I seek refuge at the sacred feet of the blessed Ramana, who performs
the entire work of creation, preservation and destruction, while
remaining wholly unattached, and who makes us aware of what is real and
thus protects us, that I may set down his words fittingly.
of the Work
Worshipping with the instruments (of thought, word and body) the
sacred lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the very embodiment
of the beginningless infinite supreme Brahman, the Satchitananda
(existence, consciousness, bliss), I have gathered this bouquet of the
flowers of his instructions (upadesamanjari) for the benefit of those
who are foremost among the seekers of Liberation and who are adored by
learned persons, in order that they might adorn themselves with it and
This book is an epitome of the immortal words of that great soul, Sri
Ramana Maharshi, whose teachings entirely dispelled the doubts and wrong
notions of this humble person even as the sun dispels darkness.
The subject of this book is that eternal Brahman which shines as the
pinnacle and heart of all the Vedas and Agamas.
That incomparable Self-realization (atmasiddhi) which is praised by
all the Upanisads and which is the supreme good to be sought by all
noble aspirants (brahmavids) is the theme of this work.
1. What are the marks of a real teacher (Sadguru)?
Steady abidance in the Self, looking at all with an equal eye,
unshakeable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances, etc.
2. What are the marks of an earnest disciple (sadsisya)?
An intense longing for the removal of sorrow and attainment of joy and
an intense aversion for all kinds of mundane pleasure.
3. What are the characteristics of instruction (upadesa)?
The word 'upadesa' means : 'near the place or seat' (upa - near, desa -
place or seat). The Guru who is the embodiment of that which is
indicated by the terms sat, chit, and ananda (existence, consciousness
and bliss), prevents the disciple who, on account of his acceptance of
the forms of the objects of the senses, has swerved from his true state
and is consequently distressed and buffeted by joys and sorrows, from
continuing so and establishes him in his own real nature without
Upadesa also means showing a distant object quite near. It is brought
home to the disciple that the Brahman which he believes to be distant
and different from himself is near and not different from himself.
4. If it be true that the Guru is one's own Self (atman), what is
the principle underlying the doctrine which says that, however learned a
disciple may be or whatever occult powers he may possess, he cannot
attain self-realization (atma-siddhi) without the grace of the Guru?
Although in absolute truth the state of the Guru is that of oneself it
is very hard for the Self which has become the individual soul (jiva)
through ignorance to realize its true state or nature without the grace
of the Guru.
All mental concepts are controlled by the mere presence of the real
Guru. If he were to say to one who arrogantly claims that he has seen
the further shore of the ocean of learning or one who claims arrogantly
that he can perform deeds which are well-nigh impossible, "Yes, you
learnt all that is to be learnt, but have you learnt (to know) yourself?
And you who are capable of performing deeds which are almost impossible,
have you seen yourself?", they will bow their heads (in shame) and
remain silent. Thus it is evident that only by the grace of the Guru and
by no other accomplishment is it possible to know oneself.
5. What are the marks of the Guru's grace?
It is beyond words or thoughts.
6. If that is so, how is it that it is said that the disciple
realizes his true state by the Guru's grace?
It is like the elephant which wakes up on seeing a lion in its dream.
Even as the elephant wakes up at the mere sight of the lion, so too is
it certain that the disciple wakes up from the sleep of ignorance into
the wakefulness of true knowledge through the Guru's benevolent look of
7. What is the significance of the saying that the nature of the
real Guru is that of the Supreme Lord (Sarvesvara)?
In the case of the individual soul which desires to attain the state of
true knowledge or the state of Godhood (Isvara) and with that object
always practises devotion, when the individual's devotion has reached a
mature stage, the Lord who is the witness of that individual soul and
identical with it, comes forth in human form with the help of sat-chit-ananda,
His three natural features, and form and name which he also graciously
assumes, and in the guise of blessing the disciple, absorbs him in
Himself. According to this doctrine the Guru can truly be called the
8. How then did some great persons attain knowledge without a
To a few mature persons the Lord shines as the light of knowledge and
imparts awareness of the truth.
9. What is the end of devotion (bhakti) and the path of Siddhanta
(i.e., Saiva Siddhanta)?
