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Bhakti-Surrender
The Narada Sutras
(The philosophy of Love)

Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Bhakti-Surrender

Five Dualistic Attitudes
One way to approach God, according to traditional Hinduism,
is by practising any one of five dualistic attitudes, or modes.
These attitudes, or modes, are manifested in the relationship
between the devotee and God, and they are:

Shanta Bhava
The peace and stillness felt in the presence of God
Dasya Bhava
The attitude of a servant towards his Master
Sakhya Bhava
The attitude of a friend towards a Friend
Vatsalya Bhava
The attitude of a parent towards a Child
Madhura Bhava
The attitude of a lover towards the Beloved.
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Bhakti-Surrender

From The Narada Sutras (The philosophy of Love)
Translations by
Swami Prabhavananda
Sri Ramakrishna Math

Narada gives these as the signs of Bhakti (devotion): When all thoughts, all words, and all deeds are given up to the Lord, and when the least forgetfulness of God makes one intensely miserable, then love has begun.
-Aphorism 19.

Bhakti is intense love for God.
-Aphorism 2.

In its intrinsic nature this divine love is immortal bliss.
-Aphorism 3.

By attaining It, a man becomes perfect, immortal, and satisfied forever.
-Aphorism 4.

On attaining That a man does not desire anything else; he
grieves no more, he is free from hatred or jealousy; he does
not take pleasure in the vanities of life; and he loses all
eagerness to gain anything for himself.
-Aphorism 5.

The devotee may first become intoxicated with bliss. Then, having realized That, he becomes inert and silent and takes his delight in the Atman (Self).
-Aphorism 6.

Bhakti (devotion) cannot be used to fulfil any desire,
being itself the check to all desires.
-Aphorism 7.

(Supreme love is attained) by uninterrupted and constant worship of God.
-Aphorism 36.

By hearing of and singing the glory of the Lord,
even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life.
-Aphorism 37.

There is no difference between God and His devotees.
-Aphorism 41.

When a man attains this supreme love, he sees his Beloved everywhere, he hears of Him everywhere, he talks only of Him, and he thinks of Him only.
-Aphorism 55.

The devotee does not grieve at any personal loss, for he has surrendered himself, everything he has, and even the rites and ceremonies which are enjoined by the scriptures.
-Aphorism 61.

Even though the devotee may have surrendered himself utterly to the Lord, he must not renounce action in the world but continue to perform it, giving up the fruits of action to the Lord.
-Aphorism 62.

Dedicate all your actions to God and direct all your passions,
such as lust, anger, pride, and so forth, toward God.
-Aphorism 65.

When such lovers of God dwell on earth, their forefathers
rejoice, the gods dance in joy, this earth becomes sanctified.
-Aphorism 71.

Among them there are no distinctions based on caste, learning, beauty of form, birth in a high or low family, wealth, possessions,
and the like.
-Aphorism 72.

Arguments are to be avoided.
-Aphorism 74.

Because there is no end to them and they lead to no
satisfactory result.
-Aphorism 75.

The Bhakta should cultivate harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, compassion, faith and other such virtues.
-Aphorism 78.

To love the eternal Truth- this indeed is the greatest love.
-Aphorism 82.

Whoever believes in this auspicious description of divine love by Narada, and has faith in these teachings, becomes a lover of God, attains the highest beatitude, and reaches the supreme goal of life.
-Aphorism 84.

______________________________________________

Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Bhakti-Surrender

Preamble
By David Godman

Many of the world’s religious traditions advocate surrender to God as means of transcending the individual self. Sri Ramana Mahrshi accepted the validity of such an approach and often said that this method was effective as self-enquiry. Traditionally the path of surrender is associated with dualistic devotional practices, but such activities were of only secondary importance to Sri Ramana. Instead he stressed that true surrender transcended worshipping God in a subject–object relationship since it could only be successfully accomplished when the one who imagined that he was separate from God had ceased to exist. To achieve this goal he recommended two distinct practices:

Holding on to the ‘I’-thought until the one who imagines that he is separate from God disappears.

