Ramana Maharshi's Direct Path
[Antara Vichara / Self-enquiry]
Ramana Maharshi & his teachings:
At the age of 16, Ramana Maharshi experienced a sudden fear of death. It was as if he was struck by a 'current' or 'force' that possessed him. Immediately, he initiated the process of Self-Enquiry; asking himself what is it that dies. He concluded that the body dies, but this 'current' or 'force' remains alive. He recognized it as an absolute unchanging reality underlying all that exists.
Primary teaching: Silence
In his words, "Silence is the true and perfect upadesa (teaching) suited only for the most advanced seeker. Others require words to comprehend the Truth. But Truth is beyond words; it does not warrant explanation.”
Secondary teaching: Antara Vichara (Self-investigation or Self-enquiry) Direct Path
He taught Self-Enquiry to those who could not comprehend his Silence. Self-enquiry is the process of finding the source of the 'I-thought'. He called this source the Heart or the Absolute Self.
'I am this' or 'I am that' is the Ego.
'I-thought' is the sense of individuality.
‘I-I’ is the Absolute Self.
By inquiring into the source of the 'I-thought', it will disappear and Self-awareness will appear. This is an 'effortless awareness of being', namely the 'I-I'. By staying with it, this 'I-I' gradually destroys the vasanas. With the destruction of vasanas, the mind comes to rest and finally, the 'I-thought' never rises again, which is Self-realization or liberation.
Tertiary teaching: Bhakti (Self-Surrender)
Although he advocated self-enquiry as the direct means to realization, he also recommended the path of bhakti (self-surrender) either concurrently or as an adequate alternative for those who found self-enquiry difficult.
In his words, “Surrender has to be complete and desireless, without any expectation of solutions, rewards, or even liberation. It is a willingness to accept whatever happens. Surrender is not the willful act of an individual self, but the growing awareness that there is no individual self to surrender. The practice of self-surrender is aimed at the removal of ignorance, not at the attainment of realisation.”
The direct path is the answer for the advanced seeker's questions.
In the life-span of spiritual seeking, one naturally matures to a stage of absolute authenticity in his spiritual search. One reaches a threshold where glimpses of clarity appear and disappear. These glimpses give birth to a natural withdrawal from the bouquet of external techniques. One's attention naturally moves:
- from the practice towards the practitioner,
- from the seeking to the seeker,
- from the observed to the observer.
At this stage, one is ready for the last step... the direct path... Tread this path only if your only goal is Awakening or Self-Realization!
Direct Path Levels:
The Direct Path or Antara Vichara [Self-Enquiry] Levels are simply structured curriculums designed for step-by-step progression through Ramana's teachings. It is recommended for a practitioner who prefers structure to avoid losing himself in the vast ocean of Knowledge!
[Step 1] Level 1 - Instructions for the practice of Self-Enquiry
Beginners in Self-Enquiry were advised by Sri Ramana Maharshi to put their attention on the inner feeling of ‘I’. The questions like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where does this ‘I’ come from?’ assist one on the path of self-enquiry. Self-enquiry is actually self-investigation.
[Step 2] Level 2 - From Ignorance to Awareness, from dreaming to waking
For the most advance practitioner, Sri Ramana taught that the Self/Consciousness/Supreme Truth/Awareness alone exists. It can be directly experienced merely by ceasing to pay attention to the wrong ideas we have about ourselves. These wrong ideas he collectively called ‘Not-Self’.
[Step 3] Level 3 - Understanding theories of Karma, Destiny, Free-will, Creation, Re-incarnation, etc.
All metaphysical discussion is profitless unless it causes us to seek within ourselves for the True Reality. All controversies about creation, universe, evolution, the purpose of God, Karma, Destiny etc. are useless. They are not conducive to our true happiness. People try to find out about things outside instead of finding ‘Who am I?’. Only by the latter means can happiness be gained.
[Step 4] Level 4 - Understanding the Guru-principle
Guru, Self, Heart – Sri Ramana often used these terms as synonyms for consciousness/awareness. Sri Ramana pointed out that the Guru has no power to bring about Self-realization in those who are not energetically seeking it. If the individual seeker makes a serious attempt to discover the Self, then the grace will flow. If no such attempt is made, the Guru is helpless.
The outer Guru gives instructions to devotee to keep attention on the Self/Awareness. The inner Guru pulls the devotee’s mind back to its source.
[Step 5] Level 5 - Other methods & Life in the world
Other techniques may sometimes bring one to an inner state of stillness in which self-attention inadvertently take place, but it is a roundabout way of reaching Self-Awareness. Other techniques only take you to the place where self-enquiry starts. He never endorsed them unless he felt the particular questioner was unable or unwilling to adopt self-enquiry.
[Step 6] Level 6 - The Goal
Q: What is the purpose of Self-Realization? What use is it?
A: Self-Realization is the final goal and is itself the purpose. Why do you ask about Self-Realization? Why don’t you rest content with your present state? It is evident that you are discontented and your discontent will come to an end if you realize yourself.
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