Disciple: Of the means for mind-control, which is the most important?
Master: Breath-control is the means for mind-control.
Disciple: How is breath to be controlled?
Master: Breath can be controlled either by absolute retention of breath (kevala-kumbhaka) or by regulation of breath (pranayama).
Disciple: What is absolute retention of breath?
Master: It is making the vital air stay firmly in the heart even without exhalation and inhalation. This is achieved through meditation on the vital principle, etc.
Disciple: What is regulation of breath?
Master: It is making the vital air stay firmly in the heart through exhalation, inhalation, and retention, according to the instructions given in the yoga texts.
Disciple: How is breath-control the means for mind-control?
Master: There is no doubt that breath-control is the means for mind-control, because the mind, like breath, is a part of air, because the nature of mobility is common to both, because the place of origin is the same for both, and because when one of them is controlled the other gets controlled.
Disciple: Since breath-control leads only to quiescence of the mind (manolaya) and not to its destruction (manonasa), how can it be said that breath-control is the means for enquiry which aims at the destruction of mind?
Master: The scriptures teach the means for gaining Self-realization in two modes - as the yoga with eight limbs (ashtanga-yoga) and as knowledge with eight limbs (ashtanga-jnana). By regulation of breath (pranayama) or by absolute retention thereof (kevala-kumbhaka), which is one of the limbs of yoga, the mind gets controlled. Without leaving the mind at that, if one practises the further discipline such as withdrawal of the mind from external objects (pratyahara), then at the end, Self-realization which is the fruit of enquiry will surely be gained.
Disciple: What are the limbs of yoga?
Master: Yama, niyama, asana, ,pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Of these --
(1) Yama -- this stands, for the cultivation of such principles of good conduct as non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya), celibacy (brahmacharya), and non-possession (apari-graha).
(2) Niyama -- this stands for the observance of such rules of good conduct as purity (saucha), contentment (santosha), austerity (tapas), study of the sacred texts (svadhyaya), and devotion to God (Isvara-pranidhana).
(3) Asana -- Of the different postures, eighty-four are the main ones. Of these, again, four, viz., simha, bhadra, padma, and siddha are said to be excellent. Of these too, it is only siddha, that is the most excellent. Thus the yoga-texts declare.
(4) Pranayama -- According to the measures prescribed in the sacred texts, exhaling the vital air is rechaka, inhaling is puraka and retaining it in the heart is kumbhaka. As regards 'measure', some texts say that rechaka and puraka should be equal in measure, and kumbhaka twice that measure, while other texts say that if rechaka is one measure, puraka should be of two measures, and kumbhaka of four. By 'measure' what is meant is the time that would be taken for the utterance of the Gayatrimantra once. Thus pranayama consisting of rechaka, puraka, and kumbhaka, should be practised daily according to ability, slowly and gradually. Then, there would arise for the mind a desire to rest in happiness without moving. After this, one should practise pratyahara.
(5) Pratyahara -- This is regulating the mind by preventing it from flowing towards the external names and forms. The mind, which had been till then distracted, now becomes controlled. The aids in this respect are (1) meditation on the pranava, (2) fixing the attention betwixt the eyebrows, (3) looking at the tip of the nose, and (4) reflection on the nada. The mind that has thus become one-pointed will be fit to stay in one place. After this, dharana should be practised.
(6) Dharana --This is fixing the mind in a locus which is fit for meditation. The loci that are eminently fit for meditation are the heart and Brahma-randhra (aperture in the crown of the head). One should think that in the middle of the eight-petalled lotus that is at this place there shines, like a flame, the Deity which is the Self, i.e. Brahman, and fix the mind therein. After this, one should meditate.
(7) Dhyana --This is meditation, through the 'I am He' thought, that one is not different from the nature of the aforesaid flame. Even, thus, if one makes the enquiry 'Who am I?', then, as the Scripture declares, "The Brahman which is everywhere shines in the heart as the Self that is the witness of the intellect", one would realize that is the Divine Self that shines in the heart as 'I-I'. This mode of reflection is the best meditation.