Completely surrendering all responsibility for one’s life to God or the Self. For such self-surrender to be effective one must have no will or desire of one’s own and one must be completely free of the idea that there is an individual person who is capable of acting independently of God.

The first method is clearly self-enquiry masquerading under a different name. Sri Ramana Maharshi often equated the practices of surrender and enquiry either by saying that they were different names for the same process or that they were the only two effective means by which Self-realization could be achieved. This is quite consistent with his view that any practice which involved awareness of the ‘I’-thought was a valid and direct route to the Self, whereas all practices, which didn’t, were not.

This insistence on the subjective awareness of ‘I’ as the only means of reaching the Self coloured his attitude towards practices of devotion (Bhakti) and worship which are usually associated with surrender to God. He never discouraged his devotees from following such practices, but he pointed out that any relationship with God (devotee, worshipper, servant, etc.) was an illusory one since God alone exists. True devotion, he said, is to remain as one really is, in the state of being in which all ideas about relationships with God have ceased to exist.

The second method, of surrendering responsibility for one’s life to God, is also related to self-enquiry since it aims to eliminate the ‘I’-thought by separating it from the objects and actions that it constantly identifies with. In following this practice there should be a constant awareness that there is no individual ‘I’ who acts or desires, that only the Self exists and that there is nothing apart from the Self that is capable of acting independently of it. When following this practice, whenever one becomes aware that one is assuming responsibility for thoughts and actions- for example, ‘I want’ or ‘I am doing this’ – one should try to withdraw the mind from its external contacts and fix it in the Self. This is analogous to the transfer of attention which takes place in self-enquiry when one realises that self-attention has been lost. In both cases the aim is to isolate the ‘I’-thought and make it disappear in its source.

Sri Ramana Maharshi himself admitted that spontaneous and complete surrender of the ‘I’ by this method was an impossible goal for many people and so he sometimes advised his followers to undertake preliminary exercises which would cultivate their devotion and control their minds. Most of these practices involved thinking of or meditating on God or the Guru either by constantly repeating His name (japa) or by visualizing His form. He told his devotees that if this were done regularly with love and devotion then the mind would become effortlessly absorbed in the object of meditation.

Once this has been achieved complete surrender becomes much easier. The constant awareness of God prevents the mind from identifying with other objects and enhances the conviction that God alone exists. It also produces a reciprocal flow of power or grace from the Self, which weakens the hold of the ‘I’-thought and destroys the Vasanas (mental tendencies) which perpetuate and reinforce its existence. Eventually the ‘I’-thought is reduced to manageable proportions and with a little self-attention it can be made to sink temporarily into the Heart.

As with self-enquiry, final realization is brought about automatically by the power of the Self. When all the outgoing tendencies of the mind have been dissolved in the repeated experiences of being, the Self destroys the vestigial ‘I’-thought so completely that it never rises again. This final destruction of the ‘I’ takes place only if the self-surrender has been completely motiveless. If it is done with a desire for grace or Self-realization it can never be more than partial surrender, a business transaction in which the ‘I’-thought makes an effort in the expectation of receiving a reward.
_____________________________________________

Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Question: What is unconditional surrender?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If one surrenders oneself there will be no one to ask questions or to be thought of. Either the thoughts are eliminated by holding on to the root thought ‘I’, or one surrenders oneself unconditionally to the highest power. These are the only two ways for realization.

Question: Does not total or complete surrender require that one should not have left even the desire for liberation or God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Complete surrender does require that you have no desire of your own. You must be satisfied with whatever God gives you and that means having no desires of your own.

Questioner: Now that I am satisfied on that point, I want to know what the steps are by which I could achieve surrender.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There are two ways. One is looking into the source of ‘I’ and merging into that source. The other is feeling ‘I am helpless by myself, God alone is all-powerful and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me.’ By this method one gradually develops the conviction that God alone exists and that the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for Jnana (knowledge) or liberation.

Questioner: I find surrender is easier. I want to adopt that path.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: By whatever path you go, you will have to lose yourself in the One. Surrender is complete only when you reach the stage '‘Thou art all’ and ‘Thy will be done’.

