For Sri Ramana, a true Guru is someone who has realized the Self and who is able to use his power to assist others towards the goal of Self-realization. He often said that God, Guru and the Self are identical; the Guru is God in human form and, simultaneously, he is also the Self in the Heart of each devotee. Because he is both inside and outside, his power works in two different ways. The outer Guru gives instructions and by his power enables the devotee to keep his attention on the Self; the inner Guru pulls the devotee’s mind back to its source, absorbs it in the Self and finally destroys it.
It is a basic tenet of Sri Ramana’s teaching that a Guru is necessary for almost everyone who is striving towards a permanent awareness of the Self; except in rare instances, ignorance of the Self is so deeply rooted that individual seekers are unable to escape from it by their own efforts. So while a Guru is indispensable for those seeking Self-realization, he also pointed out that the Guru has no power to bring about realization in those who are not energetically seeking it. If the individual seeker makes a serious attempt to discover the Self, then the grace and power of the Guru will automatically start to flow.
“Guru is the Self. Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires through prayer to God. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain his grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God’s grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association. The devotee’s mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm expanse is the Self.
The Guru is both external and internal. From the exterior he gives a push to the mind to turn it inwards. From the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quietening of the mind. That is Guru’s grace. There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self.”
“Peace, the one thing which is desired by everyone, cannot be attained in any way, by anyone, at any time or in any place, unless stillness of mind is obtained through the grace of the sadguru. Therefore always seek that grace with a one-pointed mind.”
“Divine grace is essential for realization. It leads one to God realization. But such grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee or yogi. It is given only to those who have striven hard and ceaselessly on the path towards freedom.”
The essence of Sri Ramana’s teachings is conveyed in his frequent assertions that there is a single immanent reality, directly experienced by everyone, which is simultaneously the source, the substance and the real nature of everything that exists. He gave it a number of different names, each one signifying a different aspect of the same indivisible reality: The Self, Sat-chit-ananda, God, The Heart, Jnana, Turiya and turyatita, sahaj stithi and swarupa.
The term he used most frequently was The Self. He defined it by saying that the real Self or real ‘I’ is not an experience of individuality but a non-personal, all-inclusive awareness. It is not to be confused with the individual self which was essentially non-existent, being a fabrication of the mind which obscures the true experience of the real Self. He maintained that the real Self is always present and always experienced, but one is consciously aware of it as it really is when the self-limiting tendencies of the mind have ceased. Permanent and continuous Self-awareness is known as Self-realization.
Hindu philosophy postulates three alternating levels of relative consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep. Sri Ramana stated that the Self was the underlying reality which supported the appearance of the other three temporary states. Because of this he sometimes called the Self turiya avastha or the fourth state. He occasionally used the word turiyatita or ‘transcending the ‘fourth’, to indicate that there are not really four states but only one real transcendental state.
“For the wise one who has known Self by divining within himself, there is nothing other than Self to be known. Why? Since the ego which identifies the form of a body as ‘I’ has perished, he (the wise one) is the formless existence-consciousness.
“For the wise one who has known Self by divining within himself, there is nothing other than Self to be known. Why? Since the ego which identifies the form of a body as ‘I’ has perished, he (the wise one) is the formless existence-consciousness. It is false to speak of realization. What is there to realize? The real is as it is always. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the space there. The space was there then, and is also there now. Similarly, we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.”
“There is only one state, that of consciousness or awareness or existence. We may roughly put it like this. Existence or consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking, we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep, we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it. Because by long habit we have been regarding these three states as real, we call the state of mere awareness or consciousness the fourth. There is however no fourth state, but only one state.”
“In deep sleep man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and not due to external causes. One must realize the Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.”
Each of the spiritual centers of India has its own character and line of tradition. Among them all it is Tiruvannamalai (Arunachala) that represents the most direct, the most formless and the least ritualistic of paths, the path of Self-enquiry, whose gateway is silent initiation. This is expressed in the old Tamil saying: “To see Chidambaram, to be born at Tiruvarur, to die at Banaras or even to think of Arunachala is to be assured of Liberation.” “Even to think of” – for in the case of the direct path, physical contact is not necessary. Hence, it was no accident that the Maharshi made Tiruvannamalai and its sacred Arunachala Mountain his home.
The Maharshi called Arunachala the spiritual Heart of the world. Aruna, which means ‘red, bright like fire’, does not signify the mere fire that gives off heat. Rather, it means Jnanagni, the Fire of Wisdom, which is neither hot nor cold. Achala signifies hill. Thus, Arunachala means ‘Hill of Wisdom’.
Tiruvannamalai, situated at the foot of Arunachala, is a town of medium size, 120 miles southwest of Chennai, an ancient village with a large and splendid temple. Certain yearly festivals draw large crowds of pilgrims to Tiruvannamalai from all over South India. This is especially so during Karthigai (also known as Deepam), which usually falls in November. On this occasion a beacon light of clarified butter (ghee) is lit at nightfall on the summit of the mountain. At Sri Ramanasramam, the greatest festivals are the anniversaries of the birth and passing of the Maharshi (Jayanti and Aradhana), which fall respectively at the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
There is a Puranic story about the origin of the hill. Once Vishnu and Brahma fell to disputing which of them was the greater. Their quarrel brought chaos on earth, so the Devas approached Siva and besought him to settle the dispute. Siva thereupon manifested himself as a column of light from which a voice issued declaring that whoever could find its upper or lower end was the greater. Vishnu took the form of a boar and burrowed down into the earth to find the base, while Brahma took the form of a swan and soared upwards to seek its summit. Vishnu failed to reach the base of the column but “beginning to see within himself the Supreme Light which dwells in the hearts of all, he became lost in meditation, oblivious to the physical body and even unaware of himself, the one who sought”. Brahma saw the flower of an alse plant falling through the air and, thinking to win by deception, returned with it and declared he had plucked it from the summit. Vishnu admitted his failure and turned to the Lord in praise and prayer: “You are Self-knowledge. You are OM. You are the beginning and the middle and the end of everything. You are everything and illuminate everything.” He was pronounced great while Brahma was exposed and confessed his fault.
In this legend, Vishnu represents the intellect and Brahma the ego, while Siva is Atma, the spirit. The story continues that, because the lingam or column of light was too dazzling to behold, Siva manifested himself instead as the Arunachala hill, declaring: “As the moon derives its light from the sun, so other holy places shall derive their sanctity from Arunachala. This is the only place where I have taken this form for the benefit of those who wish to worship me and obtain illumination. Arunachala is OM itself. I will appear on the summit of this hill every year at Kartigai in the form of a peace-giving beacon.” This refers not only to the sanctity of Arunachala itself but also to the pre-eminence of the doctrine of Advaita and the path of Self-enquiry of which Arunachala is the center. One can understand this meaning in Sri Bhagavan’s saying, “In the end everyone must come to Arunachala.”
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