Note from Freddie: The author of this guest post is the friend who I quoted in an earlier article a few days ago. Here’s his answer to the first question that readers asked.
Welcome to all who read this. I should like firstly to thank Freddie for giving me the opportunity to speak to you and secondly, would ask you to bear in mind, whilst reading this, that what is written here comes not from the ego-I but rather the Self-I, the Self of all of us in truth, in the manner suggested by the earlier post.
Two queries are raised in that post. In this reply I shall deal with the first, regarding the method used to gain this state. If you still care to hear what I have to say after reading this, then I shall write again concerning the second query over the purification of the mind, a topic of utmost importance.
In order for what I have to say to be meaningful, I shall have to backtrack a little and say something of my relationship with my guru, Ramana Maharshi. I’ll try not to make it overlong and promise I will get to the point eventually.
I have never consciously sought a guru, either living or dead, and, in fact, firmly rejected the idea, on the basis that every human being must, by definition, come into this world with at least the potential of realising his or her own Self-nature without any outside help. However, soon after I came into the presence of Bhagavan — arriving at Sri Ramanasramam on a bus from Bangalore at around 3 am in the morning in January 1980 — I realised, from the changes that began to occur within myself, that He was my true guru and I needed to seek no further.
Fast forward two decades and I have returned to the UK after several years in India, married, cared for elderly parents, and helped bring up a step-child and two step-grandchildren. Most of my worldly responsibilities being now at an end, I have begun in 2004 to return to India again with my wife, after an absence of nearly 20 years.
In 2013, I think it was, I bought the book Conscious Immortality in the ashram bookstore, a book which plays an important role in the story I am about to tell. It had been out of print for many years and until then, I had not been aware of its existence. It is basically satsang notes compiled by Paul Brunton during his time with Sri Ramana, many of which coincide with the records made by Mungala S. Venkataramiah, the author of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Although superficially similar, I found in Conscious Immortality what I would call a manual for enlightenment, with numerous practical hints and tips on spiritual practice. Much as I had admired Talks, a veritable modern Upanishad in its own way, I had never found in it the sense of immediacy of contact with Sri Ramana that I found in Conscious Immortality.
About a year ago, perhaps, I began to feel drawn to this book and I began to read a few pages every day, returning to the beginning and starting again each time I got to the end. There are two themes that dominate in this book. The first is that of the deep sleep state as a clue to the state of waking sleep, jagrat shushupti, sahaja samadhi, which is experienced in the state of realisation. The second theme was that concerning the paramount importance of dwelling on the ‘I’ sense in a very focused manner and resolutely turning the attention back there upon the arising of any thought. By comparison, little is said in this book about the enquiry ‘Who am I.’ Sri Ramana says in Conscious Immortality somewhere that realisation is a function of feeling rather than thought, which was a relief to me, because I had always felt frustration with the ‘Who am I’ enquiry, which always seemed to me to lead down an avenue of the mind straight into a brick wall, if I may use that analogy, leaving me with nowhere to go.
At this point I shall quote from Conscious Immortality:
The Self is like a powerful hidden magnet within us. It draws us gradually to itself, though we imagine we are going to it of our own accord. When we are near enough, it puts an end to our outer activities, makes us still, and then swallows up our own personal current, thus killing our personality. It overwhelms the intellect and floods the whole being. We think we are meditating upon it and developing towards it, whereas the truth is that we are as iron filings and it is the Atman-magnet that is pulling us towards itself. Thus the process of finding the Self is a form of Divine Magnetism.
It is necessary to practise meditation frequently and regularly until the condition induced becomes habitual and permanent throughout the day. Therefore meditate.
I assume here that by ‘meditate’ Sri Ramana is referring to the dwelling on the ‘I’ sense or current, mentioned earlier.
After the expulsion of name and form (nama-rupa) which compose the external world, and by dwelling on existence-knowledge-bliss (sat-chit-ananda) take care to prevent the entry into the mind of the expelled name and form.
Reading this and being certain that Sri Ramana’s words could not be other than the truth, I became convinced that a sure way to lose the ego, and thus, by default, gain the Self, would be to hold onto the ‘I’ sense with tenacity until such time as the Self ‘swallowed up’ this ego-mind, which was being coerced to cling onto it, and it merged with that Self.
Of course such ideas were not new to me after so many years of efforts in that direction which had failed. The problem was how to keep the ‘I’ awareness in the proximity of the Self without it wandering off, in order that this process outlined by Sri Ramana might occur. Thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that a good means for keeping the ‘I’ current within the vicinity of the Self current would be to identify a place in the body in or at which to anchor it, to tether it, as it were, so that when the mind wandered it could not travel far and could therefore easily be drawn back. I identified such a place in myself as the locus of the ‘I’ sense on the right side of the chest, just below the right breast. I found that by slightly exaggerating the breath and consciously breathing into and out of this place, I could keep the ‘tether’ tight, never allowing the mind to wander far. Gradually, over a period of several weeks, the process intensified to the point where my whole body was involved in it, a kind of burning vibration, as the ego-mind fought desperately to escape the growing power of the Self current and save itself from extinction. At some point the ego-I must have given up the struggle and got sucked into and annihilated in the Self, just as Sri Ramana had predicted it would, and I experienced the transformation of consciousness described in the earlier post. I didn’t notice it happen as such but rather noticed that it had happened very shortly after it did.
This is not the place to delve into the ramifications of the process described here but it seems fitting to end with a verse from Ozhivil Odukkam by Kannudaiya Vallalar, describing the condition of the disciple who has just realised the Self.
205. For them, all that has its root in desire has gone; the idea ‘I am That’ is no more; infused with the divine love in which there is neither knowing nor absence of knowledge, they dance the silent dance of blissful joy; they move about with the playful innocence of children.
Text copyright 2019 A Ramana Devotee