It is to learn the truth that all one's actions performed with unselfish
devotion, with the aid of the three purified instruments (body, speech
and mind), in the capacity of the servant of the Lord, become the Lord's
actions, and to stand forth free from the sense of 'I' and 'mine'. This
is also the truth of what the Saiva-Siddhantins call para-bhakti
(supreme devotion) or living in the service of God (irai-pani-nittral).
10. What is the end of the path of knowledge (jnana) or Vedanta?
It is to know the truth that the 'I' is not different from the Lord (Isvara)
and to be free from the feeling of being the doer (kartrtva, ahamkara).
11. How can it be said that the end of both these paths is the
Whatever the means, the destruction of the sense 'I' and 'mine' is the
goal, and as these are interdependent, the destruction of either of them
causes the destruction of the other; therefore in order to achieve that
state of Silence which is beyond thought and word, either the path of
knowledge which removes the sense of 'I' or the path of devotion which
removes the sense of 'mine', will suffice. So there is no doubt that the
end of the paths of devotion and knowledge is one and the same.
NOTE: So long as the 'I' exists it is necessary to accept the Lord
also. If any one wishes to regain easily the supreme state of identity (sayujya)
now lost to him, it is only proper that he should accept this
12. What is the mark of the ego?
The individual soul of the form of 'I' is the ego The Self which is of
the nature of intelligence (chit) has no sense of 'I'. Nor does the
insentient body possess a sense of 'I'. The mysterious appearance of a
delusive ego between the intelligent and the insentient, being the root
cause of all these troubles, upon its destruction by whatever means,
that which really exists will be seen as it is. This is called
1. What is the method of practice?
As the Self of a person who tries to attain Self-realization is not
different from him and as there is nothing other than or superior to him
to be attained by him, Self-realization being only the realization of
one's own nature, the seeker of Liberation realizes, without doubts or
misconceptions, his real nature by distinguishing the eternal from the
transient, and never swerves from his natural state. This is known as
the practice of knowledge. This is the enquiry leading to
2. Can this path of enquiry be followed by all aspirants?
This is suitable only for the ripe souls. The rest should follow
different methods according to the state of their minds.
3. What are the other methods?
They are (i) stuti, (ii) japa, (iii) dhyana, (iv) yoga,(v)
(i) stuti is singing the praises of the Lord with a great
feeling of devotion.
(ii) japa is uttering the names of the gods or sacred mantras
like Om either mentally or verbally.(While following the methods of
stuti and japa the mind will sometimes be concentrated (lit. closed) and
sometimes diffused (lit. open). The vagaries of the mind will not be
evident to those who follow these methods).
(iii) dhyana denotes the repetition of the names, etc.,
mentally (japa) with feelings of devotion. In this method the state of
the mind will be understood easily. For the mind does not become
concentrated and diffused simultaneously. When one is in dhyana it does
not contact the objects of the senses, and when it is in contact with
the objects it is not in dhyana. Therefore those who are in this state
can observe the vagaries of the mind then and there and by stopping the
mind from thinking other thoughts, fix it in dhyana. Perfection in
dhyana is the state of abiding in the Self (lit., abiding in the form of
'that' tadakaranilai) .
As meditation functions in an exceedingly subtle manner at the source of
the mind it is not difficult to perceive its rise and subsidence.
(iv) yoga: The source of the breath is the same as that of the
mind; therefore the subsidence of either leads effortlessly to that of
the other. The practice of stilling the mind through breath control (pranayama)
is called yoga. Fixing their minds on psychic centres such as the
sahasrara (lit. the thousand-petalled lotus) yogis remain any length of
time without awareness of their bodies. As long as this state continues
they appear to be immersed in some kind of joy. But when the mind which
has become tranquil emerges (becomes active again) it resumes its
worldly thoughts. It is therefore necessary to train it with the help of
practices like dhyana, whenever it becomes externalised. It will then
attain a state in which there is neither subsidence nor emergence.
(v) jnana is the annihilation of the mind in which it is made
to assume the form of the Self through the constant practice of dhyana
or enquiry (vichara). The extinction of the mind is the state in which
there is a cessation of all efforts. Those who are established in this
state never swerve from their true state. The terms 'silence' (mouna)
and inaction refer to this state alone.