(8) Samadhi -- As a result of the fruition of the aforesaid meditation, the mind gets resolved in the object of meditation without harbouring the ideas 'I am such and such; I am doing this and this'. This subtle state in which even the thought 'I-I' disappears is samadhi. If one practises this every day, seeing to it that sleep does not supervene, God will soon confer on one the supreme state of quiescence of mind.
Disciple: What is the purport of the teaching that in pratyahara one should meditate on the pranava?
Master: The purport of prescribing meditation on the pranava is this. The pranava is Omkara consisting of three and a half matras, viz., a, u, m, and ardha-matra. of these, a stands for the waking state, Visva-jiva, and the gross body; u stands for the dream-state Taijasa-jiva, and the subtle body; m stands for the sleep-state, Prajnajiva and the causal body; the ardha-matra represents the Turiya which is the self or 'I'-nature; and what is beyond that is the state of Turiyatita, or pure Bliss. The fourth state which is the state of 'I'-nature was referred to in the section on meditation (dhyana): this has been variously described - as of the nature of amatra which includes the three matras, a, u, and m; as maunakshara (silence syllable); as ajapa (as muttering without muttering) and as the Advaita-mantra which is the essence of all mantras such as panchakshara. In order to get at this true significance, one should meditate on the pranava. This is meditation which is of the nature of devotion consisting in reflection on the truth of the Self. The fruition of this process is samadhi which yields release which is the state of unsurpassed bliss. The revered Gurus also have said that release is to be gained only by devotion which is of the nature of reflection on the truth of the Self.
Disciple: What is the purport of the teaching that one should meditate, through the 'I am He' thought, on the truth that one is not different from the self-luminous Reality that shines like a flame?
Master: (A) The purport of teaching that one should cultivate the idea that one is not different from the self-luminous Reality is this: Scripture defines meditation in these words, "In the middle of the eight-petalled heart-lotus which is of the nature of all, and which is referred to as Kailasa, Vaikundha, and Parama-pada, there is the Reality which is of the size of the thumb, which is dazzling like lightning and which shines like a flame. By meditating on it, a person gains immortality". From this we should know that by such meditation one avoids the defects of (1) the thought of difference, of the form 'I am different, and that is different', (2) the meditation on what is limited, (3) the idea that the real is limited, and (4) that it is confined to one place.
(B) The purport of teaching that one should meditate with the 'I am He' thought is this: sahaham: soham; sah the supreme Self, aham the Self that is manifest as 'I'. The jiva which is the Shiva-linga resides in the heart-lotus which is its seat situated in the body which is the city of Brahman; the mind which is of the nature of egoity, goes outward identifying itself with the body, etc. Now the mind should be resolved in the heart, i.e. the I-sense that is placed in the body, etc., should be got rid of; when thus one enquires 'Who am I?', remaining undisturbed, in that state the Self-nature becomes manifest in a subtle manner as 'I-I'; that self-nature is all and yet none, and is manifest as the supreme Self everywhere without the distinction of inner and outer; that shines like a flame, as was stated above, signifying the truth 'I am Brahman'. If, without meditating on that as being identical with oneself, one imagines it to be different, ignorance will not leave. Hence, the identity-meditation is prescribed.
If one meditates for a long time, without disturbance, on the Self ceaselessly, with the 'I am He' thought which is the technique of reflection on the Self, the darkness of ignorance which is in the heart and all the impediments which are but the effects of ignorance will he removed, and the plenary wisdom will be gained.
Thus, realizing the Reality in the heart-cave which is in the city (of Brahman), viz. the body, is the same as realizing the all-perfect God.
In the city with nine gates, which is the body, the wise one resides at ease.
The body is the temple; the jiva is God (Shiva). If one worships him with the 'I am He' thought, one will gain release.
The body which consists of the five sheaths is the cave, the supreme that resides there is the lord of the cave. Thus the scriptures declare.
