Some Details About the Process of Self-Realization

A letter from Sri Ramana Maharshi to Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastry.

By Sri Ramana Maharshi
Translated by Sri Sadhu Om

Ramana Maharshi dictated this letter in 1931 in reply to questions from Ganapati Sastry, also known as Ganapati Muni. For commentary about this letter including its publication history, see the links below. The letter was written in Tamil.

THOUGH IT IS A FACT that scriptures like Vasishtam say, as you have mentioned, that the ego is of three kinds, you should take the ‘I-thought’ to be truly only one. When the mind which is the ‘I-thought’ rises, it can only do so by catching hold of something. Since this ego rises between the insentient body and the reality it is given such names as chit-jada granthi (the knot between consciousness and the insentient), jiva (the individual soul) and so on.

The ‘I-thought’ which rises in this manner appears in the form of the three gunas, and of these three, the rajas and tamas aspects cling to and identify with the body. The remaining one which is pure sattva is alone the natural characteristic of the mind, and this stands clinging to the reality. However, in this pure sattvic state, the ‘I-thought’ is no longer really a thought, it is the Heart itself.

The wise know that the apparent meaning of prajnana is mind and its true meaning is the Heart. The Supreme is not other than the Heart.

Ramana Gita, v. 5.18

When the mind, the distinctive knowledge which rises from the non-distinctive state of ‘I’ clings to and identifies with the Self, it is called true knowledge. It may also be called “knowledge which is the movement of the mind in the form of the Self” or “knowledge in an unbroken form.” The state in which this pure sattvic mind shines clinging to the Self is called aham-sphurana.

This sphurana cannot remain independently apart from the reality, but it is the correct sign which indicates the forthcoming direct experience of that reality. The source to which this sphurana clings alone is called the reality or pure consciousness. In Vedanta this is expressed by the saying prajnanam Brahma, “pure consciousness is the absolute reality.” When the pure sattvic mind abides in that sphurana and attends to its source, it is called upasana or meditation; when one is firmly established in the state which is the source of that mind, this is called jnana.

Experiencing the natural state during spiritual practice is called upasana (meditation), and when that state becomes firmly and permanently established it is called jnana.

Ramana Gita, 1.13

Concerning this unbroken awareness, in Vivekacudamani, verse 380, it is said:

Self, which is self-effulgent and the witness of all, ever shines (as ‘I-I’) in the mind. Taking this Self, which is distinct from what is unreal, as the target (of your attention), experience it as ‘I’ through unbroken awareness.

The non-existence of the sense of limitation is the fruit of meditation. This is indeed the unbroken experience. This is natural to God and liberated souls.

When the mind, having pure sattva as its characteristic, remains attending to the aham sphurana, which is the sign of the forthcoming direct experience of the Self, the downward- facing heart becomes upward-facing, blossoms and remains in the form of that (the Self); (because of this) the aforesaid attention to the source of the aham-sphurana alone is the path. When thus attended to, Self, the reality, alone will remain shining in the centre of the Heart as ‘I am I’.

In the middle of the previous paragraph, which ends the letter, after the words “downward facing heart,” Bhagavan quotes the following verses from the Supplement to Reality in Forty Verses:

18. Between the two breasts, below the chest and above the stomach, there are six organs of various colours. Of these one, looking like a lily bud, is the Heart, two digits to the right (of the centre of the chest).

19. Its face is turned downwards. In the tiny hole within it there exists the dense darkness (of ignorance) together with desire and so on. All the major nerves are connected with it; it is the abode of breath, the mind and the light (of consciousness).

Text copyright © 1982 Sri Ramanasramam. Reprinted from The Mountain Path, April 1982, pp. 95‒101.

Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879‒1950) was a Self-realized saint who lived in southern India.

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David Godman, Be As You Are

Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Edited by David Godman

In our opinion this superb collection of extracts from Ramana Maharshi’s writings and dialogues is the best single-volume introduction to his teachings. This is the book we recommend to people who want to read about Sri Ramana for the first time. The editor, David Godman, is probably the foremost living expert on Sri Ramana’s teachings. David has gone through dozens of books by and about Sri Ramana and collected passages which most clearly state various points of his teaching. These extracts are organized thematically into chapters with higher teachings first and less important ones last. David has also provided informative introductions to each chapter and to the book as a whole as well as a glossary and notes.

–Editor, realization.org

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This page was published on January 12, 2018 and last revised on January 12, 2018.


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