Selected Quotes by Ramana Maharshi & Nisargadatta – 108 House
108 House

Selected Quotes by Ramana Maharshi & Nisargadatta

Ramana Maharshi (Ramaṇa Maharṣi)
  • For those who can practice Self-enquiry, all rules and discipline are unnecessary.
  • ‘I exist’ is the only permanent self-evident experience of everyone. Nothing else is so self-evident as ‘I am’. (…) So to do self-enquiry and be that ‘I am’ is the only thing to do. ‘I am’ is reality. I am this or that is unreal. I am is truth, another name for Self.
  • The lazy state of just being and shining [as ‘I am’] is the state of Self, and that is the highest state that one can become.
  • Owing to the fluctuation of the vasanas (past impressions/habits) — jnana (self-knowledge) takes time to steady itself. Unsteady jnana is not enough to check rebirths. Jnana cannot remain unshaken side by side with vasanas. True, that in the proximity of a great master, the vasanas will cease to be active, the mind becomes still and samadhi (effortlessly established in the self-knowledge; not referring to any mystical state of mind) results. To remain unshaken in it further efforts are necessary.
  • Who is the meditator? Ask the question first. Remain as the meditator. There is no need to meditate.
  • Iswara, the personal God, the supreme creator of the universe really does exist. But this is true only from the relative standpoint of those who have not realized the truth, those people who believe in the reality of individual souls. From the absolute point of view, the sage cannot accept any other existence than the impersonal Self, one and formless.
  • Thirst for life is inherent in the very nature of life, which is absolute existence – sat. Although indestructible by nature, by false identification with its destructible instrument (the body), consciousness imbibes a false apprehension of its destructibility. Because of that false identification, it tries to perpetuate the body, and that results in a succession of births.
  • Are you born now? Why do you think of other births? The fact is that there is neither birth nor death. Let him who is born think of death and palliatives for it.
  • Q: Are past and future mere imagination?
    Maharishi: Yes, even the present is mere imagination, for the sense of time is purely mental. Space is similarly mental. Therefore birth and rebirth, which take place in time and space, cannot be other than imagination.
  • All metaphysical discussion is profitless unless it causes us to seek within the Self for the true reality.
  • The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration on a single thought are the measures to gauge the progress.
  • Do not regret tamas (lethargic/dull/heavy energy), but when sattva (pure, disciplined mind) comes into play, hold on to it and make the best of it.
  • The more you get fixed in the Self, the more other thoughts will drop off of themselves.
  • All that is needed is to give up thinking of objects other than the Self. Meditation is not so much thinking of the Self as giving up thinking of the not-Self. When you give up thinking of outward objects and prevent your mind from going outwards by turning it inwards and fixing it in the Self, the Self alone remains.
  • Unbroken “I, I” is the infinite ocean. The ego, the “I”-thought, remains only a bubble on it and is called Jiva or individual soul. The bubble too is water for when it bursts it only mixes with the ocean. When it remains a bubble it is still a part of the ocean.
  • Why do you wish to meditate at all? Because you wish to do so you are told “fix the mind in the Self”. Why do you not remain as you are without meditating?
  • By remaining in contact with realized sages the man gradually losses ignorance until its removal is complete. (…) Adi Shankara has said that in all the three world there is no boat like sat-sangato carry one safely across the ocean of samsara.
  • I have never said that there is no need for a Guru. (…) The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of intellect and sense perceptions. (…) So long as duality persists in you the Guru is necessary.
  • He is the proper Guru to whom your mind is attuned.
  • Take no notice of the ego and its activities, but see on the light behind. The ego is the thought “I”. The true “I” is the Self.
  • The habits of the mind (vasanas) are the obstacles that hinder realization of the Self. [Because they keep you occupied with this and that, instead of focusing on your spiritual sadhana.]
  • There is the continuity of being in all the three states [waking, dream, sleep], but no continuity of the individual and the objects. Therefore, the state of being is permanent and the body and the world are not. They are fleeting phenomena passing on the screen of being-consciousness, which is eternal.
  • Existence or consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking, we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep, we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go.
