Thoughts on Ramana Maharshi



Ramana Maharshi was one of my first loves as I stumbled my way onto the spiritual path when I was in my early twenties. I loved him because he dealt with the very mystery I had been preoccupied with since my childhood: Who am I? What IS all this? What is consciousness?

Nisargadatta came into my life and mind much later, in my mid-50s. He was like an electric shock somehow. The first big publication of his words was a book called "I Am That." It was all about what Ramana Maharshi had been saying (or not saying, he spoke mostly in silence).

At an ashram in the late 60s I used to put his picture on a chair and just sit and stare at it. I could see in his eyes the very thing I had been longing for since 1966. Here is the famous picture of him which I used to just look at and adore.

I realized that there WERE people who had awakened somehow and lived in a kind of expanded awareness that we can barely dream of.

Ramana lived at the foot of the holy hill in south India called "Arunachala." It was sacred to Lord Shiva since ancient times and is also geologically very ancient.

Then came Nisargadatta like a lightning storm. Nisargadatta may have spoken in silence too, but he also spoke with words, lots of them. He gave talks to small groups nearly every day. Thanks to a genius named Maurice Friedman we have an astounding and clear translation of his words into English. The words, if read slowly and thoughtfully, will take you right into deep meditation. You just have to be a bit earnest about it. I see the book "I Am That" as the best meditation book I have ever read because it can TAKE YOU THERE.

The path of both Ramana and Nisargadatta is call the path of self-inquiry. You look at yourself fully to see what you are. Ramana had open this new 20th century path, but did not elaborate on the details of HOW to do this inquirey. Nisargadatta comes later and gives exact instruction and details and finally the words seem to glow and for a second, you are there.

Nisargadatta is fierce. He has awakened to what he truly IS, what we all ARE, and brooks no nonsense of any kind. "Those are all just mere concepts and ideas" he often says, causing built up theories to collapse to nothing. "Only one in 10,000 will get what I am driving at.

"I Am That" is an incredible roadmap through self inquiry, reading Nisargadatta's words slowly and carefully will actually induce a state (if you let it) of meditation. He makes you turn your consciousness to itself. Consciousness being aware of consciousness. Even that is not the final step. He talks about the Absolute, a kind of pure awareness beyond what we know as "consciousness." This pure awareness is what Franklin Merrill-Wolfe called "conciousness without an object." Nisargadatta puts it another way: "Awareness unaware of itself." Pure awareness. Not awareness OF anything, just an all pervading awareness.

Somehow this awareness gets stepped down into a relationship with matter in things called "organisms." We organisms share in Absolute (the pure awareness) via our own "consciousness." Another way it has been described by both Nisargadatta and the new scalar electromagnetics is that the organism acts like a kind of radio antenna, tuning in to the ubiquitous primal awareness and a kind of universal mind. I found this "tuning" idea very helpful in trying to understand the mind and brain and consciousness. Is the brain really a kind of radio receiving waves of consciousness and mind?

Thankfully, there are many bits and pieces of Nisargadatta's words on the net now, so one find examples of this most amazing self realized sage.

Here's a beautiful little clip which I found here. Nisargadatta is speaking:


The Sense of "I am" (Consciousness)

"When I met my Guru, he told me: 'You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense 'I am', find your real Self. I obeyed him, because I trusted him. I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence. And what a "difference it made, and how soon!

"My teacher told me to hold on to the sense 'I am' tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his "advice and in a comparatively short time I realized within myself the "truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am -- unbound.

"I simply followed (my teacher's) instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being 'I am', and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the 'I am' in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared -- myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around "me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence."

Nisargadatta Maharaj


And here N. tells the terrible truth, it is all illusion, maya. It is terrible only at first, and is probably because the ego begins to suspect that annihilation may be the outcome of following this line of meditation. I will cease to exists! it cries in horror. But it's not so bad. What opens up as a result is so much better than what is getting closed down that it soon takes up the attention. The new. The unknown unfolding.


