February 28, 2021
I would like to thank Adarsh Kumar Bhatiani ji for inviting me to give a talk at the Ramana Kendra, Delhi. When that talk did not happen due to the March 2020 lockdown, we thought of this online session for Kendra members as well as for devotees of Bhagavan, and for everyone who has been attending these Zoom talks over the last few weeks.
I must add that I am not an expert on Ramana Maharshi’s teachings. There are people with far greater knowledge and insights; many videos on the internet that are available to all. Therefore, while pleasant, it was still a surprise to receive the invitation.
Bhagavan certainly does not need me to elaborate on these teachings. But I suppose there is a reason for everything and much like water, one goes with the flow.
I saw Ramana Maharshi’s photograph for the first time at Ramesh Balsekar’s satsang in Mumbai. During all my subsequent visits, I noticed that Rameshji, my spiritual guide, would bow down to a photograph of a man before entering the room for satsang; a man with white hair and white beard. This was my introduction to Ramana Maharshi.
I did not know who he was. I had not read any of his books nor had I heard about Tiruvannamalai or even the holy mountain, Arunachala Shiva. It was only due to the persistent image of my spiritual teacher bowing down to the photo before every satsang that the thought of paying a visit to the mountain and the ashram arose.
The Sacred Mountain: Visits to Arunachala
The first visit was with my dear friend Xavier Bertrand, in the high summer of May 2001. We climbed the sacred hill to the Skandashram and Virupaksha caves at 12 noon, unaware of how intense the heat would be. When we came down, all sweaty and tired, we could not bear the noise of the town and hence, after visiting the ashram and taking darshan of Bhagavan’s samadhi, we escaped to Pondicherry. I will never forget that trip. That was my first visit to the Sacred Mountain and I thought it would be my last.
The very next year, I received a call from my sister Nikki, who was living in Hong Kong at the time. By then, I had gotten into publishing quite by an accident of fate and we had recently published a book by Eckhart Tolle, called ‘The Power of Now’. Nikki mentioned that Eckhart was coming to India with a wish to visit Ramana Ashram and requested me to go with him. So, my second visit was in 2002 with Eckhart Tolle.
I met Eckhart and his group in Chennai and we drove down to the Ramana ashram and of course, climbed the Sacred Mountain to visit the caves where Bhagavan had stayed for many years. I was quite bemused that I was back within a year, to a place I had sworn never to visit again. It reminded me of the James Bond movie, ‘Never say never again’.
As it happened, I found myself going to the sacred ground, year after year, just for a few days. And a love affair began, not only with the mountain but also with Bhagavan’s books. In fact, for this Zoom talk, my laptop is propped up by a few big fat books, two of which are ‘Talks with Ramana Maharshi’ and ‘Guru Vachaka Kovai’. For those familiar with Bhagavan’s books, they will know these two. Well, if not me at least my laptop is on very solid ground!
Conscious Immortality: Relevance for our Times
Today, I would like to take you through a few quotations from a book called ‘Conscious Immortality’. This book is an outcome of notes by Paul Brunton, the man who made Ramana Maharshi’s name reach the corners of the globe with his best-selling book ‘A Search in Secret India’. A bulk of this small book can also be found in ‘Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi’. We will take simple quotations and go through the message, the master’s teaching, and its relevance for our times.
Perhaps it is this challenging circumstance, the Pandemic, which in a sense has forced people to go on some kind of inward journey. It is now everyone’s experience that nothing is in one’s control. A few had already accepted this fact. However, with the job losses, the mounting pressures, the economic stress, the health anxieties, and other challenges, these teachings are what take us through this ocean of existence.
These teachings are even more relevant today. For the first time in our lives, we have seen this level of collective suffering at such a large scale. It goes to show how truly connected we all are. We are literally in the same boat. Osho once said that generally when we see someone suffering, deep inside we feel happy, because we are not suffering and we can therefore sympathise. But now, this Pandemic has impacted most of us in one way or another.
Incidentally, I speak on another YouTube channel called ‘Sai Baba’s Devotee Speaks’. It is interesting to note that in the ‘Sai Satcharita’, the book based on Shirdi Sai Baba’s leelas, the very first chapter begins with the cholera Pandemic of that time.
