Swami Rama once asked a sishya (disciple), “Tell me one thing you have learned by yourself, that you have not gleaned from anything else, nor any other person!” The sishya was struck dumb, for he had not had any such experience, insight or realisation. Most people are blind to their desires and attachments, fruit of ideations, driven by vasana and samksara, thoughts, impressions and karma brought across from the previous life. It is very hard to stand outside the senses and have self-awareness, like the guru of Arunachala – Ramana Maharshi. We are slaves to the senses, not realising that the Divine is avinasambandhana, divinity that has cloaked itself with maya, illusion.
The young Rama asks Sage Vasishtha about true knowledge or non-dual cognition. This gives the sage the opportunity to narrate the story of Muni Vitahavya and is interior dialogue with his mind. It is a tour-de-force instruction of the mind (chitta, consciousness) that it has no basis, no reality and the only reality that is, is that of the Atma. Thereafter, one has non-dual cognition, samyak-jnana, samyak-drishti.
Many seek the heart, and many have tribulations of the heart – yet, where is this heart? Where is this place called the “sky of the heart”? There is the physical heart, enlivened by the atma, the power of the soul. What of the spiritual heart? What is this heart?
The conversation between the young Rama and the sage turns to stabilising chitta-consciousness, which then turns to an exposition on managing the vital breath – prana-vayu.
In the asrama of Sage Vasishtha, the young Rama continues to ask questions, seeking a clarified intellect. He asks about the kinds of ego, the inability of the jiva to see beyond maya to the nectarine form of Atma, and how is it that this universe appears as real?
The young Rama is confused as the word chitta has so many other words, synonyms, like this. What is the meaning of all these words for consciousness? Upon explanation, Rama asks more, the nature of attaining atmaswaroop … … the essential form of all that is.
Rama asks ‘What is identification?’ The sage explains identification and body awareness, and the innumerable sufferings for those in bondage to the body, and to the desires for bodily pleasures. The sage recommends obtaining the nectar of detachment, so that you may attain bliss … …
Rama asks ‘How to destroy ignorance?’ The sage replies that knowledge, self-enquiry, enquiry into the nature and purpose of this world is the needful. Wisdom exposes the attraction to material gratification. When this is lost, and body-ego is gone, then knowledge of the Atma arises. This is how the sage explains.
Rama asks how is it that some of the wise, ensconsed in samadhi, realisation of the Absolute, can remain in society. The Sage tells the story of King Suraghu of Kranti Desh, and how he eliminated the problem of punishing criminals. The outward going mind has to be managed, the impulses or desires that disturb the mind have to be eliminated. How? 75% of our time ought be spent in self-inquiry, and inquiry into the vagaries of the mind.