"...realization is explosive. It takes place spontaneously, or at the slightest hint. The quick is not better than the slow. Slow ripening and rapid flowering alternate. Both are natural and right. Yet, all this is so in the mind only. As I see it, there is really nothing of the kind. In the great mirror of consciousness images arise and disappear and only memory gives them continuity. And memory is material -- destructible, perishable, transient. On such flimsy foundations we build a sense of personal existence -- vague, intermittent, dreamlike. This vague persuasion: 'I-am-so-and-so' obscures the changeless state of pure awareness and makes us believe that we are born to suffer and to die."

"The moment one becomes predictable, one cannot be free. Ones freedom lies in being free to fulfill the need of the moment, to obey the necessity of the situation. Freedom to do what one likes is really bondage, while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom."

"The very idea of going beyond the dream is illusory. Why go anywhere? Just realize that you are dreaming a dream you call the world, and stop looking for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your problem is that you like one part of the dream and not another. When you have seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs be done."


At a reader has this to say about Nisargadatta's book "I Am That."
"I want to echo what another reader said: Read with courage. It is one of the Most Amazing books I've ever read. It is unique in its clarity, forthrightness, and transformative power. We are tremendously fortunate that such a being is speaking openly about his state. I've read literally thousands of pages on books related to consciousness expansion and eastern spirituality. But after reading Nisargadatta's Maharaj, something in me has totally shifted. I can never think about things in the same way. "

"He never established any large ashram or following, as he could have easily done if he was looking for ego gratification. He simply was himself and gave of himself naturally to those around him."

I read the book "I Am That" 7 times and was reading it for the 8th time when I realized that because it automatically put me into meditation I might as well read it for the rest of my life. Finally I lost that copy, but it was okay because I had other volumes, like Nisargadatta's "The Ultimate Medicine." All of the books have the same effect on me: read about 2 or 3 pages carefully and then just sit in the resulting meditation process for some time. To me it is astounding. No other book affected me so, except perhaps "The Gospel of Ramakrishna" which was like being there in the presence of a God-intoxicated saint or avatar. That book is like receiving a dose of devotion, or "bhakti," Nisargadatta is a straight shot of "jnana," the path of the mind.

Objectively speaking, "I Am That" is the best book of its kind ever published. Actually the book is an edited open-ended, free-for-all type Socratic dialog between the Maharaj and various aspirants at a variety of levels of spiritual progress. As such, the Maharaj responses to a variety of inquiries are alternately inspiring, perplexing, abrasive, discouraging, exasperating, humorous, ridiculing but ultimately always spiritually exhilerating--especially for the devoted spiritual aspirant.

Another reader gives this small excerpt:


Questioner: "What do you see"

Maharaj: "I see what you too could see, here and now, but for the wrong focus of your attention. You give no attention to your self. Your mind is always with things, people and ideas, never with your self. Bring your self into focus, become aware of your own existence. See how you function, watch the motives and the results of your actions. Study the prision you have built around yourself, by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know your self."

Gradually the words of this sage are being translated into different languages. Here are a few more gems the spiritually revolutionary book "I Am That." A google search will bring you to more. These are worth printing and having as little aides when you sit down to meditate. Google "Nisargadatta Maharj."


"The real does not die, the unreal never lived. Set your mind right and all will be right. When you know that the world is one, that humanity is one, you will act accordingly. But first of all you must attend to the way you feel, think and live. Unless there is order in yourself, there can be no order in the world."

"Nothing is done by me, everything just happens I do not expect, I do not plan, I just watch events happening, knowing them to be unreal."

"Only a selfless society based on sharing can be stable and happy. This is the only practical solution. If you do not want it - fight."

"Whenever love is withheld and suffering allowed to spread, war becomes inevitable. Our indifference to our neighbor's sorrow brings suffering to our door."

"Yes, I appear to hear and see and talk and act, but to me it just happens as to you digestion or perspiration happens. The body-mind machine looks after it, but leaves me out of it. Just as you do not need to worry about growing hair, so I need not worry about words and actions. They just happen and leave me unconcerned, for in my world nothing ever goes wrong."

