How to discover the nature of the mind
D.: How shall we discover the nature of the mind i.e., its ultimate cause, or the noumenon of which it is a manifestation?
M.: Arranging thoughts in the order of value, the ‘I’ thought is the all-important thought. Personality-idea or thought is also the root or the stem of all other thoughts, since each idea or thought arises only as someone’s thought and is not known to exist independently of the ego. The ego therefore exhibits thought-activity.
The second and the third persons do not appear except to the first person. Therefore they arise only after the first person appears, so all the three persons seem to rise and sink together. Trace, then, the ultimate cause of ‘I’ or personality. The ‘I’ idea arises to an embodied ego and should be related to a body or organism. Has it a location in the body or a special relation to any particular spot, as speech which has its centre in the brain or amativeness in the brain? Similarly, has ‘I’ got any centre in the brain, blood, or viscera?
Thought-life is seen to centre round the brain and the spinal-cord which in turn are fed by the blood circulating in them, carrying food and air duly mixed up which are transformed into nerve matter. Thus, vegetative life – including circulation, respiration, alimentation, etc. – or vital force, is said to be (or reside in) the core or essence of the organism. Thus the mind may be regarded as the manifestation of vital force which again may be conceived as residing the Heart.
D.: Now for the art of eliminating the mind and developing intuition in its stead, are they two distinct stages with a possible neutral ground which is neither mind nor intuition? Or does the absence of mental activity necessarily involve Self-Realization?
M.: To the abhyasi (practitioner) there are two distinctive stages. There is a neutral ground of sleep, coma, faint, insanity, etc., in which the mental operations either do not exist or consciousness of Self does not prevail.
D.: Taking the first part first, how is the mind to be eliminated or relative consciousness transcended?
M.: The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from its restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind.
D.: How is restlessness removed from the mind?
M.: External contacts – contacts with objects other than itself – make the mind restless. Loss of interest in non-Self, (vairagya) is the first step. Then the habits of introspection and concentration follow. They are characterised by control of external senses, internal faculties, etc. (sama, dama, etc.) ending in samadhi (undistracted mind).
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
4th February, 1935