In my teens and twenties, I was mostly drawn to Taoism, Buddhism, Christian mysticism, and ecospirituality, and the spirituality of India never pulled me. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I started reading Ramana Maharshi and others from the Indian tradition.
When I first read Ramana Maharshi, it was immediately clear that he spoke from and about what we are with clarity. So I thought I would explore a few of his quotes here. (His expression is also inevitably colored by his culture and personality, as it is for all of us.)
THE FASCINATION OF STORIES WE HOLD AS TRUE
You can only stop the flow of thoughts by refusing to have any interest in it.– Ramana Maharshi
I understand where he is coming from, and would phrase it differently.
Refusing to have any interest in thoughts is not possible if some part of us holds the story as true. That’s what creates the fascination and glue. His advice here seems well meant although with questionable practical usefulness.
What we can do is identifying the stories some parts of us hold as true and examine them. What are the stories and the underlying assumptions? What do I find when I examine each one? What happens when I hold it as true? What’s genuinely more true for me? How would it be to live from this? (The Work of Byron Katie.)
What are the mental images and words making up the story? What physical sensations does my mind associate with these? (Does the sensations lend a sense of solidity and truth to the stories? And does the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations?) What happens when I rest in noticing respectively the mental images and words and the sensations? Does the “glue” that ties the two together in my mind soften?
This is how we more easily can recognize the stories we – somewhere in us – hold as true and perceive and operate from. This is is how we more easily can recognize them as not true in the way we initially may have taken them. This is how we recognize thoughts as thoughts and sensations as sensations. This is how the fascination and glue can go out of the stories.
I assume Ramana Maharshi gave his students more specific pointers as well. He must have had more practical ways to guide his followers.
THE PAST AND FUTURE HAPPENS NOW
There is neither Past nor Future. There is only the Present.– Ramana Maharshi
Yes. I cannot find the past or future outside of my mental representations about the past and future. I have memories and ideas about the past, which happen here and now. And I have images and visions of the future, which happen here and now. My ideas about the present also happen here and now.
We don’t need to “be” present. We just need to notice that it’s all there is and all there ever is.
Similarly, we don’t need to somehow abolish any thoughts about the past or the future. We need them to function in the world. We just need to notice that they are mental representations happening here and now.
CHANGE POINTING TO WHAT WE ARE
Let what comes come. Let what goes go. Find out what remains.– Ramana Maharshi
The content of our experience is always changing. We may understand this within stories, and it’s more effective and immediate to notice it directly and regularly stay with this noticing for a while.
Am I really this human self which happens within the content of my experience?
If all content of experience changes, can any of it be what I more fundamentally am?
What is it that’s always here? Is it my nature as capacity for all my experiences?
Is it this no-thing that all my experiences happen within and as? This no-thing thoughts can try to label, and which these labels also happen within and as?
NOTICING WHAT WE ALREADY ARE
Realisation is not acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.– Ramana Maharshi
It’s noticing what we already are.
We may take ourselves to be this human self. And is that what we more fundamentally are in our direct first-person experience? Is it what we already are to ourselves, when temporarily set aside what we are told we are and tell ourselves we are?
We can use structured inquiry to notice what we already are in our own first-person experience. Two of my favorites are the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments. We may also find it through other forms of inquiry, for instance traditional Buddhist inquiry or a modernized version like Living Inquiries. And over time, we may find it through engaging in Basic Meditation.
No one succeeds without effort… Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.– Ramana Maharshi
Yes, this is generally true.
With good guidance, we may notice our nature relatively easily and quickly. And to keep noticing it and living from it takes engagement, sincerity, and sticking with it.
In my case, the noticing happened out of the blue without any previous interest and effort. And it’s taken a lot of effort to clarify and deepen into it, and invite my human self to transform within it. (This is ongoing and I still feel like a beginner here.)
Note: I was looking for an image of Ramana for this article. The next session in my online Vortex Healing class (Angelic Heart IV) started. And I found myself looking at an image of Ramana during the first meditation. I could sense his deep commitment, and it put my own relative lack of commitment in relief.
For many years, I used to have a strong commitment to awakening and exploration. I went deep in practice for hours each day. When I went through the darkest part of the dark night some years ago, this got a bit out of whack. Likely from how I and my system reacted to the strong and overwhelming trauma that surfaced. And likely also from CFS and Lyme disease which made it more difficult to engage in any form of focused activity. I got scared of going deep because what I met was overwhelming pain and trauma, and I also didn’t have much energy or focus to do it. I am still practicing with sincerity, but with less of the dedication and commitment I used to have. Maybe it’s time to refind some of that commitment again and be less causal and more serious and unflinching in my own immediate exploration.
When I first encountered Ramana Maharshi’s quotes in my early thirties, it was clear that here was someone who had discovered what was revealed here when I was in my mid-teens. He speaks relatively clearly from and about what we are. So I thought I would explore some of his quotes here.