“The true knowledge of the self is not a knowledge. It is not something that you find by searching, by looking everywhere. It is not to be found in space and time. Knowledge is but a memory, a pattern of thought, a mental habit. All these are motivated by pleasure and pain. It is because you are goaded by pleasure and pain that you are in search of knowledge. Being oneself is completely beyond all motivation. You cannot be yourself for some reason. You are yourself and no reason is needed.” ………………………….Nisargadatta Maharaj
“The Self is like a powerful magnet within us. It draws us gradually to Itself, though we imagine we are going to It of our own accord: when we are near enough, It puts an end to our activities, makes us still, and then swallows up our personal current, thus killing our wrong personality. It overwhelms the intellect and overfloods the whole being. We think we are meditating upon It and developing towards It, whereas the truth is that we are iron filings and It is the Atman-magnet that is pulling us towards Itself. Thus the process of finding the Self is a form of Divine magnetism.” ………..Ramana Maharishi
When I read the above two sayings, I was suddenly drawn to a thought and a picture emerged in my mind wherein I was observing the reflection of the full moon in the ocean. It was probably because the day I started writing this short article was a full moon day. In this mental image, I was standing on the shore of the ocean and the waves were coming one after the other in a specific rhythm. I could hardly see the reflection of the moon in the water. The moon was fragmented and dispersed over an immensely big area due to the reflection coming from many different surfaces generated by the waves.
A thought struck me at that very moment. If we compare the moon in the firmament as the Self and the ocean as the individual self or consciousness, which in its true nature should be the embodiment of the Self or Paramatma. But to the observing consciousness of the individual, the Self becomes disfigured while its true nature is constant and unchanging. The more the travails of life and life concerns, represented here by the waves of the ocean, the true Self lies beyond comprehension. Even if we travel in a small boat to the middle of the ocean where there are no waves, the mild breeze or even the passage of the boat disturbs the surface creating ripples which distorts the nature of true reality.
This goes to point out that using the mind and reason, which is represented by the surface of the ocean, the grasp of true nature of the self is beyond our reach. Even if we dive deep into very clear waters of the ocean the surface which here represents the conditioned mind or the self (with small letter s) always is subject to hindering our access to the true nature of the Self.
Just as the true reality of the moon, which is always whole and never waxes and wanes, can be accessed when we go beyond to its true space of being, the access to the Self needs a consciousness unconditioned by the limitations of mental conditioning. Hence the ultimate reality lies beyond the reasoning mind.
Ramana Maharishi uses a very apt comparison of the Self being a magnet. It is common knowledge that it is the magnet that attracts the iron filings and not the other way around. There are two main hindrances to this attraction; they are distance and a medium. If we have distanced ourselves from the Self through our conscious choice of being attached our physical and material nature, we are far from the never changing influence of the magnet or the Self. As long as the medium is empty space representing a state of mind tranquilized only through meditation and devotion through Karma or Bhakti, the irresistible pull of the Self will be overpowering and provide the needed potential to elevate ourselves to a merger with the Self. If we have any medium like a sheet of glass which gives the false perception of being the goal, the iron filing form the pattern of lines of force of magnetic attraction on the sheet of glass but these iron filings are far from their true goal.
In our lives, the only supplication in our prayers should be to be filled with Divine grace which is the lines of force that attracts us towards the Self. When this prayer is empowered through spiritual practices such as; austerity, compassion, meditation, focused worship and performance of tasks without expectations (nishkamakarma), our true goal can be achieved.
Let me close this short reflection on the need for Divine Grace with a quote from a great Christian mystic:
“O God, teach me to be satisfied with my own helplessness in the spiritual life. Teach me to be content with Your grace that comes to me in darkness and that works things I cannot see. Teach me to be happy that I can depend on You. To depend on You should be enough for an eternity of joy. To depend on You by itself ought to be infinitely greater than any joy which my own intellectual appetite could desire.” …………….Thomas Merton
Love to you all