Thursday, July 24, 2008

Meditation on the Heart-centre

The first comment in the open thread on vichara was from Maneesha who said:

Initially, when I began vichara, I used to concentrate on the right side of the chest, expecting an answer to come from there when I questioned who I was.

This reminded me that I had promised to respond to a question from Celio about why some direct disciples of Bhagavan have written that self-enquiry is to be done by (or while) concentrating on this centre whereas others have refuted this position.

Many people came to the conclusion that meditating on the right-side Heart-centre was a part of self-enquiry, even though Bhagavan frequently said that it was not. This is what I wrote on this subject in the ‘Self-enquiry – Misconceptions’ chapter of Be As You Are. The quotes that follow my introduction are from later in the same chapter:

In describing the origin of the ‘I’-thought he [Bhagavan] sometimes said that it rose to the brain through a channel which started from a centre in the right-hand side of the chest. He called this centre the Heart-centre and said that when the ‘I’-thought subsided into the Self it went back into the centre and disappeared. He also said that when the Self is consciously experienced, there is a tangible awareness that this centre is the source of both the mind and the world. However, these statements are not strictly true and Sri Ramana sometimes qualified them by saying that they were only schematic representations which were given to those people who persisted in identifying with their bodies. He said that the Heart is not really located in the body and that from the highest standpoint it is equally untrue to say that the ‘I’-thought arises and subsides into this centre on the right of the chest.

Because Sri Ramana often said ‘Find the place where the “I” arises’ or ‘Find the source of the mind’, many people interpreted these statements to mean that they should concentrate on this particular centre while doing self-enquiry. Sri Ramana rejected this interpretation many times by saying that the source of the mind or the ‘I’ could only be discovered through attention to the ‘I’-thought and not through concentration on a particular part of the body. He did sometimes say that putting attention on this centre is a good concentration practice, but he never associated it with self-enquiry. He also occasionally said that meditation on the Heart was an effective way of reaching the Self, but again, he never said that this should be done by concentrating on the Heart-centre. Instead he said that one should meditate on the Heart ‘as it is’. The Heart ‘as it is’ is not a location, it is the immanent Self and one can only be aware of its real nature by being it. It cannot be reached by concentration.

Although there are several potentially ambiguous comments of this kind about the Heart and the Heart-centre, in all his writings and recorded conversations there is not a single statement to support the contention that self-enquiry is to be practised by concentrating on this centre. In fact, by closely examining his statements on the subject one can only conclude that while the experience of the Self contains an awareness of this centre, concentration on this centre will not result in the experience of the Self.

You have said that the Heart is the centre of the Self.

Yes, it is the one supreme centre of the Self. You need have no doubt about it. The real Self is there in the Heart behind the jiva or ego-self.

Now be pleased to tell me where it is in the body.

You cannot know it with your mind. You cannot realise it by imagination when I tell you here is the centre [pointing to the right side of the chest]. The only direct way to realise it is to cease to fantasise and try to be yourself. When you realise, you automatically feel that the centre is there. This is the centre, the Heart, spoken of in the scriptures as hrit-guhaarul [grace], ullam [the Heart].

In no book have I found it stated that it is there.

Long after I came here I chanced upon a verse in the Malayalam version of Ashtangahridayam, the standard work on ayurveda [Hindu medicine], wherein the ojas sthana [source of bodily vitality or place of light] is mentioned as being located in the right side of the chest and called the seat of consciousness [samvit]. But I know of no other work which refers to it as being located there.

Can I be sure that the ancients meant this centre by the term ‘Heart’?

Yes, that is so. But you should try to have rather than to locate the experience. A man need not find out where his eyes are situated when he wants to see. The Heart is there ever open to you if you care to enter it, ever supporting all your movements even when you are unaware. It is perhaps more proper to say that the Self is the Heart itself than to say that it is in the Heart. Really, the Self is the centre itself. It is everywhere, aware of itself as ‘Heart’, the Self-awareness.

In that case, how can it be localised in any part of the body? Fixing a place for the Heart would imply setting physiological limitations to that which is beyond space and time.

That is right. But the person who puts the question about the position of the Heart considers himself as existing with or in the body. While putting the question now, would you say that your body alone is here but you are speaking from somewhere else? No, you accept your bodily existence. It is from this point of view that any reference to a physical body comes to be made. Truly speaking, pure consciousness is indivisible, it is without parts. It has no form and shape, no ‘within’ and ‘without’. There is no ‘right’ or ‘left’ for it. Pure consciousness, which is the Heart, includes all, and nothing is outside or apart from it. That is the ultimate truth. From this absolute standpoint, the Heart, Self or consciousness can have no particular place assigned to it in the physical body. What is the reason? The body is itself a mere projection of the mind, and the mind is but a poor reflection of the radiant Heart. How can that, in which everything is contained, be itself confined as a tiny part within the physical body which is but an infinitesimal, phenomenal manifestation of the one reality? But people do not understand this. They cannot help thinking in terms of the physical body and the world. For instance, you say, ‘I have come to this ashram all the way from my country beyond the Himalayas’. But that is not the truth. Where is ‘coming’ or ‘going’ or any movement whatever, for the one, all-pervading spirit which you really are? You are where you have always been. It is your body that moved or was conveyed from place to place till it reached this ashram. This is the simple truth, but to a person who considers himself a subject living in an objective world, it appears as something altogether visionary! It is by coming down to the level of ordinary understanding that a place is assigned to the Heart in the physical body.

How then shall I understand Sri Bhagavan’s statement that the experience of the Heart-centre is at the particular place in the chest?

Once you accept that from the true and absolute standpoint the Heart as pure consciousness is beyond space and time, it will be easy for you to understand the rest in its correct perspective.

The Heart is said to be on the right, on the left, or in the centre. With such differences of opinion how are we to meditate on it?

Bhagavan: You are and it is a fact. Dhyana [meditation] is by you, of you, and in you. It must go on where you are. It cannot be outside you. So you are the centre of dhyana and that is the Heart. Doubts arise only when you identify it with something tangible and physical. Heart is no conception, no object for meditation. But it is the seat of meditation. The Self remains all alone. You see the body in the Heart, the world is also in it. There is nothing separate from it. So all kinds of effort are located there only.

You say the ‘I’-thought rises from the Heart-centre. Should we seek its source there?

I ask you to see where the ‘I’ arises in your body, but it is really not quite correct to say that the ‘I’ rises from and merges in the Heart in the right side of the chest. The Heart is another name for the reality and it is neither inside nor outside the body. There can be no in or out for it, since it alone is.

Should I meditate on the right chest in order to meditate on the Heart?

The Heart is not physical. Meditation should not be on the right or the left. Meditation should be on the Self. Everyone knows ‘I am’. Who is the ‘I’? It will be neither within nor without, neither on the right nor on the left. ‘I am’ - that is all. Leave alone the idea of right and left. They pertain to the body. The Heart is the Self. Realise it and then you will see for yourself. There is no need to know where and what the Heart is. It will do its work if you engage in the quest for the Self.

