described in great details. Such illustration points only to the final Reality. That is why the special importance of each detail also given. Image is only a symbol. Only that which is beyond name and form is Reality.

One should follow Maharshi’s pregnant answers to what otherwise sounds simple. To a question ”How were you in deep sleep?” Maharshi says, “I do not know.” Is it not the waking sleep? Do you deny your existence in deep sleep?” To which the devotee’s answer is ”I was and I am; but I do not know who was in deep sleep.” The answer is a long one indeed: ”The man awake says that that he did not know anything in the state of [deep] sleep. Now he sees the objects and knows that he is there; whereas in deep sleep there were no objects …The same one who is now speaking was in deep also. What is the difference between these two states? There are objects and play of senses now which were not in sleep. A new entity, the ego, has risen up …, it plays through the senses, sees the objects, confounds itself with the body and says that the Self is the ego … However [T]he Self is changeless. It is the ego that has come between. That which rises and sets is the ego; that which remains changeless is the Self.”


One devotee once said, Maya is wrong knowledge, illusion.” Maharshi asks, “To whom the illusion?” There must be something to be deluded. Illusion is ignorance. The ignorant Self sees the objects – sees according to itself. There can be no maya when the objects are absent. Maya is what is not; what remains over is the true Self. If someone says that he sees objects, or he does not know the Real Unity, “then there are two selves, one the knower and the knowable object… [It is] the awakened man [who] says that he himself was in deep slumber but not aware. He does not say that the sleeper was different from the present one. There is only one Self. The Self is always aware. It is changeless. There is nothing but the Self.”

Elsewhere, Maharshi speaks of Reality as only “the loss of the ego,” which is to be destroyed by seeking its reality, for the ego has no reality. And hence, will automatically vanish and replaced by the Self-shining Reality. This is the “direct method.” As Maharshi says, “There is no greater mystery than this … ourselves being the Reality, we seek to gain Reality….It is ridiculous” (Talks, 134). Reality is everything, including Grace. Like Reality, Grace is the beginning, middle and end. Grace is the Self. Because of the false identification of the Self with the body, the Guru ( the most intimate teacher) is considered to be with body. But from the Guru’s outlook, the Guru is only the Self. He tells that the Self alone is. We are neither the body nor the world. There is only the Self, the eternal existence (sat), the Intelligence (chit), and the ultimate, unqualified joy (ananda). We have it in sleep, as the Gita says, existence is not real nor the body. From the metaphysical point of view, “existence is the reality, and is the true subject in all judgements” (Mahadevan, Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence, 20).

All existences have issued from Brahman. Vedanta speaks of existence as reality, as intelligence and bliss. The non-dual Absolute It is this existence-chit-ananda (sat-chit-ananda) that is the non-dual Absolute. All distinctions such as “I”  and “Thou” are but appearances. “The Self alone is.” “The non-duality as Absolute, the non-reality of the world, and the non-difference of the so-called individual soul from the absolute reality—these constitute the truth of advaita … Advaita is not a sectarian doctrine. It is the culmination of doctrines, the crown of all views. Though other views may imagine themselves to be opposed to Advaita, Advaita is opposed to none. Advaita is not an ism” (Mahadevan, 23).

Reality is not merely existence; it is also intelligence or awareness. Considering reality to be simple objective being would result in skepticism and agnosticism. Reality is neither inert existence nor a subjective series of presentations. It is sat-chit (existence-consciousness). The Real is pure existence and pure consciousness. Maharshi finds the Real as the heart, transcended in the final non-dual experience. Someone who is asked to show the heart, he instinctively points by gesture of the hand to the right side of the heart. The location of the Self as the heart is only the standpoint of body-consciousness. The heart is one emptied of all empirical details, the heart that is pure and free from thoughts. There are two levels of experiences—the theistic and the absolutistic. “At the theistic level,” writes Mahadevan, “the fear of death drives one to the feet of God. At the absolutistic level, no such fear arises, because of the plenary experience is the state of fearlessness (abhaya) and deathlessness (amrityupada).