Since the Self is the reality of all the gods, the meditation on the Self which is oneself is the greatest of all meditations. All other meditations are included in this. It is for gaining this that the other meditations are prescribed. So, if this is gained, the others are not necessary. Knowing one's Self is knowing God. Without knowing one's Self that meditates, imagining that there is a deity which is different and meditating on it, is compared by the great ones to the act of measuring with one's foot one's own shadow, and to the search for a trivial conch after throwing away a priceless gem that is already in one's possession.
Disciple: Even though the heart and the Brahmarandhra alone are the loci fit for meditation, could one meditate, if necessary, on the six mystic centres (adharas)?
Master: The six mystic centres, etc., which are said to be loci of meditation, are but products of imagination. All these are meant for beginners in yoga. With reference to meditation on the six centres, the Shiva-yogins say, "God, who is of the nature of the non-dual, plenary, consciousness-self, manifests, sustains and resolves us all. It is a great sin to spoil that Reality by superimposing on it various names and forms such as Ganapati, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Mahesvara, and Sadashiva", and the Vedantins declare, "All those are but imaginations of the mind". Therefore, if one knows one's Self which is of the nature of consciousness that knows everything, one knows everything. The great ones have also said: "When that One is known as it is in Itself, all that has not been known becomes known". If we who are endowed with various thoughts meditate on God that is the Self we would get rid of the plurality of thoughts by that one thought; and then even that one thought would vanish. This is what is meant by saying that knowing one's Self is knowing God. This knowledge is release.
Disciple: How is one to think of the Self?
Master: The Self is self-luminous without darkness and light, and is the reality which is self-manifest. Therefore, one should not think of it as this or as that. The very thought of thinking will end in bondage. The purport of meditation on the Self is to make the mind take the form of the Self. In the middle of the heart-cave the pure Brahman is directly manifest as the Self in the form 'I-I'. Can there be greater ignorance than to think of it in manifold ways, without knowing it as aforementioned?
Disciple: It was stated that Brahman is manifest as the Self in the form 'I-I', in the heart. To facilitate an understanding of this statement, can it be still further explained?
Master: Is it not within the experience of all that during deep sleep, swoon, etc., there is no knowledge whatsoever, i.e. neither self-knowledge nor other-knowledge? Afterwards, when there is experience of the form "I have woken up from sleep" or "I have recovered from swoon" - is that not a mode of specific knowledge that has arisen from the aforementioned distinctionless state? This specific knowledge is called vijnana. This vijnana becomes manifest only as pertaining to either the Self or the not-self, and not by itself. When it pertains to the Self, it is called true knowledge, knowledge in the form of that mental mode whose object is the Self, or knowledge which has for its content the impartite (Self); and when it relates to the not-self, it is called ignorance. The state of this vijnana, when it pertains to the Self and is manifest as of the form of the Self, is said to be the 'I'-manifestation. This manifestation cannot take place as apart from the Real (i.e. the Self). It is this manifestation that serves as the mark for the direct experience of the Real. Yet, this by itself cannot constitute the state of being the Real. That, depending on which this manifestation takes place is the basic reality which is also called prajnana. The Vedantic text "prajnanam brahma" teaches the same truth.
Know this as the purport of the scripture also. The Self which is self-luminous and the witness of everything manifests itself as residing in the vijnanakosa (sheath of the intellect). By the mental mode which is impartite, seize this Self as your goal and enjoy it as the Self.
Disciple: What is that which is called the inner worship or worship of the attributeless?
Master: In texts such as the Ribhu-gita, the worship of the attributeless has been elaborately explained (as a separate discipline). Yet, all disciplines such as sacrifice, charity, austerity, observance of vows, japa, yoga, and puja, are, in effect, modes of meditation of the form 'I am Brahman'. So, in all the modes of disciplines, one should see to it that one does not stray away from the thought 'I am Brahman'. This is the purport of the worship of the attributeless.
Disciple: What are the eight limbs of knowledge (jnana-ashtanga)?
