Talks 47 – 50. How to know the “I”
Talks with Ramana Maharshi
A Malayalee visitor expressed his concern for the misery of the world and his opinion that ‘Quest for Self’ looked selfish in the midst of such suffering environments. His solution appeared to be selfless work.
M.: The sea is not aware of its wave. Similarly the Self is not aware of its ego.
Note: This makes clear what Sri Bhagavan means by quest for the source of ego.
A visitor asked Sri Bhagavan, “You are Bhagavan. So you would know when I shall get jnana. Tell me when I shall be a Jnani.”
Sri Bhagavan replied, “If I am Bhagavan there is no one besides the Self – therefore no Jnani or ajnani. If otherwise, I am as good as you are and know as much as yourself. Either way I cannot answer your question.”
Some men asked the Master questions which ultimately resolved themselves into one, that ‘I’ is not perceptible however much they might struggle.
The Master’s reply was in the usual strain: “Who is it that says that ‘I’ is not perceptible? Is there an ‘I’ ignorant, and an ‘I’ elusive? Are there two ‘I’s in the same person? Ask yourself these questions. It is the mind which says that ‘I’ is not perceptible. Where is that mind from? Know the mind. You will find it a myth.
King Janaka said, ‘I have discovered the thief who had been ruining me so long. I will now deal with him summarily. Then I shall be happy.’ Similarly it will be with others.”
D.: How to know the ‘I’?
M.: The ‘I-I’ is always there. There is no knowing it. It is not a new knowledge acquired. What is new and not here and now will be evanescent only. The ‘I’ is always there. There is obstruction to its knowledge and it is called ignorance. Remove the ignorance and knowledge shines forth. In fact this ignorance or even knowledge is not for Atman. They are only overgrowths to be cleared off. That is why Atman is said to be beyond knowledge and ignorance. It remains as it naturally is – that is all.
D.: There is no perceptible progress in spite of our attempts.
M.: Progress can be spoken of in things to be obtained afresh. Whereas here it is the removal of ignorance and not acquisition of knowledge. What kind of progress can be expected in the quest for the Self?
D.: How to remove the ignorance?
M.: While lying in bed in Tiruvannamalai you dream in your sleep that you find yourself in another town. The scene is real to you. Your body remains here on your bed in a room. Can a town enter your room, or could you have left this place and gone elsewhere, leaving the body here? Both are impossible. Therefore your being here and seeing another town are both unreal. They appear real to the mind. The ‘I’ of the dream soon vanishes, then another ‘I’ speaks of the dream. This ‘I’ was not in the dream. Both the ‘I’s are unreal. There is the substratum of the mind which continues all along, giving rise to so many scenes. An ‘I’ rises forth with every thought and with its disappearance that ‘I’ disappears too. Many ‘I’s are born and die every moment. The subsisting mind is the real trouble. That is the thief according to Janaka. Find him out and you will be happy.
Sri Bhagavan read out, from the Prabuddha Bharata, Saint Kabir’s saying that all know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop. This is para bhakti, said Bhagavan.