The Great Secret of Ramana
The depth of Ramana Maharshi’s realization was so complete he totally transcended his physical form. As a result, he was the radiant transmission of God—a visceral tangible presence that everyone felt when sitting in his presence. Even though he left his body in April of 1950, the power of his presence can still be felt at his ashram in Tiruvannamalai India. The depth of Ramana Maharshi’s realization leaves a huge gulf between the power of his presence and just about every single western teacher who claims him as their guru. This includes HWL Poonja, better known as Papaji, the well-known guru who lived and taught in Lucknow India. What is the reason for this difference? Are their varying degrees of realization? Or is Ramana simply an enigma?
After several years studying and applying the teaching of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, under the strict guidance and teaching of Gangaji, it became increasingly obvious there was a significant difference between the realization of Gangaji as well as her teacher HWL Poonja (Papaji) and Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. This evoked a troubling question; what is the reason for this apparent difference? What was it about Ramana that rendered him so completely and totally different? What was causing the visceral difference between this world-renowned master and his students? The answer was shocking.
The reason is found in the famous quote of Papaji, “No teacher, no student, no teaching—this is the teaching!” This statement is the quintessential teaching of Papaji that leaves the mind suspended in mid air with nothing to grasp—a potent transmission of the absolute reality—the living truth that cannot be encapsulated by the human mind. In one succinct statement he successfully reveals the very essence of his teaching. This pregnant sentence also gives birth to the obvious difference between Ramana Maharshi and his famous student—Ramana did not think this, understand this, or know this—he simply was this with nothing added—no ego, no mind, no man, no name, no Ramana.
What?!! Isn’t this saying the basically the same thing? The answer is simply—no. The great trap of the ego is knowledge and in this case knowledge with the intrinsic power to trick you into thinking one thing when the truth is much more difficult to grasp. Papaji himself acknowledged this before he left his body. He intimated in no uncertain terms that he had only met two fully liberated people in his entire life—Ramana Maharshi and a naked Sadhu that emerged from the thick foliage of the jungle stared through him completely as the vast still indescribable presence of God and just as quickly vanished into the lush jungle from which he had emerged.
If Papaji recognized there was a difference than what exactly is going on? What does it mean to be liberated? What is so completely and totally different about Ramana Maharshi? To answer this question the only obvious solution was not to pickup another book or go to see another teacher—the answer lived in the only place it could live—at the feet of Ramana’s beloved master—Sri Sri Sri Arunachala Siva. This was the very beginning of a shocking discovery—who or what is this holy mountain? Who is Ramana Maharshi really and what is the reason his teaching is so simple, potent, and so astonishingly prolific?
This necessitated a journey to meet his mountain face to face. After all, the mountain was the master of perhaps the most famous guru that has ever lived—the master of literally hundreds of thousands of people known and unknown. What did Ramana see in this mountain? What was the real teaching of this mysterious presence? Simple enough. Why not see directly who or what this mountain actually is? This is the most obvious distinguishing feature of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi—he did not have a human teacher. His teacher was this mysterious mountain named after God himself. The most potent and miraculous aspect of this divine master is he is still in physical form. A divine master you can meet face to face—a divine presence that can guide you to full liberation.
It all started out rather innocently with the awe and excitement of meeting Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s teacher, but at the time there was no real idea of where this inquiry would lead. The first moment of this meeting is etched forever in the heart. The instant discovery was the mountain is not like other mountains. This divine form is infused with a potent energy—a visceral pulsating energy that emanates constantly from the invisible heart of this ancient one. It is a penetrating force of nature that quiets the mind and cleans out all of the karma stored in your physical form. The first realization was this mysterious master is a mountain of invisible fire that destroys all the illusions of you revealing the truth of you that defies all description.
The second realization is the mountain speaks in a silent tongue that can only be heard with your heart. This silent language sings the ancient song of emptiness—the great power of OM. The Buddha described this emptiness as Sunyata or emptiness beyond all ideas of emptiness and Jesus described it as Love. The third realization was the mountain was totally still and unmoving regardless of the ever changing weather and constant movement of people that swarmed around this ancient guru like a colony of tiny ants, but the penetrating quality of this presence is a fire that burns inside every cell of your body. The forth realization was that Arunachala was a giant mirror, but unlike any human mirror it was a mirror that only reflects the absolute truth—the vast living presence in the core of your being.
In this fire of grace everything that was known was stripped away—the name given at birth, the mind, the ego—everything was stripped of its perceived reality. This left only nothing, but not a nothing that is known or understood—this nothing cannot be touched by the human intellect. It is. This is-ness is the tasteless taste of now. It is God. The unseen intelligence that is unmoving, unseen, but always present here and now. This unseen intelligence animates your body and gives life to every living creature. It is the great see-er—the eternal one of all that is and ever will be—the vast unknowable presence of God. This presence is simply the all and the everything.
Language falters in this presence—words lose all meaning and all attempts to describe the indescribable are like a kaleidoscope without the colors. Words begin to sound like the meaningless chatter of an excited monkey. Let it suffice to say the power and presence of Arunachala Siva is an enigma. It just cannot be described with words, but can be experienced directly as the only reality. The discovery of this unseen intelligence that lives within your own heart begins a natural evolution—without a beginning or an end.
This was the very first step in understanding what distinguishes Ramana from every other master or teacher—he became the mountain. He was Arunachala—the formless presence of God. But how exactly did this happen? What did he do? How can you follow him into the heart of Arunachala? The way of Ramana is the middle way—total emptiness—the space in between all ideas of something and all ideas of nothing. The great golden key to liberation is Ramana himself and the words he spoke are infused with the self-authenticating power of his omniscience.