Upadesa Saram where it is said, ‘Abiding in the Heart is the best karma, yoga, bhakti and jnana?’

That which is the source of all, that in which all live, and that into which all finally merge, is the Heart referred to.

How can we conceive of such a Heart?

Why should you conceive of anything? You have only to see from where the ‘I’ springs. That from which all thoughts of embodied beings issue forth is called the Heart. All descriptions of it are only mental concepts.

There are said to be six organs of different colours in the chest, of which the Heart is said to be two finger-breadths to the right of the middle line. But the Heart is also formless. Should we then imagine it to have a shape and meditate on it?

No. Only the quest ‘Who am I?’ is necessary. What remains all through deep sleep and waking is the same. But in waking there is unhappiness and the effort to remove it. Asked who wakes up from sleep you say ‘I’. Now you are told to hold fast to this ‘I’. If it is done the eternal being will reveal itself. Investigation of ‘I’ is the point and not meditation on the Heart-centre. There is nothing like within or without. Both mean either the same thing or nothing. Of course there is also the practice of meditation on the Heart-centre. It is only a practice and not investigation. Only the one who meditates on the Heart can remain aware when the mind ceases to be active and remains still, whereas those who meditate on other centres cannot be so aware but infer that the mind was still only after it becomes again active. In whatever place in the body one thinks Self to be residing, due to the power of that thinking it will appear to the one who thinks thus as if Self is residing in that place. However, the beloved Heart alone is the refuge for the rising and subsiding of that ‘I’. Know that though it is said that the Heart exists both inside and outside, in absolute truth it does not exist both inside and outside, because the body, which appears as the base of the differences ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, is an imagination of the thinking mind. Heart, the source, is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. Heart, the supreme space, is never a form. It is the light of truth.

The following incident, narrated by Annamalai Swami in Living by the Words of Bhagavan, also has Bhagavan giving out similar advice:

In the beginning, when I first came to Bhagavan, I had asked him for a mantra. In response he told me to repeat ‘Siva Siva’ continuously. Later, Bhagavan advised me to keep my attention in the Heart while I was working. I had read that Bhagavan had spoken of a place called ‘the Heart-centre’, which he located on the right side of the chest. I had assumed that Bhagavan wanted me to concentrate on this particular centre. However, when I started to practise in this way, Bhagavan stopped me and corrected me.

‘This right-side Heart-centre is not the true Heart,’ he said. ‘The real Heart is not located anywhere. It is all-pervasive.’

‘Stop meditating on the Heart-centre,’ he continued. ‘Find the source. That is the true Heart. Just as electricity comes not from the individual meter boxes in people’s houses but from a single source, so too the whole world has a single source, which is the Self or the Heart. Seek and enquire into this source of limitless energy. If the centre of the Self were really located in the body, the Self would die when the body dies.’

I understood from these remarks that just as one cannot experience the nature and source of electricity by staring at the meter box in one’s house, one cannot gain a direct experience of the current of the Self by concentrating on the Heart-centre. I gave up concentrating on this centre and tried to follow Bhagavan’s advice.

Faced with this comprehensive array of citations from Bhagavan it would be hard to conclude that Bhagavan associated self-enquiry with the practice of concentrating on the Heart-centre, but still some writers did manage to make the connection and advocate this. For example, Arthur Osborne on page 151 of The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own Words wrote:

In a number of passages already quoted Bhagavan does not only tell the questioner to investigate the ‘I’-thought but to find out where it arises. This connects self-enquiry with concentration on the Heart at the right side.

And in ‘The Direct Path’, an article from The Mountain Path that was reprinted in For Those with Little Dust, he wrote:

Bhagavan’s instruction was, while meditating, to concentrate the consciousness on the Heart – not the physical heart on the left, but the spiritual Heart on the right side of the chest.

Celio noted that other writers had come to the same conclusion. When I wrote the ‘Who are you Ramana?’ post I quoted Bhagavan saying that all the stories about himself being Subrahmanya and Kumarila Bhatta in previous incarnations originated with Ganapati Muni. In much the same way I think that most of the people who believe that self-enquiry involves meditating on the right-side Heart-centre can trace their beliefs back to Arthur Osborne’s writings. The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own Words came out in the 1950s and for the next twenty-five years or so it was the only book on Bhagavan’s teachings that was easily available in the West. Several generations of Bhagavan’s western devotees picked up their ideas about Bhagavan from this book. I was one of them. I read this book in 1974, and when I came to Ramanasramam for the first time in 1976 I was firmly convinced that self-enquiry involved concentrating on the Heart-centre. However, in the first year or so after my arrival here I read all the available books on Bhagavan and spoke with many old devotees about Bhagavan’s teachings. Faced with the overwhelming body of quotes on this topic (many of which I have listed above) I dropped this particular idea.

I think that Arthur Osborne went through a similar process. In the articles that he wrote for The Mountain Path in the 1960s he was advocating a more acceptable position: that meditation on the Heart-centre was one practice – and a very good one – and that self-enquiry was something else. I suspect that, like me, he read more widely, and perhaps talked to other devotees about this, and eventually came to the conclusion that the two practices were not related. He concluded, as I did, that ‘you should try to have rather than to locate the experience’. That was Bhagavan’s advice to Kapali Sastri, and it is advice that all devotees should follow.

A few moments’ reflection on how and why self-enquiry works ought to convince most devotees that self-enquiry will not be successful if one holds the Heart-centre as the object of one’s attention. Bhagavan taught that the individual ‘I’ continues to exist only so long as it associates itself with objects of thought or perception. When it is freed of such associations, it subsides into the Heart and disappears since it cannot exist unless it latches on to and associates with thoughts. Concentrating on any place in the body prolongs the existence of the individual ‘I’; being subjectively aware of ‘I’ and ‘I’ alone makes it sink and disappear.

Around 1980 I was giving a talk at a conference in New Delhi. I mentioned that Bhagavan had not advocated concentrating on the Heart-centre during enquiry. At a later session of the same conference I was accosted by a distinguished elderly gentleman who produced a pile of bookmarked Ramanasramam publications. All the marks related to his contention that self-enquiry and concentrating on the Heart-centre were practices that should be done together. I tried to convince him that Bhagavan had not taught this, but he remained unconvinced. A few years later he took sannyasa under the name Swami Ramanananda Giri, and he ended up becoming a devotee of Papaji. In the early 1990s I caught up with him again in Lucknow, where we were both attending Papaji’s satsangs. He told me that when he first met Papaji in Rishikesh in 1985 he had produced the same pile of books and had tried to get Papaji to validate his position. Papaji refused, saying that Osborne was wrong on this particular point.