Fearlessness (abhaya) arises when the non-dual Self (advaya atman) is realized through knowledged through knowledge (jnana). The perception of an “other,” however “attractive and friendly” that “other” may be for the time being, is the flux of fear, is the cause of fear. It is the sense of “otherness” that is responsible for insecurity and all that go through it. And, otherness or difference is brought about by ignorance. “The so-called individual,” wrongly imagines living in a pluralistic universe, identifies himself with a particular psycho-physical organism, and is expectant of danger from every quarter, including Time, otherwise called Death. Mahadevan writes of two kinds of theism–one which holds that God is external to the world, and is only its instrumental cause, and the other, according to which, God is the material as well as the instrumental cause. The maker of this world must be an intelligent being, “possessed of that combination of volition, desire to act, and knowledge of the proper means which sets in motion all other causes, but is itself set in motion by none” (Radhakrishnan, volume II, 168). God is the unmoved mover of the universe.

The world and its potential cause, maya, are said to be indeterminable (anirvachaniya). Maya is neither real, nor unreal. It cannot be understood by the intellect. Any “defect that may be pointed out becomes an ornament (bhushana) to it. The probing mind which is itself a product of maya has not the power to understand the nature of its parent. To the investigating intellect maya is a riddle.” (Mahadevan, 45). From the standpoint of intellectual inquiry the world is indeterminable. The two other standpoiunts—that the world of the worldly person and that of the seer who has realized the truth. The state in which the mind finds itself is the state of “egolessness,” which as Maharshi says, is acceptable to all. There one is free from the notion of unity and duality because there is no reckoner to count, nor anything that could be counted.

As Mahadevan alerts, advaita should not be confused with “subjective idealism. The Self of which speaks is not the individual soul or ego, the subject as against the object. The subjective idealism is used only to refute realism. In order to give a form to the world and to God, we must assume a form” The absurdity of subjectivism,” argues Mahadevan, “does not lie in its denial of the existence of an independent world, but in its inadequate conception of the Self as a finite mind. It is only when the Self is regarded as the limitless spirit that is easy to see how all the things that we experience should owe their existence to it. It is one and the same Self that appears as the multiple universe” (Mahadevan, 52).

In our daily experience of sleep we see all forms vanishing, all names dissolving. In that experience the mind disappears in its cause which is maya, there are no dualities. The Self beyond desires, free from evil, and fearless. All material distinctions cease in the state of sleep. The Self remains relationless. The Self is void of form in sleep, and so there is neither the world nor God. The mind has no light of its own, Like the object, it is inert. The mirror illumines the wall by the reflected rays of the sun. Similarly the mind apprehends the object, being endowed with the reflection of intelligence. It is the Self alone that is luminous. The lamp offers light to everyone on the stage as well as the audience without any distinction just as it shines even when the theatre is empty. Similarly, the Self which is the witness-intelligence (saksi-chaitanya) manifests “egoity, the intellect and the objects, and continues to shines even when they are non-existent” (Mahadevan, 60). The Self is the source of all light.

One of the conversations between two sages (Janaka and Yajavalkya) relates to the question of light. As recorded in the Brihadaranyka Upanishad, relates to the question of light. The sun gives us the first light. The moon takes the place of the sun. Fire takes the place of the moon when the latter is absent. In the absence of fire, speech takes over.  Asked about the Self, Yajnavalkya said: “The Self, indeed, is his light; for with the Self (Atman), verily, as his light, one sits, moves about, does his work and returns …The person here who among the senses is made of knowledge (vijnanamaya), who is the light in the heart (hrdyantarjyotih)” (quoted, Mahadevan, 62). As Maharshi says, the Self is that “wherefrom the world and its awareness rise and wherein they set, which but shines without rising and setting—that alone is real” (quoted in Mahadevan, 62). The Self is the Whole,” the “Full” (purnam). The upanishadic sloka refers to the mathematics of infinity: “That is full, this is full; from the full the full arises; taking away the full from the full, the full alone remains” (Kathopanishad, quoted in Mahadevan, 62).

