The Master Sri Ramana Maharshi states that
the control of the mind achieved by any way except
the Vichara (Self-inquiry) will be only temporary
The Direct Path
By Mouni Sadhu
The great Rishi, Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi – unlike most yogis and many saints of the present day- does not recommend yogic practices as a condition for the highest and perennial spiritual achievement, called by him ‘Self-realisation’. He dismisses from that aim, all the cumbersome postures, breathing exercises, control of the pranic-currents (currents of the Prana in the human body and so of Nature itself), and so on. In fact, he seldom even mentioned them in his talks.
So the Direct Path to spiritual attainment, as shown by the
Maharshi, does not require any unnatural body postures, often so difficult to perform for the majority of people; none of the efforts of Hatha-Yoga, which can be dangerous unless practised under the direct supervision of a competent teacher, and no artificial mental practices of concentration. All such things lead nowhere unless accompanied by the elements of spiritual enlightenment, a fact which is firmly underlined by Sri Shankaracharya in his ‘Viveka Chudamani’.
(Sri Ramakrishna ‘s views and instructions are at the foot of this page)
Now I see clearly that these things belong to a closed and bewitched circle. For years and some of my closest occult friends practised many kinds of ‘outer-yogas’ but without any results worthy of our efforts. Of course, some of these exercises were good for our physical health, especially for stilling the nerves, cultivating a beautiful voice, and so forth. But these advantages only remained with us as long as we continued regularly to perform the exercises. A pause for even a few weeks deprived us of all the hard earned benefits we had gained at the cost of such effort and waste of time. No true and permanent peace of mind could be obtained , although for that purpose I made intense use of Japa (repetition) with the best mantras.
The Master Sri Ramana Maharshi states that the control of the mind , achieved by any way except the Vichara (Self-inquiry) will be only temporary, for the mind will invariably return to its spontaneous activities.
” What is not natural” says the Maharshi “cannot be permanent, and what is not permanent is not worth striving after”. What reasonable person would disagree with the Great Rishi? Who cannot see that there is no possibility or hope of realisation if undertaken with inadequate methods? For then one simply has no time for the proper work with the only instrument,the Vichara.
Life is too short to waste when we are working earnestly towards achievement. Moreover, for the majority of aspirants in both East and West, complicated occult practices invariably require quite a different and usually too difficult rearrangement of everyday life. These hundreds of excercises,postures, prayers, invocations and meditations, are all incompatible with the resources and possibilities of an average person’s normal life. Few aspirants possess sufficient wealth to allow them to retire completely from the outer activity of this visible world.
But this DIRECT PATH, the Maharshi’s way, is possible and is well suited for everyone who is ripe enough to enter on it, no matter whether man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, learned or illiterate. This path can be followed secretly, so that the outer world will never know that a man is engaged in a deep and intensive search. This means that there is a reduction to the minimum of external obstacles allowed by the prarabdha karma of man.
Also there is no question of reading innumerable books. The multiplicity of theories with their countless books, the many sects and religions with their almost invariable hostility to one another -no matter how cleverly this unpleasant quality is disguised all show a lack of unity.
But the Direct Path immediately gives us a clear view of our
ultimate and only aim. The process of acquiring virtues is reversed. We do not need to seek them, for they come according to the measure of our advancement along the path. It is only the Direct Path which tells us from the first step, where we are going and why. Our renunciation of this unreal world, while not usually known to those around us, acquires a natural and reasonable character, and not that of imagination or of a hazy dream.
Sri Ramana Maharshi supports the Advaita-Vedanta theory which recognises only one real thing, the Atman, Self or spirit. The Master of the Direct Path, Sri Ramana Maharshi, now sitting on his couch before me, is the greatest destroyer of illusions.
When we realise that there exists an infallible path to the final goal, the joy of that knowledge is overwhelming. This is the water that quenches human thirst. Those who seek will find. But the search must be for the highest and not merely for more or less exalted illusions. The cardinal virtue of discrimination plays an uppermost role in such seeking. For when the Direct Path becomes visible, all the others disappear as if they had never been sought. There is no need for any ‘rejection’ on the part of the disciple. He simply seems to forget what is best forgotten and remembers only what should be remembered.
Deep in your hearts there lies a source, so often spoken of by the Master,Sri Ramana Maharshi. It can be likened to the centre of a circle, from which we can see in all directions, and then from which no other position can give us such a vantage point. Now I fully realise why the path of Maharshi is also called the Path of Inner Silence.
Go directly to the source of all truth in your spiritual centre of
silence, your heart; for the shortest distance between two points is a direct line, and a mystical truth lies hidden behind this geometrical axiom. Accept it, and the Direct Path is already beneath your feet.There is no need to seek it elsewhere. ‘A single step begins the journey of a thousand miles’, but if this first step is not taken, the traveller will remain at his starting point.
Without the knowledge of ‘who we are’ we remain spiritually immovable.
The Direct Path can be likened to a mighty river, quietly and majestically flowing to the infinite ocean of Nirvana , Brahman, the ultimate and unique aim of every being. Yogas, religions, sects, philosophical systems, occult and spiritual societies, all can be thought of as minor streams flowing into and yielding up their waters to the same great river, and from then onwards having the same straight course to the ocean. Whoever knows of the hidden Direct Path will not waste time following lesser ways. All efforts will be concentrated on the one idea ‘How to enter the great current which flows directly to the ocean’.