Apologies for not responding to the many people who have asked me to comment on thoughts expressed in the open thread on vichara. Once I have posted this material on the Heart-centre, I will start working my way through them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

An open thread on vichara

One of the comments on the Annamalai Swami film announcement this morning suggested a forum for people to discuss how they do self-enquiry. I think this is a good idea, so I have made a separate post for this which will enable readers to keep track of the discussion.

salutations to all:
the prospect of getting a video recording of annamalai swami's interview made me very were the many other interesting comments expressed in the past few days...from the posts, i could also guess that most of you (subramanian, arvind, murali, ravi, jupes, a few anonymous'and many others) are very experienced. notwithstanding everything else, since nothing may be a better place than david's blog to discuss about bhagavan's most important teaching, viz., 'vichara' (at least in my humble opinion), i would like to SUGGEST & REQUEST something :

from a strict sadhaka perspective, could we all share as to how exactly we practise self-inquiry? 'practice', i mean every detail that goes into the actual process (both the 'why' and the how')... this way all of us could benefit each other, may be in the best possible way...and wherever we have a doubt/lack of clarity, who better than david to correct or clarify as well as offer the much-required prescription to render our vichara more effective.

let me also add a note that, it seems, at least to me, that we can call ourselves as a devotee of bhagavan if and only if we practise vichara...some of you, or even most of you, may not agree with this last statement of mine because bhagavan also emphasized 'saranagati' or self-surrender... infact, if i am not wrong, i remember david mentioning in one of his long interviews (posted on his site) that only a few among the many who regularly visit ramanasramam actually try to practise vichara as their principal means of sadhana (for a variety of reasons)...yet, as we all know, for bhagavan, the most effective means to 'surrender' too lay through 'vichara'!

(and i really don't understand when people talk of submitting to god's will while thinking & doing their 'own' will most of the time...of course, i don't mean here that saying 'god made me think this way' or 'do this way' is not genuine but don't you think that to mean it 'honestly' requires a very high order of maturity, which is nearly not possible during the better part of this weird journey?)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Annamalai Swami Interview

A few weeks ago I was inside the Ramanasramam archive building, helping a South African film crew find material for a documentary they were making in the ashram, when I spotted a Betacam film tape labelled 'Annamalai Swami'. The ashram does not have equipment to play this format but I made some enquiries and discovered that the film was a master of an interview that Jim Lemkin had had with Annamalai Swami in 1993. At that point Jim was working in Tiruvannamalai on a film about the nature of happiness. Annamalai Swami was one of the people he interviewed while he was collecting material. I remember his making this film, and I also remember that at some point he ran out of funds. I suggested that he go to Lucknow to make a film about Papaji instead. Jim had been there before and been impressed by Papaji. I knew there were people there who would fund his project if Papaji approved.

Jim went to Lucknow, made his pitch to Papaji, and Papaji gave his approval to the project. Papaji then asked me to help him make the film. I ended up doing long filmed interviews with Papaji and shorter ones with many of his devotees. The interview I did with Papaji in the Botanical Gardens in Lucknow appeared in print in
Papaji Interviews, and an edited version came out as a film entitled Summa Iru. The film itself, directed by Jim, came out under the title Call Off The Search.

The material for the 'happiness' project went into a kind of limbo. So far as I am aware, none of it has ever appeared. A few days ago I contacted Jim about the material he had filmed here in 1993 and asked if he still had a usable copy of it. He did, and he was happy to send me a DVD master from which copies could be made. I watched the Annamalai Swami interview a few days ago and found it to be a wonderfully evocative experience. It brought back many happy memories of sitting in Annamalai Swami's little room, asking him questions about his life and his relationship with Bhagavan.

The interview is seventy-three minutes long, and visually it is superb. The sound is not quite so good. The translations made by Sundaram, Annamalai Swami's interpreter, are sometimes difficult to make out, but with a little concentrated effort, they can all be deciphered. The first ten minutes or so are devoted to a summary of how Annamalai Swami heard about Bhagavan and came to him in 1928. The remainder is Jim asking questions about Self-realisation and practice. Annamalai Swami replies to them in a typical eloquent and forceful way. This interview will be a great treat for anyone who has appreciated Annamalai Swami's Guru bhakti and his simple but practical teachings.

I emailed Jim about the interview and asked if I could distribute it for him. He agreed but said that he didn't want anyone to make any money out of it. That means I will be selling it at cost price and asking buyers not to sell it on to anyone else at a profit. This morning I contacted the business in Mumbai that makes DVDs for Ramanasramam and its manager agreed to make 500 copies for me for around Rs 40 per copy. That's just under one dollar US. That will be the sale price, plus postage. In India that means about Rs 55; elsewhere, probably around $2 US, depending on how much the package weighs. The manager of the copying company promised delivery in 30 days, but I don't take estimates like that very seriously.

So, this is just an announcement that this new product will be available sometime later this year. I have to design a label and a cover, which will add a few days to the process, but I hope to have my 500 copies before the end of next month. I will put a notification on this blog when copies are available for distribution.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

replies to recent comments

Apologies for the prolonged absence. My visitors are still with me; I had a day in bed with a mysterious fever; and for the past few days we have been having all-day power cuts, which has made working a rather hit-and-miss affair. Before I write anything new, here are my responses to all the comments you have sent over the last week or so. My comments are in bold.

On More on Gandhi’s spiritual practices sD wrote: Dear David, Have you heard anything Sri Ramana said about Bharathiyar or vice-versa?

I don’t know if Bhagavan made any comments on him or his poetry, but he did mention that he came to visit once. The following comment is from Day by Day with Bhagavan, 3rd June, 1946:

G. V. Subbaramayya: Did Subramania Bharati ever come to Bhagavan?

I think he did once. It was when we were on the hill. One evening when only Sivayya (the late Mauni Swami of Kutralam), who is dead now, was with me, someone came and sat for nearly an hour before me and then went away without saying a word. Later, when I saw pictures of Bharati I thought it must have been he.


On Who were you Ramana? S. wrote: david, am very sorry if this comment is long. It’s an art to write the way you do :)

salutations to all: (the writing here is typically like a chat conversation...just a collection of some apologies if any of you find anything inappropriate in the comment)...

i guess every sect or community would prefer calling their leader or guru as the supreme personification of the godhead...this is pretty interesting because all those who claim, including some of us who have been speculating, ought to have already then known what’s god or godhead before talking anything about such a thing’s personification...(sort of people saying ‘it’s all god’s will’...i have no idea about god, much less about god’s will...)to consider or believe or imagine that one’s own chosen ideal or personal deity or even the sadguru is the ‘best’ or ‘unique’ or ‘complete’ manifestation of the supreme is, for me, just a sign of insecurity where the ‘I’ wants to desperately cling and later assert that that to which it so clings is the best among everything...this is entirely different from considering or believing or imagining one’s sadguru as god himself because there is no comparison whatsoever in the latter... as we know bhagavan was typically non-committal about most such opinions that were showered upon him quite repeatedly by his devotees...many may have seen their chosen ideal in bhagavan, or perhaps just imagined him to be the embodiment of their chosen ideal, as in the case of ganapati muni etc...but regardless of whoever it may be, such an aspect cannot be generalized...just because someone sees something in bhagavan (it really doesn’t matter who that someone is), and even if bhagavan himself had confirmed the same to that devotee, it still doesn’t imply that bhagavan was indeed that ‘something’...with due respects to ganapati muni, he was a scholar par excellence in linguistics but not in what or who bhagavan is...likewise, i may sound really impudent, but the same can also be said for kanchi paramacharya...does that mean could even the self-realized say something that may not be all that right? (this being a clear digression, i will postpone my thoughts on this contentious issue)...

as all of us are well aware, there was only one thing that bhagavan kept on emphasizing, and that too relentlessly and ceaselessly: “vichara”...and thus thats the only thing that could be universalized...everything else, or almost everything else, even if bhagavan himself had said so could have been for a particular devotee at a particular time to satisfy a particular need in a particular enquire & realize, isn’t that the only way to know ‘who was ramana’?

obviously, david’s blogs are very sweet but whenever they are not addressing the teachings of bhagavan, the only thing that plausibly could be done is to read, relish, keep it aside, and get back to, is bhagavan an avatara or a jnani?...honestly, i don’t know what either of those two terms mean...but i do know that although i have no idea of the state he was in, i feel irresistibly drawn to that state.

