Tuesday, September 8, 2009

K. S. Swaminathan

K. S. Swaminathan (1896-1994) is well known to most devotees of Bhagavan through his writings and translations. He wrote a ‘life and teachings’ book on Bhagavan for a publishing department of the Indian government; he translated Guru Vachaka Kovai and parts of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai into English; many of the translations of Bhagavan’s writings that appear in Collected Works are his; and he was, for several years, the chief editor of The Mountain Path.

A few months ago his daughter, Mahalakshmi Suryanandan, found some of his old articles and writings and decided to publish them in a small book. Entitled K. S. Remembered, it was released a few weeks ago. It contains several interesting articles on Bhagavan and his teachings that have only previously appeared in obscure journals decades ago. The first extracts in this post are taken from the following two articles:

(a) ‘Sri Ramana Maharshi (a short biography and his teachings)’, published in the December 1958 issue of The March of India, a monthly magazine brought out by the Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

(b) ‘Sri Ramana’, published in Swarajya. No other information is given.

In the early 1980s I used to go to Prof. Swaminathan’s house in Chennai and read out articles that had been submitted to The Mountain Path. Having recently had cataract operations, he had been banned from reading for a while. While I was reading the submissions, he would periodically interrupt to correct the grammatical errors of the contributors. As a former professor of English who believed in upholding the virtues of correct English, he felt obliged to intervene at least once in every paragraph. Since a few grammatical errors seem to have crept into this new anthology, I have spared him a few posthumous blushes by taking the liberty of correcting them. I have also interspersed, in italics, a few supplementary comments and explanations of my own.

* * *

Was Sri Ramana a teacher? He delivered no sermon. He composed no treatise. Only some of his talks – his answers to questions – have been recorded and published. He also wrote a few poems (in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit) and did some translations (into Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and Malayalam). He taught not in words, but by being what he was. Prince and peasant, women, children and animals were drawn to him, and he treated them all with the loving kindness of a sensitive mother. J. C. Moloney, I.C.S., tells us how on one occasion his own dogs ran away from him and preferred to stay with the sage. Monkeys, cows and dogs, even squirrels and peacocks, moved on the friendliest terms with him.

[J. C. Moloney wrote: ‘After visiting the sage on the hill, when I reached my camp, one of my dogs was missing. In the evening the holy man arrived, leading the truant on a string. The sage said, “He came back to me and I should have liked to keep him. But why should I steal him from you?”’ Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, p. 120.

I can’t remember where I first came across this story, but I do recollect that Mr Moloney, a British Deputy Collector, was walking his dogs on the hill, unaware of who Bhagavan was. His dogs found the pool by the Skandashram spring and jumped into it to cool off. When Bhagavan emerged to see what was going on, Mr Moloney expected a lecture from the ‘holy man’ since his dog had contaminated his water source.

Instead, Bhagavan said, ‘Don’t worry about it. The stream will clean the water in about five minutes. Dogs need to cool down in this weather. It is too hot for dogs up here in summer, so I sent the ashram dogs away until it cools down.’

Mr Moloney went back to his camp, but on the way there one of his dogs escaped and returned to the cool of the pool at Skandashram As recorded in the quote above, Bhagavan put a lead on it and personally returned it that evening.]

He infected people with the joy of friendship and the love of freedom. He spread happiness as the sun spreads light.

What he did was to embody once again the eternal Indian idea of moksha, liberation. This freedom, the noblest fruit of life, can come only from jnana, knowledge, not from work or striving. These can only help purify the mind and prepare it for jnana. The jnani or seer is freed from the tyranny of the egotistic self and is conscious of the unity of All. By his mere being, he serves the world. What effect he produces, what influence he exerts, is not the result of effort put forth or will-power exercised by him; it is spontaneous.

Books such as the Upanishads, the Gita, the Yoga Vasishta, Vivekachudamani, and Jivanmukti-viveka describe in a hundred ways the ‘one liberated in life’. He lives in the world but is not changed by it. Like a burnt rope, which is all ashes, his action does not bind. He has nothing to attain, nothing to give up. Seeing him, hearing about him, and thinking about him, all beings are delighted. Him the world fears not; and he is afraid of nothing.

[Duncan] Greenlees writes: ‘I have taken all the descriptions of the jivanmukta I could find in any scripture – Hindu, Buddhist Confucian, Christian, Muslim, Jain, etc. I have watched Bhagavan under all kinds of circumstances and checked up what I have seen with those descriptions. He alone of all the men I have seen seems to dwell always in sahaja samadhi

In insisting on right meditation leading to right action and right living, and in maintaining strict silence on irrelevant speculative issues, the sage resembled the Buddha. His main metaphysical position was that of Sri Sankara. D. S. Sarma (in his Hindu Standpoint) says that ‘historically, there has been no such emphasis on jnana since Sankara …Against the vast main current of bhakti flowing freely through eleven centuries stands the silent naked figure of Sri Ramana Maharshi like a rock.'