The state is not different from Jnana (knowledge). In Soham (the affirmation of ‘I am He’) there is Dvaita (dualism). In surrender there is Advaita (non-dualism). In the Reality there is neither Dvaita nor Advaita, but that which is. Surrender appears easy because people imagine that, once they say with their lips '‘ surrender'’ and put their burdens on their Lord, they can be free and do what they like. But the fact is that you can have no likes or dislikes after your surrender; your will should become completely non-existent, the Lord’s will taking its place. The death of the ego in this way brings about a state, which is not different from Jnana (knowledge). So by whatever path you may go, you must come to Jnana or oneness.

Question: What is the best way of killing the ego?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: To each person that way is the best which appears easiest or appeals most. All the ways are equally good as they lead to the same goal, which is the merging of the ego in the Self. What the Bhakta (devotee) calls surrender, the man who does Vichara (self-enquiry) calls Jnana (knowledge). Both are trying only to take the ego back to the source from which it sprang and make it merge there.

Question: Cannot grace hasten such competence in a seeker?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Leave it to God. Surrender unreservedly. One of two things must be done. Either surrender because you admit your inability and require a higher power to help you, or investigate the cause of misery by going to the source and merging into the Self. Either way you will be free from misery. God never forsakes one who has surrendered.

Question: What is the drift of the mind after surrender?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is the surrendered mind raising the question?

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Questioner: By constantly desiring to surrender I hope that increasing grace is experienced.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surrender once for all and be done with the desire. So long as the sense of doership is retained there is the desire. That is also personality. If this goes the Self is found to shine forth pure. The sense of doership is the bondage and not the actions themselves.

‘Be still and know that I am God’. Here stillness is total surrender without a vestige of individuality. Stillness will prevail and there will be no agitation of mind. Agitation of mind is the cause of desire, the sense of doership and personality. If that is stopped there is quiet. There ‘knowing’ means ‘being’. It is not the relative knowledge involving the triads, knowledge, knowing and known.

Question: Is the thought ‘I am God’ or ‘I am the Supreme Being’ helpful?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: ‘I am that I am’. ‘I am’ is God, not thinking ‘I am God’. Realize ‘I am’ and do not think ‘I am’. ‘Know I am God’, it is said, and not ‘Think I am God’.

All talk of surrender is like pinching brown sugar from a brown sugar image of Lord Ganesha and offering it as Naivedya (food offering) to the same Lord Ganesha. You say you offer your body, soul and all possessions to God. Were they yours that you could offer them? At best, you can only say, 'I falsely imagined till now that all these which are yours were mine. Now I realize they are yours. I shall no more act as if they are mine.’ This knowledge that there is nothing but God or Self, that I or mine don’t exist and that only the Self exists, is Jnana (knowledge). Thus there is no difference between Bhakti and Jnana. Bhakti is Jnana Mata (devotion is the mother of knowledge).

Question: Men of the world that we are, we have some kind of grief or another and do not know how to get over it. We pray to God and still are not satisfied. What can we do?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Trust God.

Questioner: We surrender, but still there is no help.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. If you have surrendered, you must be able to abide by the will of God and not make a grievance of what may not please you. Things may turn out differently from the way they look apparently. Distress often leads men to faith in God.

Questioner: But we are worldly. There is the wife, there are the children, friends and relatives. We cannot ignore their existence and resign ourselves to Divine will, without retaining some little of personality in us.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That means you have not surrendered as professed by you. You must only trust God.

Surrender to Him and abide by His will whether He appears or vanishes. Await His pleasure. If you ask Him to do as you please, it is not surrender but command to Him. You cannot have Him obey you and yet think that you have surrendered. He knows what is best and when and how to do it. Leave everything entirely to Him. His is the burden; you have no longer any cares. All your cares are His. Such is surrender. This is Bhakti (devotion).

Or, enquire to whom these questions arise. Dive deep in the Heart and remain as the Self. One of these two ways is open to the aspirant.

