The Shaking of the Shadow
from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
26th January, 1936
In reply to Miss Leena Sarabhai, a cultured Indian lady of high rank, Sri Bhagavan said: The state of equanimity is the state of bliss. The declaration in the Vedas “I am This or That” is only an aid to gain equanimity of mind.
LS: So, it is wrong to begin with a goal; is it?
RM: If there be a goal to be reached it cannot be permanent. The goal must already be there. We seek to reach the goal with the ego, but the goal exists before the ego. What is in the goal is even prior to our birth, i.e., to the birth of the ego. Because we exist the ego appears to exist too.
If we look on the Self as the ego then we become the ego, if as the mind we become the mind, if as the body we become the body. It is the thought which builds up sheaths in so many ways. The shadow on the water is found to be shaking. Can any one stop the shaking of the shadow? If it should cease to shake you would not notice the water but only the light. Similarly take no notice of the ego in its activities, but see only the light behind. The ego is the I-thought. The true “I” is the Self.
LS: It is one step to realization.
RM: Realization is already there. The state free from thoughts is the only real state. There is no such action as Realization. Is there any one who is not realizing the Self? Does anyone deny his own existence? Speaking of realization, it implies two selves the one to realize, the other to be realized. What is not already realized, is sought to be realized. Once we admit our existence, how is it that we do not know our Self?
LS: Because of the thoughts the mind.
RM: Quite so. It is the mind that stands between and veils our happiness. How do we know that we exist? If you say because of the world around us, then how do you know that you existed in deep sleep?
LS: How to get rid of the mind?
RM: Is it the mind that wants to kill itself? The mind cannot kill itself. So your business is to find the real nature of the mind. Then you will know that there is no mind. When the Self is sought, the mind is nowhere. Abiding in the Self, one need not worry about the mind.
LS: How to get rid of fear?
RM: What fear? It is only a thought. If there is anything besides the Self there is reason to fear. Who sees the second (anything external)? First the ego arises and sees objects as external. If the ego does not rise, the Self alone exists and there is no second (nothing external). For anything external to oneself implies the seer within. Seeking it there will arise no doubt, no fear not only fear, all other thoughts centered round the ego will disappear along with it.
LS: This method seems to be quicker than the usual one of cultivating qualities alleged necessary for salvation (sadhana chatushtaya)?
RM: Yes. All bad qualities center round the ego. When the ego is gone Realization results by itself. There are neither good nor bad qualities in the Self. The Self is free from all qualities. Qualities pertain to the mind only. It is beyond quality. If there is unity, there will also be duality. The numeral one gives rise to other numbers. The truth is neither one nor two. IT is as it is.
LS: The difficulty is to be in the thought-free state.
RM: Leave the thought-free state to itself. Do not think of it as pertaining to you. Just as when you walk, you involuntarily take steps, so too in your actions; but the thought-free state is not affected by your actions.
LS: What is it that is discriminative in action?
RM: Discrimination will be automatic, intuitive.
LS: So Intuition alone matters; intuition develops also.
RM: Those who have discovered great Truths have done so in the still depths of the Self.
The ego is like one’s shadow thrown on the ground. If one attempts to bury it, it will be foolish. The Self is only one. If limited it is the ego. If unlimited it is Infinite and is the Reality.
The bubbles are different from one another and numerous, but the ocean is only one. Similarly the egos are many, whereas the Self is one and only one.
When told that you are not the ego, realize the Reality. Why do you still identify yourself with the ego? It is like saying, “Don’t think of the monkey while taking medicine” it is impossible. Similarly it happens with common folk. When the Reality is mentioned why do you continue to meditate Sivoham [I am Shiva, God] or Aham Brahasmi [I am Brahman, the Absolute]? The significance must be traced and understood. It is not enough to repeat the bare words or think of them.
Reality is simply the loss of the ego. Destroy the ego by seeking its identity. Because the ego is no entity it will automatically vanish and Reality will shine forth by itself. This is the direct method. Whereas all other methods are done, only retaining the ego. In those paths there arise so many doubts and the eternal question remains to be tackled finally. But in this method the final question is the only one and it is raised from the very beginning. No sadhanas [spiritual practices] are necessary for engaging in this quest.
There is no greater mystery than this viz., ourselves being the Reality we seek to gain reality. We think that there is something hiding our Reality and that it must be destroyed before the Reality is gained. It is ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will yourself laugh at your past efforts. That which will be on the day you laugh is also here and now.
LS: So it is a great game of pretending?
In Yoga Vasishta it is said, “What is Real is hidden from us, but what is false, is revealed as true.” We are actually experiencing the Reality only; still, we do not know it. Is it not a wonder of wonders?
The quest “Who am I?” is the axe with which to cut off the ego.