A few days ago I wrote about Ramana giving initiation or transmission by looking into people’s eyes. Here’s another quote that makes the point even more clearly and concisely than the ones I already posted. The speaker is Sankarammal, a woman who worked in the ashram kitchen. V. Ganesan, who recorded her words, says she was Self-realized.
According to Sankarammal, “silence” was a near-synonym for transmission by gaze; Self-enquiry was regarded as a second-rate substitute for transmission; oral and written instructions were considered unnecessary.
Many contemporary followers of Ramana devote tremendous attention and thought to his written works. There’s nothing wrong with that — I’ve done the same — but I think it’s very valuable to balance those efforts with a careful consideration of what Sankarammal says in this quotation. Maybe it’s possible to overestimate the value of words and texts; maybe, if we spend too much time thinking about them, they can be counterproductive. Maybe there is something else we can do today, 73 years after Ramana’s eyes ceased to exist, that brings about the effect Sankarammal describes, a way of holding ourselves mentally, an openness, a readiness to receive Ramana’s gaze (which, by the way, comes from inside as much as outside), along with a suspension of disbelief that such an attitude can make sense three quarters of a century after his eyes were buried in the ground.
Bhagavan’s silence was his direct teaching. He taught Self-Enquiry to those who could not comprehend his silence; so Self-Enquiry actually takes a secondary place as far as his teaching is concerned. He imparted his teaching of silence by his mere grace filled glance. This is the look that Muruganar and others refer to as his glance of grace. There was never a need to talk to Bhagavan. He made me mature gradually and steadily. All of Bhagavan’s devotees extol Bhagavan’s look of grace; however, even that look was an external expression of his inner silence. Silence was the state of Bhagavan and his direct teaching was only through silence. Those who received his message of silence had no need whatsoever to talk to him, much less a need for his instructions. How can I possibly express in words the mysterious working of Bhagavan through silence? [Quoted in Ramana Periya Puranam, page 284; emphasis mine.]
Here’s a related quote from Annamalai Swami:
When I first came to the ashram I was so forgetful I rarely remembered anything that Bhagavan said. Because I was so forgetful, I used to keep a paper and pencil and write down whatever Bhagavan was saying.
I felt that my forgetfulness was a hindrance to absorbing Bhagavan’s teachings, so one day I approached hint and said, ‘Bhagavan, my memory is very bad. Could you please bless me with a good one.’
Bhagavan looked into my eyes for a few minutes without saying anything. From that day on my memory became very clear and sharp, so much so, I gave up carrying my pencil and paper.
[From Annamalai Swami: Final Talks, ed. David Godman, p. 76]
The state of firm consciousness [sthitaprajna], extolled highly in the Bhagavad Gita, was normal and effortless to Bhagavan. Therefore, like the sunstone that absorbs heat because of the mere presence of the sun, many thousands of devotees attained the state of Self-abidance by merely having the darshan of Bhagavan. Many intimate devotees knew this from their own experience. The multitude of devotees sanctified by Bhagavan’s darshan included many animals too. [Sadhu Natanananda, Sri Ramana Darsanam, Scene 3.]
Natanananda’s metaphor of the sunstone is helpful. (Ramana mentioned it earlier in paragraph 15 of Who Am I?) If we make ourselves like a rock that does nothing but sit in the sun, we receive Ramana’s gaze. We are the rock; the sun is the gaze; the gaze is Brahman. Brahman is always here. It can’t ever not be here, because we are it.
Here’s a quote from Paul Brunton’s red notebook which, thanks to the Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation, is now on the Internet in its original, unexpurgated form. If only Sri Ramanasramam were as competent and professional at curating manuscripts and negatives as the Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation!
When Maharshi is engaged in giving Tratkata [sic] to a devotee, sometimes he actually becomes cross-eyed, with this curious difference that the right eye remains looking steadily ahead, whilst the left eye gazes at an oblique angle and the effect is rather weird and mysterious. [Paul Brunton, Commentaries by Sri Ramana Maharshi (aka the red notebook), para. 157-1.]
Trataka means look, gaze, or stare in Sanskrit. The word is used as the name of a sadhana done by yogis. I don’t think the word is customarily used to refer to something given, as Brunton does here, but maybe I’m wrong and in any event, his meaning is clear.