What, then, is the way to the removal of ignorance, of darkness? The answer is para vidya, the higher knowledge, defined in the Upanishads as that by which the Self is known. Maharshi, in one of the Forty Verseson Existence, writes, “The inquiry takes the form: To whom are knowledge and ignorance? The basic awareness of both knowledge and ignorance is the true awareness. It is the Self which is pure awareness (prajnanam brahma). Here knowledge and ignorance are, each of them, used in two different senses:

Absolute Knowledge=Self-knowledge

Relative knowledge=Knowledge of objects

Metaphysical ignorance= Nescience

Mental ignorance”

Knowledge and ignorance, light and shade, worry us as long as we are in the realm of the mind. In the states of waking and dreaming, we are aware of certain objects and are unaware of certain others. In deep sleep, the scenes change. The Self “stripped pure” and yet nescience lingers. It is only when Self-knowledge dawns that all relativity ceases.

Maharshi writes in one of his Forty Verses that objective knowledge cannot be true knowledge. Since the Self shines without there being anything else to know or to be known, it is knowledge. It is not nullity. Buddhists believe that if the objects are denied, the Self would be reduced to a void (sunya). The Self in fact is “plenitude of being, and not nullity. While everything else may be denied, the Self cannot be denied. There cannot be limitless denial. The limit of denial is the Self. Ignorance has no ontological status alongside or apart from the Self” (Mahadevan, 75). Just as the darkness in a room obscures the room, the ignorance which is located in the Self veils it. When one starts his journey on the path of inquiry, one distinguishes the Self from the not-Self. But when one completes the journey and gains wisdom, one realizes that the Self alone is, with nothing besides. The world according him is devoid of existence (asti), manifestation (bhati), lovability (priyam), name (nama) and form (rupa). And, liberation, the freedom from the rounds of births and deaths (moksha), is not something newly accomplished. This is the state of jivanmukta (realization while living).

Maharshi addressed the problem in his Forty Verses—the problem of fate and freedom. It is the will that is either free or imprisoned. The will implies an ego that influences the will. It is from the standpoint of the ego that the problem arises at all. If the ego is unobstructed in activity, it is believed to be free. If it is opposed by the non-ego either in the form of nature or in the form of God, and is conditioned thereby, obviously it cannot be free. “The ethical ‘ought’ is meaningless without freedom … So long as we refuse to go beyond the level of ego, the problem cannot be solved” (Mahadevan, 86).


The “illicit combination” of the inert and intelligence is known by various names. It is called the knot of the heart (hridaya-granthi)—the knot of the intelligent-spirit and inert matter. This is what constitutes bondage. Other than this there is no individual soul. Each individual soul is known is differentiated by its subtle body (suksma-sarira). This is what persists till the onset of release. Since the ego is the prime factor in the subtle body, that body may even be called egoity (ahankara). ”It is egoity that migrates from one birth to another. Hence it is transmigration, the empirical tract of existence” (Mahadevan, 94). The ego’s appearance is dependant on a bodily form, gross or subtle or both. Ego’s basis is the basis of “all empirical usage,” and that it disappears in sleep. All other empirical usage is possible because of the cling to a body. When one body is destroyed, the ego takes on another body. This is called transmigration. Without assuming a body, the ego cannot function. It has no form of its own, no substance. “It is a veritable ghost which takes shape in fear. It is like an onion …which is nothing apart from its peels” (Mahadevan, 95). When the ego is, all else is. If the ego is not, all else is not. The ego is all. Hence, the inquiry as to what it is, but the giving up of all” (Maharshi, Forty Verses, quoted in Mahadevan, 95).

The inquiry Maharshi talks about is an inward process. In order to know and understand something is an uninterrupted process to each the Self. The Self is not an object that is external to us; it is us. The inquiry is inward. The instrument is “the purified mind.” This “process” is not to be a psychological process. It is not is not a “psychological introspection or subjective meditation.” The meditation may take the form of “I am not the body” or so on. I am Brahman. Dhyana (concentration or meditation) has its own use. It prepares the ground for wisdom. Wisdom, however, is gained  through inquiry, for “the one object of inquiry is to make the inquiring mind cease and reveal the non-dual spirit as the sole and whole reality” (Mahadevan, 99).