I agree with you that we tend to project on to our Gurus our own ideas of the Supreme, whatever it might be. Muruganar liked to see Bhagavan as Siva manifest in a human form to serve as Guru for those who desired grace; Ganapati Muni saw Bhagavan as an avatar of a God, and an incarnation of a great scholar who showed an extraordinary veneration towards the Vedas. If we have these ideas in our subconscious, then we may be granted ‘signs’ or ‘proofs’ that our ideas are genuine. This is, as I remarked in the main post, the sannidhi of the Guru reacting to our subconscious desires by granting us visions or other indications that our ideas are genuine. However, none of our ideas and none of the responses of the sannidhi give us a true indication of who Bhagavan really is.

Sadhu Natanananda recorded the following comment by Bhagavan on page 142 of his Tamil commentary on Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam:

Bhagavan: Only he who sees me with the same eye that I see myself and as that which I see myself will truly see my real nature [swarupa] as it really is.


On Who were you Ramana?, Ravi wrote: Is Bhagavan unique? I have to say an emphatic “YES” despite the risk of sounding like a zealot. I have the backing of Sri Annamalai Swami and I wish to share this interesting piece of information. It was in 1994(or 1995), after visiting Yogi Ramsurat Kumar in his Ashram, myself and Siva (a cousin of mine) went to see Sri Annamalai Swami. We told him that we had just visited the Yogi. In a tone of soliloquy, he observed-” have heard that he has Siddhis. HAVE SEEN THE SIDDHA OF SIDDHAS! NO SEEING ANY OTHER!” I have tried to translate (verbatim) his words as closely as possible.

I should also add here that Sri Annamalai Swami was the last person to try to suggest or INFLUENCE others. His disciple Sri Sundaram used to travel to Chennai to attend J Krishnamurti’s Talks, whenever JK was in Chennai.

Bhagavan was not only a unique blend of saintliness and jnana, he was also available to all seekers for decades. While that makes him exceptional – who else manifested these traits to such a marked degree? – it does not necessarily mean that he is more enlightened, or in a higher state, than any other Self-realised being.

Some devotees like to put their Guru on a high pedestal and glorify him as a once-in-a-thousand-years occurrence. While this is one way for Guru bhakti to manifest, it is not how I see Bhagavan myself. I see him as someone who attained the highest state and who showed others how that state could be attained. He did not ‘pull up the ladder behind him’. Through his power, his presence, his grace and his teachings, he enabled and empowered others to discover that state for themselves.

He began the writing of Atma Vidya with: ‘Lo, very easy is Self-knowledge, lo very easy indeed!’ This is not the argument of a man who wanted to be seen as a unique phenomenon, and who further claimed that his was a unique state that could not be attained by anyone else. It is the statement of a man who did not see himself as superior to or different from anyone.

There is no hierarchy of jnanis, with some being more enlightened than others. In fact, the very idea that there are jnanis and ajnanis is a false one, one that can only arise in the mind of someone who is not aware that there are no such distinctions in the Self. In the first of the two Narayana Iyer accounts I posted here recently Bhagavan summed this up very neatly by saying: ‘There is no jnani, jnana alone is.’

Having said all that, I believe that Annamalai Swami was quite entitled to say that he had seen the siddha of siddhas and therefore did not need to see any other. I believe that those who have established themselves irrevocably and definitively in the state of jnana are very rare beings, and no praise is too high for them. Those who have obtained the good fortune of an association with such beings are quite entitled to say that they have seen God Himself and therefore have no need to go anywhere else.

An Australian friend of mine, Raman, once asked Papaji why he often made disparaging remarks about other teachers and Gurus.

Papaji responded by saying: ‘I have sat with the Maharshi, so I know what a true Guru is like. For me, he is the benchmark, the gold standard of what a true teacher should be. If I ever meet someone again who is in that supreme state, I will show the same respect to him that I show to the Maharshi. But if I see others who are not in that state and who pretend that they are, then I reserve the right to criticise them.’


On Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam There’s so much to hear... wrote: Hi David, Please make the links in your personal site as to open the target in new window. Thanks, Raghu.

I just checked my site. If you are using a PC, right click the site or any subdivision within it, and you will see ‘Open link in new window’ and ‘Open link in new tab’. Both options work.


On update bhakta wrote: Usually, the bodies-minds we call ‘we’ have to do so many things and to deal with so many different situations and persons... But we can always remember that we are not these...

Verse 67 of GVK says: On account of the ego, the feeling ‘I am the body’, experiencing all the worlds, which are not other than consciousness, as if they were different from oneself, who is that consciousness, is a creation of the dense and expansive delusion (of ajnana or ignorance of one’s true nature). Thanks, David, for the blog and for the books you have edited. Certainly, all this comes from Bhagavan’s Grace!

Thanks for the vote of confidence. We have just had an unseasonal heat wave (41 degrees instead of the usual 35) and we had to sit through it with no fans since the power was out for most of each day. It was a good time to practice ‘I am not the body’.


On The true nature of sleep, jay wrote: Great Information. Thanks for all the posts regarding this.


On Who were you Ramana?, Anonymous wrote: Since Bhagavan was the one and only reality how can he not be everything that has ever been and will be. Be still and the question never happens. Manfred

When Bhagavan was asked whether he was claiming to be an avatar of Subrahmanya, he replied, ‘That and all other Gods are me’. This would support your contention that he is and was everything that has ever been. However, to reach that understanding, that knowledge, I believe he went through a period of identifying with particular bodies until he realised the Self in 1896. I thought it would be fun to speculate on what those bodies might have been, and to give the opinions of others who had also theorised on this topic. The post seems to have provoked strong and contrary opinions in many readers. I wrote it with the aim of telling an entertaining story, rather than with the aim of coming to a provable conclusion.


On Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Anonymous Wrote: Dear David, When I first read similar stories twenty years ago I used to cry almost every time. Now they still my mind most of the time but still cause occasional tears. That stillness is now the most important part of my life so keep up your wonderful work. Manfred


On God the scriptwriter, Scott Fraundorf (enzymaticactivity) wrote: I have a question, so when a ‘person’ realizes the self, and they don’t undergo future births because they have transcended the ego. I’ve always wondered if that means, they no longer have pictures on the cinema screen after their current body has died. Or if even if they uptake future bodies, like the Dalai Lama, they have no identification or pretention of doership. I’ve had a few short glimpses maybe of the Self that were more intense then previous ‘experiences’, and of course my mind quickly ended it by projecting outward, or noticing how cool it was. But in those experiences it was almost indistinguishable from dying and losing consciousness, while an unreal panorama of images flitted by, while it was longer maybe 10 seconds then previous times, I fell into it, but then found it extremely difficult to stay there.