The Technique of Vichara
By Mouni Sadhu
The method according to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi is as follows:
To immerse oneself in meditation, making a clear impression on the outer mind that the real Self cannot be any transient thing such as the body, emotions or mind. When this fact is strongly established without any doubt in consciousness, then I try to fill every possible moment with the inquiry “WHO AM I?”. When any other thought enters the mind one crushes it with the Vichara. The more determined the perseverance, the better the result. The restless mind begins to give up the struggle. As I substitute every approaching thought with the magic Vichara, the periods of absolute quietness become longer. At first it is only for a few seconds, but with constant practice there come minutes of unruffled peace. The most important thing is to catch and remember what was most helpful reaching that peace of mind. I cannot describe that process in my consciousness, because it is above and beyond the activity of the mind, and therefore, cannot be expressed in words, which belong to the mental realm.But each earnest student will have the same experience.
Wherever I was, Vichara was with me: walking in the street, sitting in trams and trains, in fact all day long when my mind was not immediately engaged in some necessary activity.
During the first months I counted the inquiries putting a number after each one,’Who am I?’ (one), ‘Who am I?” (two) and so on. When circumstances compelled me to break the work, I noted the number in my memory, or if the break had to be longer, I wrote it on a slip of paper carried in my pocket for the purpose. For the first few days the figure of 1000 was the highest. Later 7000 and more became an easy mark. When I learned to fill every moment with Vichara excepting those of speech and compulsory mental occupation, the counting was discarded as unnecessary, for then the mind had learned to remember Vichara automatically. The important part was not to repeat Vichara with the mind, but to saturate each inquiry with a strong desire (without words) to know ‘Who am I?’.
Then the results were : peace of mind, and a power to use it after my own will, as a force apart from the individual ‘ I ‘. The average man believes, in his ignorance, that his body , emotions and mind constitute himself. The disciple trained by a Master overcomes this falsehood. And this is the turning point in his spiritual development. Being under the dominance of his mind the man is only a slave, and realisation is not possible for those enslaved by the mind or the senses.
The spiritual aspect of Vichara is also clear. In using it you are seeking your legitimate inheritance, aiming directly at the very source of life.The whole problem of life is wrapped up in the Vichara. Every religion and every spiritual Master affirms that life in its essence is eternal and indestructible; but what is that life?
Maharshi reveals, and the disciple realises, that eternal life is none other than uninterrupted consciousness.
To reach that stage means to reach the immortality of spirit, of reality. That is the goal and the ultimate aim. There is nothing else. Meditate upon this and the truth will be made clear even to the outer mind.
Such are the heavens promised to the righteous and the saints. For them there is no death any more. How clear now are the words of the great teacher of humanity!
When our consciousness reaches the supra-mental realm, the realm of the eternal unchangeable spirit-self, the unchanging reality, then death is simply transcended and does not exist any more. Now can be understood truth of the saying of the Great Rishi, when he denies reincarnation in the realm of spirit, but otherwise speaks about it as an established fact. From his point of view both death and reincarnation are only illusions, and do not affect the real Self, just as body is not affected by a change of dress. The Vichara throws light on every path.
When many religions and sects were quarrelling with each other, there was need for a presentation of truth which would transcend all the enclosing walls of particular faiths. This was given by Sri Ramana Maharshi. His teachings can be accepted by any person sincerely seeking truth and God, independently of the religion in which a person is reared.
Sri Ramakrishna’s views and instructions on Hathayoga.
From the book Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master (chapter 8-11)
The Master (Sri Ramakrishna) said that many perfected souls and great Sadhakas used to come there (the Dakshineshwar Temple). Instructed by one of them, he seems to have practised at this time Pranayama and other exercises of Hathayoga. One day while he was describing to us the following incident regarding Haladhari, he hinted at it. He forbade us later to practice the Hathayoga exercises, because he himself practised them and knew their results. Approached by some of us for instruction on it, he said to us:
“These practices are not for this age. Living beings are short lived and their lives depend on food in the Kaliyuga. Where is the time in this age to practise Rajyoga, in other words, to call on God, after making the body firm by the practice of Hathayoga? Again, if one wants to practise those exercises, one has to live constantly with a teacher perfect in that yoga and follow for a long time very hard rules regarding food, rest, exercises etc., according to his instructions. The slightest deviation from those rules produces diseases in the Sadhak’s body and, on many occasions, causes even his death. Therefore, it is not necessary to practise these things. Besides, it is not for the purpose of restraining the mind that one has to restrain the vital air by practising Pranayama etc.? You will see that both mind and vital forces will themselves be gradually restrained by meditation and devotion to God. Human beings have short lives and possess little capacity in the Kaliyuga; that is why the divine Lord has graciously made their path to realization so easy to tread. In this age if the feelings of anguish and void, like those felt at the death of one’s wife or son, are felt for God, and these persist even for twenty-four hours in one’s mind, He is bound to reveal Himself to that person.”