Savants and scholars such as Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri and Swami Siddheswarananda, who know the tree and search eagerly for the good fruit among the thick foliage of Indian humanity, are satisfied, but not surprised, when they find it. But it is otherwise with untrained observers – such as Somerset Maugham – who come suddenly upon this unusual phenomenon and are struck by its strange goodness. Their testimony too has high value, as their experience was no less authentic because it was unexpected and inexplicable. But the two classes are never far apart. In the calm of the ashram the conservative Hindu Sastri, at home among the backward castes, and the unresting, up-to-the-minute American journalist felt at peace with themselves, and with each other. Neither judged the other. Followers of many religions and many schools of thought came to see the Maharshi and went back strengthened in spirit and more than ever loyal to their own gurus. Not even the do-nothing sadhu and the earnest satyagrahi quarreled there…

It was no accident that Paul Brunton was sent to the seer by the orthodox Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchipuram. A front-rank Congress leader, who later became Chief Minister of Madras, would, every time he went to jail, seek Bhagavan’s blessings, and could secure them only on an assurance of Gandhiji’s prior approval. Rajendra Prasad (now India’s President) was advised by Gandhi to spend a week in the ashram to gain peace of mind and took from there the message that shanti [peace] and shakti [power] were the inward and outward aspects of the one force of love.

There have been many fruits, big and ripe, on the Indian tree. Sri Ramana’s naturalness and truth-to-form only proves that he belongs to the tree and has grown on it. Dr C. G. Jung says: ‘Sri Ramana is a true son of the Indian earth. In India he is the whitest spot in a white space…. Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana not only remind us of the thousands-of-years-old spiritual culture of India, they also directly embody it.’

[The quotation that Prof. Swaminathan is using here is taken from a poor-quality, abridged translation of a Jung piece that has been recycled many times in articles on Bhagavan. The original essay appeared as an introduction to a German book on Bhagavan that had been edited and translated by Heinrich Zimmer. Professor Zimmer had privately taken Jung to task for coming to South India in 1938 and not taking the time to meet Bhagavan. When Jung agreed to write the introduction to Zimmer’s book, he addressed the criticisms in the following way:
The carrier of mythological and philosophical wisdom in India has been since time immemorial the ‘holy man’ – a western title which does not quite render the essence and outward appearance of the parallel figure in the East. This figure is the embodiment of the spiritual India, and we meet him again and again in the literature. No wonder, then, that Zimmer was passionately interested in the latest and best incarnation of this type in the phenomenal personage of Shri Ramana. He saw in this yogi the true avatar of the figure of the rishi, seer and philosopher, which strides, as legendary as it is historical, down the centuries and the ages.

Perhaps I should have visited Shri Ramana. Yet I fear that if I journeyed to India a second time to make up for my omission, it would fare with me just the same. I simply could not, despite the uniqueness of the occasion, bring myself to visit this undoubtedly distinguished man personally. For the fact is, I doubt his uniqueness; he is of a type which always was and will be. Therefore it was not necessary to seek him out. I saw him all over India, in the pictures of Ramakrishna, in Ramakrishna’s disciples, in Buddhist monks, in innumerable other figures of the daily Indian scene, and the words of his wisdom are the sous-entendu [concealed implication] of India’s spiritual life. Shri Ramana is, in a sense, a hominum homo, a true ‘son of man’ of the Indian earth. He is ‘genuine’, and on top of that he is a ‘phenomenon’ which, seen through European eyes, has claims to uniqueness. But in India he is merely the whitest spot on a white surface (whose whiteness is mentioned only because there are so many surfaces that are just as black). Altogether, one sees so much in India that in the end one only wishes one could see less. The enormous variety of countries and human beings creates a longing for complete simplicity. This simplicity is there too; it pervades the spiritual life of India like a pleasant fragrance or a melody. It is everywhere the same; never monotonous, unendingly varied. To get to know it, it is sufficient to read an Upanishad or any discourse of the Buddha. What is heard there is heard everywhere; it speaks out of a million eyes, it expresses itself in countless gestures, and there is no village or country road where that broad-branched tree cannot be found in whose shade the ego struggles for its own abolition, drowning the world of multiplicity in the All and All-Oneness of Universal Being. This note rang so insistently in my ears that soon I was no longer able to shake off its spell. I was then absolutely certain that no one could ever get beyond this, least of all the Indian holy man himself, and should Shri Ramana say anything that did not chime in with this melody, or claim to know anything that transcended it, his illumination would assuredly be false. The holy man is right when he intones India’s ancient chants, but wrong when he chants any other tune. The effortless drone of argumentation, so suited to the heat of Southern India, made me refrain, without regret, from a visit to Tiruvannamalai.
These paragraphs, translated here fully and properly by R. F. C. Hull, appear in ‘The Holy Men of India’, a chapter in Jung’s Psychology and Religion: West and East. This book now appears as volume eleven of Jung’s ‘Collected Works’. If anyone is interested, the whole essay on Bhagavan can be found online at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/17676488/CGjung-Psychology-and-Religion-West-and-East-Collected-Works-Volume-11. The inaccurate version of this essay that has been widely distributed indicates that Jung felt that Bhagavan was a unique and exalted being, but it should be clear from this extract that his appreciation was far more nuanced and qualified. However, this did not prevent Jung from, later in the same essay, paying tribute to Bhagavan’s teachings in the following words:
Shri Ramana’s thoughts are beautiful to read. What we find here is purest India, the breath of eternity, scorning and scorned by the world. It is the song of the ages, resounding like the shrilling of crickets on a summer’s night, from a million beings. The melody is built up on the one great theme, which, veiling its monotony under a thousand colourful reflections, tirelessly and everlastingly rejuvenates itself in the Indian spirit, whose youngest incarnation is Shri Ramana himself.
Prof. Swaminathan continues:]