NOTE: (1) All practices are followed only with the object of
concentrating the mind. As all the mental activities like remembering,
forgetting, desiring, hating, attracting, discarding, etc., are
modifications of the mind, they cannot be one's true state. Simple,
changeless being is one's true nature. Therefore to know the truth of
one's being and to be it, is known as release from bondage and the
destruction of the knot (granthi nasam). Until this state of
tranquillity of mind is firmly attained, the practice of unswerving
abidance in the Self and keeping the mind unsoiled by various thoughts,
is essential for an aspirant.
(2) Although the practices for achieving strength of mind are
numerous, all of them achieve the same end. For it can be seen that
whoever concentrates his mind on any object, will, on the cessation of
all mental concepts, ultimately remain merely as that object. This is
called successful meditation (dhyana siddhi). Those who follow the path
of enquiry realize that the mind which remains at the end of the enquiry
is Brahman. Those who practise meditation realize that the mind which
remains at the end of the meditation is the object of their meditation.
As the result is the same in either case it is the duty of aspirants to
practise continuously either of these methods till the goal is reached.
4. Is the state of 'being still' a state involving effort or
It is not an effortless state of indolence. All mundane activities which
are ordinarily called effort are performed with the aid of a portion of
the mind and with frequent breaks. But the act of communion with the
Self (atma vyavahara) or remaining still inwardly is intense activity
which is performed with the entire mind and without break.
Maya (delusion or ignorance) which cannot be destroyed by any other
act is completely destroyed by this intense activity which is called
5. What is the nature of maya?
Maya is that which makes us regard as non-existent the Self, the
Reality, which is always and everywhere present, all-pervasive and
self-luminous, and as existent the individual soul (jiva), the world (jagat),
and God (para) which have been conclusively proved to be non-existent at
all times and places.
6. As the Self shines fully of its own accord why is it not
generally recognised like the other objects of the world by all persons?
Wherever particular objects are known it is the Self which has known
itself in the form of those objects. For what is known as knowledge or
awareness is only the patency of the Self (atma sakti). The Self is the
only sentient object. There is nothing apart from the Self. If there are
such objects they are all insentient and therefore cannot either know
themselves or mutually know one another. It is because the Self does not
know its true nature in this manner that it seems to be immersed and
struggling in the ocean of birth (and death) in the form of the
7. Although the Lord is all-pervasive it appears, from passages
like "adorning him through His Grace", that He can be known
only through His grace. How then can the individual soul by its own
efforts attain self-realization in he absence of the Lord's Grace?
As the Lord denotes the Self and as Grace means the Lord's presence or
revelation, there is no time when the Lord remains unknown. If the light
of the sun is invisible to the owl it is only the fault of that bird and
not of the sun. Similarly can the unawareness by ignorant persons of the
Self which is always of the nature of awareness be other than their own
fault? How can it be the fault of the Self? It is because Grace is of
the very nature of the Lord that He is well-known as 'the blessed
Grace'. Therefore the Lord, whose nature itself is Grace, does not have
to bestow His Grace. Nor is there any particular time for bestowing His
8. What part of the body is the abode of the Self?
The heart on the right side of the chest is generally indicated. This is
because we usually point to the right side of the chest when we refer to
ourselves. Some say that the sahasrara (the thousand-petalled lotus) is
the abode of the Self. But if that were true the head should not fall
forward when we go to sleep or faint.
9. What is the nature of the heart?
The sacred texts describing it say:
Between the two nipples, below the chest and above the abdomen, there
are six organs of different colours*. One of them resembling the bud of
a water lily and situated two digits to the right is the heart. It is
inverted and within it is a tiny orifice which is the seat of dense
darkness (ignorance) full of desires. All the psychic nerves (nadis)
depend upon it. It is the abode of the vital forces, the mind and the
light (of consciousness). (See Appendix to Reality in Forty Verses 18
But, although it is described thus, the meaning of the word heart (hrdayam)
is the Self (atman). As it is denoted by the terms existence,
consciousness, bliss, eternal and plenum (sat, chit, anandam, nityam,
purnam) it has no differences such as exterior and interior or up and
down. That tranquil state in which all thoughts come to an end is called
the state of the Self. When it is realized as it is, there is no scope
for discussions about its location inside the body or outside.
