Maharshi did not deny anything, as is customary in Advaita; on the contrary, he gave a positive image of the higher “I.” Jiva, or the individual soul, has become somewhat outdated for describing the internal nature of a person, so the image had to be somewhat updated then. Ramana’s experience was far broader than what he had to say, but the demands of his followers and the need to speak with them in the same language led to the necessity of finding it. Maharshi found the necessary words in Hindu texts which he began to read after he left the cave and people began to gather around him. Before that, he had no need whatsoever of writings. But in order to find the opportunity to more or less adequately express his experience, he had to resort to what was written before him, and to that language which was already known to his listeners. Thus was born his “Advaita” message, which was constantly mixed with entirely non-Advaita concepts. What is his mention of the Heart worth, for example, in which the famous “I” of a person is found? But now all that is now ignored, as something irrelevant to the matter. As is known, a dead saint is far more convenient than a live one – because everything can be done with him which comes into one’s head.
The problem with Maharshi’s message is greater than it appears at first glance – especially the glance of a person who has no spiritual experience at all. To be truthful, this relates not only to the books with Maharshi’s texts, but to all books of such type in general. You begin to read a text in which a mass of terms at first incomprehensible to you are used, which tells you what you do not yet sense and do not know, and you are left with either believing all this and accepting everything at face value, or denying what is written as not corresponding to your expectations and conditionality.
And if you also read a text created in another culture, in another time, and for people who were in a situation very different from yours, then here it will be practically impossible to fathom its essence. But a text not totally understood will still have an influence on your mind ,and on the one hand, will begin to motivate you to action, and on the other hand, will implant in your mind new, previously unseen concepts.
False teachers exploit this – they began to speak with people, using endlessly foreign terms, and listeners see in this a manifestation of a great competence. In reading the texts of any confession or tradition, you must at first study their language, but even that never guarantees you full understanding of their message.
And it is good if a text comes across in which the Truth is reflected at least partially, and bad if there is none in it at all, or else it is given in a severe distortion. Truth, of course, can never be reflected by words in all its fullness, and most often it is subject to simplification, but there is still another factor that renders the use of spiritual texts null. It comes from the limitations of each specific mystic, who, by virtual of the particularities of his achievement of spiritual transformation knows only a certain part of it, and thinks up the rest on demand from the public.
There are questions that do not have answers, and there are students influencing the teacher. I have already written that the quality of the students directly influences what the Master says, and the form he choses for expression of the Truth. No matter what is said in Hindu myths about the omniscience of the enlightened – it simply does not exist. Each mystic is limited by the level of knowledge of his time and that Work which it is necessary for him to fulfill. Only God has omniscience, and the words of any mystic still do not reflect all aspects of the Truth and often willingly or unwillingly contain falsehood or incorrect definitions. One must regard this calmly, but for beginners, such mystics’ texts contain ever new traps, into which their minds fall, and they themselves along with them.
For that reason, the followers of the majority of mystics do not end up in the place to which they strive – after all, their way was set incorrectly from the start. And no matter how sad this sounds, the confusion of ways of practices and methods is also created by the mystics themselves, who are simply unable or cannot explain them more or less coherently, or do not understand the essence of their achievement.
Ramana Maharshi achieved transformation by the Grace of God, for which he prepared nothing to receive, as far as we know. This glaring fact left its imprint on all his subsequent activity. And no matter how much you speak of the greatness of Maharshi as a mystic, and no matter how much you agree with him on the questions of expression of the highest Truth, some of his words do not help very much in the attainment of that goal that he himself indicated.
Self-questioning, which consists not only of repeating the question “Who Am I?”, but is accompanied by a constant direction of attention within oneself (as Maharshi indicated) is, of course, a good thing. The direction of attention within oneself is in general the foundation of any spiritual development and one of the conditions for attaining transformation. And the state of awareness is grown by observation of the body, emotions and thoughts – this is a fact. But when a concrete task is proposed – awareness of the higher “I” or Selfhood (according to Maharshi), then attention must be directed exactly in such a way that this Selfhood is discovered. That is, the task of holding attention in non-identification, already not easy, becomes even more difficult.