The Hindu view is that the state of freedom is natural; Tamil uses the same word (veedu) for home, heaven and freedom. The free man is happy here and now. The saint is normal; it is he who provides the norm for the rest of us. We love him because he is the outward image of our inmost Self; he prefigures the evolutionary possibilities of the race. He is already what all men will become one day. If the Maharshi’s personal attendants included harijans and his followers included foreigners, if in his ashram a shrine was raised to a woman and a widow, it was all accepted as ‘natural’. The distinctions between pariah and pandit, dog and man, vanished in his presence…

Apart from his spoken, acted and written teachings, the simple human friendliness of Bhagavan showed the utter soulabhya, the easy accessibility, of the ultimate Truth when it graciously chooses to embody itself in human form. Bhagavan was not merely a yogi or a teacher or a saint: he was a seer, a being comprehending and transcending all these lower categories, and he succeeded in being a friend of everyone – sinner or saint, prince or peasant, old or young, learned or ignorant, man or woman, cow, dog, monkey or peacock. Hundreds of quite ordinary human visitors to the ashram were treated like intimate friends by Maharshi, who took a most sympathetic interest in all their personal affairs: the train they came on, the food they ate, the marriages and deaths, the appointments and promotions that occurred in their families. No one felt that he was unimportant or unwanted. Women and harijans were no less welcome than learned brahmins to this charmed circle. To all he taught humility without humiliating any, as he taught self-surrender without loss of freedom.

If the good teacher is a friend who joins you where you are and leads you up from that point to the mountain top of truth, then Maharshi is the greatest teacher the world has seen because he refused to stretch us on a Procrustean bed of creed or conduct. He did not merely concede as a matter of formal politeness, but convinced every one of his devotees and disciples that there are as many distinct ways of reaching the goal as there are unique human individuals. His more than mother-like tenderness made no harsh choice between one friend and another among the thousands of his friends; and his steady, calm and unfailing cheerfulness and rock-like certainty sprang from his conviction that the world-process must end in the final release of all beings.

Bhagavan has said:
When the ego rises, the mind is separated from its source, the Self, and is restless, like a stone thrown up in the air, or like the waters of a river. When the stone or the river reaches its place of origin, the ground or the ocean, it comes to rest. So too the mind comes to rest and is happy when it returns to and rests in its source. As the stone and the river are sure to return to their starting place, so too the mind will inevitably – at some time – return to its source. Thus, all shall reach the goal. Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.

[Prof. Swaminathan has not attributed this quote, but it seems to be a paraphrase of and commentary on Arunachala Ashtakam, verse eight. This is Prof. Swaminathan’s own translation of the verse, taken from his Five Hymns to Arunachala and Other Poems of Sri Ramana Maharshi:
The raindrops showered down by the clouds, risen from the sea, cannot rest until they reach, despite all hindrance, once again their ocean home. The embodied soul from You [Arunachala] proceeding may through various ways self-chosen wander aimless for a while but cannot rest till it joins You, the source. A bird may hover here and there and cannot in mid-heaven stay. It must come back the way it came to find at last on earth alone its resting place. Even so, the soul must turn to You, O Aruna Hill, and merge again in You alone, Ocean of Bliss.
Prof. Swaminathan met Mahatma Gandhi in 1915, twenty-five years before he encountered Bhagavan. He was a lifelong Gandhian who, starting in 1960, spent more than a quarter of a century editing the more-than-ninety volumes that comprise Gandhi’s Collected Works. His allegiance to both Gandhi and Bhagavan compelled him to ponder the apparently competing claims of pro-active service to the nation and inner contemplation. He saw no conflict in Bhagavan’s own life, as the following two paragraphs (taken from the two articles that are the source of the earlier passages) demonstrate:]

Ramana Maharshi] chose to dwell like a tame bird in the cage of the ashram’s regulations. Not only did he sit in the centre of a great household; he read letters and newspapers; he corrected proofs and did a hundred odd jobs with scrupulous care. He stressed by precept as well as by example the primacy of dharma, right action. Many devotees who wished to escape from the duties of their station in life he ‘ordered back to their posts’.

To a question on the relation of karma yoga and karma sannyasa, he gave an answer in the manner of a Zen Master. Without uttering a word, he walked up the hill, cut off two sticks from a tree and fashioned them into walking sticks. One he gave to the questioner and the other to a passerby. Then he said, ‘The making of the walking sticks is karma yoga; the gift of them is sannyasa’.

[In his attempts to synthesise the ideas of Gandhi with the advaitic teachings of Bhagavan, Prof. Swaminathan often framed the discussion around the purusharthas, the traditional four goals or aims of human life for Hindus. Dharma is the performance of social duties in an ethical way; artha is the acquisition of wealth through righteous means; kama is the happiness derived from sensual enjoyments; moksha, liberation, is the natural state of abiding as the Self.

Mahalakshmi Suryanandan, Prof. Swaninathan’s daughter, mentioned in her introduction to this new book that some of the old articles she resurrected for this anthology were lying dog-eared and crumbling in a drawer. This struck a chord with me since I remember finding a Swaminathan piece in a similar state of disrepair in the early 1980s. It had been languishing in an ashram file for years, with no author’s name on it, but when I read it and discovered it to be an essay on dharma, artha, kama and moksha I immediately knew who the author was. Although he didn’t, on rereading it, think it had any particular merit, I persuaded him to let it be published in The Mountain Path.