Normally the mind is too busy itself with things of this world. One should stop the mind, still it, make it-one-pointed. “for one who, having destroyed the ego, is awake to the nature of the Self which is bliss. He is not aware of anything except bliss. Inquiry results in the disappearance of the pseudo-I that is the ego. The mukta (released soul) is the buddha (the awake). The state is one of “infinite bliss.” He who gains the Self attains “the plenitude of happiness.” Even any reference to the mukta (free) as an individual is incorrect, for he is not an individual among individuals; he is not a “he.” In moksha there is not even a trace of limitedness. From the standpoint of the perfect, there is no attainment, no becoming.

All verbal discussions of the Self are meaningless. The Self cannot be categorized; neither a subject nor a predicate. We cannot say, “it is,” because it does not exist as an entity. “Form” or “no form” again predicates that which can applied only to finite things. To say that is “one, two or neither is to fall into the trap set by finite intellect, under the influence of ignorance” (Mahadevan, 105). Instead of arguing about the Self, let us realize that we are the Self. Abidance in the Self is moksha (liberation). This is realized in the Silence of the Heart, which is the symbol of the ultimate reality. When the delusion born of ignorance has been “thrown out,” there is no dispute. Advaita is not the doctrine of the partisan. It is the highest and most complex entity in the advaita, not a theory.

As Mahashri points out in Forty Verses, “To seek and abide as the (eternally) accomplished existence-reality is (true). The all other accomplishments are like the accomplishments that appear in dream. When one wakes up from sleep, are they seen to be real? Will they that are established in the true state and are and are rid of delusion, be deceived by them? Thus you should know” (quoted in Mahadevan, 105).

Moksha is the greatest accomplishment. Self-abidance is the greatest accomplishment, the accomplishment of the eternally accomplished end. We imagine that we are born and we die, that we are confined within the bodies which we call ours, that we are agents and enjoyers. All this is the work of nescience. When through right knowledge Nescience is destroyed , we come to our own. It is no new achievement; it is the self-gain (atma labha), the most exclusive and greatest of all gains.

Every other gain is nothing but Self-gain. Maharshi compares these to the ones we may have in dreams. The gains such as wealth or progeny that we seek and get in our wakeful experience will prove themselves to be “myths when we realize the Self … When we wake from the slumber of ignorance, the false ends disappear” (Mahadevan, 106). Maharshi writes, “If we think ‘We are the body’, to think ‘We are not; we are that’ is a good aid for us to abide as that. Why should we, for ever, think ‘We are that’? Does a man think  ‘I am a man’? For we are that” (Maharshi quoted in Mahadevan, 106). The abidance is not an accomplishment of what has not been accomplished.. It is the realization of an eternal truth.

Those who identify themselves with the body-mind complexes may retire into meditation. The meditation can take the form such as “We are the body; we are the Self.” As Mahadevan writes, such a ‘Self-idea’ serves the purpose of removing the ‘not-Self-idea’ (Mahadevan, 107). This technique is called pratipaksha-bhavana or thinking the contrary. The “self-idea” serves the purpose of removing the “not-Self-idea.” Such practice is certainly useful. But we should remember at the same time that the “Self-idea” is not the Self, that I-am-the-Self idea is not the supreme Spirit. It is only where all ideas and notions cease that the Self is realized. Maharshi offers a fine example: “A man does not go about saying ‘I am a man’, ‘I am a man’. He need not repeatedly say it. He simply is a man.”

The teaching is: While dhyana (meditation) is a a useful in the path of release, it is not the direct means in atma vichara (Self-inquiry). In case of one who has attained release there is no need for meditation also. He has no mind;. How can he meditate? It is only our ignorance to refer to him as “he” or “individual.” “That doctrine is not true which says, ‘There is duality in practice and non-duality in attainment’. Who else is he but the tenth man, both anxiously searching for himself and after attaining himself” (Maharshi, Forty Verses, quoted in Mahadevan, 107).