Master: The eight limbs are those which have been already mentioned, viz., yama, niyama , etc. but differently defined. Of these -
(1) Yama -- This is controlling the aggregate of sense-organs, realizing the defects that are present in the world consisting of the body, etc.
(2) Niyama -- This is maintaining a stream of mental modes that relate to the Self and rejecting the contrary modes. In other words, it means love that arises uninterruptedly for the supreme Self.
(3) Asana -- That with the help of which constant meditation on Brahman is made possible with ease is asana.
(4) Pranayama -- Rechaka (exhalation) is removing the two unreal aspects of name and form from the objects constituting the world, the body etc., puraka (inhalation) is grasping the three real aspects, existence, consciousness and bliss, which are constant in those objects, and kumbhaka is retaining those aspects thus grasped.
(5) Pratyahara -- This is preventing name and form which have been removed from re-entering the mind.
(6) Dharana -- This is making the mind stay in the heart, without straying outward, and realizing that one is the Self itself which is existence-consciousness-bliss.
(7) Dhyana -- This is meditation of the form 'I am only pure consciousness'. That is, after leaving aside the body which consists of five sheaths, one enquires 'Who am I'?, and as a result of that, one stays as 'I' which shines as the Self.
(8) Samadhi -- When the 'I'-manifestation also ceases, there is (subtle) direct experience. This is samadhi.
For the pranayama, etc., detailed here, the disciplines such as asana, etc., mentioned in connection with yoga, are not necessary. The limbs of knowledge may be practised at all places and at all times. Of yoga and knowledge, one may follow whichever is pleasing to one, or both, according to circumstances. The great teachers say that forgetfulness is the root of all evil, and is death for those who seek release; so one should rest the mind in one's Self and should never forget the Self : this is the aim. If the mind is controlled, all else can be controlled. The distinction between yoga with eight limbs and knowledge with eight limbs has been set forth elaborately in the sacred texts; so only the substance of this teaching has been given here.
Disciple: Is it possible to practise at the same time the pranayama belonging to yoga and the pranayama pertaining to knowledge?
Master: So long as the mind has not been made to rest in the heart, either through absolute retention (kevala-kumbhaka) or through enquiry, rechaka, puraka, etc., are needed. Hence, the pranayama of yoga is to be practised during training, and the other pranayama may be practised always. Thus, both may be practised. It is enough if the yogic pranayama is practised till skill is gained in absolute retention.
Disciple: Why should the path to release be differently taught? Will it not create confusion in the minds of aspirants?
Master: Several paths are taught in the Vedas to suit the different grades of qualified aspirants. Yet, since release is but the destruction of mind, all efforts have for their aim the control of mind. Although the modes of meditation may appear to be different from one another, in the end all of them become one. There is no need to doubt this. One may adopt that path which suits the maturity of one's mind.
The control of prana which is yoga, and the control of mind which is jnana* - these are the two principal means for the destruction of mind. To some, the former may appear easy, and to others the latter. Yet, jnana is like subduing a turbulent bull by coaxing it with green grass, while yoga is like controlling through the use of force. Thus the wise ones say: of the three grades of qualified aspirants, the highest reach the goal by making the mind firm in the Self through determining the nature of the real by Vedantic enquiry and by looking upon one's self and all things as of the nature of the real; the mediocre by making the mind stay in the heart through kevala-kumbhaka and meditating for a long time on the real, and the lowest grade, by gaining that state in a gradual manner through breath-control, etc.
The mind should be made to rest in the heart till the destruction of the 'I'-thought which is of the form of ignorance, residing in the heart. This itself is jnana; this alone is dhyana also. The rest are a mere digression of words, digression of the texts. Thus the scriptures proclaim. Therefore, if one gains the skill of retaining the mind in one's Self through some means or other, one need not worry about other matters.
The great teachers also have taught that the devotee is greater than the yogins** and that the means to release is devotion, which is of the nature of reflection on one's own Self.