* These are not the same as the Chakras.
10. Why do thoughts of many objects arise in the mind even when
there is no contact with external objects?
All such thoughts are due to latent tendencies (purva samskaras). They
appear only to the individual consciousness (jiva) which has forgotten
its real nature and become externalised. Whenever particular things are
perceived, the enquiry "Who is it that sees them"? should be
made; they will then disappear at once.
11. How do the triple factors (i.e., knower, known and knowledge),
which are absent in deep sleep, samadhi, etc., manifest themselves in
the Self (in the states of waking and dreaming)?
From the Self there arise in succession
(i) Chidabhasa (reflected consciousness) which is a kind of luminosity.
(ii) Jiva (the individual consciousness) or the seer or the first
(iii) Phenomena, that is the world.
12. Since the Self is free from the notions of knowledge and
ignorance how can it be said to pervade the entire body in the shape of
sentience or to impart sentience to the senses?
Wise men say that there is a connection between the source of the
various psychic nerves and the Self, that this is the knot of the heart,
that the connection between the sentient and the insentient will exist
until this is cut asunder with the aid of true knowledge, that just as
the subtle and invisible force of electricity travels through wires and
does many wonderful things, so the force of the Self also travels
through the psychic nerves and, pervading the entire body, imparts
sentience to the senses, and that if this knot is cut the Self will
remain as it always is, without any attributes.
13. How can there be a connection between the Self which is pure
knowledge and the triple factors which are relative knowledge?
This is, in a way, like the working of a cinema as shown below:-
The lamp inside (the apparatus)
The lens in front of the lamp
The pure (sattvic) mind close to the Self.
The film which is a long series of (separate photos).
The stream of latent tendencies consisting of subtle thoughts.
The lens, the light passing through it and the lamp, which
together form the focused light.
The mind, the illumination of it and the Self, which together form
the seer or the Jiva.
The light passing through the lens and falling on the screen.
The light of the Self emerging from the mind through the senses,
and falling on the world.
The various kinds of pictures appearing in the light of the
The various forms and names appearing as the objects perceived in
the light of the world.
The mechanism which sets the film in motion.
The divine law manifesting the latent tendencies of the mind.
Just as the pictures appear on
the screen as long as the film throws the shadows through the lens, so
the phenomenal world will continue to appear to the individual in the
waking and dream states as long as there are latent mental impressions.
Just as the lens magnifies the tiny specks on the film to a huge size
and as a number of pictures are shown in a second, so the mind enlarges
the sprout-like tendencies into tree-like thoughts and shows in a second
innumerable worlds. Again, just as there is only the light of the lamp
visible when there is no film, so the Self alone shines without the
triple factors when the mental concepts in the form of tendencies are
absent in the states of deep sleep, swoon and samadhi. Just as the lamp
illumines the lens, etc., while remaining unaffected, the Self illumines
the ego (chidabhasa), etc., while remaining unaffected.
14. What is dhyana (meditation)?
It is abiding as one's Self without swerving in any way from one's real
nature and without feeling that one is meditating. As one is not in the
least conscious of the different states (waking, dreaming, etc.) in this
condition, the sleep (noticeable) here is also regarded as dhyana.
15. What is the difference between dhyana and samadhi?
Dhyana is achieved through deliberate mental effort; in samadhi there is
no such effort.
16. What are the factors to be kept in view in dhyana ?
It is important for one who is established in his Self (atma nista) to
see that he does not swerve in the least from this absorption. By
swerving from his true nature he may see before him bright effulgences,
etc., or hear (unusual) sounds or regard as real the visions of gods
appearing within or outside himself. He should not be deceived by these
and forget himself.
NOTE: (i) If the moments that are wasted in thinking of the objects
which are not the Self, are spent on enquiry into the Self,
self-realization will be attained in a very short time.
(ii) Until the mind becomes established in itself some kind of bhavana
(contemplation of a personified god or goddess with deep emotion and
religious feeling) is essential. Otherwise the mind will be frequently
assailed by wayward thoughts or sleep.