Let us now begin with the quotes from ‘Conscious Immortality’.
“What is the purpose of all suffering and evil in the world?”
Bhagavan answers: “Your question is itself the outcome of the suffering. Sorrow makes a man think of God. Had it not been for the suffering would you have put the question? Except for the jnanis, every man, from king to a peasant, has a certain amount of sorrow. Even in cases where it seems absent, it is only a time factor that makes you think so; sooner or later it comes. Also, one man may not question sorrow or God at the first blow but he is likely to do so at the fifth blow. We have taken this vehicle in order to know our real state.”
We have taken this vehicle of the body in order to know our real state. Therefore, this time, the importance of this time, the churning that is going on and perhaps will go on for some more time, is an opportunity to inquire into our real state. To go within to find what is truly of value. Many externals have been taken away from us, many crutches, many social pretences have been suddenly withdrawn because we have not been allowed to socialise as we used to earlier. So much sorrow, so much free time, so many people unable to work like they used to, so much opportunity to seek the real!
“The only useful purpose of this birth is to turn within and realise.
There is nothing else to do.”
This time is literally such a time. The dance of Shiva is going on, the unknown is staring us in the face like never before. I recently read in a newspaper that the business of therapists and psychiatrists has gone up 400 percent since March 2020. 400 percent! That’s the ground reality.
“Siva made over all His own possessions to Vishnu and wandered in the forests and wilderness and cemeteries and lived on food begged by Him. In His view, non-possession is higher in the scale of happiness than the possession of things. The higher happiness is to be free from anxieties.
Possessions create anxieties, such as their safeguarding, their utilization. Non-possession does not bring any anxieties in its train. Therefore, Siva resigned everything to Vishnu and He Himself went away happy. Divestment of possessions is the highest happiness.”
Now, it is not only material possessions. Other than that, what is possessed by us? What are we identified with? What beliefs? What judgments? What opinions? How things should be? How you feel people should be? These are your possessions. Your identifications are your possessions because they are yours. This paragraph has to be read in terms of not just material possessions but all possessions, because possession means ego, ‘me and mine’, ‘me and my story’. In that sense, my story is also my possession, because it is about me. No story, no me.
This reminds me of an incident that happened about a decade ago concerning a very rich family in South Bombay, which I had also shared in one of my earlier talks. The lady of the house had a beautiful pair of porcelain figurines, of a man and a woman, in her living room. One day the lady was sitting in the living room with her husband who was reading the newspaper. Their maid was dusting the shelves and when she picked up one of the porcelain figures to wipe, it fell from her hands on the floor and broke. The lady shrieked and threw abuses at the maid, “How dare you do this? Are you stupid? Do you have butter fingers? Don’t you know the value of this? You know how many thousands of rupees these cost?. The rant went on and on. The husband, who was a witness to this, put his paper down, saw the maid trembling in fear, crying, and saw the unabated fury of his wife. He got up, picked up the second figurine from the shelf, dropped it on the floor and told his wife, “Now you don’t have to worry if the maid will break the second figure.”
One day, a lady went to Ramakrishna and said how happy and satisfied she was with life. She said, “The only love I have now left is for my children, otherwise I am detached, unconcerned, away from the world.” Ramakrishna replied, “It’s not enough. When you love everyone’s children as you love your children, then you come back.”
See the ‘me and mine’? This distinction is not made by the sage.
Perhaps some of you are getting bored by this format of me reading these quotations, and possibly you are feeling drowsy or sleepy. I will take it as a great attainment because Bhagavan has said, “Deep sleep is your natural state”. It is a good thing if this is putting you to sleep because it is the thinking mind that is being put to sleep.
“When a man surrenders himself as a slave to the divine Lord he realizes at the end that all his actions are the actions of God. He loses his mine-ness. This is what is meant by ‘doing the will of God’. This is Siddhantha [the final view; the settled conclusion]. When a man realizes that he has lost his ahamkara (I-ness) and that he is not different from Ishvara, he is a jnani.
