Astonished by the vehemence with which he spoke

I recently posted a link to an article by David Godman that evaluates the accuracy of books that record Ramana’s teachings. One of David’s criteria for judging a book is whether Ramana reviewed and edited it.

We can apply this criterion not only to whole books, but also to shorter pieces of text like the one I’ve reprinted below, which was reviewed and approved by Ramana.

The person who recorded this statement, Prof. D.S. Sarma, wrote the following description of Ramana’s tone as he uttered it:

The audience assembled in the Hall were astonished at the vehemence with which the Maharshi spoke these words.

I’m too young to have met Ramana, but I have the impression that he was very seldom “vehement.” Apparently Ramana felt strongly — that’s not the right way to describe a jnani’s experience, but I don’t feel like fighting with the English language right now — about these words.

Here’s Sarma’s full account which appeared in The Mountain Path, April 1977:

The present writer, when he went to pay his respects to the Maharshi in September, 1946, put to him the following question:—

“In the lives of the western mystics we find descriptions of what is called the mystic way with the three well-marked stages of purgation, illumination and union. The purgatory stage corresponds to what we call the sadhana period. Was there any such period in the life of Bhagavan?”

And without the least hesitation came the following reply:—

“I know no such period. I never performed any pranayama or japa. I knew no mantras. I had no idea of meditation or contemplation. Even when I came to hear of such things later I was never attracted by them. Even now my mind refuses to pay any attention to them. Sadhana implies an object to be gained and the means of gaining it. What is there to be gained which we do not already possess? In meditation, concentration and contemplation, what we have to do is only not to think of anything, but to be still. This natural State is given many names — moksha, jnana, Atma, etc., and these give rise to many controversies. There was a time when I used to remain with my eyes closed. That does not mean that I was practising any sadhana then. Even now I sometimes remain with my eyes closed. If people choose to say that I am doing some sadhana at the moment, let them say so. It makes no difference to me. People seem to think that by practising some elaborate sadhana the Self would some day descend upon them as something very big and with tremendous glory and they would then have what is called sākshātkāram [realization]. The Self is sākshāt [visible, evident] all right, but there is no kāram [doing] or kritam [accomplished, acquired] about it. The word kāram implies one’s doing something. But the Self is realized not by one’s doing something, but by one’s refraining from doing anything — by remaining still and being simply what one really is.”

The audience assembled in the Hall were astonished at the vehemence with which the Maharshi spoke these words. He spoke, of course, in Tamil. The present writer later on put the speech into English and sent it to the Maharshi for approval. He approved it and it was published in Vedanta Kesari [a magazine] with the caption: Nastyakritah kritena. The latter is a quotation from the Mundaka Upanishad. It means that what is Uncreated cannot be gained by anything that one can do.

Bracketed definitions of Sanskrit words were added by Freddie.

Photo by Eliot Elisofon.

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