Reflections on Talks with Ramana Maharshi – Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi

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Chapter 13

Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi

9. “The Srutis speak of the Self as being of the size of the thumb, the tip of the hair, a spark, subtler than the subtle, etc., etc. They have no foundation in fact. It is only Being. It is simply Being. People desire to see it as a blazing light, etc. How can it be? It is neither light nor darkness. It is only as it is, It cannot be defined. The best definition for it is ‘I am that I am’.”

Note: That settles it: we are not to take literally all the descriptions of the Self found here and there. If we do, then we will be giving form to the formless, name to the nameless, and attributes to the attributeless. All objective descriptions and comparisons of the Self are meaningless, and must stop at a point not too far away. Bhagavan does not wish to slight the Srutis, because he himself very often quotes them. What he declares is only the lack of uniformity and cohesion which almost always confounds and confuses the casual student and biased theologian who finds in them a vast field for adverse propaganda. The beginner feels himself honestly lost in what appears to be a maze of inconsistencies and exaggerations, as witness these descriptions of the Self. The Jnani knows how to tackle the Upanishads. The veteran seeker likewise skims much of their cream, according to his intuitive maturity. The others take them literally and allow their imagination to run riot, or hold to their letter tenaciously but allow the spirit to slip through their fingers.

Bhagavan is keen that we have a notion of the Self which is divested of all analogies and sensory descriptions. The Self is pure Being. To be, by its very definition, means to exist, which negates nonexistence. Being therefore means eternal existence, which can be said of only an indestructible substance. But all obj ective things are destructible, being insentient. Therefore eternal existence can be predicted on only the be-ing which is pure sentience. This we call the Infinite Self or Supreme Consciousness which transcends all objectivity. What description or analogy can therefore fit it? Bhagavan finds a single definition which can do so, namely ‘I am that I am’, that is, the “undefinable Being”.

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