Questioner: Surrender is impossible.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. Complete surrender is impossible in the beginning. Partial surrender is certainly possible for all. In course of time that will lead to complete surrender. Well, if surrender is impossible, what can be done? There is no peace of mind. You are helpless to bring it about. It can be done only by surrender.

Question: Is surrender, by itself, sufficient to reach the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is enough that one surrenders oneself. Surrender is to give oneself up to the original cause of one’s being. Do not delude yourself by imagining such a source to be some God outside you. Your source is within yourself. Give yourself up to it. That means that you should seek the source and merge in it.

Question: [Given to Sri Ramana in the form of a written note].

They say that one can obtain everything if one takes refuge in God wholly and solely, and without thought of anything else. Does it mean sitting still in one place and contemplating God entirely at all times, discarding all thoughts, including even thoughts about food, which is essential for the sustenance of the body? Does it mean that when one gets ill, one should not think of medicine and treatment, but entrust one’s health or sickness exclusively to providence?

In the Bhagavad Gita it says: ‘The man who shed all longing and moves without concern, free from the sense of "I" and "mine", he attains peace’ (2:71). It means the discarding of all desires. Therefore should we devote ourselves exclusively to the contemplation of God, and accept food and water only if they are available by God’s grace, without asking for them? Or does it mean that we should make a little effort? Bhagavan, please explain the secret of this Saranagati (surrender).

Sri Ramana Maharshi: [After reading the note Sri Ramana Maharshi addressed everyone in the room].

Ananya Saranagati (complete surrender) means to be without any attachment to thoughts, no doubt, but does it mean to discard even thoughts of food and water, which are essential for the sustenance of the physical body? He asks, ‘Should I eat only if I get anything by God’s direction, without my asking for it? Or should I make a little effort?’ All right. Let us take it that what we have to eat comes of its own accord, but even then, who is to eat? Suppose somebody puts it in our mouth, should we not swallow it at least? Is that not an effort?

He asks, ‘If I become sick, should I take medicine or should I keep quiet leaving my health and sickness in the hands of God?’ In the book Sadhana Panchakam written by Sankara, it is stated that for treatment of the disease called hunger one should eat food received as alms. But then one must at least go out and beg for it. If all people close their eyes and sit still saying that if the food comes we eat, how is the world to get on? Hence one must take things as they come in accordance with one’s traditions, but one must be free from the feeling that one is doing them oneself. The feeling that I am doing it is the bondage. It is therefore necessary to consider and find out the method whereby such a feeling can be overcome, instead of doubting as to whether medicine should be administered if one is sick or whether food should be taken if one is hungry. Such doubts will continue to come up and will never end. Even such doubts as ‘May I groan if there is pain? May I inhale air after exhaling?’ also occur. Call it Iswara (God) or call it Karma (destiny). Some Karta (higher power) will carry on everything in this world according to the development of the mind of each individual. If the responsibility is thrown on the higher power things will go on of their own accord.

We walk on this ground. While doing so, do we consider at every step whether we should raise one leg after the other or stop at some stage? Isn’t the walking done automatically? The same is the case with inhaling and exhaling. No special effort is made to inhale or exhale. The same is the case with this life also. Can we give up anything if we want to, or do anything as we please? Quite a number of things are done automatically without our being conscious of it. Complete surrender to God means giving up all thoughts and concentrating the mind on Him. If we can concentrate on Him, other thoughts disappear. If the actions of the mind, speech and body are merged with God, all the burdens of our life will be on Him.

Question: But is God really the doer of all the actions I perform?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The present difficulty is that man thinks he is the doer. But it is a mistake. It is the higher power, which does everything, and man is only a tool. If he accepts that position he is free from troubles, otherwise he courts them.

Take for instance, the sculpted figure at the base of a Gopuram (temple tower), which is made to appear as if it is bearing the burden of the tower on its shoulder. Its posture and look are a picture of great strain, which gives the impression that it is bearing the weight of the tower. But think. The tower is built on the earth and it rests on its foundations. The figure is a part of the tower, but it is made to look as if it is bearing the weight of the tower. Is it not funny? So also is the man who takes on himself the sense of doing.