Bhagavan’s position on the purusharthas was that moksha was the only real state, and that it is realised once one abandons the other three purusharthas to dwell in the mauna of the Self:
To abandon completely dharma, artha and kama is the good fortune of liberation, the excellent state of peace. Therefore, completely give up thoughts of all those other attainments and live a life in which you take as your sole target mauna, the experience that arises in a mind which dwells on Sivam, the supreme swarupa.

Calling even the attainments [of dharma, artha and kama], which suffer from the defect of appearing and disappearing in an illusory way, ‘everlasting’, is a polite attribution, a superimposition. The hard-to-attain liberation [the fourth purushartha, moksha], whose nature is the excellent and true Atma-jnana, which is the goal that should be attained by everyone, is alone the everlasting attainment. (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verses 1204, 230)
I have given this long preamble on the purusharthas because this new Swaminathan anthology contains an interesting article, entitled ‘Dharma and Moksha’, that discusses, in an elegant way, the apparently conflicting demands of worldly action, and duties, sadhana, and other-worldly renunciation. No publication information is given, so I cannot say if it has ever been published before. What follows is an abridged version of what Prof. Swaminathan originally wrote:]

Everyone in the world wants to be happy – at all times, in all places and under all conditions. This quest for ananda is the universal desire and the goal of all human endeavour. There are, however, some persons who are happy at all times, in all places and under all conditions, and that too without any desire, and without any effort on their part. This strange paradox about happiness – that one who seeks it strenuously often misses it, while the one who is indifferent to it enjoys it – is explained by our failure to distinguish between pleasure or satisfaction on the one hand and happiness or ananda on the other. We mistake pleasure for happiness and, pursuing it as if it were happiness, end up in all kinds of misery.

In Who am I? and Talks Sri Bhagavan brings out clearly this distinction between happiness, which is our inherent and permanent nature, and the pleasure which we, from time to time, derive from the satisfaction of our desires, physical and mental, healthy or unhealthy.

Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world. We imagine through our ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, it returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the states of sleep, samadhi and fainting, and when the object desired is obtained, or the object disliked is removed, the mind becomes inward-turned and enjoys pure Self-happiness. Thus the mind moves without rest, alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade to the sun and then back to the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant one, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.

Absolute and permanent happiness does not reside in objects but in the Atman. Such happiness is peace, free from pain and pleasure. In Talks it is said:
If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external causes and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of his possessions, and diminish in proportion to their diminution. Therefore, if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness would be nil. What is the real experience of man? Does it conform to this view?

In deep sleep the man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy, he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realise one’s self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.
For the sadhaka no doubt the ultimate goal is the complete extinction of the ego, when the jiva and the world cease to be and only the brightness and bliss of pure awareness remains. This goal, gained in a matter of a few moments by Bhagavan, seems to most of us to be too remote and indeed inaccessible in this our present life. We are repeatedly told and we readily believe that spiritual progress has to be gradual and that moksha should wait until we have gone through the other purusharthas. Self-enquiry, the direct sovereign method taught by Bhagavan, gets continuously postponed while we are busy discovering and painfully practising our dharma, or worse still, we allow ourselves to be lulled into a spiritual sleep by sentimental bhakti and escape from the responsibility of our station in life.

If moksha is bliss and if bliss is our real, permanent and inescapable nature, what is its relation to dharma? Dharma is not a normative or moralistic concept; it is well-being, health and growth, rooted in responsibility and freedom to play with the light and warmth of awareness. The tree does not distinguish between horizontal and vertical growth, between its loyalties to earth, water, air and to the sun. It follows its nature and grows unawares till seed becomes tree and matures into fruit. This also is the human destiny. We are seed sown in the soil and, eating matter and warmth, bound to become fruit. The eater ceases to eat and becomes food. The man of dharma ripens into the mukta. We however separate dharma, our empirical nature as prakriti, from moksha, our transcendental nature as Purusha. Instead of exposing ourselves to the sun wherever we are and drinking in its light and warmth, we make elaborate plans of travelling towards it at some future time.

The traditional view of dharma as that which binds man’s social existence to a moral order which holds, preserves and protects mankind can be illustrated by Kausalya’s words to Rama before he left for the forest.

She said, ‘May that dharma which you have nourished with determination and discipline protect you. This is the only blessing I can give.’

Here we have the popular idea of Rama as the fullest and clearest embodiment of dharma, the horizontal or interpersonal dimension of human growth. The mother rightly regards her son as a moral athlete who has, with determination and discipline, nourished dharma, which in turn is expected to protect him as the mother protects the child.

But Sri Ramana Maharshi prefers to dwell on the truer and more mature image of Sri Rama presented in the Yoga Vasishta. He cites with approval the preceptor’s adjuration to the pupil who, absorbed in the bliss of awareness, is disinclined to act in the world of time and space:
Holding firmly at heart to the truth of your being, play like a hero your part on the world stage, inwardly calm and detached, but assuming zeal and joy, stirrings and aversions, initiative and effort, and performing outward actions appropriate to your particular role in various situations.
In other words, the quest for Self-realisation, serious mumukshutva, goes hand in hand with bold heroic action. The call to such action, addressed to Sri Rama, is meant really for us. In outward action, or the practice of dharma, there is no difference between the seeker and the realised person. The disinterested action which the seeker performs deliberately as a matter of discipline, which is for him a means of discovering his identity with fellow-beings, is for the jnani such as Sri Rama or Janaka the spontaneous expression of such identity….