Usually, the practice of becoming aware is based on detachment – that is, removal from everything that you observe without bringing the mind into this task, that is, without evaluating what you see. Even if a certain evaluation arises, then it, too, is observed, like everything else. On that principle stands all the internal work – to look without desire, condemnation, and everything that comes from the mind. Thus, essentially, disidentification with the mind is achieved. If a person wants to work with a specific desire, for example, or wants to become better aware of it, then he looks within with the intention of “dragging out” the given desire into the light, and then he uses the power of awareness for resolving a concrete task . The attempt to directly become aware of one’s Selfhood is a task of the same kind; it is only the desire to find that is far simpler because it wants to be found itself. When we look at desire, we look at the mind in which is lays. Where do we look if we want to see Selfhood? The answer “nowhere” is not suitable, because the practice of awareness is in fact looking at everything that happens, but specifically at nowhere, and no Selfhood is discovered in this way.
If we simply become aware of everything that is taking place within, then it is possible to become completely aware of the body, in which afterward there will constantly be present a portion of attention – in the entire body immediately. It is possible to trace and sense the energy of the ethereal body – beginning with the rather coarse emotional energies and ending with the finer ones, for which a name has not even been invented. The mind with its movements, thoughts, desires and reactions is still perceived. With its depressions, anxieties, and layers on which various activity occurs. To the extent of awareness of all this, disidentification, attention with observed objects grows, and then the sensation of a witness appears – that is, a certain center, from which a person sees the mind and everything else. But the witness cannot be called Selfhood, because this is only a new point of fixation of a person’s attention, which is shifted from his previous position into the new becoming seemingly “above” the mind, but even so not leaving the bounds of the ethereal body or the body of the mind. The witness is not independent; he exists for a certain time, and to the extent of the growth of awareness, he disappears completely, but his entire function is to watch, that is, to bring the light of the individual human Consciousness “downward” – to the mind and other two bodies. No other center, particular body or substance which could be called Selfhood will be managed to be found. And that means it can only be invented.
Maharshi himself maintained that Selfhood (the higher “I”) is found in the spiritual Heart, situated in the right half of the rib cage. And here once again we must attempt to figure out what is meant. It is known that all spiritual teachers call on a person to go within, to himself. But where that “within” is, and where he should go, the seeker does not understand at all at first. It is so dark, and there is no space into which one can really enter. Under the condition that the seeker persistently is aware of himself, this space opens up, but this, of course, is not entry into the space of the physical body. The space of the ethereal body and the body of the mind, which to the degree of awareness cleanses itself of the energies suppressed within it, becomes accessible to our attention. This is the first step within, the space perhaps at first is not very large, but to the extent of a person’s growth in awareness, to the extent of awareness by him of the emotions, desires, and feelings suppressed, it continues to increase. And then the Heart opens.
I have already written a lot about the Heart in my other books, and I do not see the necessity of dwelling on this question in too much detail. I will only say that if the internal space opens for our awareness as a consequence of efforts made by us, the opening of the Heart occurs as Grace, as a mystical act, and we cannot summon it only by our own efforts. Most often it occurs when we refrain from efforts, accepting what is. And since the space of the Heart no longer relates to the internal space, but serves as a door to other dimensions – both to God and to the experience of a kind of local feeling of infinity – then it may be accepted as a higher experience accessible to a person.
Maharshi spoke about the spiritual Heart, located to the right, apparently opposite the physical heart. Some Sufis have also spoked of this, but the Heart may be sensed in the center of the chest also, and the space opening up with it generally leads us to a loss of boundaries, although in order to go within, attention must be directed to the Heart. Localization of the feeling of the Heart may be somewhat different, but the essence of it – like doors to the beyond – does not change with anyone who has come to its full opening. Yes, immersing himself in the Heart, a person experiences the feeling of calm, serenity, and if you like, silence. But can these states be called the Selfhood of a person? If not, then we will not find any Selfhood in the Heart, either, because it is simply a channel linking a person to the higher levels of Being.
And here is what is obtained: in trying to formulate his experience in the language of sacred texts, Maharshi encountered the necessity of somehow describing jiva, the individual soul, which must, being found, be identical to God. Otherwise, we would have to depart from the scriptures, but numerous Orthodox followers would hardly be able to accept that. And Maharshi did not have the need for his own expression, anyway, judging from everything. Thus the higher “I” appeared then – it is also Selfhood, which, no matter how much you seek is impossible to find.