When the body of a realised being dies, he or she continues to exist as the formless Self. In that state there are no ‘pictures’.


On update, Anonymous wrote: “a running lunch that lasted for hours” that just kindled my hunger even though i ate just now!:) “we have had no rain for weeks” effect of global warming? “Everyone I meet right now is reminding me of various jobs that I haven’t done”. i’m sorry you can take your time to do that Nisargadatta hurry! “Just in case anyone is interested, Skandashram looks very nice after its recent renovations, as does the area around Guhai Namasivaya Temple” cool..hopefully they’ll keep it that way.

In the models of global warming that I have seen so far, South India seems to be one of the few places in the world that may be getting better weather. As the earth warms up we are apparently due to get slightly cooler summers and more annual rainfall, both of which will be a big plus for the people who live here.


On Older Posts, frederickgam wrote: Don’t mean to intrude in your discussion, but I seem to be having the same problem too. At the office the widget shows recent comments perfectly, but once I get home they just disappear! Wonder what’s wrong with the widget. Obviously the problem lies in the server running the widget.

The new ‘recent comments’ has worked every time I have looked at the blog. Is anyone else having problems? Because of the large number of photos that were inserted in the ‘Cleaning the eastern slopes of Arunachala’ post, loading may have been slow if you were using a dial-up connection at home. With the addition of today’s post, the Arunachala photos will disappear into the archives. This should significantly decrease the loading time. Let me know if the problem persists. I subscribe to a board where problems with these widgets are discussed by people who have installed them. So far, no complaints about this new programme have appeared there.


On update, David Godman wrote: anonymous Hi, things are a bit hectic here. Yesterday I had a running lunch that lasted for hours, with several people and families coming and going over a two-hour stretch; I had two hours with a water diviner, two hours watering my fruit trees since we have had no rain for weeks; I took my guest to Skandashram and Virupaksha Cave; and I babysat two children for an hour or so while their mother, who has been here for three years, packed her household for America. Today I have house painters to deal with, and I also have a week’s worth of books to pack and take to the Post Office. Everyone I meet right now is reminding me of various jobs that I haven’t done. And I in turn remind other people of jobs they are supposed to be doing for me. I paid my fourth visit in three days this morning to a shop in town that is supposed to be repairing some of my electrical equipment. Blogging will, I hope, resume sometime early next week. Just in case anyone is interested, Skandashram looks very nice after its recent renovations, as does the area around Guhai Namasivaya Temple. Most of the garbage has been removed, the paths widened, and thorn branches which were intruding on the path have been cut back.


On update, Anonymous wrote: It’s time to entertain your guests.. we can wait until next week for our spiritual entertainment! Maybe the guests will rekindle your memories of some good Ramana, Papaji, Nisargadatta (how about an article on him for a change?) stories we haven’t heard of.

I have no idea what form your ‘spiritual entertainment’ will take in the next few days, except that it will probably include an extract from a new book that contains a definitive collection of Bhagavan’s dealing with the animals he encountered during his years at Arunachala. It came out yesterday on the 60th anniversary of Lakshmi’s samadhi day. I went to the ashram this morning to buy a copy but found that only ten advance copies had been sent to the ashram. When I get my hands on a copy, I will post an extract here.


On Who were you Ramana?, Ravi wrote: Arvind’s comments are spot on. Sri Bhagavan’s revelation that He is the Supreme Being residing in the hearts of all beings is the most definitive. All other statements are speculative/inconclusive. Saying that Sri Bhagavan is Subramanya can lead to the question - who is Subhramanya.We at least know and have savoured the gracious presence of Sri Bhagavan. We hardly know anything at all of Subhramanya (other than what we have read in mythological stories). Saying that he was X, Y or Z also does not seem to add or subtract anything when we again ask - who was X,Y or Z? we have to come to Sri Bhagavan’s definitive response sooner or later. It is through the KNOWN that we may try to understand the UNKNOWN. Sri Bhagavan is the KNOWN - The Rest like Subhramanaya, or Sage of Arunagiri, Guha Namasivaya, X, Y or Z are the unknown (relatively speaking). Perhaps the right way to ask this question (if we want to speculate) is - Who is Subhramanya? The answer perhaps is that He is Sri Bhagavan. (Subhramanya has no karma-sanchitta, prarabda, akamya, etc. So it is with Sri Bhagavan). Beings like Sri Bhagavan are not born of any Sanchitta/prarabda Karma. Sri Ramakrishna speaks about Nithyasiddhas who are born perfect. Sri Bhagavan surely belongs to this category. Ordinary Gnanis have their BAGGAGE of Karmas and although they rise above,yet the Body Mind complex carries the momentum; this is bequeathed to the disciples! This explains the state of confusion that they leave behind! (LET THE WISE BEWARE LEST THEY BEWILDER THE MINDS OF THE IGNORANT!-Bhagavad Gita).

Your contention that the gods are manifestations of Bhagavan, rather than the other way round, is an interesting one, and one that was supported by both Sadhu Om and Muruganar. This is an extract from Michael James’ introduction to his and Sadhu Om’s translations of Upadesa Undiyar, pages four and five:

Once some devotees asked Sri Sadhu Om, ‘Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri declared that Sri Bhagavan is an incarnation or avatar of Lord Subrahmanya. Other devotees say that Sri Bhagavan is an incarnation of Lord Siva. What was Sri Muruganar’s opinion? According to him, of which God was Sri Bhagavan an incarnation?’ To which Sri Sadhu Om replied with a smile, ‘According to Sri Muruganar, it is the other way around. His conviction was that all Gods are incarnations or manifestations of Sri Bhagavan.’ This conviction of Sri Muruganar is beautifully expressed by him in his song ‘Tiruvundiyar’.

Having attained Self-knowledge by the Grace of Sri Bhagavan, Sri Muruganar knew from his own direct experience that Sri Bhagavan is the one unlimited Supreme Reality, and that all Gods and Divine Incarnations are truly manifestations of that same Supreme Reality. Although the Supreme Reality can manifest itself in any number of divine names and forms, the highest of all those manifestations is the name and form of the Sadguru. Therefore being an exemplary disciple, Sri Muruganar was drawn in devotion only to the name and form of his Sadguru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana.

‘It is not that I do not know that all the Gods, who appear to be many, are truly manifestations of the one reality. Though I know this, among all the Gods, my mind is drawn in love only towards Siva-Ramana.’

Thus sings Sri Muruganar in Sri Ramana Jnana Bodham, volume three, verse 1023. Hence, even when he had occasion to sing about the lilas of some of the different names and forms in which the Supreme Reality had manifested itself, he was able to sing about those names and forms only as various manifestations of his Lord and Sadguru, Sri Ramana.