There are two ways open to one: bhakti and jnana. A bhakta surrenders to God and rests secure in His protection. A jnani knows that there’s nothing beside the Self and so remains happy. This path is the highest of all and suited only for advanced aspirants.
Thus it is really by the Grace, that they are brought to this highest path. Of course, they might have practiced the other paths in former existences and thus were born ripe for this one; others try the other ways and after progressing finally turn to Self-enquiry but the last laps of all paths are the same — surrender of the ego.”
The surrender of the ego, or in other words, ‘Not my will oh Lord, but Thine, be done.’ And that is what the blows of life teach. If not the first blow, then the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth. The ones who get these blows early in life are indeed fortunate; that is when their learning begins.
“The difficulty is that man thinks he is the doer; It is a mistake. It is the higher power which does everything and man is only a tool. If he accepts that position he is free from troubles, otherwise he courts them.”
Do you see how intrinsic this concept of non-doership is to the highest teachings? Rameshji, my teacher, simplified this beautifully. He explained that all of us are shaped by a conditioning, over which we have no control, such as where we were born, the economic environment we were born in, the school we went to or the religion we were born into. One should understand that this conditioning was not a choice and it is on the basis of this conditioning that we take decisions and perform actions. Therefore, it follows that if our conditioning, if our DNA, if our genes, are not truly ours but gifted by God (because we didn’t create either of these), then truly is any action ‘our’ action? More importantly, most importantly rather, is the other’s action truly theirs?
If this understanding of non-doership was ‘lived’, there would be no hate; there would be no individuals left to hate. If one accepts that the other’s point of view is as valid as their own, that it is based on individual genetics and conditioning just like theirs, if one accepts this, then there is no individual targeted with hate. One may not agree with the other’s point of view, but there will be no dialogues such as ‘You are wrong, I am right’. These polarities become irrelevant with the teaching. With the understanding of non-doership, all this becomes irrelevant. You deal with what arises in the moment as a happening, not an individual doing something. This is what Bhagavan has emphasised in the quote above.
So what happens if we don’t agree with someone? We agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Today, there is much polarisation, hating certain individuals, hating certain politicians; the list goes on. We are operating on a singularly polarised pendulum, which swings in extremes, from one side to the other. And the dance of duality goes on, perpetuated by this. However, if one is not identified with an extreme position, the pendulum stops swinging so widely and eventually reaches the center point of stillness. So be careful when you take sides, because the minute one does that, one has already created the polaric opposite.
To live the teaching of non-doership is to see the world through the eye of singularity and not through the eyes of duality. Bhagavan has given the most beautiful illustration of living according to one’s nature.
One night, some thieves broke into the ashram and one of them struck a blow on Ramana Maharshi’s thigh. The devotees who were present said to Bhagavan that they will get sticks, run after the thieves and beat them up. Bhagavan replied, “Is that your nature? Their nature is doing what they did, their dharma is doing what they did. Now, tell me, is that your dharma? Is that your nature?”
“Keeping God in your mind as everything around you becomes dhyana. This is the stage before realization which is only in the Self. Dhyana must precede it.”
Keeping God in your mind as everything around you becomes meditation. If you see everyone as an instrument through which God’s Will functions, whether you like them or not, that becomes a living meditation. Why? Because witnessing starts happening more and more. Involvement starts lessening. Because, who is it that is involved? It is the ‘me’ with its sense of doership. The ‘me’ is the involvement.
That is why even Sri Aurobindo says that work itself can be a meditation as long as it is not ‘me’ who is doing the work. Of course, Bhagavan says the same thing. This is the living meditation, the dhyan, not just as a practice of half an hour or an hour in the morning, and then the rest of the day is a turbulent day full of thoughts, emotions, dramas and accusations. Dhyana is the absence of the thinking mind of the ego and the cartwheels that it performs during the course of the day. So what does keeping God as everything around you mean? It means your relationships, the events that happen around you and to you, every happening in fact, is the play of the Divine. Knowing this, is dhyana.
“Others are not responsible for what happens to us. They are only instruments for what would happen to us some way or the other. Let us be strong in faith and not succumb to fear. Whatever happens, happens according to our Prarabdha. Let it exhaust itself.
