Bhagavan Sri Ramana
In a comment on one of my recent articles, Why does Bhagavan sometimes say that the ātma-jñāni is aware of the body and world?, a friend called Ken wrote, ‘Ramana states: “The ego functions as the knot between the Self which is Pure Consciousness and the physical body which is inert and insentient.” Therefore, there is nothing that can experience other than the Self. […] since the body is insentient (cannot experience), and only the Self can experience, then any experience that occurs, can only be experienced by the Self’, but contrary to what he argues in this comment and in several other ones, what experiences everything (all forms or phenomena) is not ‘the Self’ (ourself as we actually are) but only ourself as this ego, as I will try to explain in this article.
HAPPINESS AND THE ART OF BEING
SELF-INVESTIGATION AND SELF-SURRENDER
Sri Ramana often said that there are only two means by which we can attain the experience of true self-knowledge, namely self investigation and self-surrender. However, he also said that these two means or ‘spiritual paths’ are truly one in essence. That is, though they are described in different words, in their actual practice they are identical. What exactly are these two means or paths, how are they one in essence, what is their one essence, and why did he describe that one essence in these two different ways?
According to the ancient philosophy of vedanta, there are four paths that lead to spiritual emancipation, namely the ‘path of [desireless] action’ or karma marga, the ‘path of devotion’ or bhakti marga, the ‘path of union’ or yoga marga, and the ‘path of knowing’ or jñana marga. Of these four paths, the second and the fourth are the principal means, while the first and the third are merely subsidiary aspects of these two principal means. In other words, all the various types of spiritual practice or ‘paths’ can in essence be reduced to these two principal paths, the ‘path of knowing’ and the ‘path of devotion’. If any practice does not contain an element of either or both of these two paths, it cannot lead us to the state of spiritual emancipation, the state in which we are freed from the bondage of finite existence.
The two means to attain true self-knowledge taught by Sri Ramana correspond to these twin paths of ‘knowing’ and ‘devotion’.
The practice of self-investigation is the true ‘path of knowing’, and
HAPPINESS AND THE ART OF BEING
When we identify ourself with a body made of flesh, we become that flesh, but when we cease to identify ourself with that flesh and know ourself to be mere spirit, we are born again as our original nature, the pure spirit or consciousness ‘I am’.
The need for us to sacrifice our individuality in order to be born anew as the spirit is a recurring theme in the teachings of Jesus Christ. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12.24-25).
“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17.33). “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10.38-39).
“If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16.24-26, and also Mark 8.34-37 and Luke 9.23-25).
That is, in order to rediscover our true and eternal life as the spirit, we must lose our false and transient life as an individual. If we seek to preserve our false individuality, we shall in effect be losing our real spirit. This is the price we have to pay to live as an individual in this world.
Therefore, whatever we may gain or achieve in this world, we do so at the cost of losing our real self, the state of perfection and wholeness (which in this context is what Christ means by the term our ‘own soul’). In exchange for regaining our original and perfect state of wholeness, we have only to give up our individuality and all that goes with it. Which is truly profitable, to lose the whole and gain merely a part, or to give up a mere part in exchange for the whole?
In order to give up or lose our individuality, as Christ had done, he says that we must follow him by denying ourself and taking up our cross. To deny ourself means to refrain from rising as an individual separate from God, who is the whole – the ‘fullness of being’ or totality of all that is. To take up our cross means to embrace the death or destruction of our own individuality, because in the time of Christ the cross was a powerful symbol of death, being the usual instrument of execution. Thus, though he used somewhat oblique language to express it, Christ repeatedly emphazised the truth that in order to rediscover our real life as the spirit we must sacrifice our false life as an individual.
This sacrifice of our individuality or identification with the flesh, and our consequent resurrection or rebirth as the spirit, was symbolised by Christ through his own crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. By dying on the cross and rising again from the dead, Christ gave us a powerful symbolic representation of the truth that in order to become free from the ‘original sin’ of identification with the flesh and thereby to enter the ‘kingdom of God’, we must die or cease to exist as a separate individual, and thereby rise again as the pure spirit, the infinite consciousness ‘I am’.