Mother Azhagammal lay dying. She was delirious from an attack of typhoid. In his prayer to Arunachala for her recovery Ramana posed the question, what is death if scrutinised? In the same prayer he request, “Please make my mother’s sacred body a true abode of God. What need would there be then for cremation?” when celebrated, for the first time in 1912, by a group of devotees, he composed a verse reading, “He who wishes to celebrate to birthday, enquire first who was born?”
The destruction of the mind is the only way to freedom says Ramana. Freedom from what? What is death of the mind? One can find Ramana answering these questions and all fundamental questions, in this selection, with his core approach of focusing one’s attention on the sure way to escape, from this escape, from this endless serfdom, moving from womb to womb.
When you are with Ramana, all your superficiality, all lack of depth, all mimby-pampi attitudes are at an end. He is the searchlight of truth, devouring the dense darkness of false knowledge about the self and about the mind.
It would be idle to fritter away a flow of divine energy from its spring of grace. For life does not give always a second opportunity.
Only when one considers the very basis of one’s existence about birth and death, can one find a solution from this cyclical pair of opposites ‘birth and death’?
Birth and death are both chronological factors. It is wholly related to the body’s birth and its death. The day, the body comes out of the mother’s womb is regarded as one birth and the day when that body is cremated or buried, as one’s death day. If that be so, there should be no dread of death or question of rebirth or about the happenings to the body after its death. While everyone recognises the inevitable course of the body, end is a most dreaded fear of the body’s end is a most dreaded fear. For, it is the end of all that is known or so one thinks.
However, the question is always put under the carpet. For fear of that date and time is too gripping to be examined frontally. But unless one enquires about it, death must remain an unsolved riddle.
Without enquiry about this fundamental and core fear, and solving its riddle, the mind evades it in one of its self-perpetuating tricks. It turns one’s mind away from the question, what is death essentially?’, futuristic, concepts about life after death, whether one can be reunited with one’s dear ones in actual worlds or on rebirth, the time gap between death and rebirth, the type of environment, one will find on rebirth and so on.
Ramana would discourage such a desire to crystal-gaze into the future, instead of staying in the ever-present’, in the now”.
Therefore Ramana points out, “Before considering what happens after death just consider what happens in your sleep” or “if you understand waking and sleep” properly you will understand death or he might answer, “Death is the intervening sleep between two successive births, while sleep intervenes between two waking states and both are transient.”
When one enquires, one would find there are two entities within one’s knowledge, the mind and the body. Support for both of them is beyond the mind’s comprehension. Hence one can only begin with the known and look for solution and follow its leads. In deep sleep lies the solution to this problem. Why? For in that state, though the body is there it is a good as a corpse, since one is not aware of it. Nor is one conscious of the mind. The mind is wholly free from thoughts and intensely silent. But on waking one identifies oneself with the mind the thinker and a particular name and form; the body name. The idea that one is the mind and the body superimposed.
Both truth and illusion cannot co-exist. There was silence and the total absence of any identification in deep sleep. It is a state or repose of peace, which is needed and is sought after, by all lives each day. The identification with the mortal body, with happens on waking is an ignorant superimposition on existence for one exists without a break, though the identification phenomenon of waking hours. It did not exist in deep sleep and may well not be there when one is dreaming. In a dream one can fit from one identity with a particular dream identity to another in rapid succession.
Ramana is therefore persistent on one requirement the need to cut oneself free from this super imposed idea through an enquiry about the nature of the mind which alone would expose the falsity of the limitations and identification.
The steps suggested by him are simple and direct. That which is termed the mind is the first person I and the other thoughts flow along the path of its shifting attention.
If the mind’s attention can be turned fully on itself one should ask the further question wherefrom did this I originate and simultaneously shift from active pursuit of the I to an utterly passive attitude. Then the magnetic power of the truth as self as divine force within the heart draws one within the I to the heart the divine force and the fountain of natural joy. In the death of the thinker with his innumerable and insatiable desire one breaks free form all limitations of time and space. It is a non-successive of desires which causes successive births and rebirths. Once the mind is dead in the sense it is merged in the source of its origin all desires end for the desirer no longer exists.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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