The Mother Divine
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By Prof. K. Swaminathan

EVERYONE in the world wants to be happy — at all times, in all places and under all conditions. This quest for ananda is a universal human desire and the goal of all human endeavour. There are however some people who are happy at all times, in all places and under all conditions and that too without any desire and without any effort on their part. This strange paradox about happiness — that one who seeks it strenuously often misses it, while one who is indifferent to it enjoys it — is explained by our failure to distinguish between pleasure or satisfaction on the one hand and happiness or ananda on the other. We mistake pleasure for happiness and, pursuing it as if it were happiness, end up in all kinds of misery. In Who Am I, and in the Talks, Sri Bhagavan brings out clearly this distinction between happiness and pleasure. Happiness is our inherent and permanent nature, while pleasure is that which we from time to time derive from the satisfaction of our desires, physical or mental, healthy or unhealthy. Happiness is the very nature of the Self; happiness and the Self are not different. There is no happiness in any object of the world.

We imagine through our Ignorance that we derive happiness from objects. When the mind goes out, it experiences misery. In truth, when its desires are fulfilled, the mind returns to its own place and enjoys the happiness that is the Self. Similarly, in the state of sleep, samadhi, and fainting and when the object desired is obtained or the object disliked is removed, the mind turns inward, and enjoys pure Self happiness. Thus, the mind moves without rest, alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been going about in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. A wise man stays permanently in the shade. Similarly, the mind of the one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman. The mind of the ignorant, on the contrary, revolves in the world, feeling miserable, and for a little time returns to Brahman to experience happiness. In fact, what is called the world is only thought. When the world disappears, i.e. when there is no thought, the mind experiences happiness; and when the world appears, it goes through misery.

Absolute and permanent happiness does not reside in objects but in the atman. Such happiness is peace, free from pain and pleasure. Sri Maharshi says: If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external causes and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of possessions, and diminish in proportion to their diminution. Therefore, if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness should be nil. What is the real experience of man? Does it conform to this view? In deep sleep, the man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realize his Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.  

For the sadhaka, no doubt the ultimate goal is the complete extinction of the ego, when the jiva and the world cease to be and only the brightness and bliss of pure awareness remains. This goal, gained in a matter of a few minutes by Sri Bhagavan seems to most of us to be too remote and indeed inaccessible in this, our present life. We are repeatedly told and we readily believe that spiritual progress has to be gradual and that moksha should wait until we have gone through the other purusharthas. Self-enquiry, the direct sovereign method taught by Bhagavan, gets continuously postponed while we are busy discovering and painfully practising our dharma or, worse still, we allow ourselves to be lulled into a spiritual sleep by sentimental bhakti and so escape from the responsibility of our station in life. If moksha is bliss and if bliss is our real, permanent and inescapable nature, what is its relation to dharma? Dharma is not a normative or a moralistic concept; it is well-being, health and growth, rootedness in responsibility and freedom to play with the light and warmth of awareness.

The tree does not distinguish between horizontal and vertical growth, between its loyalties to earth, water, air and to the sun. It follows its nature and grows unawares till the seed becomes the tree and matures into a fruit. This also is the human destiny. We are seed sown in the soil and eating matter and warmth, bound to become fruit. The eater ceases to eat and becomes food. The man of dharma ripens into the mukta. We, however, separate dharma, our empirical nature as prakriti, from moksha, our transcendental nature as Purusha. Instead of exposing ourselves to the sun wherever we are and drinking in its light and warmth, we make elaborate plans of travelling towards it at some future time. The traditional view of dharma as that which binds man's social existence to a moral order, that which holds, preserves and protects mankind, can be illustrated by Kausalya's words to Rama before he left for the forest. She said, "May that dharma which you have nourished with determination and discipline protect you. This is the only blessing I can give." Here we have the popular idea of Rama as the fullest and clearest embodiment of dharma, the horizontal or inter-personal dimension of human growth. The mother rightly regards her son as a moral athlete who has, with determination and discipline, nourished dharma, which in turn is expected to protect him as the mother protects the child.  

But Sri Bhagavan prefers to dwell on the truer and the more mature image of Sri Rama presented in the YogaVasishta. He cites with approval the preceptor's noble adjuration to the pupil who, absorbed in the bliss of awareness, is disinclined to act in the world of time and space. The preceptor says, "Holding firmly at heart to the truth of your being, play like a hero your part on the world-stage, inwardly calm and detached, but assuming zeal and joy, stirrings and aversions, initiative and effort, and performing outward actions appropriate to your particular role in various situations." In other words, the quest for Self-realization, serious mumukshutva, goes hand in hand with bold, heroic action. The call to such action, addressed to Sri Rama, is really meant for us. In outward action or the practice of dharma, there is no difference between the seeker and the realized person. The disinterested action which the seeker performs deliberately as a matter of discipline, which is for him a means of discovering his identity with fellow-beings, is for the jnani like Sri Rama or Janaka the spontaneous expression of such an identity. The sadhanaoi, the seeker becomes the lakshana of the realized person. In recommending and indeed prescribing the quest of the Self to all thoughtful persons in the adolescent and adult stages of life, Bhagavan makes a radical and necessary departure from the letter of the tradition in order to restore its spirit.  