(iii) Without spending all the time in practising bhavanas like 'I am
Siva' or 'I am Brahman', which are regarded as nirgunopasana
(contemplation of the attributeless Brahman), the method of enquiry into
oneself should be practised as soon as the mental strength which is the
result of such upasana (contemplation) is attained.
(iv) The excellence of the practice (sadhana) lies in not giving room
for even a single mental concept (vritti)
17. What are the rules of conduct which an aspirant (sadhaka)
Moderation in food, moderation in sleep and moderation in speech.
18. How long should one practice?
Until the mind attains effortlessly its natural state of freedom from
concepts, that is till the sense of 'I' and 'mine' exists no longer.
19. What is the meaning of dwelling in solitude (ekanta vasa)?
As the Self is all-pervasive it has no particular place for solitude.
The state of being free from mental concepts is called 'dwelling in
20. What is the sign of wisdom (viveka)?
Its beauty lies in remaining free from delusion after realising the
truth once. There is fear only for one who sees at least a slight
difference in the Supreme Brahman. So long as there is the idea that the
body is the Self one cannot be a realizer of truth whoever he might be.
21. If everything happens according to karma (prarabdha: the
result of one's acts in the past) how is one to overcome the obstacles
to meditation (dhyana)?
Prarabdha concerns only the out-turned, not the in-turned mind. One who
seeks his real Self will not be afraid of any obstacle.
22. Is asceticism (sanyasa) one of the essential requisites for a
person to become established in the Self (atma nista)?
The effort that is made to get rid of attachment to one's body is really
towards abiding in the Self. Maturity of thought and enquiry alone
removes attachment to the body, not the stations of life (asramas), such
as student (brahmachari), etc. For the attachment is in the mind while
the stations pertain to the body. How can bodily stations remove the
attachment in the mind? As maturity of thought and enquiry pertain to
the mind these alone can, by enquiry on the part of the same mind,
remove the attachments which have crept into it through thoughtlessness.
But, as the discipline of asceticism (sanyasasrama) is the means for
attaining dispassion (vairagya), and as dispassion is the means for
enquiry, joining an order of ascetics may be regarded, in a way, as a
means of enquiry through dispassion. Instead of wasting one's life by
entering the order of ascetics before one is fit for it, it is better to
live the householder's life. In order to fix the mind in the Self which
is its true nature it is necessary to separate it from the family of
fancies (samkalpas) and doubts (vikalpas), that is to renounce the
family (samsara) in the mind. This is the real asceticism.
23. It is an established rule that so long as there is the least
idea of I-am-the-doer, Self-knowledge cannot be attained, but is it
possible for an aspirant who is a householder to discharge his duties
properly without this sense?
As there is no rule that action should depend upon a sense of being the
doer it is unnecessary to doubt whether any action will take place
without a doer or an act of doing. Although the officer of a government
treasury may appear, in the eyes of others, to be doing his duty
attentively and responsibly all day long, he will be discharging his
duties without attachment, thinking 'I have no real connection with all
this money' and without a sense of involvement in his mind. In the same
manner a wise householder may also discharge without attachment the
various household duties which fall to his lot according to his past
karma, like a tool in the hands of another. Action and knowledge are not
obstacles to each other.
24. Of what use to his family is a wise householder who is
unmindful of his bodily comforts and of what use is his family to him?
Although he is entirely unmindful of his bodily comforts, if, owing to
his past karma, his family have to subsist by his efforts, he may be
regarded as doing service to others. If it is asked whether the wise man
derives any benefit from the discharge of domestic duties, it may be
answered that, as he has already attained the state of complete
satisfaction which is the sum total of all benefits and the highest good
of all, he does not stand to gain anything more by discharging family
25. How can cessation of activity (nivritti) and peace of mind be
attained in the midst of household duties which are of the nature of
As the activities of the wise man exist only in the eyes of others and
not in his own, although he may be accomplishing immense tasks, he
really does nothing. Therefore his activities do not stand in the way of
inaction and peace of mind. For he knows the truth that all activities
take place in his mere presence and that he does nothing. Hence he will
remain as the silent witness of all the activities taking place.
