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11545The solution to the root problem all spiritual seekers face

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  • Michael L.
    Oct 31, 2003
      At the Ramana Maharshi group
      Joe asked a question
      regarding breathing exercises
      mentioned by Sri Ramana Maharshi
      in the book Self-Inquiry.

      Because the answer to Joe's question
      contains the solution
      to the root problem,
      that all spiritual seekers face,
      it is being posted here:

      Dear Joe:

      I do not know who wrote the preface to Self-inquiry
      in the 1996 sixth revised addition of the book
      "The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi".

      It may have been Professor K. Swaminathan,
      or T.K. Jayaraman or Michael James.

      Whoever it was, they demonstrated good insight into
      Sri Ramana's teachings and also a good insight into
      the danger of the ego misusing the teachings
      found in the book Self-inquiry.

      Here is that preface:

      "Self-inquiry is the first work the Maharshi ever
      wrote. It was written about 1901, that is, when he
      was a sage (jnani) in perfect realization of the Self,
      in the resplendent bliss of divine knowledge.
      At that time he was living in Virupaksha cave on the
      hill of Arunachala. A number of disciples had already
      gathered round him. Although he had not actually
      taken a vow of silence, he seldom spoke, and so wrote
      his replies to certain questions put to him by
      Gambhiram Seshayya, one of the earliest devotees.
      The latter copied them in his diary. After his death
      this diary was obtained from his brother; the
      questions and answers were edited by Natanananda and
      published with Bhagavan's approval under the name of
      Vichara Sangraham, or Self-inquiry. Subsequently they
      were changed into the form of an essay. The original
      form has been adopted in the present work.

      There is no youthfulness or immaturity in the work.
      The Master wrote with the authority of full spiritual
      knowledge, just as in his later years. Like all his
      expositions, verbal as well as written, this is
      concerned with practical questions of the path to
      realization of the Self, never with barren theory.
      However, it does differ from the later exposistions in
      one important respect: that is, that it describes not
      only the path of Self-inquiry but others also;
      meditation on one's identity with the Self and a yogic
      path based on breath-control. He himself prescribed
      only Self-inquiry or submission to the Guru. He would
      say: 'There are two ways; ask yourself 'Who am I?' or

      Why did he include the mention of less direct and more
      elaborate methods in this first exposition? The
      obvious contingent reason is that the disciple for who
      it was written had been reading books about these
      various methods and asked questions about them.
      Perhaps also, in a wider sense, it is appropriate that
      there should first be a general exposition of various
      methods before lifelong instruction in that which is
      prescribed. Certainly the other methods, although
      described, are scarely recommended.

      The breath-control that is described is, of course,
      not mere physical exercise. It is the spiritual
      significance of the exercise that makes it an
      elaborate science. 'Science' is indeed the right word
      for it, for it is a traditional Indian science of
      self-purification. This makes it abstruse for the
      Western reader who has no previous grounding in it,
      especially as, like all sciences, it has its technical
      vocabulary which does not permit adequate translation
      without lengthy notes. One has to remember that in
      writing this exposition the Maharshi knew that he
      could count on a technical knowledge of the science in
      question in the person for whom he wrote. The
      consolation for Westerner readers is to remember that
      he neither recommended nor prescribed this path and in
      his later works scarcely mentioned it. It is not
      necessary for them to learn its technicalities."

      Although the above preface to Self-inquiry answers
      your question Joe, one can actually go much further
      into all this.

      This brings up the whole question of other methods
      either on their own or as aids to self-inquiry.
      There are people like Sri Sadhu Om and like whoever
      wrote the above preface to self-inquiry and like me
      who know that Sri Ramana did not advocate any aids to
      self-inquiry or any methods other than self-inquiry.
      There are many others who have studied the teachings
      of Sri Ramana Maharshi who are under the mistaken
      impression that he advocated practicing methods other
      than self-inquiry either on their own
      or as aids to self-inquiry.

      A great source to discover how these misconceptions
      arose is the book the Path of Sri Ramana, Part 1.
      In that book Sri Sadhu Om goes into great detail
      explaining how these misconceptions arose.
      He talks about other methods including pranyama.
      I think the pranyama is mentioned in chapter 8,
      but maybe it is chapter 7.
      You can look it up for yourself,
      but I will summarize the basic idea that Sri Sadhu Om
      is conveying about pranayama from my memory:

      Self-attention itself will stop the breath.
      It is a mistake, an error to try any sort of breathing
      exercise because this will result in second person
      attention. Even to wonder "has my breath stopped or
      not?" would lead to the error of second person

      Sri Sadhu Om goes into far more detail than that and
      he of course quotes Sri Ramana in the process.

      You can find the links to read Chapter 7 and Chapter 8
      of the book "The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One" on the
      Direct Path Links Directory.

      This is the link to the Direct Path Links Directory:


      You can join the Yahoo group Path of Sri Ramana, Part
      one and read the rest of the book, but you will have
      to wait a long time at the rate
      it is being posted there.
      You could also buy the book if you are interested.

      It is not an accident that I placed the book
      Self-enquiry under the Seventh Ring Teachings, which
      are now the final ring of teachings on the Direct Path
      Links Directory. You can see why by reading the
      preface to Self-enquiry above or by reading
      "The Path of Sri Ramana, part one.

      For those of you who wonder
      what I mean by Seventh Ring,
      Joe made a comment at the atma vichara group
      about all the links on the
      Direct Path Links Directory.

      I began thinking about that and realized
      that there were way to many links
      listed under that general category
      because some of the teachings were not equal
      as far as their directness is concerned,
      and some of them that were equal in content
      were not equal in clarity of communication.

