– Understandings from talks on Upadesa Sara
In Upadesa Sara, one of the wonderful philosophical compositions by Ramana Maharishi, he explains about the mind and ego. Bhagawan Ramana asks us to enquire – ‘Who am I?’ And the process is really interesting.
Q: What is mind?
A: Mind is nothing but a flow of thoughts.
Q: What is a ‘thought’?
A: Thought = the experiencer ‘i’ + the object of experience. In every thought we have will have these two components. E.g. I’m thinking about a temple. Here, the object of thought is the temple and the subject is ‘i’ who is thinking about it. If we take any thought, this ‘i’ is common in all the thoughts and the objects keep changing.
So, we can say, mind is nothing but the unchanging component ‘i’ that is present in every thought. When ‘i’ experience, the mind experiences. When ‘i’ is happy, mind is happy. When ‘i’ is sad, mind is sad. But that proves that, even ‘i’ is subject to change with a change in the object of thought. Anything that is subject to change is not permanent. So, then who is that entity in us who realizes that we were happy then, we are sad now; we were sleeping then, we are awake now; we were young then, we are old now?
Ramana Maharishi says – just look at the mind. Keep looking at it. See how every thought arises which leads to another thought. Don’t analyse, just keep observing your mind. When we do this for some time, there will come a moment when all the thoughts cease. This point might be just a moment, and immediately we might get another thought. Still, this single moment can be experienced. At that moment, when the thoughts & mind ceased who was present there who realized that the thoughts ceased? That entity does not experience anything, he is just ‘aware’ that he is! What remained as a witness was an awareness. It is this awareness, that is our true nature – the Real ‘I’ – and not the ‘i’ that is subject to change with every changing experience.
On enquiry, why did the mind end?
Because it’s an illusion.
Why is it an illusion?
Because it is not the reality.
Why it is not the reality?
Because it is not permanent.
Anyone, irrespective of the purity of their heart, can taste the absence of mind atleast for a second. To continue this awareness for a longer duration, one needs to purify himself. It’s like this – anyone can do one pushup. But only those who practice every day for a certain period can do 50 pushups. What Ramana Maharishi asks us to do is – Enquire our true nature. Nothing else can make us realize who we are, what are we made up of, what is our real nature. All the spiritual practices like Japa, Meditation, Satsang, etc are required. But that does not lead to experience. To experience, we need to enquire.
A couple fell in love. After some struggle, their families agreed for their marriage. The marriage day was fixed, the hall was booked, and all the arrangements were made. One day before the wedding, both the bride and the groom’s side, stayed in two hotels near to the hall. Suddenly, Mani mama came to the hotel where the girl’s family stayed. He was well dressed in silk robes and had a commanding personality. They girl’s family thought he must be from the groom’s side. He checked if all the arrangements are being made properly. He went through the final check-list and suggested some changes. The bride’s side agreed to it thinking that a denial might lead to a problem. Mani mama left the hotel and went to the groom’s side. He did the same thing over there and they too agreed. They also thought the he must be from the bride’s side. The wedding ceremony was done under the instructions of Mani mama. Mani mama became the centre of all activities. He even got a room for himself in the house where the bridegroom stayed after marriage. After two-three days, the girl started getting irritated over Mani mama’s behavior in their house and complained to her husband. He said, “He’s your uncle. Why are you complaining to me? Even I’m irritated with him.” She was shocked. She said, “What! He’s not my relative. I thought he must be your relative.” Both of them were shocked. They understood the truth. Both of them went to Mani mama’s room and gave him a look. They didn’t even have to say anything. He understood that the drama was over and immediately disappeared from the scene.
In the same way, when we enquire what is this mind it will disappear; for, illusion cannot stand enquiry. When we mistake the rope as a snake, and we keep looking at it carefully, the illusion of snake disappears and what remains is the truth – the rope.
When I say that I see the pen, it is actually the ‘eye’ that sees the pen. So we are claiming that ‘eye’ has become the ‘I’; and ‘eye’ is an object. We cannot say that ‘eye’ is pure consciousness because in seeing there is a transformation going on; and pure consciousness cannot change.
So, who’s this ‘I’ who is the witness? It is the Self, the Awareness that shines, not like the sun shining, but it shines in its own Awareness. It shines from Itself, for Itself, by Itself, in Itself.
When put in words, It cannot be expressed or explained. That is why the Masters like Ramana Maharishi ask us to Enquire and Realise ourselves by Our Self.