26. Just as the Sage's past karma is the cause of his present
activities will not the impressions (vasanas) caused by his present
activities adhere to him in future?
Only one who is free from all the latent tendencies (vasanas) is a Sage.
That being so how can the tendencies of karma affect him who is entirely
unattached to activity?
27. What is the meaning of brahmacharya?
Only enquiry into Brahman should be called brahmacharya.
28. Will the practice of brahmacharya which is followed in
conformity with the (four) orders of life (asramas) be a means of
As the various means of knowledge, such as control of senses, etc., are
included in brahmacharya the virtuous practices duly followed by those
who belong to the order of students (brahmacharins) are very helpful for
29. Can one enter the order of ascetics (sanyasa) directly from
the order of students (brahmacharya)?
Those who are competent need not formally enter the orders of
brahmacharya, etc., in the order laid down. One who has realized his
Self does not distinguish between the various orders of life. Therefore
no order of life either helps or hinders him.
30. Does an aspirant (sadhaka) lose anything by not observing the
rules of caste and orders of life?
As the attainment (anusthana, lit. practice) of knowledge is the supreme
end of all other practices, there is no rule that one who remains in any
one order of life and constantly acquires knowledge is bound to follow
the rules laid down for that order of life. If he follows the rules of
caste and orders of life he does so for the good of the world. He does
not derive any benefit by observing the rules. Nor does he lose anything
by not observing them.
1. What is the light of consciousness?
It is the self-luminous existence-consciousness which reveals to the
seer the world of names and forms both inside and outside. The existence
of this existence-consciousness can be inferred by the objects
illuminated by it. It does not become the object of consciousness.
2. What is knowledge (vijnana)?
It is that tranquil state of existence-consciousness which is
experienced by the aspirant and which is like the waveless ocean or the
3. What is bliss?
It is the experience of joy (or peace) in the state of vijnana free of
all activities and similar to deep sleep. This is also called the state
of kevala nirvikalpa (remaining without concepts).
4. What is the state beyond bliss?
It is the state of unceasing peace of mind which is found in the state
of absolute quiescence, jagrat-sushupti (lit. sleep with awareness)
which resembles inactive deep sleep. In this state, in spite of the
activity of the body and the senses, there is no external awareness,
like a child immersed in sleep* (who is not conscious of the food given
to him by his mother). A yogi who is in this state is inactive even
while engaged in activity. This is also called sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi
(natural state of absorption in oneself without concepts).
* The acts of sleeping children like eating and drinking are acts
only in the eyes of others and not in their own. They do not therefore
really do those acts in spite of their appearing to do them.
5. What is the authority for saying that the entire moving and
unmoving worlds depend upon oneself?
The Self means the embodied being. It is only after the energy, which
was latent in the state of deep sleep, emerges with the idea of 'I' that
all objects are experienced. The Self is present in all perceptions as
the perceiver. There are no objects to be seen when the 'I' is absent.
For all these reasons it may undoubtedly be said that everything comes
out of the Self and goes back to the Self.
6. As the bodies and the selves animating them are everywhere
actually observed to be innumerable how can it be said that the Self is
If the idea 'I am the body' is accepted*, the selves are multiple. The
state in which this idea vanishes is the Self since in that state there
are no other objects. It is for this reason that the Self is regarded as
* The idea that one is one's body is what is called hrdaya-granthi
(knot of the heart). Of the various knots this knot, which binds
together what is conscious with what is insentient, is what causes
7. What is the authority for saying that Brahman can be
apprehended by the mind and at the same time that it cannot be
apprehended by the mind?
It cannot be apprehended by the impure mind but can be apprehended by
the pure mind.
8. What is pure mind and what is impure mind?
When the indefinable power of Brahman separates itself from Brahman and,
in union with the reflection of consciousness (chidabhasa) assumes
various forms, it is called the impure mind. When it becomes free from
the reflection of consciousness (abhasa), through discrimination, it is
called the pure mind. Its state of union with the Brahman is its
apprehension of Brahman. The energy which is accompanied by the
reflection of consciousness is called the impure mind and its state of
separation from Brahman is its non-apprehension of Brahman.
9. Is it possible to overcome, even while the body exists, the
karma (prarabdha) which is said to last till the end of the body?
