18 February 2014
Ramana’s Self-Realization Experience in his own words with commentary:
It was about six weeks before I left Madura for good that a great change in my life took place . It was quite sudden. I was sitting in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden, violent, fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it; and I did not try to account for it or to find out whether there was any reason for the fear. I just felt, ‘I am going to die,’ and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or my elders or friends. I felt that I had to solve the problem myself, then and there.
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ And I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ or any other word could be uttered.
‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it.
So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’ All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that ‘I’.
From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.
Those who follow conventional spirituality talk about purifying the ego until it disappears, or about destroying or sublimating the mind or ego in order for this kind of awakening to happen. They use terms of various kinds of Samadhis and purified states.
Here Ramana talks about his own I sense to be something actual and real. Further, his self-awareness of I from then on was constant: “Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’.”
Those neo Advaitins that talk about no I thought, No-I sensation, no object I at all, no-self, or no separate self, are completely contradicted by Ramana’s experience and my own. Or the Zen monks who experience emptiness or the Void all the time, and also say there is no I or no Self are also contradicted. Both talk about the I-thought being imaginary, a fiction, but the sense of I-Am is real, and can be found in that emptiness.
Instead of trying to get rid of the I, or the I-sense, we need to find its origin deep within us in our heart of hearts. The I is not to be purified out of existence. It is the same I he always had but had never paid much attention to it before.
Here, because of his fear, his energy, his mind and awareness was focused on just one thing, he was dying and what to do about it.
Here is where he utterly agrees with Nisargadatta, who practiced abiding in the I-Am for three years and realized his Self by him self.
Both recognized that the body, alone, was insentient. Without the inner I that felt fear, love, had thoughts, experienced his body and the world through the body, the body was no different than a rock. Without me, this body is the same as a rock. I bring the dead alive sheerly by the force of my own sentience.
Ramana made a great discovery:
"But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality."
From the body Consciousness arose, but they are not the same material. He now believed he was Consciousness with the sense of I in the center. From then on he was always fixated on his own Self, the full force of his personality, as a single constant note pervading all his activities.
The problem with Ramana’s technique of self-inquiry is that the Self can be entirely missed by the investigating mind because the body is so tamped down, as is the Self within, draped in conventional thinking about one’s Self, about one’s role, job, family, politics, etc., that few ever experience the “Full force of my personality,” which means my aliveness, my life force, my me.
This is why so many traditions emphasize practices to build meditation power (Joriki), or the opposite power of Grace (Koriki) developed through love and surrender.
But they miss the point because repetitious practices leave you sort of dead unless they have immediate results. Beginners often make spectacular progress because of their initial eagerness and intensity, but then the intensity wanes and the mind becomes dull through repetitious dwelling in emptiness, the Void, or endlessly asking “Who am I?”
The self-realization requires aliveness, intensity, and focus that half-hearted meditations never come to. You need that intensity of a beginner not constrained by ideas of what he should find within, such as no I.
However, the act of intense love can generate that same kind of intensity and focus Ramana had, where “The full force of my personality” really means something. Intense love creates intense energies and ratchets up one’s inner force and energies 10-fold or more, and when continued, creates an internal power possible only to the greatest yogis, but does so for people sensitive enough to love completely. Love generates ecstatic experiences as well as the experience of oneself as intense energy, as Shakti, as pure sentience, pure knowingness, and pure love.
Even if you are not capable or lucky enough to experience over-the-hill-insane love, you can practice loving your own self by finding it within, and abiding in it, combining self-abidance with self-love. As almost all of our Sangha experience, you begin to experience ecstatic states that focus your attention deeply inwards, which allows you to dive deep within, rather than with merely dry self-inquiry, or dry pranayama and visualization exercizes. It is a “natural way,” using what humans naturally do to find one’s Self as I, or as me. None of this purifying the ego nonsense. You see your inner self as it is, pure sentience, pure power and light.