In recommending and indeed prescribing the quest of the Self to all thoughtful persons in the adolescent and adult stages of life, Bhagavan makes a radical and necessary departure from the letter of the tradition in order to restore its spirit. In chapter three of Sri Ramana Gita the paramount task of man is declared to be ‘the discovery of our real human nature, which is the basis of all actions and their fruit’. This quest for our real nature, the withdrawing of thoughts from sense objects and steady self-enquiry, is not to be postponed. In chapter ten, ‘Sangha Vidya’, one’s duty to one’s circle and to humanity is clearly defined as an organic interdependence to be promoted both by shanti which purifies one’s own mind, and by shakti, which is required for the progress of society. The attenuation of the ego by steady self-enquiry and the acceptance in practice of normal and family responsibilities can alone lead to the brotherhood and equality, which is the supreme goal to be attained by mankind as a whole...

Loving the Lord God with all one’s heart and loving one’s neighbour as oneself are not two commandments but one. We cannot effectively love and serve our neighbour unless we have succeeded in some measure in loving the Father as Awareness...

Instead of complaining against one’s real circumstances, one derives inexhaustible strength from inner happiness (uran in Tamil) and says with Thoreau, ‘I love my fate to the very core and rind’. One’s present life is the fruit one has earned and must eat to the last bite.

As we climb the mountain path, the view widens; new responsibilities come to us and are cheerfully undertaken. We are no more inclined to off-shoulder our burden on others. We find fulfillment in mastering rather than evading svadharma [one’s own duties and obligations]. Such svadharma, disinterested action surrendered to the Lord (Upadesa Saram, verse three), purifies the mind and points the way to moksha. Through the practice of dharma we become progressively more eligible for the ultimate happiness of moksha

In any case, at all times and places and under all conditions, dharma has to be practised, whether as duty and discipline or as the happy and spontaneous expression of awareness… It is only in and through dharma that the happiness of moksha can be reached or manifested...

As ends and means are inseparable, so are moksha and dharma. They reinforce each other in healthy individual and social life. They are, in fact, the empirical and transcendental modes of our being, whose basic nature is the bliss of awareness, stillness, shanti, broken occasionally by ripples of action, movement, shakti. It must be remembered [though] that dharma is bound by time, while moksha is the boundless bliss of awareness.

[I will make no comment on Prof. Swaminathan’s views about the relationship between dharma and moksha. Instead, I will conclude with a series of quotations from Bhagavan himself. These, I hope, will demonstrate that, so far as Bhagavan was concerned, true dharma is abiding in and as the Self:
Since the impartite, non-dual, true jnana alone abides and shines as the refuge for all dharma-observances, the jnani [alone] becomes the one who has observed all the dharmas. (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 705. The following paragraph is Muruganar’s explanatory note to this verse)

Since non-dual jnana alone shines as the refuge for all the dharmas, the jnani who is established in that state [automatically] becomes the one who has observed all dharmas impeccably. There is no greater dharma than getting firmly established in the Self. All the actions of that jnani who possesses motionless consciousness are actions of God.

Living as the Self is the essence of all dharmas. All other dharmas merge there. (Padamalai, p. 134, v. 44)

The supreme reality exists as the undivided space of true jnana. When we become different from it and rise as a false ‘I’ that frolics about and suffers, this constitutes the sin of destroying that non-duality by cleaving it into two, the ‘I’ [nan] and God [tan], thus bringing ruination upon the way of dharma. (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 777)

The state of abiding as swarupa, which is the pure and vast true consciousness, is an obligation that should be firmly observed by all the beings in the world.

Swadharma [one’s own duty] is abidance in the pure Self only. All other [perceived] duties are worthless. (Padamalai, p. 299, vv. 13, 16)

By becoming the source of all desires, the ego is the doorway to the sorrow of samsara. The extremely heroic and discriminating person first attains through dispassion the total renunciation of desires that arise in the form of ‘I want’. Subsequently, through the Selfward enquiry ‘Who am I?’, he renounces that ego, leaving no trace of it, and attains the bliss of peace, free from anxieties. This is the supreme benefit of dharma. (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse, 850)]

29 comments:

Ravi said...

Friends,
"Bhagavan’s position on the purusharthas was that moksha was the only real state, and that it is realised once one abandons the other three purusharthas to dwell in the mauna of the Self"

The Dharma ,Artha,Kama ,Moksha are the pillars of the Collective aspect of Vedic Living.In one of my posts to Broken Yogi,I have mentioned how this aspect is not emphasised in Sri Bhagavan's Teachings.
This is a deep and vast subject and one of the Best Exemplars of it is(Cannot use 'Was'!)The Sage of Kanchi-A contemporary of Sri Bhagavan.I recommend 'Deivathin Kural'(Voice of the Divine)a collection of The Sage's wonderful insights into the multidimensional aspect of Vedic Living.
It is not for nothing that The Buddha also laid a lot of stress on the Dhamma as he called it.It is on account of this Bunyanesque architecture of Sanatana Dharma that it continues to retain its vitality.
The Empirical Reality cannot be dispensed with and as long as This is granted,The Four fold Purusharthas are quite relevant and indispensable for Humanity.
Here Adi Sankara's position is quite different than that of Sri Bhagavan.