Question: Swami, it is good to love God, is it not? Then why not follow the path of love?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Who said you couldn’t follow it? You can do so. But when you talk of love, there is duality, is there not- the person who loves and the entity called God who is loved? The individual is not separate from God. Hence love means one has love towards one’s own Self.

Questioner: That is why I am asking you whether God could be worshipped through the path of love.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is exactly what I have been saying. Love itself is the actual form of God. If by saying, ‘I do not love this, I do not love that’, you reject all things, that which remains is Swarupa, that is the real form of the Self. That is pure bliss. Call it pure bliss, God, Atma, or what you will. That is devotion, that is realization and that is everything.

If you thus reject everything, what remains is the Self alone. That is real love. One who knows the secret of that love finds the world itself full of universal love.

The experience of not forgetting consciousness, alone, is the state of devotion (Bhakti), which is the relationship of unfading real love, because the real knowledge of Self, which shines as the undivided supreme bliss itself, surges up as the nature of love.

Only if one knows the truth of love, which is the real nature of Self, will the strong entangled knot of life be untied. Only if one attains the height of love will liberation be attained. Such is the heart of all religions. The experience of Self is only love, which is seeing only love, hearing only love, feeling only love, tasting only love and smelling only love, which is bliss.

Questioner: I long for Bhakti. I want more of this longing. Even realization does not matter for me. Let me be strong in my longing.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the longing is there, realization will be forced on you even if you do not want it. Long for it intensely so that the mind melts in devotion. After camphor burns away no residue is left. The mind is the camphor. When it has resolved itself into the Self without leaving even the slightest trace behind, it is realization of the Self.

Question: I have faith in Murti Dhyana (worship of form). Will it not help me to gain Jnana (knowledge)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Surely it will. Upasana (meditation) helps concentration of mind. Then the mind is free from other thoughts and is full of the meditated form. The mind then becomes one with the object of meditation, and this makes it quite pure. Then think who is the worshipper. The answer is ‘I’, that is the Self. In this way the Self is ultimately gained.

Worshipping the formless reality by unthought thought is the best kind of worship. But when one is not fit for such formless worship of God, worship of form alone is suitable. Formless worship is possible only for people who are devoid of the ego-form. Know that all the worship done by people who possess the ego-form is only worship of form.

The pure state of being attached to grace (Self), which is devoid of any attachment, alone, is one’s own state of silence, which is devoid of any other thing. Know that one’s ever abiding as that silence, having experienced it as it is, alone is true mental worship (Manasik-Puja). Know that the performance of the unceasing true and natural worship in which the mind is submissively established as the one Self, having installed the Lord on the Heart-throne, is silence, the best of all forms of worship. Silence, which is devoid of the assertive ego, alone, is liberation. The evil forgetfulness of Self, which causes one to slip down from that silence, alone, is non-devotion (Vibhakti). Know that abiding as that silence with the mind subsided as non-different from Self, is the truth of Siva Bhakti (devotion to God).

When one has completely surrendered oneself at the feet of Siva, thereby becoming of the nature of the Self, the resulting abundant peace, in which there is not even the least room within the Heart for one to make any complaint about one’s defects and deficiencies, alone is the nature of supreme devotion. One’s thus becoming a slave to the Lord and one’s remaining quiet and silent, devoid even of the egotistical thought ‘I’ am His slave’, is Self-abidance, and this is the Supreme Knowledge.

Question: Can spiritual seekers attain this goal in life if they go about the world absorbed in singing songs in praise of God? Or should they stay at one place only?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is good to keep the mind concentrated on one thing only wherever the person wanders. What is the use of keeping the body at one place if the mind is allowed to wander?

pr>Question: Is Ahetuka Bhakti (devotion without a motive) possible?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, it is possible. Worshipping God for the sake of a desired object is worshipping that desired object alone. The complete cessation of any thought of a desired object is the first pre-requisite in a mind, which wishes to attain the state of Siva.

