The Guru and
Conversation with Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi
Questioner: What is guru-kripā? How does it lead to Self-realization?
Maharshi: Guru is the Self… Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied with it, and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires, through prayer to God, etc. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain His Grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God’s Grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the Truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association. The devotee’s mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm expanse is the Self. The Guru is both ‘external’ and ‘internal.’ From the ‘exterior’ He gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the ‘interior’ He pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quieting of the mind. That is guru-kripā. There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self.
Q.: In the Theosophical Society they meditate in order to seek Masters to guide them.
M.: The Master is within. Meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that He is only outside. If He be a stranger whom you await, He is bound to disappear also. Where is the use for a transient being like that? But as long as you think you are separate or that you are the body, so long is the Master ‘without’ also necessary, and He will appear as if with a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases, the Master will be found as none other than the Self.
Q.: Will the Guru help us to know the Self through initiation, etc.?
M.: Does the Guru hold you by the hand and whisper in the ear? You may imagine him to be what you are yourself. Because you think you are with a body, you think He has also a body, to do something tangible to you. His work lies within, in the spiritual realm.
Q.: How is the Guru found?
M.: God, Who is immanent, in His Grace, takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests Himself according to the devotee’s development. The devotee thinks that He is a man and expects a relationship as between two physical bodies. But the Guru, who is God or the Self incarnate, works from within, helps the man to see the error of his ways and guides him in the right path until he realizes the Self within.
Q.: What should the devotee do then?
M.: He has only to act up to the words of the Master and work within. The Master is both ‘within’ and ‘without’; so He creates conditions to drive you inward and, at the same time, prepares the ‘interior’ to drag you to the Center. Thus He gives a push from ‘without’ and exerts a pull from ‘within,’ so that you may be fixed at the Center. You think that the world can be conquered by your own efforts. When you are frustrated externally and are driven inwards, you feel “Oh! there is a Power Higher than man!” The ego is like a very powerful elephant which cannot be brought under control by any less powerful than a lion, which, in this instance, is no other than the Guru, Whose very look makes the elephant-like ego tremble and die. You will know in due course that your glory lies where you cease to exist. In order to gain that State, you should surrender yourself. Then the Master sees that you are in a fit state to receive guidance, and He guides you.
Q.: How can the Silence of the Guru, Who gives no initiation, nor does any other tangible act, be more powerful than His word, etc.? How is such Silence better than the study of Scriptures?
M.: Silence is the most potent form of work. However vast and emphatic the Scriptures may be, they fail in their effect. The Guru is Quiet and Grace prevails in all. This Silence is vaster and more emphatic than all the Scriptures put together.
Q.: But can the devotee obtain Happiness?
M.: The devotee surrenders himself to the Master and it means that there is no vestige of individuality retained by him. If the surrender is complete, all sense of ‘self’ is lost, and then there can be no misery or sorrow. The Eternal Being is nothing but Happiness. That comes as a Revelation.
Q.: How can I obtain Grace?
M.: Grace is the Self. That also is not to be acquired: you only need to know that it exists. The sun is brightness only. It does not see darkness. Yet, you speak of darkness fleeing on the sun’s approach. So also the devotee’s ignorance, like the phantom of darkness, vanishes at the look of the Guru. You are surrounded by sun-light; yet, if you would see the sun, you must turn in its direction and look at it. So also Grace is found by the proper approach you make, though it is here and now.
Q.: Cannot Grace hasten ripeness in the seeker?
M.: Leave it all to the Master. Surrender to Him without reserve. One of two things must be done: either surrender yourself, because you realize your inability and need a Higher Power to help you; or investigate into the cause of misery, go into the Source, and so merge in the Self. Either way, you will be free from misery. God or Guru never forsakes the devotee who has surrendered himself.
Q.: What is the significance of prostration to the Guru or God?
M.: Prostration signifies the subsidence of the ego, and it means merging into the Source. God or Guru cannot be deceived by outward genuflexions, bowing and prostrations. He sees whether the ego is there or not.
Q.: Will not Bhagavan give me some prasād from His leaf as a mark of His Grace?
M.: Eat without thinking of the ego. Then what you eat becomes Bhagavan’s prasād.
Q.: Is not the literate man better qualified for Enlightenment in the sense that he stands in no need of guru-kripā?
M.: Even a learned man must bow before the illiterate sage. Illiteracy is ignorance and education is learned ignorance. Both are ignorant of the true Aim. The Sage is ignorant in a different line. He is ignorant because there is no ‘other’ for Him.
Q.: Is it not to obtain the Guru’s Grace that presents are offered to Him? So, the visitors offer presents to Bhagavan.
M.: Why do they bring presents? Do I want them? Even if I refuse, they thrust the presents on me! What for? Is it not like giving a bait to catch the fish? Is the angler anxious to feed them? No, he is anxious to feed on the fish!
Q.: Is the Theosophical idea of giving successive initiations before attaining moksha true?
M.: Those who attain moksha in one life must have passed through all the initiations in their former lives.
Q.: Theosophy says that jnānis after death have to choose four or five lines of work, not necessarily in this world. What is Bhagavan’s opinion?
M.: Some may take up work, but not all.
Q.: Are you conscious of a Brotherhood of invisible rishis?
M.: If invisible, how can you see them?
Q.: In consciousness.
M.: There is nothing external in Consciousness.
Q.: Can I realize them?
M.: If you realize your own Reality, then that of the rishis and Masters will become clear to you. There is only one Master—and that is the Self.
Q.: Is reincarnation true?
M.: Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.
Q.: Can a Yogi know his past lives?
M.: Do you know the present life that you wish to know the past? Find the present, then the rest will follow. Even with our present limited knowledge, you suffer so much; why should you burden yourself with more knowledge? Is it to suffer more?
Q.: Does Bhagavan use occult powers to make others realize the Self, or is the mere fact of Bhagavan’s Realization enough for that?
M.: The Spiritual force of Self-realization is far more powerful than the use of all the occult powers. Inasmuch as there is no ego in the Sage, there are no ‘others’ for Him. What is the highest benefit that can be conferred on you? It is Happiness; and Happiness is born of Peace. Peace can reign only where there is no disturbance, and disturbance is due to thoughts that arise in the mind. When the mind itself is absent, there will be perfect Peace. Unless a person has annihilated the mind, he cannot gain Peace and be Happy. And unless he himself be Happy, he cannot bestow Happiness on ‘others.’ Since, however, there are no ‘others’ for the Sage who has no mind, the mere fact of His Self-realization is itself enough to make the ‘others’ Happy.
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Excerpt from: The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi. See also
Arthur Osborne’s The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in His
Own Words, Rider & Company, London, 1962, pp. 94-110.