It is common to compare and contrast the empirical (vyava-harika) standpoint and of the absolute truth (para-marthika), and to argue that the pluralistic world of our ordinary experience is “relatively real,” though it ceases to be real when the absolute comes to be realized. All striving for realization is in the world of plurality. However, it is only when jiva becomes one with Brahman by realizing it, that the duality disappears. Hence, there is duality in the world of practice in the state of realization there is non-duality. At the same time it can be said that empirical reality is no reality at all. Even when the world appears to be real, it is not real. There is no empirical world from the standpoint of absolute truth. The rope does not cease to be a rope when it is mistaken for a snake, nor is that snake real even when it appears. Non-duality is the supreme truth. It is not something which made or produced by sadhana (meditation). “Even when there is sadhana there is non-duality. Advaita is not what-is-yet-to-be; it ever is” (Mahadevan, 108).

“If we are the agent of deeds, we shall have to experience the fruit of deeds. When one knows oneself by inquiring as to who is the agent of deeds, the sense of agency is lost and the threefold karma (past deeds) is removed. And, eternal is the state of release” (Maharshi, Forty Verses, quoted in Mahadevan, 108). Self-inquiry is central to Maharshi’s teaching. One of the most difficult problems is the one of karma. It is responsible for not allowing the sadhakas to reach Brahmaloka (region of souls). This is a state, not a region. The school that practices kramamukti (liberation by degrees) say that the upasaka (practitioner) goes to the region of Brahmaloka. The Brahmaloka cannot be gained as long as there is any desire left in the person. Desirelessness alone, that it becomes an agent and an expiriencer. Agency and experiencing are superimposed on the Self; they do not belong to it.

Desirelessness does not refer to a state of non-action. Action does not mean merely a movement of the body or functioning of the will. It is only when the Self mistakenly identifies itself with the psycho-physical organism, which is a product of maya (illusion). Karma, is the sense of action and is of several kinds. There are optional deeds (kamya-karma), which desires fruit of that action. There obligatory duties (nitya-karma), offering of twilight prayers (sandhya vandana). The nitya karmas are daily obligations. These are certain other obligations which are occasional (naimittika-karma). These too are of the nature of “ought”—like rites and rituals.

Karma, in the sense of “fruit of action,” is of three types. There is the sanchita- karma (accumulated karma)results for which the soul has taken the present body, constitute its prarabdha-karma (that which has begun to bear fruit). Finally, those actions which it has accumulated to be experienced later, in a future birth, are known as agami-karma. As Maharshi says, actions bear two kinds of fruit, the one for the enjoyment of fruits and the other leaving an impress in the form of samskaras for subsequent manifestations in future births. The jnani’s mind being barren cannot entertain seeds of karma. Vasanas “exhaust themselves by activities ending in entertainment only (bhogahetuka-karma).” In fact, his karma is seen from the ajnani’s standpoint. He himself remains “actionless” (Talks, 365). He is beyond liberation (mukti) and bondage (bandha).

It is said that the jivnamukta (freedom in the body) remains so till the momentum of prarabdha is spent; thereafter it becomes a videha-mukta (freedom without the body). At the end of it all, when there is release, it means that all karma has been destroyed. And, so long as there is the thought “I am bound” will the thoughts of bondage and release last. On seeing the Self through the enquiry as to who the bound one is, and where the Self abides, eternally established and eternally free, the thought of bondage will not stand (Maharshi, Forty Verses, quoted in Mahadevan, 111). As Mahadevan writes “bondage” and “release” are meaningful only from the relativistic standpoint of the empirical world.

If it be said that the release one may attain is threefold, as with thought, form, without form and with and without form. It has already been said that the distinction between jivana-mukta and videha-mukta is an unreal distinction. Some advaitins speak also of a threefold mukti: with form, without form and with and without form. The first two are the same as jivana-mukti and videha-mukti, respectively. “The moment one realizes the Self, one is released even while tenanting a body” (Mahadevan, 112). The body continues for a while because of the remnant of prarabdha that has to be exhausted. The release without form happens when the body falls at the expiry of prarabdha. The third kind, “with and without form” is the release which is enjoyed by the adhikarika-muktas whose mission is to save the world. However, true release consists in freedom from even the notion that there are three kinds of release. The vedantins say that the very idea of release too is bondage (moksha-sankalpa-matro-bandhah).                                                    

Maharshi talks about creation and its explanations. Such explanations are called karma srishti (gradual creation or evolution), or drishti srshti (simultaneous or sudden creation). Without the seer there are no object seen. “Find the seer”; the creation is compraised in him. “Why look outward and go on explaining the phenomena which are endless?” (Talks, 369). We may take Vedanta as an example. The Vedantins say there are fifteen kinds of prana. There are no reasons to classify, give names and enumerate the functions.