Thus, it is the path of realizing Brahman that is variously called Dahara-vidya, Brahma-vidya, Atma-vidya, etc. What more can be said than this? One should understand the rest by inference.
The Scriptures teach in different modes. After analysing all those modes the great ones declare this to be the shortest and the best means.
Disciple: By practising the disciplines taught above, one may get rid of the obstacles that are in the mind, viz. ignorance, doubt, error, etc., and thereby attain quiescence of mind. Yet, there is one last doubt. After the mind has been resolved in the heart, there is only consciousness shining as the plenary reality. When thus the mind has assumed the form of the Self, who is there to enquire? Such enquiry would result in self-worship. It would be like the story of the shepherd searching for the sheep that was all the time on his shoulders!
Master: The jiva itself is Shiva; Shiva Himself is the jiva. It is true that the jiva is no other than Shiva. When the grain is hidden inside the husk, it is called paddy; when it is de-husked, it is called rice. Similarly, so long as one is bound by karma one remains a jiva; when the bond of ignorance is broken, one shines as Shiva, the Deity. Thus declares a scriptural text. Accordingly, the jiva which is mind is in reality the pure Self; but, forgetting this truth, it imagines itself to be an individual soul and gets bound in the shape of mind. So its search for the Self, which is itself, is like the search for the sheep by the shepherd. But still, the jiva which has forgotten its self will not become the Self through mere mediate knowledge. By the impediment caused by the residual impressions gathered in previous births, the jiva forgets again and again its identity with the Self, and gets deceived, identifying itself with the body, etc. Will a person become a high officer by merely looking at him? Is it not by steady effort in that direction that he could become a highly placed officer? Similarly, the jiva, which is in bondage through mental identification with the body, etc., should put forth effort in the form of reflection on the Self, in a gradual and sustained manner; and when thus the mind gets destroyed, the jiva would become the Self.
The reflection on the Self which is thus practised constantly will destroy the mind, and thereafter will destroy itself like the stick that is used to kindle the cinders burning a corpse. It is this state that is called release.
Disciple: If the jiva is by nature identical with the Self, what is it that prevents the jiva from realizing its true nature?
Master: It is forgetfulness of the jiva's true nature; this is known as the power of veiling.
Disciple: If it is true that the jiva has forgotten itself, how does the 'I'-experience arise for all?
Master: The veil does not completely hide the jiva; it only hides the Self-nature of 'I' and projects the 'I am the body' notion; but it does not hide the Self's existence which is 'I', and which is real and eternal.
Disciple: What are the characteristics of the jivan-mukta (the liberated in life) and the videha-mukta (the liberated at death)?
Master: 'I am not the body; I am Brahman which is manifest as the Self. In me who am the plenary Reality*, the world consisting of bodies etc., are mere appearance, like the blue of the sky'. He who has realized the truth thus is a jivan-mukta. Yet so long as his mind has not been resolved, there may arise some misery for him because of relation to objects on account of prarabdha (karma which has begun to fructify and whose result is the present body), and as the movement of mind has not ceased there will not be also the experience of bliss. The experience of Self is possible only for the mind that has become subtle and unmoving as a result of prolonged meditation. He who is thus endowed with a mind that has become subtle, and who has the experience of the Self is called a jivan-mukta. It is the state of jivan-mukti that is referred to as the attributeless Brahman and as the Turiya. When even the subtle mind gets resolved, and experience of self ceases, and when one is immersed in the ocean of bliss and has become one with it without any differentiated existence, one is called a videha-mukta. It is the state of videha-mukti that is referred to as the transcendent attributeless Brahman and as the transcendent Turiya. This is the final goal. Because of the grades in misery and happiness, the released ones, the jivan-muktas and videha-muktas, may be spoken of as belonging to four categories - Brahmavid, - vara--variyan, and varishtha. But these distinctions are from the standpoint of the others who look at them; in reality, however, there are no distinctions in release gained through jnana.
May the Feet of Ramana, the Master, who is the great Shiva Himself and is also in human form, flourish for ever!