After the sublime meeting of Arunachala—an avatar appeared who unveiled even more about the indescribable difference between Ramana and every single human being ever met on this earth. It was not expected. It just unfolded. Meeting this divine being was a death—an annihilation of the arrogance of knowing. Ramana knew this person would be born as an avatar—one born already liberated. He prophesized she would be born as Thai—the divine mother. The purpose of her incarnation is to heal the planet and she is known throughout the world as Sri Amma Karunamayi—the embodiment of divine love and compassion.
Meeting an avatar pulled the rug out from under everything. Suddenly it was crystal clear there is a significant difference between someone who is awake, someone who is self-realized, and someone who is liberated. The presence of Sri Amma is like meeting Arunachala in human form, but even this description fails to describe the enigma that is Amma. Unbounded love—yes. Unlimited Compassion—yes. But more importantly there is a quality of being that emanates from her heart that silences the human mind—a presence whose innate infinitude has the power to liberate you from the genetic mind and ego. She does not need to speak. Her presence is an indescribable power that reveals just how juvenile our understanding of Ramana and his way of liberation actually is.
The touch of her hand sent a shock wave through the body with such force—it was an invisible tsunami of transformation. A few weeks later she explained who Ramana was and how many incarnations he endured in his quest for the ultimate realization—liberation from the karmic wheel of suffering. It was like falling into an endless spring of wisdom that revealed the purpose of practice as well as the purpose of the life and teaching of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He was simply born to reveal the radiant presence of God that you are and always will be.
This brings us full circle. His words are infused with the self-authenticating power of God. So what exactly did Ramana say? First and foremost he intimated in words and in silence that your inquiry must be continuous. You must consistently examine who you think you are. It is this essential inquiry that questions and ultimately annihilates the perceived reality of everything you think you are. The energy of Arunachala is contained in this life-changing inquiry; who am I? It is the energy of this question that eventually annihilates the questioner—if there is no questioner than you begin to make real progress.
The secret of Ramana Maharshi is this: you actually have to stop thinking and do exactly what he tells you to do—be still, be quite, and inquire. His core teaching is meditation, self-inquiry, and the mantra, but all three are meant to be utilized as self-inquiry or vichara with the sole purpose of helping you to let go of everything that is known, felt, experienced, and seen. The very essence of his teaching is surrender. It means letting go of everything—your name, your past, your future, your desires, attachments—let everything go and give your full attention to the invisible omniscience of God alive in your own heart.
Ramana’s words contain the intrinsic power to re-direct your attention and reveal the very real effort essential for true and final liberation. As he illuminates, “No one succeeds without effort…those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.” This is the exact opposite of what Papaji taught. It is Papaji’s own direct realization of the effortless nature of the absolute that has trapped many western seekers in an egoic idea of liberation instead of the actual realization of true and final liberation. Ramana reveals that your own effort is essential otherwise the ego is left in tact. If the ego is present—even if very subtle—liberation has not yet occurred. This simply means that understanding is absolutely meaningless. Liberation is not something that can be known.
The most powerful inquiry is silence and this silence is discovered directly in total silence or the sound of the mantra. The mantra is in effect the sound of silence. This is an aspect of Ramana’s teaching that is often overlooked—the fastest most direct inquiry is the sound of silence—OM. Ramana explained that the seed letters of OM are A-U-M. The seed letters correlate to the three primary states of consciousness: waking (a), dream (u), and deep sleep (m)—sung together the seed letters create the sound infused with the omniscient power of the stateless state of turiya in your heart. This stateless state is the gateway to liberation with the illuminating power to evaporate the grand illusion of your ego.
Ramana took great care in describing the nature of ego as reflective consciousness. This simply means that the feeling of ‘me’ inside of you is created by the senses of your physical body. This feeling of ‘me’ is very strong—genetically strong. The genetics of your body are the ancient code of survival. Without this encoded survival strategy the physical body would die. Ramana reveals that the ego is like a double-sided mirror—one side reflects your five senses and whatever you think and the other side reflects the invisible light of pure consciousness—the turiya state of your heart. This generates the strong visceral illusion that you are your body—ego.
The double-sided quality of reflective consciousness makes it very difficult to free yourself from the constantly changing states of consciousness in your body and the thoughts moving through what is described as mind. The nature of inquiry in the three forms that Ramana recommends is a powerful aide for surrender—a deep letting go of everything. It enables a deep seeing through the grand mirage of your ego. Ramana described the sound of AUM as Arunachala—the sound of silence —a potent catalyst for a seeing through the veil of reflective consciousness.
The sound of AUM has the intrinsic power to evaporate the illusion of you revealing the truth of you. It is the invisible light of a thousand suns that evaporates the deep feeling that you are the physical body. Once the veil of reflective consciousness evaporates completely all that remains is the omniscience that Ramana described as the Self.
It is meaningless to know or think you are the Self. The reflective nature of ego is like an endless house of mirrors. The only way through the illusion of reflective consciousness is through the power and grace of silent, still, inquiry, and the willingness to surrender everything.
Ramana gave himself completely and totally to the unseen in his own heart. This is the only way to liberation. It is the way of Arunachala—the heart of freedom.
Liberation is possible in the world, but liberation is not of this world.
This is the secret of Ramana that sets you eternally free.