Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sri Ramana Maharshi on Heart

Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi (B) taught that the heart, not the head, is the true seat of Consciousness; but by this he did not mean the physical organ at the left side of the chest but the heart at the right, and by 'consciousness' he did not mean thought but pure awareness or sense of being. He had found this from his own experience to be the centre of spiritual awareness and then found his experience confirmed in some ancient texts.

When his devotees were instructed to concentrate on the heart, it was this spiritual heart on the right that was referred to; and they also found it the centre of an actual, almost physical vibration of awareness. However, he would also speak of the Heart as equivalent to the Self and remind them that in truth it is not in the body at all, but is spaceless.

D.:  Why  do  you  say  that  the  heart  is  on  the  right  when biologists have found it to be on the left? What authority have you?

B.: No one denies that the physical organ is on the left; but the heart of which I speak is on the right. That is my experience and I require no authority for it; still you can find confirmation of it in a Malayali book on Ayurveda and in the Sita Upanishad.

Saying this, Bhagavan showed the quotation from the latter and quoted the text from the former. Sometimes, when asked, he referred also to the Biblical text from Ecclesiastes: "The wise man's heart is at the right hand and a fool's heart is at the left."

D.: Why do we have a place such as the heart to concentrate on for meditation?

B.: Because you seek true Consciousness. Where can you find it? Can you attain it outside yourself? You have to find it internally. Therefore you are directed inward. The Heart is the seat of Consciousness or Consciousness itself.

I ask you to observe where the 'I' arises in your body, but it is not really quite correct to say that the 'I' arises from and merges in the chest at the right side. The Heart is another name for Reality and this is neither inside nor outside the body. There can be no in or out for it, since it alone is. I do not mean by 'heart'  any  physiological  organ  or  any  plexus  or  nerves  or anything like that; but so long as a man identifies himself with the body or thinks he is in the body, he is advised to see where in the body the 'I'-thought arises and merges again. It must be the heart at the right side of the chest since every man of whatever race and religion and in whatever language he may be speaking, points to the right side of the chest to indicate himself when he says 'I'. This is so all over the world, so that must be the place. And by keenly watching the emergence of the 'I'-thought on waking and its subsidence on going to sleep, one can see that it is in the heart on the right side.

When  a  room  is  dark  you  need  a  lamp  to  light  it,  but when the sun rises there is no need for a lamp; objects are seen without one. And to see the sun itself no lamp is needed because it is self-luminous. Similarly with the mind. The reflected light of the mind is necessary to perceive objects, but to see the heart it is enough for the mind to be turned towards it. Then the mind loses itself and the Heart shines forth.

It is a tantric practice to concentrate on one of the chakras or spiritual centres of the body, very often on the point between the eyebrows. As will be shown in a later chapter, the heart on the right side is not one of these chakras; nevertheless, in the following passage, Bhagavan explains concisely his teaching that concentration on the heart-centre is more effective than on any other point but less effective than pure enquiry.

D.: There  are  said  to  be  six  (subtle)  organs  of  different colours in the chest, of which the spiritual heart is said to be the one situated two fingers' breadth, to the right from the centre! But the heart is also said to be formless. Does that mean that we should imagine it to have a form and meditate on this?

B.:  No;  only  the  quest  -  'Who  am  I?'  is  necessary. That which continues to exist throughout sleep and waking is the same being in both; but while waking there is unhappiness and therefore the effort to remove it. When asked who awakes from sleep, you say  'I'.  Hold  fast  to  this  'I'.  If  that  is  done  the  Eternal  Being reveals itself. The most important thing is the investigation of the 'I' and not concentration on the heart centre. There is no such thing as the 'inner' and the 'outer'. Both words mean the same or nothing  at  all.  Nevertheless,  there  is  also  the  practice  of concentration on the heart-centre, which is a form of spiritual exercise. Only he who concentrates on the heart can remain aware when  the  mind  ceases  to  be  active  and  remains  still,  with  no thoughts,  whereas  those  who  concentrate  on  any  other  centre cannot retain awareness without thought but only infer that the mind was still after it has become active again.

In  the  following  passage  an  English  lady  remarks  on  this awareness without thought and Bhagavan approves.

D.: Thoughts  suddenly  cease  and  'I-I'  rises  up  equally suddenly and continues. It is only a feeling, not a thought. Can it be right?

B.: Yes, it is quite right. Thoughts have to cease and reason to disappear for the 'I-I' to rise up and be felt. Feeling is the main thing, not reason.

D.: Moreover, it is not in the head, but at the right side of the chest.

B.: That is where it should be, because the heart is there.

D.: When I look outwards it disappears. What should I do?

B.: Hold fast to it.

This does not mean that thought is impossible during the state of 'I' consciousness, as indeed one can see from the example of Bhagavan himself, who was permanently in that state. For the ignorant person, thought is like a dense cloud overhead, shutting him off from the illumination of the sun. When the ceiling of cloud has been broken and rolled back, letting in the light, he can use thought without being imprisoned by it. To change the metaphor,  Bhagavan  sometimes  compared  the  mind  of  the Realised Man to the moon in the sky in day-time - it is there but its light is not needed - because one can see without it by the direct light of the sun.

Source: Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own words by Arthur Osborne, Chapter Two, section Heart and Head

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