I think this is a fine example of Guru bhakti, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.

Apropos your comments that Bhagavan might have been a nithya siddha – one born in a state of perfection with no prior karmic baggage – this is an interesting idea that I didn’t discuss in my post. There are two aspects to this position: can one be born enlightened, and was Bhagavan one of these beings?

It is my belief that one cannot be born or reborn unless one has pending desires and karma from a previous incarnation. I don’t know what scriptural authority there is for or against this position. I myself came to this conclusion after discussing this matter with Gurus such as Papaji, Lakshmana Swamy and Saradamma. All of them told me quite categorically that those who have permanently eradicated their ‘I’-thought cannot take on a new form again. All my teachers have told me that those who claim that they are planning to return in some form or other have not experienced or understood jnana. I don’t want to tread on any toes here, but I know that this position will not be accepted by disciples of Gurus who have stated that they intend to return.

Bhagavan did hint that he had had other forms that might preclude him from being one of these nithya siddhis who just manifest without any prior history. When someone pointed out that he didn’t have a Guru, he replied that he must have had at some time. He also mentioned to a couple of devotees that they had been with him in a former life. Such stray comments could be taken to indicate that Bhagavan did have ‘karmic baggage’ from another life.

There is an interesting concept in Saiva Siddhanta. This philosophical tradition states that there are three impurities – anava (ego), karma and maya (illusion) – that prevent devotees from attaining the ultimate goal, oneness with the consciousness of Siva. Those who have all three impurities (malas) need a human Guru to realise Sadasivam, consciousness of Siva. Those devotees who are only afflicted by anava and karma can reach Sadasiva by having Siva appear before them in a physical form. Many of the devotees from the Periyapuranam would come into this category. Those in the third category, whose only mala is anava, can get enlightenment through the power of the Self within, without needing either a human Guru or the darshan of an external God. Bhagavan would be a good example of someone who became enlightened through the power of the Self alone. While Bhagavan himself never referred to this idea, I think it expresses my own opinions fairly well. I believe that Bhagavan arrived in his final incarnation in a highly pure state, but still having an ego (anava) that identified itself as Venkataraman. The anava caused him to incarnate and for sixteen years it identified itself with a body and veiled the experience of the Self. However, it was so pure and so attenuated, it offered little or no resistance when the Self pulled it into itself and destroyed it, leaving Self alone.

I don’t believe that he was an avatar of a God or a nithya siddha, but that is just my personal opinion. If other people want to believe something else, that’s fine with me. Any bhava that increases one’s devotion to one’s Guru or God is, in my opinion, good.


On update, celio leite wrote: Thanks David for the blog. A doubt... There is so many direct disciples, that explain the Vichara focusing the body sensation of `right side of chest` or `spiritual heart`. Serious direct disciples. Can quote Osborne, a great disciple that lived in Brazil and others... There is too, others direct disciples, like Sadhu Om, Muruganar, that don’t teach the attention on the right side of the chest. Why these different views of serious and close disciples of the Sadguru? Thanks a lot.

Thanks for the query. I agree that there is a difference of opinion on this subject. I don’t have time to list all the various arguments on this here, but I promise to devote a post to it in the not-too-distant future.


On Cleaning the eastern slopes of Arunachala, arvind wrote: Jupes, Reading your post one was a bit touched by your remark about living halfway across the globe and probably never being able to visit Arunachala. Forgive me if I am being forward, but I do feel that even if you have very compelling constraints, all you need to have is a really strong and genuine desire to visit Arunachala and Sri Ramanasramam and you would find that the Grace has unexpectedly brought you across somehow. I dug up a few inspiring quotes –

[from David’s book “Padamalai”, Pg 344, verse 81, Muruganar writes] “As I wandered, I know not where, fair Padam (Sri Bhagavan), Supreme Bliss, brought me here to his feet through his sweet Grace and brought me salvation”.

[from the Souvenir “Ramana Smriti”, the article ‘Eternal Bhagavan’; Shantamma, one of the grand old kitchen ladies, writes] “It was the experience of every devotee, that he who is determined to visit him, in spite of every obstacle, finds that all obstacles somehow vanish”.

[from “Sri Ramana Reminiscences” by G. V. Subbaramayya, Pg 13] “Then I realized as never before how Sri Bhagavan’s will and not mine own brought me here”.

[from Suri Nagamma’s “Letters”, Pg 35, “A Pair of Pigeons”] Bhagavan: “Any living being that comes to me [comes] only to work out the balance of its Karma. So don’t prevent anyone from coming to me.”

I agree with Arvind on this one: if you have a strong desire to come to Arunachala, Arunachala will make the arrangements for your visit. There is one other thing I would suggest: ask Bhagavan for permission to come and then leave the problem with him. I often receive emails from people who tell me that their family or employment positions prevent them from coming here. I usually tell them that they are negotiating with the wrong person. Instead of trying to persuade unwilling parents, wives, husbands or employers that they need to go to Tiruvannamalai, I advise them to just tell Bhagavan about their desire and leave it to him. More often than not, he makes some unexpected arrangement for devotees to fulfill their desire.

Sometimes, when people tell me that that they can’t afford to come, I mention a friend of mine who works as a minimum-wage manual labourer in London. He used to get up early every day and walk miles to work instead of getting the bus. In the evening he would walk home. The money he saved by doing this every day for six months was enough to buy him a return plane ticket to India every year. If you want to come, and that’s the most important thing in your own life, then you will get the opportunity to come.


On Who were you Ramana?, Bala wrote: I recall reading an article in mountain path (by a Doctor disciple) where he was contemplating on this question of who bhagawan was in the old hall and came to the conclusion that he was the Siddha Purusha residing in the hill. The article mentioned about the instance of Bhagwan coming across the large banyan leaf (?) and wanted to check the tree under which the Siddha Purusha resides only to be bitten by hornets and taking it as a divine sign that He should not go there. If I recall correctly as per the article, Bhagwan had a large smile on his face when the author was thinking along these lines and reached his conclusions.

The tradition at Arunachala is that Siva manifests in three forms: as the lingam in the Arunachaleswara Temple, as the mountain of Arunachala and as Arunagiri Yogi, a siddha who lives on the north side of the hill and who sits there under a banyan tree.

When Bhagavan was walking on the north slopes of the hill he came across a huge banyan leaf in a stream bed and had a desire to find out where the tree was that produced such large leaves. He said that it was the size of a teak tree leaf, which means it would have been at least ten times the size of a normal banyan tree leaf. Before he could start the search, he was stung by hornets so badly, he had to return home to Virupaksha Cave. Although many devotees came to the conclusion that this leaf came from the tree that Arunagiri Yogi sat under, Bhagavan himself never said this himself. He never said that he was looking either for the yogi or the tree he sat under; he merely stated that he wanted to find the tree that was producing such unusually large leaves.