  • Know that the path of jñāna and path of bhakti are inter-related. Follow these inseparable two paths without dividing one from the other.
  • The mind, turned outwards, results in thoughts and objects. Turned inwards, it becomes itself the Self (God). To ask the mind to kill the mind is like making the thief the policeman. He will go with you and pretend to catch the thief, but nothing will be gained.
  • Your duty is to be and not to be this or that. ‘I am that I am’ sums up the whole truth. The method is summed up in the words ‘Be still’. What does stillness mean? It means destroy yourself. Because any form or shape is the cause of trouble. Give up the notion that ‘I am so and so’.
  • Do not doubt, with fear, what will happen when you completely lose your individuality [jiva-bodha]. The true State of Self will then Itself be yours, just as one will permanently remain firm on the ground when one loses one’s hold on the branch of a tree.
  • This fictitious jiva, who lives as ‘I [am the body]’, is also one of the pictures on the screen.
  • Sages, the Knowers of the Truth, declare that the destruction of all mental activities [chitta-vrittis] is alone the greatest Happiness. Therefore desirelessness, which is devoid of both likes and dislikes, is the best means.
  • Desire makes even an atom appear as great as Mount Meru before it is achieved, and vice versa after it is achieved, and thus [desire] makes one always poor. Hence we have never seen any bottomless abyss that is as impossible to fill as desire, which can never be satisfied.
  • The experience of Vedanta is possible only for those who have completely given up all desires. For the desirous it is far away, and they should therefore try to rid themselves of all other desires by the desire for God, who is free from desires.
  • If one clings only to the knowledge [of one’s own Self] as the real refuge, then the misery of birth [or the birth of misery], which is caused by ignorance, will come to an end.
  • Revere as most virtuous ones those who have attained that lazy state, which cannot be attained except by very great and rare tapas.
  • The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything.
  • Accept the ever-shining Self-knowledge to be the only reality. Reject all the triads, deciding them to be an imaginary dream.
  • The ultimate truth is so simple. It is nothing more than being in the pristine state. This is all that need be said.
  • You are That, here and now.… That is the master key for solving all doubts. The doubts arise in the mind. The mind is born of the ego. The ego rises from the Self. Search the source of the ego and the Self is revealed. That alone remains.
  • Only to such a mind which has gained the inner strength of one-pointedness, Self-enquiry will be successful. But a weak mind will be like wet wood put into the fire of jnana-vichara.
  • Restraining the mind from going outside [through the senses], and fixing it always in its Source, Self, which is known as the Heart, so that the vain ‘I’-thought will not rise again, is the Atma-Vichara [Self-enquiry].
  • Abiding in one’s natural consciousness, ‘I am’, is samadhi. Being freed from the adjunct-mixed awareness [‘I am so-and-so’, ‘I am the body’, ‘I am a man’, ‘I am this or that’ and so on], firmly abide in this boundless state [of real samadhi].
  • Whatever thought may rise, not to let it live or grow, but to destroy it then and there, without the least slackness, by merging it back into its Source, is powerful and intense Vairagya[detachment].
  • If one remains merely as consciousness [that is, as ‘I am’] ignorance will not exist. Hence, ignorance is false; Self-consciousness alone is real. When correctly known, it is ignorance to say that there is ignorance. Verily, pure consciousness is our nature. Thus should you know.
  • Is it not because you are knowledge [i.e. consciousness] itself that you are able to know the world? If instead of knowing the world you turn your attention, taking that Consciousness alone as your target, It will Itself as the Guru reveal the Truth [i.e. Reality].
  • If one wants to be saved, one is given the following true and essential advice: just as the tortoise draws all its five limbs within its shell, so one should draw the five senses within and turn one’s mind Selfward. This alone is happiness.
  • Whatever thing [in body and mind] acts in whatever way, remain aloof from those activities [that is, from the notion that it is ‘I’ who acts] and simply be a witness to them.
  • Whenever a thought arises, instead of trying even a little either to follow it up or to fulfill it, it would be better to first enquire, “To whom did this thought arise?”
