Ramana Maharshi On Gandhi
--Nipun Mehta
4 minute read
Sep 30, 2020

[October 2nd is Gandhi's birthday. Many are inspired by his exemplary fusion of spirituality and service; yet, most parse this as a one-foot-here-one-foot-there middle way -- when it is actually a different operating system entirely. :) The kinship between the great sage Ramana Maharishi and Gandhi is quite well known. Below is a passage, where Ramana cites the most profound meditation state in connection to Gandhi. Whenever I remember Gandhi, I hold the question: what is service when thoughts are naught?]

To describe 'mauna' (silence), Ramana Maharshi cites distinguished 18th centruy poet-saint Thayumanavar's sole reference to it: "Mauna is said to be that state which spontaneously manifests after the end of ego."

The original Tamil, where it is identified as ‘Payappuli’, can be translated with a bit more nuance:

The unique source [tan], fullness [purnam],
prevailed within, in my Heart
so that the ‘I’ which deemed itself an independent entity
bowed its head in shame.
Conferring matchless bliss,
consuming my whole consciousness
and granting me the state of rapture,
It nurtured in me the condition of mauna.
This being so, what more is there to be said?

It parallels Ramana's own description:

"When the mind turns inwards seeking, 'Who Am I?'
And merges in the heart,
Then the 'I' hangs down his head in shame
And the one 'I' appears as Itself.
Though it appears as 'I-I',
It is not the Ego.
It is reality, perfection,
The substance of the self."

This subject of silence and the thought-free state came up again after Ramana Maharshi had cited, with great approval, a passage by Gandhi-ji in which the latter had given a description of his own experience of this state. Sri Ramana referred to the following passage of Gandhi-ji in the 'Harijan' magazine:

‘How mysterious are the ways of God!
This journey to Rajkot is a wonder even to me.
Why am I going, whither am I going? What for?
I have thought nothing about these things.
And if God guides me, what should I think, why should I think?
Even thought maybe an obstacle in the way of His guidance.
‘The fact is, it takes no effort to stop thinking.
The thoughts do not come.
Indeed, there is no vacuum – but I mean to say that there is no thought about the mission.’

Sri Ramana remarked how true the words were and emphasized each statement in the extract. Then he cited Thayumanavar in support of the state which is free from thoughts:

The state in which you are not,
That is Nishta (self-abidance).
But, even in that state,
Do you note remain?
You, whose mouth is silent,
Do not be perplexed!
Although [in that state] you are gone,
You are no longer there,
Yet you did not go.
You are eternally present.
Do not suffer in vain.
You can have bliss. Come!
(‘Udal Poyyuravu’, verse 53)

Two days after Sri Ramana had cited Thayumanavar to illustrate Gandhi’s thought-free experiences, a visitor returned to the subject.

Devotee: Is not what Gandhi describes the state in which thoughts themselves become foreign?

Ramana: Yes, it is only after the rise of the ‘I’-thought that all other thoughts arise. The world is seen after you have felt ‘I am’. The ‘I’-thought and all other thoughts had vanished for him.

Devotee: Then the body sense must be absent in that state.

Ramana: The body sense is also a thought whereas he describes the state in which ‘thoughts do not come’.

Devotee: He also says, ‘It takes no effort to stop thinking’.

Ramana: Of course no effort is necessary to stop thoughts whereas one is necessary for bringing about thoughts.

Devotee: We are trying to stop thoughts. Gandhiji also says that thought is an obstacle to God’s guidance. So it is the natural state. Though natural, yet how difficult to realise. They say that sadhanas [spiritual practices] are necessary and also that they are obstacles. We get confused.

Ramana: Sadhanas are needed so long as one has not realised it. They are for putting an end to obstacles. Finally there comes a stage when a person feels helpless notwithstanding the sadhanas. He is unable to pursue the much - cherished sadhana also. It is Then that God's power is realised. The Self reveals itself.

Devotee: If the state is natural, why does it not overcome the unnatural phases and assert itself over the rest?

Ramana: Is there anything besides that? Does anyone see anything besides the Self? One is always aware of the Self. So it is always itself.


Posted by Nipun Mehta on Sep 30, 2020

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