"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ramana Maharshi: "Surrender, "Self-Enquiry" and One's "Source"

Questioner: "How are we to treat others?"
Ramana Maharshi: "There are no others."
Sri Ramana Maharhi (1879-1950)
Mother India - sometimes called "the birthplace of all religions" - has always had a succession of sages, a lineage of rishis and gurus stretching back to the mists of time.

It was the opening up of India at the turn of the 19th-century, and the exposure of the Western mind to the treasures of India's  spiritual literature that helped birth American Transcendentalism; and it was, perhaps, the appearance of Swami Vivekenanda at the Parliament of World Religions at the 1893 world's fair in Chicago that sparked the interest of yet another generation in the Advaita Vedanta - India's brand of essential 'non-dualism.'

Unlike in the West, where the great teachers and saints are, for the most part, essentially phenomena of the past - half mythic, and half historic - India has been blessed with great teachers in all ages, including in the Modern Age.

Perhaps the first great teacher to have his image captured by photograph was Sri Ramakrishna, Vivikenanda's teacher; and, perhaps the first great enlightened sage to be captured on film was the late Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, "the Saint of Arunachala."

Mount Arunachala
Located in Tamil Nadu, India.
To Advaitan Vedantists world-wide, Ramana Maharshi is renowned as an avatar of "direct non-dual experience," and as a reluctant enlightened teacher "who not only revived the ancient Indian teaching of 'self-enquiry,' but as one who made it simple and direct bringing it within the ken of one and all."

Maharshi maintained that "the purest form of his teachings was the powerful silence which radiated from his presence and quieted the minds of those attuned to it." Fortunately, however, he did give numerous oral teachings for the benefit of the many uninitiated visitors and bevy of Western spiritual seekers who flocked to his ashram on the slopes of his beloved Mount Arunachala, and many of these were recorded for posterity.

His verbal teachings were said to flow from his direct experience of Atman (the 'godhead' within each being and form) as the only existing reality. When pressed for advice on how to make progress on the spiritual path, he would almost invariably recommend radical 'self-enquiry' as the fastest path to moksha - i.e., permanent liberation from the ego, or enlightenment

"Self-surrender," said Ramani Maharshi, "is the same as self-knowledge, and either of them implies self-control. Surrender can take effect only when it is done with full knowledge as to what real surrender means. Such knowledge comes after inquiry and reflection, and ends invariably in self-surrender. Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one's being. Do not delude yourself by imagining such a source to be some God outside of you. One's source is within one's self. Give yourself up to it. That means you should seek the source and merge in it."

Radical self-inquiry - or, 'watching the thinker,' as the enlightened spiritual author and teacher, Eckhart Tolle, calls it - not only disrupts our conditioned pattern of continual and interminable thinking, it offers up a portal to true religious or spiritual experience, after which the spiritual seeker no longer needs to take on faith the existence of a higher state of consciousness (what I have called "acceptive consciousness," elsewhere) within his or her being
"Investigate what the mind is and it will disappear," says Ramana Maharshi. "There is no such thing as 'mind' apart from 'thought.' There is no use removing doubts. If we clear one doubt another arises, and there will be no end of doubts. All doubts will cease only when the doubter and his source have been found. Seek for the source of the doubter, and you will find that he is really non-existent. Doubter ceasing, doubts will cease."
The following film, "Abide as the Self: The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi," produced by Inner Directions and narrated by Ram Dass, opens a wonderful window into Maharshi's timeless teachings of essential non-duality.

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