  • All thoughts are from the unreal ‘I’, i.e., the ‘I’-thought. Remain without thinking. So long as there is thought there will be fear.
  • Watch the mind. You must stand aloof from it. You are not the mind. And the Self will remain ever.
  • The attempt to recall the past is mere waste of time.
  • Renunciation is non-identification of the Self with the non-self. On the disappearance of ignorance the non-self ceases to exist. That is true renunciation.
  • Realisation knows no difference in the aspirants. This very doubt, “Can I realise?” or the feeling, “I have not realised” are the obstacles. Be free from these also.
  • The real ‘I’ is silent. One should not think ‘I am this – I am not that’. To say ‘this or that’ is wrong. They are also limitations. Only ‘I am’ is the truth. Silence is ‘I’.
  • The mistake lies in thinking that ‘I’ is what ‘I’ is not. ‘I’ is not insentient. ‘I’ cannot be the inert body. The body’s movements are confounded with ‘I’ and misery is the result. Whether the body works or not, ‘I’ remains free and happy. The ajnani’s ‘I’ is the body only. That is the whole error. The jnani’s ‘I’ includes the body and everything else.
  • Wakefulness passes off, I am; the dream state passes off, I am; the sleep state passes off, I am. They repeat themselves, and yet I am. They are like pictures moving on the screen in a cinema show. They do not affect the screen. Similarly also, I remain unaffected although these states pass off.
  • Possessions create anxieties such as their safeguarding, their utilisation, etc. Non-possession does not bring any anxieties in its train. Therefore Siva resigned everything in favour of Vishnu and He himself went away happy. Divestment of possessions is the highest happiness.
  • There will be no pain if the physical outlook is given up and if the person exists as the Self. Mourning is not the index of true love. It betrays love of the object, of its shape only. That is not love. True love is shown by the certainty that the object of love is in the Self and that it can never cease.
  • All thoughts are from the unreal ‘I’, i.e., the ‘I’-thought. Remain without thinking. So long as there is thought there will be fear.
  • The fact is: There is Reality. It is not affected by any discussions. Let us abide as Reality and not engage in futile discussions as to its nature, etc.
  • There is no such thing as ignorance. It never arises. Everyone is Knowledge [Jnana] itself.
  • Destiny is the result of past action; it concerns the body. Let the body act as may suit it. Why are you concerned with it? Why do you pay attention to it? Free-will and Destiny last as long as the body lasts. But wisdom (jnana) transcends both. Should anything happen, it happens as the result of one’s past actions, of divine will and of other factors.
  • In the beginning one has to be told that he is not the body, because he thinks that he is the body only. Whereas he is the body and all else. The body is only a part. Let him know it finally. But he must first discern consciousness from insentience and be the consciousness only. This is discrimination (viveka). The initial discrimination must persist to the end. Its fruit is liberation.
  • Everyone is the Self by his own experience. Still he is not aware, he identifies the Self with the body and feels miserable. This is the greatest of all mysteries. One is the Self. Why not abide as the Self and be done with miseries?
  • The Gita says that a man cannot remain without acting. The purpose of one’s birth will be fulfilled whether you will it or not. Let the purpose fulfill itself.
  • Because you think you are the body, you see another as the body. Difference in sex arises. But you are not the body. Be the real Self. Then there is no sex.
  • The birth of thought is itself sin.
  • The discomforts [in meditation] will not worry you if your concentration is right. Do not mind the discomforts. Keep your mind steady in meditation. If you have not the strength and endurance to bear mosquito stings how do you hope to gain realisation of the Self? Realization must be amidst all the turmoils of life.
  • Let karma enjoy its fruits. As long as you are the doer so long are you the enjoyer.
  • The Self is known to everyone but not clearly. You always exist. The Be-ing is the Self. ‘I am’ is the name of God. Of all the definitions of God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement “I AM THAT I AM”.
  • You are always that and never away from that. There is nothing so simple as being the Self. It requires no effort, no aid. One has to leave off the wrong identity and be in his eternal, natural, inherent state.
  • The idea of difficulty is itself wrong. It will not help you to gain what you want. Again I ask: “Who finds it difficult?”