Namaskar.

Ravi said...

Friends,
My post to Broken Yogi that I have referred to above -Please see the Thread -Response to Comments on 'Desire for the Self' ,October 24th 2008-5.13 PM.
Namaskar.

arvind said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the kind words of welcome, and indeed, for the wise words that follow.

On Prof. Swaminathan, would like to add that we devotees in Delhi owe him a world of gratitude. He founded the Ramana Kendra here, in the 1970s perhaps, after Herculean efforts to acquire land, funds etc. The Kendra here would have introduced so many people to Sri Bhagavan and His books.

Also, I believe Prof. Swaminathan was the person who obtained the marvelous life-size photo-portrait of Sri Bhagavan which sits at floor level (actually, on a 6 inch high platform) in the meditation hall in the Kendra. Any half-sincere seeker even who has sat there for 5 minutes will attest to the enormous flood of Divinity, of Love and Compassion washing all over her/him.

Regards

Anonymous said...

This post gives rise to an interesting question: Should an aspirant spend all his life with the sole aim of establishing himself in the Self (which is the only true dharma, says Bhagavan), or go on with a normal householder's life, pursuing dharma, artha, kama and if time permits, moksha! Of course, Bhagavan would probably encourage us to abide in the Self (i.e. attain moksha) and then do one's dharma, but how practical is that?

Losing M. Mind said...

I'm realizing that there is no contradiction there, because inquiry does not involve the actions of the body, and even I think the mind. Infact it seems to me hat destroying vasanas (in my opinion no easy task), helps with activities in life, socially or institutionally because it gets rid of distractions. When inquiry was perceived by me as being a mental task or an effort of concentration then I was doing an activity that could get in the way of other activities. But really, there is no problem with just getting rid of vasanas which seem to me to be manifested suffering based on attachments. Experientially those attachments get in the way in all sorts of ways with activities, or doing them well, in a blissful non-attachment. Furthermore, Ramana was supremely functional at his chores for which he got up at 4 in the morning, Papaji running a mining company or courageously rescuing his family, Vivikenanda numerous speaking tours. It really is the dullness of tamas that makes functioning less then supreme. I definitely needed the difference between indolence and spiritual peace clarified for me.

Losing M. Mind said...

One ex. that comes to mind is the difference between a corrupt politician, who gets by doing his job (and even thinks he/she is doing it well), but is full of attachments that lead to greed, etc. and a sincere statesman that selflessly gets the job done to help his constituency based on the grace working through him/her.

Arunachala Rama said...

Thanks David for this posting. I was long awaiting your post. In my view, it is difficult to take stances on this subject.

my query is unrelated to this post. You had once stated in an interview that you had glimpses of Self. We know that you are one of the advanced devotees of Bhagavan and this comes as no surprise. Very curious to know your experience on this glimpse and what effects the glimpse had on you. Bhagavan says Self takes over when you in enquire. So i am curious to know about your experience.If you don't mind.

Thanks again.
Regards
Rama, Bangalore

tusna said...

The whole concept of the four stages of life, their place and how the first three have finally to be surrendered have been aptly endorsed by Bhagwan in Guru Vachaka Kovai.Dharma, Artha and Kama are automatically played out; it is not for us to accept or reject them ( we couldn't even we tried ).It is only when disturbances occur while they are being played out and they are either not fulfilled as one wants them to be, that the sadhak's journey begins. When even in spite of long years of devotion, japa, pranayama or even vipassana, disturbances persist,and when at the brink of nothingness, one cries out for help, that The Guru appears. One has by now already been forced to introspect and identify the troubling concept and desire for its fulfillment, but one does not know how it can be relinquished for it is in accordance with dharma and is widely endorsed as being the right thing to strive for.
It was at this stage that Bhagwan drew me to Arunachala in 2005 and compelled me to throw this body mind complex at His feet. During the subsequent months, He instructed first to see that this so called 'i' was an imposter. To look at it intently in an enquiring, agressive and intimidating manner, like one would, if a robber had entered your house in the night. You know for sure that he is not supposed to be there and you have no intention of allowing him to remain there. Today quantum physics states that when an electron is observed by the human eye it changes its behavior !
Then Bhagwan forced identification of troubling core concepts and acknowledgement that even though they were in accordance with dharma, they were of my own creation. They were the blue prints that i had drawn out to subsequently build my life on and must be surrendered for That concept free , blissful state that i wished to be in. He forced me to identify what i was not. When the 'i' was thus weakened by realizing it was just a bundle of concepts ( like the roots of a banyan tree that come down from the branches and over time, come closer together and finally join to form a new trunk ) the " i am the doer " feeling fades as it is constantly enquired into. Another example Bhagwan brought to mind, is like how a big fish sees a shoal of fishes. It is perceived to be one big monster fish, until the big fish comes nearer and dives into the shoal ( the enquiry ), scattering the little fish. It is only then that it is seen, that the shoal was not an entity, but a collection of small fishes. Similarly, as a result of constant enquiry, whenever a thought or notion appears, we find ourselves not as thoughts, emotions or memories, but in the midst of them; we know they are not us ; they are in us. We find ourselves to be That Natural, concept free state. The Ocean of Bliss.
This is Bhagwans Way; The Direct Path.

arvind said...