Yes. If the agent (doer) upon whom the karma depends, namely the ego,
which has come into existence between the body and the Self, merges in
its source and loses its form, will the karma which depends upon it
alone survive? Therefore when there is no 'I' there is no karma.
10. As the Self is existence and consciousness, what is the reason
for describing it as different from the existent and the non-existent,
the sentient and the insentient?
Although the Self is real, as it comprises everything, it does not give
room for questions involving duality about its reality or unreality.
Therefore it is said to be different from the real and the unreal.
Similarly, even though it is consciousness, since there is nothing for
it to know or to make itself known to, it is said to be different from
the sentient and the insentient.
1. What is the state of attainment of knowledge?
It is firm and effortless abidance in the Self in which the mind which
has become one with the Self does not subsequently emerge again at any
time. That is, just as everyone usually and naturally has the idea, 'I
am not a goat nor a cow nor any other animal but a man', when he thinks
of his body, so also when he has the idea 'I am not the principles (tatwas)
beginning with the body and ending with sound (nada), but the Self which
is existence, consciousness and bliss', the innate self-consciousness (atmaprajna),
he is said to have attained firm knowledge.
2. To which of the seven stages of knowledge (jnana-bhoomikas)1
does the sage (jnani) belong?
He belongs to the fourth stage.
3. If that is so why have three more stages superior to it been
The marks of the stages four to seven are based upon the experiences of
the realized person (jivanmukta). They are not states of knowledge and
release. So far as knowledge and release are concerned no distinction
whatever is made in these four stages.
1 The seven jnana bhoomikas are:-
1. subheccha (the desire for enlightenment).
2. vicharana (enquiry).
3. tanumanasa (tenuous mind).
4. satwapatti (self-realization).
5. asamsakti (non-attachment).
6. padarthabhavana (non-perception of objects).
7. turyaga (transcendence).
Those who have attained the last four bhoomikas are called brahmavit,
brahmavidvara, brahmavidvariya and brahmavid varistha respectively.
4. As liberation is common to all, why is the varistha (lit. the
most excellent) alone praised excessively?
So far as the varistha's common experience of bliss is concerned he is
extolled only because of the special merit acquired by him in his
previous births which is the cause of it.
5. As there is no one who does not desire to experience constant
bliss what is the reason why all sages (jnanis) do not attain the state
It is not to be attained by mere desire or effort. Karma (prarabdha) is
its cause. As the ego dies along with its cause even in the fourth stage
(bhoomika), what agent is there beyond that stage to desire anything or
to make efforts? So long as they make efforts they will not be sages (jnanis)
. Do the sacred texts (srutis) which specially mention the varistha say
that the other three are unenlightened persons?
6. As some sacred texts say that the supreme state is that in
which the sense organs and the mind are completely destroyed, how can
that state be compatible with the experience of the body and the senses?
If that were so there would not be any difference between that state and
the state of deep sleep. Further how can it be said to be the natural
state when it exists at one time and not at another? This happens, as
stated before, to some persons according to their karma (prarabdha) for
some time or till death. It cannot properly be regarded as the final
state. If it could it would mean that all great souls and the Lord, who
were the authors of the Vedantic works (jnana granthas) and the Vedas,
were unenlightened persons. If the supreme state is that in which
neither the senses nor the mind exist and not the state in which they
exist, how can it be the perfect state (paripurnam)? As karma alone is
responsible for the activity or inactivity of the sages, great souls
have declared the state of sahaja nirvikalpa (the natural state without
concepts) alone to be the ultimate state.
7. What is the difference between ordinary sleep and waking sleep
In ordinary sleep there are not only no thoughts but also no awareness.
In waking sleep there is awareness alone. That is why it is called awake
while sleeping, that is the sleep in which there is awareness.
8. Why is the Self described both as the fourth state (turiya) and
beyond the fourth state (turiyatita)?
Turiya means that which is the fourth. The experiencers (jivas) of the
three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, known as visva, taijasa
and prajna, who wander successively in these three states, are not the
Self. It is with the object of making this clear, namely that the Self
is that which is different from them and which is the witness of these
states, that it is called the fourth (turiya). When this is known the
three experiencers disappear and the idea that the Self is a witness,
that it is the fourth, also disappears. That is why the Self is
described as beyond the fourth (turiyatita).