Bhagavan definitely accepted that there were siddhas on the hill. He even said that they would occasionally come to visit him in Ramanasramam in various animal forms. However, he never claimed to be a siddha himself. There is an interesting comment, recorded by Kapali Sastri in The Maharshi, which indicates that Bhagavan was not a siddha, and had no intention of becoming one:

The Maharshi told me [Kapali Sastri] – over forty years ago – that whenever he wanted and attempted to go on the paths of the siddhas, the siddhamarga, he was pulled back, something telling : ‘That is asat [unreal, not the truth]; here alone, (pointing to the heart), is the Thing. Who is it that goes up and down the siddha-marga, find him.’


On Robert Adams again, Eleven wrote: ‘It only appears in your small mind. If your mind gets destroyed, there will be no world.’ So, basically I am the only one that exists. I am the only seer. I am the only one that’s trying to realize the self. All of you guys only exist in my imagination. You only exist when I read your comments. This makes my ego feel sad and lonely.

Why be sad and lonely? You have been shown a way of transcending your imaginary world. Take it and be happy.

Bhagavan said that devotees must first be convinced that the world they see is unreal, because if they continue to imagine that it is a real entity, their minds will always be drawn towards it. If you have reached the stage where you really do believe that everything you see is unreal and imaginary, then Bhagavan has done a great job with you. Instead of being miserable, rejoice, because now he can turn your attention and interest to what is permanent.


On Who were you Ramana?, arvind wrote: David, Sri Bhagavan’s is the only person from all the recorded history of the world one can think of, who in a single step, and within just a few moments, from a normal lad of 16 became a glorious, fully-enlightened Sage, WITHOUT any spiritual or religious instructions, any sadhana of any sort, or any ‘diksha’, or any obvious direct Divine intervention (like that of Thiru Jnanasambandhar), and without any Guru or Master. This holds true if we compare - with the lives of some generally accepted Jnanis of recent times like Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (Guru & sadhana), Papaji (Guru & sadhana), Seshadri Swami (sadhana), Lakshman Swamy (Guru & sadhana), Sardamma (Guru & sadhana) and so on. And also holds true if we even consider names from older times – Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi (Guru & sadhana), Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa (Gurus & sadhana) , Gautama Buddha (sadhana), Sri Mahavira (Guru & sadhana), King Janaka (Guru) and so on. We know that Sri Bhagavan Himself said that if one comes across instances of people becoming enlightened without any apparent, physical Guru, it may be assumed that the Guru was in other forms – like that for Sri Dattatreya. Or, if someone becomes enlightened without any apparent sadhana, it may be assumed that the sadhana had already been completed in previous lives. But it must be noted that these were never specific statements about Himself. They were broad, general statements to those who tried to pin Him down. He never categorically said that He had Gurus in any form. (If at all, He implied that His Guru was Arunachala, which I believe was saying that - His Guru was Himself). And He never categorically said that He Himself had done any sadhana in previous lives, if there were any in the first place.

Thanks for your long contribution on this topic. I have already nailed my colours to the mast on this subject and stated where I stand on Bhagavan’s past lives in some of my previous responses in this post. Since your post is a long one, I will interpolate my own comments in the middle of yours.

Bhagavan did say that he had had a Guru. For me, this implies that he needed a Guru to complete the process of Self-realisation. Sometimes he would say that the Self had been his Guru, but at other times he attributed the role to Arunachala. In Aksharamanamalai verse nineteen he wrote: ‘Arunachala, you who stand and shine before me in the form of my Guru…’. And in verse nine of Sri Arunachala Navamanimalai he confirmed that Arunachala was his Guru and that its power had enabled him to realise the Self when he wrote: ‘You entered my mind, drew me and established me in your own state’.

And then if we study His life, and the way He went about doing things, and His interactions with people we again would find that Sri Bhagavan was quite unique. All of which leads one to the conclusion that He is significantly different in some manner to all the other Jnanis.

Though the jnana of jnanis is obviously identical, the way they live and conduct themselves varies wildly. I don’t think that behaviour can be taken to be a sign of jnana, or an indication of its absence.

But then, we have to remember that Sri Bhagavan Himself said that there are no grades or levels of Jnanis. Either one is a Jnani or one is not. And so one hesitates to postulate that He is in some sort of ‘Jnana-atita’ category analogous to that of ‘Turiyatita’ (with respect to ‘Turiya’).But what one can say with certainty is this. There is absolutely no scriptural or anecdotal foundation to the idea that ALL who are born in the human body must have had previous lives or must have inborn samskaras. There can be and have been very holy people who have come into form for the first time. They come into form with no vasanas and no samskaras. I believe that Sri Bhagavan is one such being.

I agree that there are no grades of jnana. More importantly, Bhagavan held this view as well. When he was asked about the seven levels of attainment that are listed as the jnana bhoomikas (see Spiritual Instruction chapter four) he said that the jnani belonged in level four. When he was asked the next obvious question, ‘If that is so, why have three more stages superior to it been distinguished?’ he replied:

The marks of the stages four to seven are based upon the experiences of the realised 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.

I discussed your other statement – that there is no scriptural foundation for the idea that all who are born in a human body must have had previous lives or must have inborn samskaras – with a Sanskrit and Vedanta scholar yesterday, and he agreed with you. I base my own statements (that one cannot be born unless one in unenlightened) on what I have been told by jnanis whose opinions I fully respect.

I was thinking about this subject yesterday, and one idea surfaced and would not go away. If an avatar comes into the world to restore dharma, or for any other reason, does this not imply a srishti-drishti view of creation: that there is a permanent world into which an avatar inserts himself from time to time? How is this consistent with the drishti-srishti position that Bhagavan expounded: that the world is a projection of the one who sees it, and that this seer is compelled into a new birth through pending karmas and samskaras?