Evil intentions and evil actions will react themselves, and not affect us simply because they desire it. One is required not to think of oneself, so why there be anxiety regarding others?”
This is it precisely. What happens with this understanding is that if something is meant to happen, the person through whom it happens becomes irrelevant. So you are no longer targeting an individual responsible for a happening. Deep down, there is the knowing that this is all a manifestation of the Divine, the leela. That is why Nisargadatta Maharaj had said that ultimately all individuals are imaginary. The distinction between them starts dissolving. The labels that one sticks to people’s foreheads start to peel away. With the acceptance that all this is God, all instruments are divine instruments whether we like them or not, the development of an even, neutral and objective vision, not coloured by extreme likes and dislikes, begins. It is like a flowering of a new dimension of seeing.
Such beautiful, simple teachings. Beauty in simplicity. So accessible but sometimes not easy to live by. Why? Because the crust, the hardened crust of conditioning of our old patterns, our old processes, can be very strong to break through in order to emerge into a new light of understanding. It is not always a smooth process. But that is why the Guru, the Grace of the Guru, the Grace of Consciousness as the Guru, is always available. It is ours for the taking.
The questioner asks, “What if one meditates incessantly without actions?”
Bhagavan answers: “Try and see. The predispositions will not let you do it. Dhyana [unbroken meditation] comes only progressively with gradual weakening of vasanas [latent tendencies] by the Guru’s Grace.”
By the master’s Presence, not just by the words, but by the Grace, whatever form it takes, the Grace comes. It comes with this new understanding, to progressively hammer away at the vasanas, the latent tendencies and the patterns. Finally when it cracks open, it is sudden and the light flows in. This is another beautiful pointer by Bhagavan.
To reiterate, meditation is a state of being, not a practice. That is what is being referred to. The latent tendencies get projected out unconsciously, but with the Grace, these start reducing; it is the automatic unconscious projection onto others that starts dissolving. Siddharameshwar Maharaj, who was Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Guru, had said, “Suppose you call someone a thief, all that is going on in your consciousness are the words ‘thief, thief, thief!’” You are identified with the word ‘thief’, which is now the content of the consciousness. All this is going on unconsciously.
When these old grooves start getting erased or reshaped with the light of understanding, through the Grace of the Guru, that is the spiritual birth. This is the real birth unlike the physical birth, which is one of ignorance. Such is the importance of the Guru’s teaching.
The questioner asks, “How is work to be done by an aspirant?”
Bhagavan answers: “Chapter three, verse four of the Bhagavad Gita says that a man cannot remain without acting. The purpose of one’s birth will be fulfilled by itself. Gradually concentration will become pleasant and easy and you will be in that state whether attending to business or whether you sit expressly for meditation. Business will be all the more easier for you, when your mind is steadied and strengthened.”
The questioner goes on to ask a question that is relevant to most of us, many of us who are working and engaged in society, “I have no interest in business, fearing that my yoga practice will be marred.”
And Bhagavan replies, “No, your viewpoint will change, as said in the Gita. You will regard business in the light of a mere dream but that will not affect it, for you will go on attending to it as if it was serious.”
So you see, if work has to happen, it will happen. ‘I am doing the work’, that is the problem. ‘Me’.
“To engage in your duty is the true namaskar. To perform one’s duty carefully is the greatest service to God.”
I cannot emphasize this enough, as it has been my experience. I started working when I was very young. My spiritual teacher would love listening to my work stories; it was a ground to witness the teaching. For me, work was all about relationships. When I was 24, I took over the business. I was the youngest of the 30 staff members. The clients, suppliers, my peers in the industry, were all older. So it was important to have harmonious relationships.
In urban cities, one is dealing with relationships all the time, especially at work. That is why Rameshji encouraged one to be fully engaged in work. He loved to hear stories of how the teaching helped see me through situations at work, such as dealing with difficult staff members, clients, and others.
Work truly is worship. Lessons are to be learnt. People think that the motivation for business is profit. This is what we have been conditioned to believe. But, the truth is that all relationships happen on account of rnanubandhan. Many of them are through work. Accounts have to be squared off.