9. What is the benefit derived by the sage from the sacred books (Srutis)?
The sage who is the embodiment of the truths mentioned in the scriptures
has no use for them.
10. Is there any connection between the attainment of supernatural
powers (siddhis) and Liberation (mukti)?
Enlightened enquiry alone leads to Liberation. Supernatural powers are
all illusory appearances created by the power of maya (mayashakti).
Self-realization which is permanent is the only true accomplishment (siddhi).
Accomplishments which appear and disappear, being the effect of maya,
cannot be real. They are accomplished with the object of enjoying fame,
pleasures, etc. They come unsought to some persons through their karma.
Know that union with Brahman is the real aim of all accomplishments.
This is also the state of Liberation (aikya mukti) known as union (sayujya).
11. If this is the nature of Liberation (moksha) why do some
scriptures connect it with the body and say that the individual soul can
attain Liberation only when it does not leave the body?
It is only if bondage is real that Liberation and the nature of its
experiences have to be considered. So far as the Self (Purusha) is
concerned it has really no bondage in any of the four states. As bondage
is merely a verbal assumption according to the emphatic proclamation of
the Vedanta system, how can the question of Liberation, which depends
upon the question of bondage, arise when there is no bondage? Without
knowing this truth, to enquire into the nature of bondage and
Liberation, is like enquiring into the non-existent height, colour,
etc., of a barren woman's son or the horns of a hare.
12. If that is so, do not the descriptions of bondage and release
found in the scriptures become irrelevant and untrue?
No, they do not. On the contrary, the delusion of bondage fabricated by
ignorance from time immemorial can be removed only by knowledge, and for
this purpose the term 'Liberation' (mukti) has been usually accepted.
That is all. The fact that the characteristics of Liberation are
described in different ways proves that they are imaginary.
13. If that is so, are not all efforts such as study (lit.
hearing) reflection, etc., useless?
No, they are not. The firm conviction that there is neither bondage nor
liberation is the supreme purpose of all efforts. As this purpose of
seeing boldly, through direct experience, that bondage and liberation do
not exist, cannot be achieved except with the aid of the aforesaid
practices, these efforts are useful.
14. Is there any authority for saying that there is neither
bondage nor Liberation?
This is decided on the strength of experience and not merely on the
strength of the scriptures.
15. If it is experienced how is it experienced?
'Bondage' and 'Liberation' are mere linguistic terms. They have no
reality of their own. Therefore they cannot function of their own
accord. It is necessary to accept the existence of some basic thing of
which they are the modifications. If one enquires, 'for whom is there
bondage and Liberation?' it will be seen, 'they are for me'. If one
enquires, 'who am I?', one will see that there is no such thing as the
'I'. It will then be as clear as an amalaka fruit in one's hand that
what remains is one's real being. As this truth will be naturally and
clearly experienced by those who leave aside mere verbal discussions and
enquire into themselves inwardly, there is no doubt that all realized
persons uniformly see neither bondage nor Liberation so far as the true
Self is concerned.
16. If truly there is neither bondage nor Liberation what is the
reason for the actual experience of joys and sorrows?
They appear to be real only when one turns aside from one's real nature.
They do not really exist.
17. Is it possible for everyone to know directly without doubt
what exactly is one's true nature?
Undoubtedly it is possible.
It is the experience of everyone that even in the states of deep sleep,
fainting, etc., when the entire universe, moving and stationary,
beginning with earth and ending with the unmanifested (Prakriti),
disappear, he does not disappear. Therefore the state of pure being
which is common to all and which is always experienced directly by
everybody is one's true nature. The conclusion is that all experiences
in the enlightened as well as the ignorant state, which may be described
by newer and newer words, are opposed to one's real nature.
May this book consisting of the words of experience, which have come out
of the lotus heart of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, shine as a lamp of
true knowledge to illuminate the true minds of those who have renounced
May the world be blessed for long with the feet of Guru Ramana who
abides as that silent principle which absorbs all of us and remains by
itself as the root of the three principles (soul, world and Iswara).