The great Sage Ramana Maharshi was always advising his visitors and students to ‘come back to ones deeper self’, these were not his words but this is partially the essence of what he discussed. He reminded us to stop running into the world and getting caught in the trap of things that sparkle and shine and turn the attention to the awareness of what is behind the experiencer of the world/s, to escape the mousetrap, the room full of mirrors with distorted images. Often Spiritual aspirants and philosophers translate Ramana’s perspective of what some would erroneously define as reality into what they think he is saying. As we are attempting to discuss something that is outside our normal way of thinking, it does seem obvious that it would be easy for there to be misinterpretations, or more specifically there are many misassumptions made.
Digging into Ramana’s Words
I was looking at some text which is an extract from the book ‘Who Am I?’ and am once again reminded how if we are not alert, we can place a beard on the Mona Lisa, by this I mean add something that is not really there, we end up walking away with an impression in our thoughts that wasn’t said by the one who spoke the original words. The mind (or more precisely the part of us that creates our understanding of the world) interprets it and adds something of it’s own, it goes into the subconscious and we end up with yet another program that runs in the background and undermines us and blocks the view.
What is called ‘the world’ is only thoughts.
When the world disappears, that is,
When there are no thoughts, the mind experiences bliss;
When the world appears it experiences suffering … Ramana Maharshi
Any Sage who is worth his weight in pure honey straight from the honeybee will always tell you the world is only a network of thought, this for many people is easy to reflect on and go “yes, yes, sure thing”, there is a feeling that we have resolved an aspect of the mystery of life, in support of this we may even reference Particle Physics concepts and say things like “it’s all just atoms in motion and nothing is static”, we feel there is a resolve because an idea has come to rest and assume we don’t have to think any more about it.
The Great Void of Existence
Where we often get into trouble is with the line ‘When the world disappears’. I am in agreement with bliss emerging when the mind disappears, this is a no brainer for a long time deep meditator. When we enter the Silence, the Great Void, the Emptiness, we take nothing with us, there is a dissolving. The human being, well at least what it is generally perceived to be a human being, has limited parameters, a series of senses and if we reach in a little deeper we will see we have what I will for this article define as ‘super-senses’. Regardless of these extra-normal super-senses they also have a finiteness about them, they have boundaries and they also don’t have a gate-pass into the Silence. It seems to be common to some Indian Spirituality (and this is not a criticism but an observation) to always want to transcend the world, to go beyond it, always running, getting out, it’s as if life is poison that must not be drunk, the beauty around us is our enemy, the world is an enchantress who has to be denied and turned into a widow if we are to find freedom. Although my foundation is in Jnana Yoga, I do not prescribe to this limited view, this is the Mona Lisa’s mustache added by others. Jnana Yoga although is perceived by many great yogis to be ultimate state, this is not so.
Putting an End to the War Within
If we have the attitude that the world needs to be denied, that what is Spiritual is beyond, we end up being at war with the world around us. We need to rethink this, to arrive at something that allows us to taste the pure water of the mountain stream, to feel the wind against our face, watch the birds twist around in the vast blue space, to be moved into ecstasy at the sound of master musicians, to embrace the beating heart of another being, to gaze at the gaps in the trees as breeze moves them, to be enchanted by the colours of spring. Human life is a blessing and the bitterness and misunderstandings of the yogis who are running ‘inside’ should not be our guiding light, they have not reached the heart sanctuary, they are caught in a limbo and do not fully understand the role of the human species. Beyond question, it is necessary to drop into the great Void inside, however we need a reminder that everything emerges out of this and the future of man is in the creative potential and the secret of dissolution is in constantly abandoning oneself into it and spiraling out again . Partial truths are an entrapment and just because it sounds good and people can use the words of (supposedly) Sacred texts to back up their world view, does not mean they have an understanding of the very words they quote. Experience is greater than philosophy.
Thought, it’s All Thought
At the core of our problem is thought, and it is a universal problem; this is undeniable but that is where the road splits. Although most of the yogis will agree that thought is the problem, we are not necessarily speaking the same language; and i am NOT comfortable with “there are many paths and they all lead to same place” this is nonsense, it is a flippant statement used by people to close down dialogue. I am confident there are two paths, and I am hesitant to use the word paths, because it implies going somewhere. There are two perspectives. One is a ‘going somewhere’, trying to Become something, and the other is Being. The first is a movement away from the self, it is an endless journey of looking under rocks for the treasure; unknowingly it is enforcing a hidden mantra of ” I lack”, it is an attitude of I am not worthy, I will one day be better if I try, if I do a lot of Sadhana (Spiritual practice) then one day I will reach the goal. A wise man or woman would refer to this as the Path of Endless Becoming, and this path is what religions and half-baked-yogis thrive off. ‘One day God will save you or find you worthy’, can you see the problem with this? I was saying thought is the problem. All the seeking, beckoning for help is in essence running away, it increases a sense of ‘I’ , the ‘I’ has no substance, it is purely a conglomeration of thought, joined together it creates an imaginary being, this being is in constant flux, the idea of making the being better is seriously flawed. It is just thought. So we need to look at thought more closely. The word Ego is given too much attention, by trying to get rid of it, it strengthens its imaginary existence. It’s like a man who goes to a shonky doctor, and he tells the man he has a disease, the man runs hither and thither for a remedy, but he can never find one because the disease is not real, he spends his time and money attempting to fix the unfixable.
Rethinking it All
What I struggled with in the translation of Ramana’s text was ‘When the world appears it experiences suffering’. This is incorrect and it stems from the misunderstanding of the relationship between suffering and attachment. Where there is clinging there is pain. The world with all its beauty, its endless unfolding and cascading is an expression of the Underlying Super-Consciousness expressing itself; our eyes and those of other beings, our senses and our super senses are the only thing that will experience this externally, how can this be suffering? A form that emerges will experience it on the inside, that part of consciousness has a right to exist. It is the obsessiveness and morishness that is common to the human species that creates the problem. The mind is an empty canvas like the sky, sprinkled with thought-possibilities, but if it holds it too long, if it surpasses the use-by date of the relationship, then the suffering begins. Life itself is not suffering, it is the endless holding onto things, like a dog biting a leg that brings about pain. This is where the half-baked Yogis and I have a fork in the road. Yes thought is the problem, but in the same way that a fine surgeon or master wood craftsman uses their tools, beauty can emerge; in the hands of a buffoon, tools are dangerous.
” When the world appears, embrace its beauty
Then like the setting sun, let it fall back into space
Be empty like the sky,
As clouds pass by watch with wonder as they bid farewell”