Question: Sri Bhagavan outlines a way to find Krishna in the Heart by prostrating to all and looking on all as the Lord Himself. Is this the right path leading to Self-realization? Is it not easier to adore Bhagavan (God) in whatever meets the mind, than to seek the supramental through the mental enquiry ‘Who am I?’

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, when you see God in all, do you think of God or do you not? You must certainly think of God if you want to see God all round you. Keeping God in your mind in this way becomes Dhyana (meditation) and Dhyana is the stage before realization. Realization can only be in and of the Self. It can never be apart from the Self. Dhyana must precede realization, but whether you make Dhyana on God or on the Self is immaterial, for the goal is the same. You cannot, by any means, escape the Self. You want to see God in all, but not in yourself? If everything is God, are you not included in that everything? Being God yourself, is it a wonder that all is God? This is the method advised in Sri Bhagavatam, and elsewhere by others. But even for this practice there must be the seer or thinker. Who is he?

Question: How to see God who is all pervasive?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: To see God is to be God. There is no all apart from God for Him to pervade. He alone is.

Question: The Bhakta (devotee) requires a God to whom he can do Bhakti. Is he to be taught that there is only the Self, not a worshipper and the worshipped?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Of course, God is required for Sadhana. But the end of the Sadhana, even in Bhakti Marga (the path of devotion), is attained only after complete surrender. What does it mean, except that effacement of the ego results in Self remaining as it always has been? Whatever path one may choose, the ‘I’ is inescapable, the ‘I’ that does the Nishkama Karma (motiveless acts), the ‘I’ that pines for joining the Lord from whom it feels it has been separated, the ‘I’ that feels it has slipped from its real nature, and so on. The source of this ‘I’ must be found out. Then all questions will be solved.

Question: If ‘I’ also is an illusion, who then casts off the illusion?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ‘I’ casts off the illusion of ‘I’ and yet remains as ‘I’. Such is the paradox of Self-realization. The realized do not see any contradiction in it. Take the case of Bhakti. I approach Iswara and pray to be absorbed in Him. I then surrender myself with faith and concentrate on Him. What remains afterwards? In place of the original ‘I’. perfect self-surrender leaves a residuum of God in which ‘I’ is lost. This is the highest form of devotion (parabhakti) and surrender and the height of Vairagya (non-attachment).

You give up this and that of ‘my’ possessions. If you give up ‘I’ and ‘mine’ instead, all are given up at a stroke. The very seed of possession is lost. Thus the evil is nipped in the bud or crushed in the germ itself. Dispassion (Vairagya) must be very strong to do this. Eagerness to do it must be equal to that of a man kept under water trying to rise up to the surface for his life.

Note: The following texts are edited by Arthur Osborne].

Question: Priests prescribe various rituals and forms of worship and people are told that it is a sin not to observe them. Is there any need for such ritual and ceremonial worship?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, such worship is also necessary. It may not help you, but that does not mean that it is necessary for no one and is no good at all. What is necessary for the infant is not necessary for the graduate. But even the graduate has to make use of the alphabet he learnt in the infant class. He knows its full use and significance.

Worship might also take the form of concentration on one of the Hindu gods, that is one of the modes in which Hindus conceive of God.

Question: What are the steps of practical training?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It depends on the qualifications and nature of the seeker.

Questioner: I worship an idol.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Go on doing so. It leads to concentration of mind. Get one-pointed. All will come right in the end. People think that liberation (moksha) is somewhere outside them to be sought for. They are wrong. It is only knowing the Self in you. Concentrate and you will realize it. It is your mind that is the cycle of births and deaths (samsara).

Question: My mind is very unsteady. What should I do?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Fix your attention on any single thing and try to hold on to it. Everything will come right.

Questioner: I find concentration difficult.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Keep on practising and your concentration will come to be as easy as breathing. That will be the crown of your achievement.

[Note: Sri Ramana Maharshi did not approve of the desire to see visions- or, in fact, any desire at all, even the desire for rapid Self-realization.]