There was a master in North India; I forget the name. He spent his last few days in a hospital. His devotees told him, “Prabhuji, why don’t you just rest at home? There is no benefit of being in the hospital.” He replied, “No, I must go there for my devotees.” His devotees were taken aback and said, “But Sir, you are going to the hospital, what devotees?” He replied “No. There are four of them I will be meeting there, who will take care of me, because our rnanubandhan is not complete. So do allow me to go and in a week this vehicle will be no more.” That is what happened.
Relationships. Therefore, the teaching of non-doership is so important. If it is accepted and ‘lived’ then the bandhan, the bondage, is severed. It’s finished. If the blame game stops, if the action- reaction loop ceases to exist in a particular relationship, if one has the full understanding, then that action-reaction loop, which perpetuates the bondage, cannot function anymore. The rna is over. After all, it takes two hands to clap. Non-doership is the answer.
“Do not imagine it is you who are doing the work. Think that it is the underlying current which is doing it. Identify yourself with this current. If you work unhurriedly, your work or service need not be a hindrance.”
Again, it is pointing back to the consciousness without which you would not be able to work. So who is really doing the work? That is what Bhagavan is pointing at. Such pragmatic and practical advice for these times.
Everything is so relative. Many people grumble about their work. They are not grateful that they still have work to do. A friend of mine is in a profession where he earns perhaps two hundred thousand rupees a week, approx. $3000. Two years ago, with demonetization, the GST laws that came in and created some chaos, he was in a foul mood. We met for dinner and I asked, “What happened? Why are you looking so gray?” He replied, “My business is down by 20 percent.” I said “Don’t worry. For all businesses, the wheel of fortune keeps turning. It will climb up at some point. Be thankful for what you have.” Subsequently, whenever we met, his mood was even more gloomy. Now, with the lockdown, his business is down 90 percent because his work involves crowds. 90 percent! And you know what he said to me? He said, “Now I’ve understood the value of my business being down only 20 percent.” Do you see? At this moment, you thank God that your business was down only 20%. At that time, you were thinking you were cursed. Everything is so self-centered.
“One method of securing the temporary cessation of mental activities (manolaya) is association with sages. They are adepts in samadhi and it has become easy, natural and perpetual with them. Those moving with them closely, and in sympathetic contact, gradually absorb the samadhi habit from them.”
That is the beauty of the spiritual journey. Unlike going to a therapist, for example. It centres around association with, and being in the presence of, sages.
That is why when Maharaj was asked (I cannot tire of repeating this most beautiful statement), if there is any benefit in being in the proximity of a sage, he replied by saying that the trees around the sandalwood tree in a forest start emitting the same fragrance.
The questioner asks, “How can one know a competent Guru?”
Bhagavan replies, “By the peace of mind in his presence and by the sense of respect you feel for him.”
This mischievous questioner goes on to ask: “What is the use of people like you who sit still doing nothing when the world is in great trouble?”
Bhagavan replies, “A self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence bestows the highest good to the world.”
There is a leaflet that Adarsh ji sent me, of the Ramana Kendra Delhi. The caption is a quotation of Bhagavan: “If one’s mind has peace the whole world will appear peaceful.”
Questioner: “Must the Guru have a human body?”
Bhagavan: “Because you identify yourself with your body you raise this question. Find out if you are the body. The master appears in order to dispel this ignorance. As Tayumanavar puts it, he appears to dispel the ignorance of a man, just as a deer is used as a decoy to capture the lion in the jungle. He has to appear with a body in order to eradicate our ignorance, the ‘I am the body’ idea.”
“Peace is the inner nature of man. If you find it within yourself, you will then find it everywhere.”
Once, I attended a western teacher’s talk. This was many years ago. He said, “Oh, Ramesh Basekar? All he does is talk about peace of mind. That is kindergarten stuff. One has to go beyond that. One has to inquire into the nature of consciousness, awareness, understanding the difference…” and so on.
Well, the value of peace is now so clearly explained by Bhagavan himself. Because this is a ‘lived’ peace. One will know for oneself whether it is a conceptual peace of mind that one has or is one living the teaching. What use is it to keep studying teachings and the scriptures, if it is not permeating into one’s daily living?