      Therefore, I placed the links in 7 different
      categories calling them rings.
      The idea being that if objects are orbiting the sun
      (the Self) then the object with the closest orbit
      is the first ring.
      So the First Ring teachings
      are those that are most direct
      and most clearly communicated
      in the most condensed form.

      If one reads the preface above and the
      "Path of Sri Ramana, part one, one can see the
      rationale for placing a book like Self-inquiry
      in the seventh ring, the ring that is the least direct
      of all the rings listed on the
      Direct Path links Directory.

      Now, a good question to ask is,
      why do some people who study Sri Ramana's teachings
      think he advocated methods other than Self-inquiry
      or aids to Self-inquiry
      and others such as the author of the above preface
      and Sri Sadhu Om and myself know that he did not?

      I will briefly explain the main reasons here:

      #1. Because Sri Ramana did speak on the subject of
      other methods and aids.

      If one just leaves it there
      and does not examine what he said more closely
      and what the questioner was asking
      when Sri Ramana spoke on those methods,
      then one might come to the conclusion
      that Sri Ramana advocated methods
      other than Self-inquiry or aids to self-inquiry.

      The following quote by Sri Muruganar from the Garland
      of Guru's (Sri Ramana Maharshi's) Sayings
      will help greatly to clarify this matter.
      Please read the following quote over and over
      reflecting on each line slowly:

      1106. "The sage's pure mind

      which beholds as a mere witness the whole world

      is like a mirror which reflects

      the foolish thoughts that come before him

      and these thoughts are then mistaken to be his."

      How does one disinguish which words
      spoken by Sri Ramana are a reflection of
      the foolish thoughts of the questioner
      and which are the Teachings of Sri Ramana?

      Soon I am going to start a new Yahoo group for the
      purpose of answering that question.
      I will take one of the Talks, begining with the first
      talk, from the book "Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi"
      and demonstrate exactly how to distinguish the
      reflection of the foolish thoughts of the questioner
      from Sri Ramana's teachings.
      I will go through the entire book continuing that
      demonstration. However, some people will probably
      learn how to do it from just one
      or two or three Talks.

      I will post an announcement here
      after I create that group.

      #2. Because of the ego's desire
      to preserve its imaginary self.

      If we go to the source of the reason
      it is the ego's desire to preserve its imaginary self.
      If a person is of the spiritual level of maturity that
      the ego still wishes to preserve its imaginary self,
      then that ego will focus on those aspects of the
      teachings that are not direct and that are only a
      reflection of the foolish thoughts of the questioner.

      Almost all humans are on
      the level of spiritual maturity or ripeness,
      in which the ego's primary aim
      is to preserve its imaginary self.
      This also applies to
      most of the people who study Sri Ramana's teaching.

      Therefore the ego only pretends to be
      interested in its own end
      and the ego sabotages the study of
      Sri Ramana's teachings, thus making them ineffective.

      One way to sabotage the study is to focus on those
      aspects of the words spoken or written by Sri Ramana
      that are really just the
      reflection of the foolish thoughts of the questioner,
      as Sri Murganar points out in the saying quoted above.

      Thus a person might even study Sri Ramana's teachings
      for 10 or 40 or 60 years,
      and still at the end of 60 years
      be focussing on those words spoken by Sri Ramana
      that are the reflection of
      the foolish thoughts of the questioner.

      If one does not become aware of
      the desire of the ego to preserve itself
      and the tricks it uses to acheive that end,
      then one's spiritual task is doomed to failure.

      It may be that most people are not aware
      that the ego is just playing tricks on them
      when they focus on aspects of the teachings
      that are not direct and therefore are just the
      reflection of the foolish thoughts of the questioner.

      It may be that most people are not aware
      that it was only the tricks of the ego
      and their level of spiritual maturity that lead them
      to focus on something other than Self-inquiry.

      If someone does become aware of this,
      how can one stop the ego from using these tricks?

      The answer is by increasing the intensity of
      the desire for liberation.

      How does one increase the desire for liberation?

      By reflecting on the choice of
      either ending the ego or not ending the ego
      and looking at the consequences of each.

      How does one look at the consequences?

      By reading descriptions of the experience of
      liberation. On the Direct Path Links Directory you
      can find a link where you can read Sri Ramana
      (Sri Ramana Experience) which is Sri Muruganar's
      description of the experience of liberation.

      Read it everyday to see what it means to end the ego.
      That is looking at
      the positive consequences of ending the ego.

      The other means is facing the negative.
      Facing what it means not to end the ego.
      That is looking at all the things humans beings
      usually block out that are negative about human
      existence. They block it out by looking at only one
      tiny aspect at a time, but not all of it.

      The murders, the rapes, the tortures, the lying, the
      conning, the cheating, 15,000 wars in the last five
      thousand years and what each person went through in
      those wars, disease, death.
      And to reflect on what it will mean
      to have to repeat it all over and over
      for a hundred million more lifetimes.
      One need only face the negative upon rare occaisions,
      when facing the positive was not enough
      and the ego flares up again.

      One of these days I will create a much larger list
      than that, but this gives the general idea.

      If one does a good job of facing the negative
      consequence of not ending the ego
      and the positive consequence of ending the ego,
      then the choice is made and
      even the ego can see the great need for its own end.
      The ego will need to be reminded and therefore it is
      good to read the descriptions of liberation everyday.

      Then the ego preservation strategies either die down
      or become far less prevalent.

      Then one can see the Direct Path.
      Then one's focus will be on the Direct Path.
      Then one begins the practice of the Direct Path.

      As far as how to do that
      and how to turn the mind inward,
      one will find that in the First Ring Teachings
      on the Direct Path links Drectory.

      In order to make it easier to see
      what quotes should be reflected on everyday, soon I
      will start a yahoo group with First Ring quotes.

      Take care,

      with Love,


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