Miss Uma Devi, a Polish lady who had become a Hindu, said to Sri Ramana Maharshi :

‘Once before I told Sri Bhagavan how I had a vision of Siva at about the time I became a Hindu. A similar experience occurred to me at Cortallam. These visions are momentary, but they are blissful. I want to know how they can be made permanent and continuous. Without Siva there is no life in what I see around me. I am so happy to think of Him. Please tell me how I can make the vision of Him continuous.’

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You speak of a vision of Siva, but a vision always presumes an object. That implies the existence of a subject. The value of the vision is the same as that of the seer. That is to say, the nature of the vision is on the same plane as that of the seer. Appearance implies disappearance also. Therefore, a vision can never be eternal.

But Siva is eternal. The vision of Siva implies the existence of the eyes to see it, of the intellect behind the sight and finally of Consciousness underlying the seer. This vision is not as real as one imagines it to be, because it is not intimate and inherent; it is not first hand. It is the result of several successive phases of Consciousness. Consciousness alone does not vary. It is eternal. It is Siva.

A vision implies someone to see it, but this someone cannot deny the existence of the Self. There is no moment when the Self as Consciousness does not exist nor can the seer remain apart from Consciousness. This Consciousness is the eternal Being and is only Being. The seer cannot see himself. Does he deny his existence because he cannot see himself as he sees a vision? No. So the true vision does not mean seeing but BE-ing. To Be is to realize- hence ‘I am that I am’. I am Siva. Nothing else can be without Him. Everything has its being in Siva, because of Siva.

Therefore enquire: ‘Who am I?’ Sink deep within and abide as the Self. That is Siva as BE-ing. Do not expect to have visions of Him repeated. What is the difference between the objects you see and Siva? He is both subject and object. You cannot be without Siva. Siva is always realized here and now. If you think you have not realized Him you are wrong. That is the obstacle to realizing Him. Give up that thought also and realization is there.

Question: Yes, but how shall I effect it as quickly as possible?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That is another obstacle to realization. Can there be an individual without Siva? Even now He is you. There is no question of time. If there were a moment of non-realization, the question of realization could arise. But you cannot be without Him. He is already realized, ever realized and never non-realized. Surrender to Him and abide by His will, whether He appears or vanishes; await His pleasure. If you ask Him to do as you please, it is not surrender but command. You cannot have Him obey you and yet think you have surrendered. He knows what is best and when and how. Leave everything entirely to Him. The burden is His.

You have no longer any cares. All your cares are His. That is surrender. That is Bhakti (devotion).

Questioner: A vision of God is something glorious.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: A vision of God is only a vision of the Self objectified as the God of your particular faith. What you have to do is to know the Self.

[Note: Bhagavan was often heard to say: ‘To know God is to love God, therefore, the path of Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion) come to the same.]
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From The Bhagavad Gita
Translations by
Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

He who is free from wants, pure, expert, unconcerned, and untroubled, renouncing all undertakings or commencements- he who is thus devoted to Me, is dear to Me.
-Gita, Ch.12, Verse 16.

He who neither rejoices, nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, renouncing good and evil, and who is full of devotion, is dear to Me.
-Gita, Ch.12, Verse 17.

That highest Purusa, O Arjuna, is attainable by unswerving devotion to Him alone within Whom all beings dwell and by Whom all this is pervaded.
-Gita Ch.8, Verse 22.
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Five Dualistic Attitudes
One way to approach God, according to traditional Hinduism, is by practising any one of five dualistic attitudes, or modes. These attitudes, or modes, are manifested in the relationship between the devotee and God, and they are:

Shanta Bhava, the peace and stillness felt in the presence of God

Dasya Bhava, the attitude of a servant towards his Master

Sakhya Bhava, the attitude of a friend towards a Friend

Vatsalya Bhava, the attitude of a parent towards a Child

Madhura Bhava, the attitude of a lover towards the Beloved.

The idea behind this classification is to help the spiritual aspirant intensify his relationship with God according to his own inner nature. This is a natural path to God-realization. Gopaler-ma attained her vision of God through the practice of Vatsalya Bhava, the attitude of a mother towards her child.
Related articles: The story of Gopaler-ma (page Japa)
Single-minded devotion
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