Hi Tusna,

Your write-up above is nice, really nice indeed.

In your post in the Ma Feroze Taleyarkhan thread, you have mentioned:

“One day, it might come to pass that I will share all my experiences with you. Born a Parsi, influenced by Christ and later by Krishnas Words in the Gita, i was finally led to Bhagwan, who, guided me through The Who Am I enquiry to its logical conclusion. I return every 3 months to The Ashram in gratitude and for continuous cleansing …”

Forgive me for asking, just so that one is clear, and because you have used the past-tense in the sense of the enquiry being done and over with, what exactly did you mean by the portion in bold ?

regards

Losing M. Mind said...

hmm, I wonder.

Losing M. Mind said...

there aren't too many logical conclusions.

Ravi said...

Friends,
I had posted the following article on october 6,2008 in the thread 'Desire for the Self'.I think it should belong here.It is always inspiring to read this over and over again.Elsewhere I have mentioned how Humility can be imbibed(not cultivated).Here is that unforgettable incident:

"Once during a visit to the Ashram in the 1940s
I was sitting outside the Old Hall with many
devotees, facing Sri Bhagavan who was reclining
on a couch. A group of learned pundits were discussing
certain passages from the Upanishads with
great enthusiasm and profundity. All, including
Bhagavan, appeared to be attentively listening to
this interesting discussion when, all of a sudden,
Bhagavan rose from his couch, walked thirty meters
to the north, and stood before a villager who was
standing there looking lowly with palms joined.
Immediately the discussion stopped and all eyes
were turned to Bhagavan and the villager standing at
a distance. They appeared to be conversing, but at such
a distance no one could tell about what. Soon Bhagavan
returned to his couch and the discussion resumed.
I was curious about this villager and why Bhagavan
had gone out of his way to meet him. So, while
the discussion continued I slipped away and caught
up with him before he left the Ashram. I asked the
villager what he and Bhagavan had talked about. He
said that Bhagavan had asked him why he was
standing there so far away. “I told Bhagavan, ‘I am
only an ignorant, poor villager. How am I to approach
you who are God incarnate?’”
“What did the Maharshi say then?” I asked.
“He asked me my name, what village I was from,
what work I did and how many children I had, etc.”
“Did you ask Him anything?”
“I asked Him how I could be saved and how I
could earn His blessings.”
“What did He tell you?”
“He asked me if there was a temple in my
village. I told him there was. He wanted to know the
name of the deity of that temple. I told Him the
name. He then said that I should go on repeating the
name of that deity and I would receive all the
blessings needed.”
I came back to Bhagavan’s presence and sat
among the devotees listening to the learned discussion,
in which I had now lost all interest, realizing
that the simple humility and devotion of this peasant
had evoked a far greater response from our
Master than any amount of learning. I then decided
that, though a scholar by profession, I should always
remain a humble, ignorant peasant at heart,
and pray, like that villager, for Bhagavan’s grace
and blessings.
—Professor K. Swaminathan"

Namaskar.

kandhan said...

I have heard that Henri Cartier Bresson had take some picture of the last days of Bhagawan and also the preparations for Samadhi. Anyone know if these pictures are availbale online?

Clemens Vargas Ramos said...

.

ignca.nic.in

"Of the collection of 107 photo prints with IGNCA, 50 are of the size 50 x 60cm and the rest are 30 x 40cm. ... In the IGNCA Collection, there are 15 photographs on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination and funeral. Some of the last shots of Ramana Maharshi, are part of the collection."

Clemens Vargas Ramos said...

.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Photographer by T.V. Ramamurthy

.

Subramanian. R said...

Dear friends, For most of the
persons the four paths of dharma,
artha are to be followed. For some
rare personalities like Bhagavan
Ramana, the direct path of Moksha
is attained. Again, it is like four asramas, brahmacharya etc., For a chosen few, the sannyasa is
directly given. Once one becomes
a Self realized Jnani, the other things come of their own. In Bhagavan's Asramam, the dharma, the highest dharma, food for neecdy was started right from
1922. Artha, riches again come of their own. Money came for construction of Mother's Temple,
without Bhagavan asking for it. Reg. Kama, the smallest desire, desire for a particular food came on its own. Bhagavan enjoyed the gangi (rice gruel) and aviyal one day asking for extra helpings! For Saint Tiru Jnana Sambandhar gold coins were placed by Siva for doing annadhana. He got golden cymbals and pearl palanquin similarly. Kaduveli Siddha another Brama Jnani also got married as per the wishes of a dancing girl

Akira said...

>>To a question on the relation of karma yoga and karma sannyasa, he gave an answer in the manner of a Zen Master.


If you are interested in this topic, 'Zen in the art of archery' by Eugen Herrigel, a German philosopher, is a good little book.

Losing M. Mind said...

