Talk 54. Finding the Real Self, Thought Control, Effect of Environment, Breath Control
Talks with Ramana Maharshi
June 16, 1935
Note: Sadhu means Sage, Brahman means Real Self, buddhi means intellect, aham means “I”
An Andhra Pandit – an elderly gentleman – had some doubts regarding Kavyakantha’s exposition of Advaita. (He found discrepancies in some books.) He has found it in books that Brahman is free from sajatiya, vijatiya and swagata bheda. Such conditions are satisfied in vivarta vada but not in parinama vada. In the latter, swagata bheda is bound to be.
The Master pointed out that Dakshinamurti did not teach anything of the kind. He did not say that Brahman is related to Sakti or not related. All that was, was only silence; and the doubts of the sishyas (disciples) were cleared. The significance is that there is nothing to be learnt, discussed and concluded. Everyone knows ‘I am.’ There is the confusion that the ‘I’ is the body. Because the ‘I’ arises from the Absolute and gives rise to buddhi (Intellect). In buddhi, the intellect, the ‘I’ looks the size and shape of the body, na medhaya means that Brahman cannot be apprehended by buddhi.
Brahman → aham (‘I-I’) → buddhi (intellect).
How can such buddhi, intellect crossing over aham, discover Brahman? It is impossible. Just get over the false conception of the ‘I’ being the body. Discover to whom the thoughts arise. If the present ‘I’-ness vanishes, the discovery is complete. What remains over is the pure Self. Compare deep sleep and wakefulness. Diversity and body are found only in the latter. In the former the Self remains without the perception of body or of the world. Happiness reigns there.
The Sruti vakya, Scriptural statment, ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, “I am Brahman”, relates to the state, and not the mode of mind. One cannot become Brahman by continuing to repeat the mantra, a divine chant. It means that Brahman is not elsewhere. It is your Self. Find that Self; Brahman is found. Do not attempt to reach Brahman as if it were in some far off place.
The Pandit remarked that thoughts are so persistent that the aham cannot be reached.
The Master said: The Brahma akara vritti, thinking of the Self alone, helps to turn the mind away from other thoughts. Either some such practice is necessary or association with sadhus should be made. The sadhu has already overcome the mind and remains in Peace. The Sadhu’s proximity helps to bring about such condition in others. Otherwise there is no meaning in seeking a sadhu’s company.
Deho aham (I am the body) is limitation and is the root of all mean and selfish actions and desires.
Brahma aham (I am Brahman) is passing beyond limitation and signifies sympathy, charity, love etc., which are divine and virtuous.
D.: How does a grihasta (householder) fare in the scheme of moksha (liberation)?
M.: Why do you think you are a grihasta? If you go out as a sanyasi, a similar thought (that you are a sanyasi) will haunt you. Whether you continue in the household, or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind haunts you. The ego is the source of thoughts. It creates the body and the world and makes you think you are a grihasta. If you renounce the world, it will only substitute the thought sanyasi for grihasta and the environments of the forest for those of the household. But the mental obstacles are always there. They even increase in new surroundings. There is no help in the change of environment. The obstacle is the mind. It must be got over whether at home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not in the home? Therefore why change the environment? Your efforts can be made even now, in whatever environment you may be.
The environment never abandons you, according to your desire. Look at me. I left home. Look at yourselves. You have come here leaving the home environment. What do you find here? Is this different from what you left? Even if one is immersed in nirvikalpa samadhi for years together, when he emerges from it he will find himself in the environment which he is bound to have. That is the reason for the Acharya emphasising sahaja samadhi in preference to nirvikalpa samadhi in his excellent work Viveka Chudamani.
One should be in spontaneous samadhi – that is, in one’s pristine state – in the midst of every environment.
Later on Sri Bhagavan said: “Control of breath may be internal or external.”
The antah pranayama (the internal breath-regulation) is as follows:-
Naham chinta (I-am-not-the-body idea) is rechaka (exhalation). Koham (who am I?) is puraka (inhalation).
Soham (I am He) is kumbhaka (retention of breath).
Doing thus, the breath becomes automatically controlled.
Bahih pranayama (external control) is for one not endowed with strength to control the mind. There is no way so sure as that; or asadhu’s company. The external practice must be resorted to by a wise man if he does not enjoy a sadhu’s company. If in a sadhu’s company, the sadhu provides the needed strength even though unseen by others, Pranayama, Breath Control need not be exactly as described in Hatha Yoga.
If engaged in japa, dhyana, bhakti, that is, chanting, meditation or devotion etc., just a little control of breath will suffice to control the mind. The mind is the rider and the breath the horse. Pranayama, Breath Control, is a check on the horse. By that check on the horse, the rider is checked.
Pranayama may be done just a little. To watch the breath is one way of doing it. The mind abstracted from other activities is engaged in watching the breath. That controls the breath; and in its turn the mind is controlled.
If unable to do so, rechaka (exhalation) and puraka (inhalation) need not be practised. Breath may be just retained a short while in japa (chanting), dhyana (meditation), etc. Then, too, good results will follow.