Much like the Avatars, like Sri Krishna for example, but not exactly so. Avatars, simply put, would be incarnations of Brahma, Visnu or Siva; or the personification in human form of the Divine functions of Creation, Preservation and Destruction, themselves being divisions in the ‘worldly aspect’ of the Self Supreme. And if we strictly go by scriptural authority, Brahma and Siva have no Avatars, and so all Avatars who have appeared in the world are Avatars of Visnu. [Also the Avatar is a little different from an ‘Amsa’. The Avatars are born divine, being absolute personifications of the Godhead, without previous births etc and born for a specific purpose in the world. The ‘Amsas’ can be any or all of us based on our predilections, skills, vasanas etc and can be derived from any of the Gods; Ganapati Muni for instance, could be said to be an Amsa of Lord Ganapati. Lord Ganapati Himself would regress into the Saivite fold ]. So how is Sri Bhagavan different even from the Avatars ? I believe that Sri Bhagavan is a direct personification of the Supreme Self Itself. Whereas the Avatars are, simply put and as explained earlier, personifications of a Godhead, the Godhead Himself being a personification of one or more (worldly) aspects of the Self Supreme. And so I believe when Sri Bhagavan wrote the verse prompted by Sri Amritanatha Yatindra, He was actually directly describing Himself and did not intend it to be a general sort of statement. He said, “In the recesses of the lotus-shaped hearts of all, beginning with Hari, there shines as pure intellect the Paramatman, who is the same as Arunachala Ramana (meaning Himself) … .” And the difference with the other Jnanis is that they all had previous births, and worked through their vasanas through sadhana through many lives, or had the Grace of their Guru (for those who had one in that life) etc and then achieved the Self Supreme. Whereas in Sri Bhagavan’s case the Self Supreme, Itself, directly took form in the garb of Venkataraman; the garb being stripped away at the appointed time to reveal the Self Supreme. And thus we find in Sri Bhagavan ‘a little more of the Self’, so to speak, than the other Jnanis. And so the identification and ‘love’ of Sri Bhagavan with Arunachala would not be due to previous samskaras from previous births but because, as Sri Bhagavan has said, the holy mountain itself stands for the Self Supreme. He said that Arunachala is Siva Himself as Siva identifies Himself with It much as we do with our bodies. [‘Siva’ in Sri Bhagavan’s usage in this manner is the Self Supreme and not the Godhead for Destruction]. The two, Sri Bhagavan and Arunachala, are thus identical, both being directly, forms of the Supreme Self. One is reminded of Sri Muruganar’s great averment in verse 201 in Sri Ramana Deva Malai (here from ‘Power of the Presence’ vol III, page 164) - “People discuss whether Brahman is with form or without form, but I have seen Brahman on the slopes of Arunachala in the form of a frail old man, tottering about with a stick in His hand, opening out the large lotus petals of His eyes and looking round for souls to save. He is none other than Sri Ramana.” David, forgive me for the long post. I have, though, tried to compress around 10 pages worth of arguments into about 2 pages. Also, the forgoing is not written in a hagiographic sense to merely extol; but one would be happy if it were to be considered as a logical dissertation. Would be grateful for feedback.

I agree that when Bhagavan wrote his ‘Arunachala Ramana’ verse he was describing himself and revealing his true identity. But that does not preclude the possibility that he had other imaginary identities prior to having this knowledge. These imaginary identities were his last lives. When his ‘I’-thought perished at the age of sixteen, the wrong identification with a form ceased. Subsequently he identified and knew himself to be Self and Self alone.

I have no comments on your exposition on avatars and amsas. However, I will say that Bhagavan occasionally pointed out that the jnani was in a higher state than an avatar, even though this tends to be contrary to popular opinion. In Day by Day with Bhagavan 14th September 1946 Devaraja Mudaliar wrote:

My brother has written in a letter to me that Krishna and Nammalvar have said that God will come to us in whatever form we worship Him; I wrote to my brother in my reply, “A jnani is the highest manifestation of God on earth, next perhaps only to an avatar.” In connection with this sentence, I wanted to have my doubt cleared about the relative position of a jnani and an avatar. Then Bhagavan was pleased to tell me that, according to the books, the jnani was higher than the avatar.

In his memoir My Recollections of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Devaraja Mudaliar included another story on the same topic:

This brother of mine is a very religious man in his own way and a great devotee of Sri Rama and Sri Venkatesa of Tirupathi. He knows, however, very little about jnanis, and concepts like the One Self, the One without a second, leave him cold. He feels pity for people like me who adore Sri Ramana, who, in his opinion, was after all only a man, instead of worshipping a manifestation of God, like Sri Rama. Once or twice we have had discussions in which I tried to explain to him that God and a Jnani are the same and that the highest manifestation of God is a jnani. I myself once had a doubt as to where exactly Avatars like Sri Rama or Lord Krishna come in and what exactly is their place in the hierarchy of beings or manifestations of God. When I consulted Bhagavan, he was pleased to tell me that the jnani was the highest manifestation of Brahman, that even Avatars would come only after Jnanis, and that after Avatars would come famous idols such as those at Tirupathi, Benares, Rameswaram and other holy shrines. In this connection also Bhagavan quoted to me the stanza already quoted in this book, which says, “Not even Brahma, Vishnu or Siva can be regarded as a jnani’s equal. Who then can be spoken of as his equal?’

Given that Bhagavan himself puts jnanis in a higher category than avatars, I prefer to regard him as a jnani rather than as an avatar. Elsewhere he was said, ‘An avatar is a partial manifestation of God whereas the jnani is God himself’.


On Ulladu Narpadu first benedictory verse, Subramanian. R wrote: Dear David, I read the translation done by Butler, Venkatasubramanian and you of Tiruvachakam. Along with Bhagavan’s works, Tiruvachakam is another book which possesses me. I tried my hand to translate Tiruvachakam 10.6. You may correct it if you feel like.

You will, without seed grow;

You will place the sky, earth and all that, and displace;

You made this treacherous dog- eater mad at your temple gate!

And to be owned by your great devotees!

One who has grown a tree will not fell it because it’s poisonous;

O Lord, I too am like that.

Thanks for your offering and for your touching faith in our ability to refine it a little. Unfortunately, I am way behind with all my jobs and I am determined not to get distracted until I get at least some of them completed.


Ravi has left a new comment on your post "Who were you Ramana?": S. comments are quite to the point. It is indeed true that the ‘I’ can attach itself in a vain way to any object of its adoration and bask in the Reflected Glory. Yet it is also true that this need not be the case always. For the genuine disciple, His Guru is Supreme and he will share this only with likeminded people, not with all and sundry. Even the Gnanis despite realising the oneness of Existence still maintain a separate status for the Guru; Like papaji was doing Namaskar to the Photo of Sri Bhagavan or Nisargadutta Maharaj doing Pooja to his Guru’s Photograph. For all it is worth, I wish to share my Feelings - When I Think of Sri Ramakrishna/Sarada Devi/Vivekananda, I strongly assert that there was not another like them (not in this Forum).When I think of Swami Ramdas (papa Ramdas) I tend to assert that there was not another like him! All great Sages and Saints are unique. They are like different flowers, each with their Signature Fragrance. Coming to the other point that S. has raised, regarding the opinion or statement of even a Realized Soul, I believe that there is no claim for any infallibility; whatever is of the mind is only plausible, not an absolute certitude. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that Brahman is the Only Reality in comparison with which even the Vedas are lies! All that has been uttered has become defiled! Thanks S. for raising some of these counterpoints.

This comment was posted after I had begun to reply to all the others in chronological order.

I watched Nisargadatta Maharaj do his Guru puja every day; I watched Papaji prostrate to images of Bhagavan, and I saw him cry when I asked him to talk about what Bhagavan had done for him; and I have read of Bhagavan showing equal veneration and respect to Arunachala, his own Guru. All the great Gurus I have known or read about have shown extraordinary respect and reverence for their own Gurus. In remembering all these incidents I am reminded of verse 39 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham in which Bhagavan wrote:

Keep advaita within the Heart. Do not ever carry it into action. Even if you apply it to all the three worlds, O Son, it is not to be applied to the Guru.

I also agree with you that the words of one jnani often contradict the words of another, which is why we end up having discussions about them that never reach a definitive conclusion. The experience of Brahman is real and irrefutable; the words that describe it can never be real, which is why they cause so much disputation.

Thanks, everyone, for all your comments and your patience in waiting for me to start work again. I have an all-day trip to Pondicherry tomorrow, after which I should be free to start adding new material.