Maharshi says; "When the ego rises, the mind is separated from its source, the Self, and is restless, like a stone thrown up in the air, or like the waters of a river. When the stone or the river reaches its place of origin, the ground or the ocean, it comes to rest. So too the mind comes to rest and is happy when it returns to and rests in its source. As the stone and the river are sure to return to their starting place, so too the mind will inevitably – at some time – return to its source. Thus, all shall reach the goal. Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside."

kandhan said...

Clements Vargos, Thanks for the information. Though the site says photographs have been acquired, I doubt if those are available online for viewing. I scoured the site several times without luck

Clemens Vargas Ramos said...

.

...I doubt if those are available online for viewing. I scoured the site several times without luck...

Yes, they are not there. One has to contact the organization.

.

inchiki said...

Thanks again David for publishing these stories and essays. Thanks also for the link to the book of Jung's collected essays. If inclined to doubt the usefulness or reality of dharma then we only need to look at the reality of us all being here reading this blog which is a product of David's tireless work not to mention Prof. Swaminathan's.

"As ends and means are inseparable, so are moksha and dharma." I like this quote - although i suppose it is fashionable to see moksha as instantly attainable these days - it being out of time and mind and all that. That's even before the difference between 'dharma' and 'true dharma' opens up a whole other can of fish.

.. peace 2 everyone..

Maneesha said...

David!

New post please!! :)

inchiki said...

Thanks again David for publishing these stories and essays. Thanks also for the link to the book of Jung's collected essays. If inclined to doubt the usefulness or reality of dharma then we only need to look at the reality of us all being here reading this blog which is a product of David's tireless work not to mention Prof. Swaminathan's.

"As ends and means are inseparable, so are moksha and dharma." I like this quote - although i suppose it is fashionable to see moksha as instantly attainable these days - it being out of time and mind and all that. That's even before the difference between 'dharma' and 'true dharma' opens up a whole other can of fish.

.. peace 2 everyone..

Losing M. Mind said...

Maharshi says; "When the ego rises, the mind is separated from its source, the Self, and is restless, like a stone thrown up in the air, or like the waters of a river. When the stone or the river reaches its place of origin, the ground or the ocean, it comes to rest. So too the mind comes to rest and is happy when it returns to and rests in its source. As the stone and the river are sure to return to their starting place, so too the mind will inevitably – at some time – return to its source. Thus, all shall reach the goal. Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside."

Clemens Vargas Ramos said...

.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Photographer by T.V. Ramamurthy

.

Losing M. Mind said...

One ex. that comes to mind is the difference between a corrupt politician, who gets by doing his job (and even thinks he/she is doing it well), but is full of attachments that lead to greed, etc. and a sincere statesman that selflessly gets the job done to help his constituency based on the grace working through him/her.

Losing M. Mind said...

I'm realizing that there is no contradiction there, because inquiry does not involve the actions of the body, and even I think the mind. Infact it seems to me hat destroying vasanas (in my opinion no easy task), helps with activities in life, socially or institutionally because it gets rid of distractions. When inquiry was perceived by me as being a mental task or an effort of concentration then I was doing an activity that could get in the way of other activities. But really, there is no problem with just getting rid of vasanas which seem to me to be manifested suffering based on attachments. Experientially those attachments get in the way in all sorts of ways with activities, or doing them well, in a blissful non-attachment. Furthermore, Ramana was supremely functional at his chores for which he got up at 4 in the morning, Papaji running a mining company or courageously rescuing his family, Vivikenanda numerous speaking tours. It really is the dullness of tamas that makes functioning less then supreme. I definitely needed the difference between indolence and spiritual peace clarified for me.

arvind said...

Hi David,

Thanks for the kind words of welcome, and indeed, for the wise words that follow.

On Prof. Swaminathan, would like to add that we devotees in Delhi owe him a world of gratitude. He founded the Ramana Kendra here, in the 1970s perhaps, after Herculean efforts to acquire land, funds etc. The Kendra here would have introduced so many people to Sri Bhagavan and His books.

Also, I believe Prof. Swaminathan was the person who obtained the marvelous life-size photo-portrait of Sri Bhagavan which sits at floor level (actually, on a 6 inch high platform) in the meditation hall in the Kendra. Any half-sincere seeker even who has sat there for 5 minutes will attest to the enormous flood of Divinity, of Love and Compassion washing all over her/him.

Regards

Ravi said...

Friends,
"Bhagavan’s position on the purusharthas was that moksha was the only real state, and that it is realised once one abandons the other three purusharthas to dwell in the mauna of the Self"

The Dharma ,Artha,Kama ,Moksha are the pillars of the Collective aspect of Vedic Living.In one of my posts to Broken Yogi,I have mentioned how this aspect is not emphasised in Sri Bhagavan's Teachings.
This is a deep and vast subject and one of the Best Exemplars of it is(Cannot use 'Was'!)The Sage of Kanchi-A contemporary of Sri Bhagavan.I recommend 'Deivathin Kural'(Voice of the Divine)a collection of The Sage's wonderful insights into the multidimensional aspect of Vedic Living.
It is not for nothing that The Buddha also laid a lot of stress on the Dhamma as he called it.It is on account of this Bunyanesque architecture of Sanatana Dharma that it continues to retain its vitality.
The Empirical Reality cannot be dispensed with and as long as This is granted,The Four fold Purusharthas are quite relevant and indispensable for Humanity.
Here Adi Sankara's position is quite different than that of Sri Bhagavan.

Namaskar.