  • Is there the world? I mean apart from the Self? Does the world say that it exists? It is you who say that there is a world. Find out the Self who says it.
  • The Upanishads and scriptures say that human beings are only animals unless they are realised beings. Possibly they are worse also.
  • There is no investigation into the Atman. The investigation can only be into the non-self. Elimination of the non-self is alone possible. The Self being always self evident will shine forth of itself.
  • It is the Higher Power which does everything and the man is only a tool. If he accepts that position he is free from troubles; otherwise he courts them.
  • If the man feels himself to be the screen on which the subject and object are projected there can be no confusion, and he can remain watching their appearance and disappearance without any perturbation to the Self.
  • Let the Higher Power do what is inevitable and let me act only according to its dictates. The actions are not mine. Therefore the result of the actions cannot be mine. If one thinks and acts so, where is the trouble?
  • Actions form no bondage. Bondage is only the false notion, “I am the doer”. Leave off such thoughts and let the body and senses play their role, unimpeded by your interference.
  • Self is not to be reached. Is there any moment when Self is not? It is not new. Be as you are. What is new cannot be permanent. What is real must always exist.
  • If the mind is distracted, ask the question promptly, “To whom do these distracting thoughts arise?” That takes you back to the ‘I’ point promptly.
  • The other methods are meant for those who cannot take to the investigation of the Self. Even to repeat Aham Brahmasmi [“I am Brahman”] or think of it, a doer is necessary. Who is it? It is ‘I’. Be that ‘I’. It is the direct method.
  • The very purpose of self-enquiry is to focus the entire mind at its source. It is not, therefore, a case of one ‘I’ searching for another ‘I’. Much less is self-enquiry an empty formula, for it involves an intense activity of the entire mind to keep it steadily poised in pure Self-awareness.
  • The degree of the absence of thoughts is the measure of your progress towards Self-realisation. But Self-realisation itself does not admit of progress, it is ever the same. Progress is measured by the degree of removal of the obstacles to understanding that the Self is always realised. So thoughts must be checked by seeking to whom they arise.
  • Experience gained without rooting out all the vasanas cannot remain steady. Effort must be made to eradicate the vasanas. Knowledge can only remain unshaken after all the vasanas are rooted out.
  • The Self is eternal and so also is realisation. Abhyasa (spiritual practice) consists in withdrawal within the Self every time you are disturbed by thought. It is not concentration or destruction of the mind but withdrawal into the Self.
  • Again people often ask how the mind is controlled. I say to them, ‘Show me the mind and then you will know what to do.’ The fact is that the mind is only a bundle of thoughts. How can you extinguish it by the thought of doing so or by a desire? Therefore it is foolish to attempt to kill the mind by means of the mind.
  • Just on waking from sleep and before becoming aware of the world there is that pure ‘I, I’. Hold on to it without sleeping and without allowing thoughts to possess you.
  • Setting apart time for meditation is only for the merest spiritual novices. A man who is advancing will begin to enjoy the deeper beatitude whether he is at work or not. While his hands are in society, he keeps his head cool in solitude. “
  • Giving up the false self is the true renunciation.
  • If other thoughts rise one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire ‘To whom did they rise?’ What does it matter however many thoughts rise? At the very moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly enquires ‘To whom did this rise?’, it will be known ‘To me’. If one then enquiries ‘Who am I?’, the mind will turn back to its source (the Self) and the thought which had risen will also subside.
  • There is no greater mystery than this – that being the reality we seek to gain reality. We think that there is something hiding our reality and that it must be destroyed before the reality is gained. It is ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will yourself laugh at your past efforts. That which will be on the day you laugh is also here and now.
  • Every kind of sadhana (spiritual practice) except that of atma-vichara (self-enquiry) presupposes the retention of the mind as the instrument for carrying on the sadhana, and without the mind it cannot be practiced. The ego may take different and subtler forms at the different stages of one’s practice, but is itself never destroyed.
  • If seekers are advised to meditate, many may go away satisfied with the advice. But someone among them may turn round and ask, ‘Who am I to meditate on an object?’ Such a one must be told to find the Self. That is the finality. That is vichara [enquiry].