In Ch. 3 of the Ramana Gita, the paramount task of man is declared to be 'the discovery of our real human nature which is the basis of all actions and their fruit.' This quest for our real nature, the withdrawing of thoughts from sense objects and steady Self-enquiry, is not to be postponed. In Ch. 10, Sangha Vidya, one's duty to one's circle and to humanity is defined clearly as organic interdependence to be promoted both by shanti, which purifies one's own mind, and by shakti, which is required for the progress of society. The attenuation of the ego by steady Self-enquiry and the acceptance in practice of normal family and social responsibilities can alone lead to brotherhood and equality which is the supreme goal to be attained by mankind as a whole. Bhagavan's comprehensive teaching, with its stress on the search for the Self, helps one to attain adult status and to assume full responsibility for oneself. Bhagavan is like a father who watches, apparently unconcerned, the child learning to walk, stumbling and falling and picking itself up again, but refuses to molly-coddle it and keep it dependent. There can be no responsibility without self-reliance and there can be no true self-reliance without Self-enquiry. We are responsible also, but only in part, to others. At any rate, the sooner we cease to be a burden on others, the better for ourselves and our neighbours. Loving the Lord God with all one's heart and loving one's neighbour as oneself are not two commandments but one. We cannot effectively love and serve our neighbour unless we have succeeded in some measure in loving and obeying the Father as Awareness.

Autonomy is a product of increasing self-awareness, which includes sensitivity to one's surroundings. Once we open and begin to operate a Both-or-Survivor account with the Universal Self, our spiritual resources expand according to real need. Instead of complaining against one's circumstances one derives inexhaustible strength from inner happiness. Says Thoreau, "I love my fate to the very core and rind." One's present life is the fruit one has earned and one must now eat it to the last bite. The creative person, spiritually attuned, mentally healthy and morally evolved, does not fear novelty, but recognises and practises the dharma appropriate to his unique situation in a fast-changing world. Having no personal desires of his own, he seeks universal welfare, through the pursuit of truth, beauty, goodness, love. Not self-regarding and having no care for 'safety' as a value, he contributes clarity and compassion to the ongoing movement of life. The unselfish are ever brave, accept loving responsibility for their neighbours and give them a share of their own courage and self-reliance. As we climb the mountain path the view widens; new responsibilities come to us and are cheerfully undertaken. We are no more inclined to off-shoulder our burden on others.

We find fulfilment in mastering rather than in evading swadharma. Such swadharma, disinterested action surrendered to the Lord (verse 3 of Upadesa Sara), purifies the mind and points the way to moksha. Through the practice of dharma, we become progressively more eligible for the ultimate happiness of moksha. In meeting the challenge of time, we respond to the call of eternity. We learn to live less in the surface and more and more in the deep centre of our being. In any case, at all times and places and under all conditions, dharma has to be practised, whether as duty and discipline or as the happy and spontaneous expression of Awareness. Self-actualization, in the language of Abraham Maslow, is the royal road to Self-realization. It is only in and through dharma that the happiness of moksha can be reached or manifested. Bhagavan could no more help spreading grace and bliss than the sun could help spreading light and warmth. Moksha cannot be 'realized' by mere intellectual effort. It can only be experienced, and experienced as happiness. It is total freedom from nagging desires, it is pure Awareness. In Bhagavan's own words: Unless and until a man embarks upon this quest of the true Self, doubt and uncertainty will follow his footsteps throughout life. The greatest kings and statesmen try to rule others, when in their heart of hearts, they know that they cannot rule themselves. Yet the greatest power is at the command of the man who has penetrated into his inmost depth. There are men of giant intellect who spend their lives gathering knowledge about many things. Ask these men if they have solved the mystery of man, if they have conquered themselves, and they will hang their heads in shame. What is the use of knowing about everything else when you do not yet know who you are? Men avoid this enquiry into the true Self, but what else is there so worthy to be undertaken? Admittedly the way to it may be harder for those who are engrossed in worldly life, but even then, one can and must conquer.

The current induced during meditation can be kept up by habit, by practising to do so. Then one can perform one's work and activities in that very current itself; there will be no break. Thus, too, there will be no difference between meditation and external activities. If you meditate on this question, 'Who am I?'— if you begin to perceive that neither the body nor the brain nor the desires are really you, then the very attitude of enquiry will eventually draw the answer to you out of the depths of your own being; it will come to you of its own accord as a deep realization... Know the real Self and then the truth will shine forth within your heart like sunshine. The mind will become untroubled and real happiness will flood it, for happiness and the true Self are identical. You will have no more doubts once you attain this self-awareness. As ends and means are inseparable, so are moksha and dharma. They reinforce each other in healthy individual and social life. They are in fact the empirical and transcendental modes of our being, whose basic nature is the bliss of awareness, stillness, shanti, broken occasionally by ripples of action, movement, shakti. It must be remembered that dharma is bound by time, while moksha is the boundless bliss of Awareness.