The jnani says, if the light is borrowed, it must be from its natural source. “Go to the source direct,” says Maharshi, “and do not depend on borrowed sources.” (Talks, 382).  The jiva as separate from the Self or Brahman. The jnani however says, “the ego simply is wrong identity of the Self with the non-non-self, as in the the case of a colourless crystal and its coloured background. The crystal though colorless appears red because of its background. If the background is removed the crystal shines in its original purity. So it is with the Self and the antahkaranas (the internal organs). Still again the illustration is not quite appropriate. For the ego has its source from the Self and is not separate like the background from the crystal. Having its source from the Self, the ego must only be retraced in in order that it might merge in its source’ (Talka, 382). The centre of the ego and its core is called the Heart, the same as the Self.

Answering the question, “Is concentration of mind one of the sadhanas (spiritual practices)?” “Concentration,” Maharshi continues, “is not thinking one thing. It is putting off all other thoughts which obstruct the vision of our true nature. All our efforts are only directed to lifting the veil of ignorance. Now it appears difficult to quell the thoughts. In the regenerate state it will be found more difficult to call in the thoughts. For are there things to think of? There is only the Self. Thoughts can function only is there are objects. But there are no objects. How can thoughts arise at all? The habit makes us believe that it is difficult to cease thinking. If the error is found out, one would not be fool enough to exert oneself unnecessarily by way of thinking” (Talks, 383).

On being questioned if there is a medicine to cure the disease of avidya (ignorance), Maharshi replies: “What is medicine for? It is only to restore the patient the original state of health. Does Guru hold you by the hand and whisper something in the ear. You imagine him to be like yourself. Because you are a body you think that he is also a body in order to do something tangible” (Talks, 387). However, you must have a particular outlook out of the three “outlooks”: The Vyavaharika, in which the man sees the world  in all its variety, imagines the creator and believes in himself as the subject. He learns the existence of the creator and tries to reach him in order to gain immortality. He more or less admits the One Reality underlying all these phenomena. The phenomena are due to the play of the power of maya, which is the sakti (power) of Ishvara or the activity of Reality. Second, there is the Pratibhasika: The jagat (world), jiva (the individual) and Ishvara (God) are cognized by the seer only. They do not have any existence independent of him. So there only one jiva, be it the individual or God. All else is simply a myth. Finally, there is the Paramarthika outlook, that is ajatavada (no-creation doctrine) which admits of no second. There is no reality or absence of it, no seeing and gaining, no bondage or liberation.

Maharshi speaks about the mirror, which cannot be a mode of bondage or liberation. It reflects objects and yet not real because they cannot remain apart from the mirror. Similarly, the world is said to be a reflection in the mind as it does not remain in the absence of mind. The question arises: if the mirror is a reflection, there must be a real object, there must be a real object known as the universe in order that it might be reflected in the mind. However, it is not. Hence, the dream illustration is set forth. The dream world has no objective existence How then it is created. Some mental impressions should be admitted. They are called vasanas. How were the vasanas in the mind? The answer is: they were subtle. “Just as a whole tree is contained in a seed, so the world is in the mind” (Talks, 430).

A seed is the product of the tree which must have existed one in order that it may be reproduced. So the world also must have been there some time. But the answer is no. There must have been several incarnations to gather the impressions which are re-manifested in the present form. One must have existed before he does now. Admitting the existence of the world one must admit a seer who is no other than himself. Let him find himself so that he may know the relation between the world and the seer. When one seeks the Self and abides as the Self there is no world to be seen. What then is the Reality? It is the seer only and not the world.. Such being the truth men continue to argue on the basis of the reality of the world.