  • Realisation is nothing new to be acquired. It is already there, but obstructed by a screen of thoughts. All our attempts are directed to lifting this screen and then realisation is revealed.
  • The essence of mind is only awareness or consciousness. When the ego, however, dominates it, it functions as the reasoning, thinking or sensing faculty. The cosmic mind, being not limited by the ego, has nothing separate from itself and is therefore only aware. This is what the Bible means by ‘I am that I am’.
  • From where does this ‘I’ arise? Seek for it within; it then vanishes. This is the pursuit of wisdom. When the mind unceasingly investigates its own nature, it transpires that there is no such thing as mind. This is the direct path for all. The mind is merely thoughts. Of all thoughts the thought ‘I’ is the root. Therefore the mind is only the thought ‘I’.
  • Those who know that what is to be experienced by them in this life is only what is already destined in their prarabdha will never feel perturbed about what is to be experienced. Know that all one’s experiences will be thrust upon one whether one wills them or not.
  • The subconscious of a man is a warehouse of good and bad karma. Iswara [God] chooses from this warehouse what he sees will best suit the spiritual evolution at the time of each man, whether pleasant or painful. Thus there is nothing arbitrary. (…) Iswara is the one who distributes the fruits of actions to each person according to his karma.
  • When you seek to reduce the suffering of any fellow man or fellow creature, whether your efforts succeed or not, you are yourself evolving spiritually, specially if such service is rendered disinterestedly, not with the feeling “I am doing this”, but in the spirit “God is making me the channel of this service; He is the doer and I am the instrument.”
  • Samadhi with closed eyes is certainly good, but one must go further until it is realised that actionlessness and action are not hostile to each other. Fear of loss of samadhi while one is active is the sign of ignorance. Samadhi must be the natural life of everyone.
  • You people are glad and grateful to God when things you regard as good come to you. That is right, but you should be equally grateful when things you regard as bad come to you. That is where you fail.
  • Why do you wish to meditate at all? Because you wish to do so you are told Atma samstham manah krtva (fixing the mind in the Self); why do you not remain as you are without meditating?
  • Meditation is, truly speaking, Atmanishtha (to be fixed as the Self). But when thoughts cross the mind and an effort is made to eliminate them the effort is usually termed meditation. Atmanishtha is your real nature. Remain as you are.
  • A madman clings to samskaras, whereas a jnani does not. That is the only difference between the two. Jnana is madness of a kind.
  • Bhakti and Self-Enquiry are one and the same. The Self of the Advaitins is the God of the bhaktas.
  • If you consider yourself as the body the world appears to be external. If you are the Self the world appears as Brahman.
  • Maya has no independent existence. Having brought out the illusion of the world as real, she continues to play upon the ignorance of the victims. When the reality of her not being is found, she disappears.
  • Abhyasa and vairagya are necessary. Vairagya is the absence of diffused thoughts; abhyasa is concentration on one thought only. The one is the positive and the other the negative aspect of meditation.
  • The feeling “I work” is the hindrance. Enquire, “Who works?” Remember, “Who am I?”. The work will not bind you. It will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce work. Your effort is the bondage. What is bound to happen will happen.
  • Mind is only the dynamic power (sakti) of the Self.
  • Maharishi: Practice removes the samskaras.
    D: But samskaras are infinite and eternal – from beginningless time.
    Maharishi: This itself is a samskara. Give up that idea and all samskaras will disappear at once.
  • Q.: Can a sanyasi remain in the midst of samsara?
    Maharishi: So long as one thinks that he is a sanyasi, he is not one, so long as one does not think of samsara, he is not a samsari; on the other hand he is a sanyasi.
  • Q.: How to discern the ego from the Perfect ‘I-I’?
    Maharishi: That which rises and falls is the transient ‘I’. That which has neither origin nor end is the permanent ‘I-I’ consciousness.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

  • Desire is the memory of pleasure and fear is the memory of pain. Both make the mind restless. Moments of pleasure are merely gaps in the stream of pain. How can the mind be happy?
