Ramana Maharshi 1

From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi number 628:

Mrs. D. said there were breaks in her awareness and desired to know how the awareness might be made continuous.

A break is a lapse or absence. Awareness is a synonym for consciousness. “Breaks in her awareness” means that Mrs. D. is slipping out of consciousness and falling into the unconscious lost-in-thoughts state. Mrs. D.’s desire for continuous awareness is a desire to stabilize in permanent consciousness. Permanent consciousness is one way to describe the goal of Self-enquiry.

Maharshi: Breaks are due to thoughts.

Breaks in consciousness happen because we get lost in thoughts.   This means that we think thoughts and let them absorb our attention.   “Lost in thoughts” is a synonym for “unconscious in the waking state.” If there were no thoughts, we would remain conscious in the waking state.

Maharshi: You cannot be aware of breaks unless you think so.

Breaks in waking consciousness happen because of thinking.    If there is no thought, there is no break.

Maharshi: It is only a thought.

A break in awareness is only a thought because a thought is what pulls us away from consciousness into the lost-in-thoughts state. Unconsciousness means lost in thought. We get lost in thought because we think a thought and let it absorb our attention.

Maharshi: Repeat the old practice, “To whom do thoughts arise?”

This is one of the suggestions that Ramana frequently gave people to help them regain consciousness. The idea is that when we ask “To whom do thoughts arise?” it causes our attention to focus on ‘I’ which seems conscious. I personally have never found this question or any question to be terribly effective for this purpose.  I think it’s easier to simply become conscious by a voluntary effort.   It’s like moving our hands; we don’t need to ask a question to move our hands.   However it takes some time to learn to do this.  Beginners may not be able to do it.

Maharshi: Keep up the practice until there are no breaks. Practice alone will bring about continuity of awareness.

Ramana is telling her to practice staying conscious until consciousness becomes continuous. “Continuous consciousness” is one of the ways to describe the goal of Self-enquiry. Consciousness is the Self. When we remain conscious continuously, we are immersing the mind in the Self and letting it dissolve.

For more information about the lost-in-thoughts state and consciousness, see my article How to Stop Thoughts.

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