“Stillness or peace is realization.”
Stillness or peace is realization. Nothing more needs to be said.
Finally, I would like to end on a couple of quotes.
Questioner: “Where from does the ego rise?”
Bhagavan answers: “Soul, mind and ego are mere words. They are no true entities of the kind. Consciousness is the only truth.”
Consciousness is the only Truth. Consciousness is all there is.
“Conscious death is the purpose of evolution, and conscious immortality whilst still in the flesh.”
Conscious death is the purpose of evolution. The death of the thinking mind that is based on and thrives on, ‘me and my story’. The annihilation of this thinking mind means the presence of pure being. Pure presence. Conscious Immortality. Such a beautiful title for the book!
The greatest gift that one can give someone is one’s presence. Being there without one’s personal story and without the ongoing dialogue in one’s mind. Being there as conscious awareness. The greatest gift one can give others is to allow them to be who they are, the way God has created them. Not how we think they should be or how we think they should behave and act. If one lived this understanding that ‘Consciousness is all there is’, what else but peace would permeate one’s being? Rameshji would say, “‘I am That’, which in other words means, ‘That’ is you, me, he and she.’”
This next statement of Bhagavan’s has given me much peace. Especially in my younger days.
“The ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdha karma. Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.”
Remaining silent does not mean keeping quiet. Bhagavan is referring to the silence of the thinking mind. The thinking mind that is always going into the dead past or an imaginary future; running away from ‘what is’.
Today, more than ever, due to the Pandemic, it is this imaginary future, this unknown future, perhaps full of turbulence, which the thinking mind is getting projected towards. Therefore a statement like this provides a healing balm, allowing us to accept God’s Will.
If any of you would like to share or ask anything in relation to what has been read out, you are most welcome. If not, we will sit in silence for a few minutes before ending this satsang.
Kunwar asks: “Namaste. I am here today with my mom and I have been deeply helped by your teaching. She also likes your talks. What you say about ‘everything is preordained’, is something which I observe in my life as well. My mom often asks me that she wants to be happy, but she can’t help being sad.”
Gautam: Exactly. Even that is preordained. She can’t help it. You know, I visited a shop in London called ‘Lush’. It sold all these very fancy natural shampoos and soaps. They had one soap bar which was called ‘Happy for Sad’. I really wonder if it made a sad person happy. But it was a nice name.
Coming back to the talk, I would recommend ‘Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi’ for anyone who has even the slightest interest in exploring the words of Bhagavan.
On a lighter note, I am reminded of the time when Rameshji narrated an anecdote. Once when Nisargadatta Maharaj was asked in his satsang, whether there was any difference in Ramana Maharshi’s and his teaching, he replied, “The only difference between Ramana Maharshi and me is that I am slightly better dressed.”
At one of Rameshji’s satsangs, I met a lady who had come from Ramana ashram. She said that she had run away from there. I asked her why, and she said everything was going perfectly well till she saw the samadhi of a dog and a crow.
She said, “This is too much. I can’t bear this. It’s absurd.” ”Why?” I asked.
I quoted Rameshji, saying that the animal has not been given the dubious gift of intellect that makes the human being ask questions. Therefore, it is perhaps simpler for them to be in the presence of Ramana Maharshi and receive the ultimate Grace. However, I didn’t make much progress; it was still too much for her to handle.
Having said that, the human being is the only species on the planet that is aware that it is aware: ‘I am’.
This is a tremendous gift. A gift that gets wasted when we are caught up in the whirlpool of life and live without going within. Of course, this is also destined till the moment is ripe or, as Bhagavan says, till one has received enough blows.
Death is all around; not just physical death, which is there as well right now. The newspapers here have endless pages of Covid news, the testing rate, the death rate etc. However, there is also death all around, of the familiar past, of the old way of being. Things are changing, things are shifting. It is the ideal moment to immerse oneself in this precious gift of Advaita.
The ‘Conscious Immortality’ book referred to in this talk is available at https://www.amazon.in/Conscious-Immortality-Conversations-Ramana-Maharshi/dp/8182881781
The video of the talk can be watched below
February 28, 2021