  • Things and thoughts have been changing all the time. But the feeling that what is now is real has never changed, even in dream.
  • We discover It by being earnest, by searching, enquiring, questioning daily and hourly, by giving one’s life to this discovery.
  • The way back to your Self is through refusal and rejection. All you need is to get rid of the tendency to define your Self. All definitions apply to your body only and to its expressions.
  • I see what you too could see, here and now, if it wasn’t for the wrong focus of your attention. Your mind is all with things, people and ideas, never with your Self. Bring your Self into focus, become aware of your own existence.
  • What does it matter, who is who? Your high opinion of me is your opinion only. Any moment you may change it. Why attach importance to opinions, even your own?
  • I trusted my Guru. He told me I am nothing but my Self and I believed him. Trusting him, I behaved accordingly and ceased caring for what was not me, nor mine.
  • Q: Your words are wise, your behaviour noble, your grace all-powerful.
    M: I know nothing about it all and see no difference between you and me. My life is a succession of events, just like yours. Only I am detached and see the passing show as a passing show, while you stick to things and move along with them.
  • Let go your attachment to the unreal and the real will swiftly and smoothly step into its own. Stop imagining yourself being or doing this or that and the realization that you are the source and heart of all will dawn upon you.
  • All you can say is: ‘I am not this, I am not that’. You cannot meaningfully say ‘this is what I am’. It just makes no sense. What you can point out as ‘this’ or ‘that’ cannot be yourself. Surely, you cannot be ‘something’ else.
  • After all, the sense ‘I am’ is always with you, only you have attached all kinds of things to it – body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, possessions, etc. All these self-identifications are misleading. Because of them you take yourself to be what you are not.
  • The sense of being, of ‘I am’ is the first to emerge. Ask yourself whence it comes, or just watch it quietly. When the mind stays in the ‘I am’ without moving, you enter a state that cannot be verbalized but can be experienced. All you need to do is try and try again.
  • Return again and again to ‘I am’ until it is your only abode, outside of which nothing exists; until the ego as a limitation of ‘I am’, has disappeared. It is then that the highest realization will just happen effortlessly.
  • Everything that exists, exists as my Self. There is nothing that is different from me. There is no duality and, therefore, no pain. There are no problems. It is the sphere of love, in which everything is perfect.
  • Behold, the real experiencer is not the mind, but myself, the light in which everything appears. Self is the common factor at the root of all experience, the awareness in which everything happens.
  • The entire field of consciousness is only as a film, or a speck, in ‘I am’. This ‘I am-ness’ is, being conscious of consciousness, being aware of itself. And it is indescribable, because it has no attributes.
  • Just keep in mind the feeling ‘I am’, merge in it, till your mind and feeling become one. By repeated attempts you will stumble on the right balance of attention and affection and your mind will be firmly established in the thought-feeling ‘I am’. Whatever you think, say, or do, this sense of immutable and affectionate being remains as the ever-present background of the mind.
  • Once you have understood that you are nothing perceivable or conceivable, that whatever appears in the field of consciousness cannot be your Self, you will apply yourself to the eradication of all self-identification, as the only way that can take you to a deeper realization of your Self. You literally progress by rejection – a veritable rocket.
  • Q: If there is no such thing as the knowledge of the real, then how do I reach it?
    M: You need not reach out for what is already with you. Your very reaching out makes you miss it. Give up the idea that you have not found it and just let it come into the focus of direct perception, here and now, by removing all that is of the mind.
  • Q: No question of reconditioning, changing, or eliminating the mind?
    M: Absolutely none. Leave your mind alone, that is all. Don’t go along with it. After all, there is no such thing as mind apart from thoughts which come and go obeying their own laws, not yours. They dominate you only because you are interested in them. It is exactly as Christ said ‘Resist not evil’. By resisting evil you merely strengthen it.
  • By renouncing all lesser desires one reach the Supreme State. As long as you are pleased with the lesser, you cannot have the highest. Whatever pleases you, keeps you back. Until you realize the unsatisfactoriness of everything, its transiency and limitation, and collect your energies in one great longing, even the first step is not made.
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