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Excerpt from Fragrant Petals

Ramana Sat-Guru

By Sri S.S. Cohen

Sri Ramana Jayanti has come again, bringing cheer to thousands of Bhagavan’s devotees, old and new, far and near. On this day they call to mind all he has done for them, all he is to them and how he has influenced their lives. Old devotees who had the rare privilege of a long stay in his physical presence (and their number is diminishing year by year) feel that since leaving the body he has not ceased to work the wonderful transformation in them that he began in life. Newcomers also feel his powerful support in their sadhana.

When Bhagavan used to say that the guru is not the body many failed to grasp his meaning; but as time passed and he continued to show them his Grace and support in their meditation the significance of these words gradually became clear, so that they eventually ceased to think of him as a person with a body to reminisce about. In this connection, the Bhagavata gives an apt illustration of the relation of disciple to guru in the story of Sri Krishna and Uddhava.

When Sri Krishna ended his mission on earth and was preparing to return to Vaikunta, his eternal abode, Uddhava, who was greatly attached to his person, appealed to him with tears in his eyes to take him along with him, saying: “I have destroying the Yadava race you will leave the earth altogether. ... I cannot bear to be away from your feet even for a moment. Grant that I may be taken with you to your divine abode. . . . How can I now be separated from you?” (Bhagavata, XI. 6).

Krishna answered that it would be in Uddhava’s own interest not to cling to Krishna’s body but to stay on after him and practise Yoga in the Himalayas, “after shaking off all attachments to your family and kinsfolk, keeping your mind fixed wholly on me.”

“You must always remember, friend Uddhava,” he continued, “that whatever is thought by the mind, perceived by the eye and ear and spoken by the tongue, is the creation of the mind and therefore illusory. ... By controlling your mind and senses you will see the world in your own self and your self in Me, the Supreme Lord. Possessed of this knowledge and immersed in the contentment of Self-realization you will experience no obstruction in life.” (ibid., XI. 7).

Sri Bhagavan knew, like Sri Krishna, that nothing is more productive of the highest spiritual results than concentration of the mind on one’s real nature, which is the absolute Reality, the Lord Himself, the Supreme guru. Attachment to and service to the outer guru, in the form of the Master, takes only a secondary place.

Bhagavan was often asked about the necessity of a guru for the attainment of Liberation and used to answer that the guru was necessary. And indeed, mere study of the Upanishads is unlikely to lead very far, whereas association with a Sage and absorption of his instruction based on his own experience may quickly bring about the requisite comprehension leading towards Liberation. No doubt some Sages, like Bhagavan, have attained the Goal without a guru in human form, but these were rare beings who had already in their past lives brought their sadhana so far that only a little further effort was needed.

There is no need to go into the detail about Bhagavan’s teaching. It is simple orthodox Advaita Vedanta as taught in the Upanishads, the Gita, the Bhagavata and the writings of Shankara, Vidyaranya, Gaudapada and others. We find in it complete consistency in likening jagrat, the waking state, to svapna, the dream state. Both are changeable and impermanent, so that when one is on the other is off, whereas he who dreams and wakes is the same person, present in both. There is a traditional story that illustrates this.

Once a king dreamed that he was a young man of the name of Chandu owning a prosperous grocery. One day Panji, a beautiful outcaste girl, came half-drunk to buy betel nuts from him. She roused his passion by her seductive demeanour (or misdemeanor) to such an extent that he decided to marry her, even though it would mean loss of caste for him. When she became his wife turned out very experiences, like those of all of us. Dreams also have their time and space and natural laws, just as Panji the king’s own mind, so also were all his waking vicious but Chandu overlooked all her faults owing to his infatuation for her. Her wants proved insatiable, ruining his business and driving him to take up work reserved for outcastes. This went on for twenty years, during which time he had three children by Panji, of whom the eldest, a boy, grew to be even more wicked than his mother. With his increased family Chandu had to take to dishonest means of livelihood to add to his income, and he suffered the consequences. He sank lower and lower till one day his son, in a fit of rage, hanged himself. The king’s officers, suspecting Chandu of being the murderer, took him to prison and beat him mercilessly. He cried out so loud that (let us not forget that he was a king in his waking state) it woke his queen who was sleeping nearby. She got up and shook him and woke him too, thereby ending the ordeal of the dream Chandu. The king was so much shaken by his dream ordeal that he shut himself up in his apartments for several days and did not resume his royal duties till he had committed the whole experience to paper. His minister made it into a book under the title, The Autobiography of Chandu.

How, I ask, does this autobiography differ from those pertaining to and written in the waking state? His twenty years of suffering were real to Chandu, as also was his infatuation for Panji, his criminal life and the beating he received in prison. If you argue that the whole story was concocted in the king’s own mind, so also were all his waking experiences, like those of all of us. Dreams also have their time and space and natural laws, just as the waking state has. As for Chandu, he is the experiencer of the three states.

It is said that he who understands the ten verses of the Mandukya Upanishad has no need to study the other Upanishads because they show the world to be a state of the mind, just like the other two states, and also because what it leaves unsaid but inferred is as important as what it says. From its representing the three states as the only states through which the jiva passes in its apparent peregrination we have to conclude that death introduces no new state for the ordinary man but only retains what he now experiences, namely the conditions of dream and sleep or alternation of the two, till rebirth in a new body take place and restores the waking state also. The same applies to loss of consciousness due to drugs, anesthetics, fainting fits or the laya of hatha yoga, misnamed samadhi. But the Sage is above all three states both in this life and after death, being established permanently in Turiya, the Fourth, which is pure Consciousness, the nature of the Self, and from which there is no return to a body. He has freed himself from the pangs of birth and death for ever. Such a one was Bhagavan Sri Ramana.