According to Maharshi, the mind is only “a bundle of thought” (Talks, 192). They have their roots in the “I”-thought ”Whoever investigates the origin of the “I” thought, for him the ego perishes. The true “I” is then found shining by itself.. All of which are only mental concept. “You are now identifying yourself with a wrong “I,” which is the “I-thought.” This “I-thought” rises and sinks, wheras the true significance of the “I” is beyond both. There cannot be a break in your being. You, who slept, are also now awake. There was not unhappiness in your deep sleep. Whereas it exists now. What is it that has happened now so that this difference is experienced? There was no “I-thought” in your sleep, whereas it is present now. The true “I” is not apparent and the false-“I” is parading itself. This false “I” is the obstacle to your right knowledge. Find out wherefrom this false “I” arises. Then it will disappear. You will be only what you are—that is, the absolute Being.     

Just as a seeds swells up before sprouting and then sprouts and grows, so also the Absolute Consciousness projects light, manifests as the ego and grows up as the body and the universe.

Chit                                          =Absolute

Mahat                                       =projected consciousness (swollen seed)

Ahankara                                 = ego

Manas                                      =mind

Aham                      Idam               =body             world   

To the question, “Is it the same as cosmic consciousness?” Maharshi says, “Yes, it is so before the birth before the ego and the universe. It comprises them all. Just as all the pictures thrown on the screen are visible by the light projected from a spot, so also the body and the other objects are all visible in that reflected consciousness. It is …[the] cosmic consciousness.” (Talks, 152-153). Cosmic consciousness is behind the ego. It may be called Ishvara (God), and the ego is jiva. Ishvara may also be said to be the Absolute. There is no difference there.

Para                                         =Absolute

Isvara                                          =Cosmic consciousness (Mahat)

Jiva________Jagat                        = Individual consciousness and the world


Replying to the question, “How to search for the mind?” Maharshi says, “The mind is only a bundle of thoughts” (Talks, 192). The thoughts have their roots in the “I-thought”. Whoever investigates the origin of the “I-thought,” for him the ego perishes. This is the true investigation. The true “I” is then found shining by itself. All doubts are only mental concepts. The “I-thought” rises and sinks, whereas the true significance of “I” is beyond birth. There cannot be a break in your being. You, who slept, are also now awake. There is no unhappiness in your deep sleep. Whereas it exists now. What is it that has happened now so that this difference is experienced? There was no “I-thought” in your sleep, whereas it is present now. The true “I” is not apparent and the false “I” is parading itself. This false “I” is the obstacle to your right knowledge. Find out wherefrom this false “I” arises. Then it will disappear. You will be only what you are—the Absolute Being.

Maharshi  talks about surrender to the Absolute Being. “It is enough that one surrenders oneself. Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one’s being. Do not delude yourself by imagining such source to be some God outside you. One’s source is within yourself. Give yourself up to it…[S]eek the source and merge in it.” (Talks, 182). An individual cannot be the Supreme and enjoy the Bliss of that state. The individuality, therefore, must be maintained on the one hand and God-head on the other so that enjoyment may result. “It is enough,” Maharshi says, “that one surrenders oneself. Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one’s being. Do not delude yourself by imagining such source to be some God outside you. One’s source is within oneself … you should seek the source and merge in it. Because you imagine yourself to be out of it, you raise the question “Where is the source?” (Talks, 182). Devotion, according to Maharshi, is nothing more than knowing oneself.

Works Cited:

Cohen, S. Reflections on Talks With Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanashramam, 2009

Godman, David, ed. Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. London & New Delhi: Penguin, 1992

Mahadevan, T.M.P. Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1010

Maharshi, Ramana. Talks With Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 2013

Maharshi, Ramana, Who Am I?. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 2010

Radhakrishnan, S. Indian Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin and  New York: The Humanities Press, 1966



Bibhu Padhi’s tenth book of poems, Meditations on Being (HarperCollins), is due out in June-2015. He has also written a critical study of D. H. Lawrence and coauthored (with his wife, Minakshi Padhi) a reference book on Indian Philosophy and Religion. He lives in Bhubaneswar, India.


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The perfect gift for the history lover in your life. Order on Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon, Amazon UK, or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon or Amazon UK or wherever books are sold

Order at Amazon, Amazon UK, or wherever books are sold. 

Order at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Available at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

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