"The very search for pleasure is the cause of pain."

"The world is the adobe of desires and fears. You cannot find peace in it. For peace you must go beyond the world. The root cause of the world is self-love. Because of it we seek pleasure and avoid pain."
"There is no chaos in the world, except the chaos which your mind creates."

"For me the moment of death will be a moment of jubilation, not of fear. I cried when I was born and I shall die laughing."

Some Dialogues from Consciousness and the Absolute
The final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

The best compilation I have see is here at something called ASMI :


"Self-identification with the body-mind is the poison that brings bondage.

"There is no point in fighting desires and fears which may be perfectly natural and justified; it is the person, who is swayed by them, that is the cause of mistakes, past and future. This person should be carefully examined and its falseness seen; then its power over you will end. After all, it subsides each time you go to sleep. (448)

"All your preoccupations with yourself are only during waking hours and partly in your dreams; in sleep all is put aside and forgotten. It shows how little important is your waking life, even to yourself, that merely lying down and closing the eyes can end it. Each time you go to sleep, you do so without the least certainty of waking up and yet you accept the risk.

"Before you go further you must accept, at least as a working theory, that you are not what you appear to be, that you are under the influence of a drug. Then only will you have the urge and the patience to examine the symptoms and search for their common cause.

"The sense 'I am a person in time and space' is the poison. In a way, time itself is the poison. In time all things come to an end and new are born, to be devoured in their turn. Do not identify yourself with time, do not ask anxiously 'what next, what next?' Step out of time and see it devour the world.

"As long as there is the body and the sense of identity with the body, frustration is inevitable. Only when you know yourself as entirely alien to and different from the body, will you find respite from the mixture of fear and craving inseparable from the 'I-am-the-body' idea.

"While alive, the body attracts attention and fascinates so completely that rarely does one perceive one's real nature. It is like seeing the surface of the ocean and completely forgetting the immensity beneath.

"As long as you take yourself to be a person, a body and a mind, separate from the stream of life, having a will of its own, pursuing its own aims, you are living merely on the surface, and whatever you do will be short-lived and of little value, mere straw to feed the flames of vanity.

"We are free 'here and now', It is only the mind that imagines bondage. Once you know your mind and its miraculous powers, and remove what poisoned it -the idea of a separate and isolated person- you just leave it alone to do its work among things for which it is well suited.

"As long as we imagine ourselves to be separate personalities, one quite apart from another, we cannot grasp reality, which is essentially impersonal. First we must know ourselves as witnesses only, dimensionless and timeless centres of observation, and then realize that immense ocean of pure awareness, which is both mind and matter and beyond both.

"Nothings stops you from being a gnani here and now, except fear. You are afraid of being impersonal, of impersonal being. It is all quite simple. Turn away from your desires and fears and from the thoughts they create and you are at once in your natural state.

"The 'here' is everywhere, and the now always. Go beyond the 'I-am-the-body' idea and you will find that space and time are in you and not you in space and time. Once you have understood this, the main obstacle to realization is removed.

"When you are bound by the illusion 'I am this body', you are merely a point in space and a moment in time. When the self-identification with the body is no more, all space and time are in your mind, which is a mere ripple in consciousness, which is awareness reflected in nature.

"Once you realize that the person is merely a shadow of the reality, but not reality itself, you cease to fret and worry. You agree to be guided from within and life becomes a journey into the unknown.

"Your loss is your gain. When the shadow is seen to be a shadow only, you stop following it. You turn round and discover the sun which was there all the time - behind your back!

"Every existence is my existence, every consciousness is my consciousness, every sorrow is my sorrow and every joy is my joy - this is universal life. Yet, my real being, and yours too, is beyond the universe and, therefore, beyond the categories of the particular and the universal. It is what it is, totally self-contained and independent."



This compilation is a good way to dive into Nisargadatta's astonishing teaching.

Ramana feeds a monkey. Animals were unafraid around the sage and would approach him easily.