Annihilate your thoughts for thoughts are those things that give you the idea of ‘I’. People mistake thoughts for their ‘I-ness’. In the west Descrates said, ‘I think therefore I am’. Sages in India say thoughts are misplaced ‘I-ness’ for ‘I’ does not exist in thoughts. Who am I? Ramana Maharshi explained to his devotees. Is ‘I’ the thoughts? Or the five indriyas, sensory elements, that experience the thoughts? Individual ‘I’ is an illusion. It is like the sun seen reflected in a splintered glass. The sun that is reflected on the splinter is not the sun. Some sages, who believe in certain meditative techniques, say that one could remove thoughts from mind by practicing certain methods of meditation. They ask the followers to stop thoughts by ‘force’. Ramana Maharshi does not ask the devotees to do any violence on oneself, even on one’s own thoughts. He asks them to sit quietly and see the thoughts that come up like waves in a sea. If one keeps watching the thoughts, at some point they stop to exist. However, that moment could be a fleeting one. To do this one needs patience and humility. If you have the ability to sit still and silent for a long time, then you would reach a point where thoughts no longer exist. It is like peeling an onion. Keep peeling the thoughts, finally you will find that there is nothing; no I. For those people who do not have an innate disposition to be calm and quiet, sages advice certain practices. Focusing on the image or idea of Ishta Devata (a god or guru of one’s liking) is one of those practices. In today’s world, so many crash courses on self realization offer instant deliverance from the self or of the self rather through physical exercises like Yoga. Life style changes and surging desire of human beings to consume more and to be distinct has taken the practicing of yoga to unimaginable areas that include aerobic yoga. Yoga is a self disciplining technique and is one of the ways to sit still and focus. Many people foolishly believe that mere doing yoga makes them living ‘saints’. One day a yoga expert approached Sree Narayana Guru and boasted about his expertise in it and also tried to explain the positive sides of yoga. Narayana Guru smiled and did not give that much importance to it. Crestfallen, the yoga guru finally said, “Guru, at least this is good for good bowel movements.” Narayana Guru had famously retorted, “For that one just need to take a tea spoon full of castor oil, right?” Ramakrishan Paramahansa also has said something identical. Someone came to him and claimed that he had practiced swimming for a long time and now he could cross Ganga within minutes. Paramahansa smiled and said, “For that you just need to pay an anna to the boatman.”
Sleep is the only occasion when thoughts cease to exist. If one is in deep sleep, one does not come to know about his own existence. He or she may be a banker or a poet, a minister or a scavenger, billionaire or a pauper, when in sleep, he/she does not identify with these selves. That’s why they say that sleep is as good as death. The only difference is that from death there is no return; one becomes a part of the universe. But from sleep one comes back to life. The moment we are back in life, we start asking questions to ourselves. These questions come in the form of thoughts. We not only ask questions but also form ideas, make decisions and as we go along we think a number of things which in fact do not have anything to do with our lives. The more we think, the more this false idea of ‘I’ comes to be strong. The fact is that we do not come to know how strong our ‘I’ feeling is unless and until we are confronted with an adversary situation. People kill each other for parking spaces, good neighbors turn worst enemies for the barking or pooping of a pet dog, people fist fight on the road for one driver not letting other overtake. Each time they fight or kill, they think that they are doing it because they have something called ‘I’ to protect from attack. They never ask this question whether the parking space or a chance to overtake or dog’s poop defines their ‘I’ ness. If a dog’s barking could make someone to take out a pistol from his chest, then his ‘I’ ness is as little as a dog or as he imagines, it is as big as his ideas about his or his neighbor’s dog. The man who fights for his ‘I’ness could be a rich business man or a college student or even a poet. They all attach their ‘I’ ness to the pettiest things in the world. But in sleep such ‘I’s do not exist. In meditation too, one loses this ‘I’ness and gets into a state which is similar to sleep. But the fundamental difference between sleep and meditative realization of the self or the annihilation of ‘I’ ness is that in sleep you do not know that you exist but I meditative realization one ‘knows’ that he/she exists; not as I but as the I, which is the universe itself.
I have read it all. But reading is one thing, realization is another. Not as a scholar but as an enthusiast, I had read a whole lot of spiritual literature during my formative years. The problem is that formative years those years in anybody’s life when one starts thinking too much about ‘I’. Our education system promotes this formation of ‘I’. To become a ‘successful’ individual is the goal of our education. You become a doctor not to serve the society but to earn money. You become an engineer not to make bridges and buildings, but to make money and successful. Girls get educated not to become independent and sublime human beings but either to get a good job or to satisfy certain social demands including marriage. Hence, anything that advices people to leave their pursuit of worldly success is considered to be an abominable idea. But when once people becomes successful in the theatre of the world, they start thinking about their own selves. That’s why most of the people start doing yoga or similar things. There are also they consolidate their ‘I’ ness and feel that they achieved ‘success’ in that front too. There are people who are born with a philosophical bend and they do not attach much value to the worldly life. They become sages in one or the other way. Some people in due course of life realize the unworthiness of worldly life and its cementing aspect called the ‘I’ ness, and leave everything aside and start the enquiry, who am I? But nobody recognizes the fact that in sleep, every day or night they attain what they are seeking. Once they realize that there could be a sleep that is absolute wakefulness then they could continue in that relaxing mode. Nothing will affect them. Most of the people reading this by now has formed this idea that this sounds all good in reading but not in practice. I would say, everyone is not a poet, everyone is not a painter, everyone is not a dancer, everyone is not a scientist and everyone is not everything. People realize their life’s mission as they go along with their lives. The moment they recognize the fact that their life and their mission are not two different things, then they become awakened people. In sleep too they remain awake. In that sense, everyone has a mission in life but they think that the mission and life are two different things. They sleep like dead people and wake up only to think the unnecessary thoughts.
What does a man who could remain awake even when he is in sleep do in his normal life? Such a man becomes the universe itself. He does not become a part of the universe. He realizes that he in himself is the universe. When he knows that he is the universe, that he is not a small ‘I’ but a big ‘I’ then this idea of the other cease to exist. Para and apara, the eternal and that is not eternal, the divine and the mundane become one and the same. For a man who has realized that he is the universal ‘I’, stops to have any bheda bhava, the idea of difference. He is not afraid of leopards or snakes because for him he is not different from a snake. When you are not different from a snake you are need not be afraid of it. In our daily lives, in our worldly lives, human beings are not afraid of snakes or other wild animals. Why, because they have annihilated all the snakes, wild animals and pests from their living environs. After finishing off all the natural beings, human beings live in glass houses, completely protected. But they are still afraid of certain beings. The name of that being is the ‘other’ human being. We are no longer afraid of snakes because they are not there anymore. But we are afraid of human beings because they are in abundance everywhere. Human beings live in a world of mutual fear and suspicion. Hence, they do not believe in their own servants, drivers, security men and anybody who looks different, dress different or speak different. Human beings make laws for themselves so that they could differentiate people further. Your life is on the hands of your driver as he drives you through a hillside in the middle of the night. But still you are afraid of him. When you get out to pee, you take your bag of cash along with you because you do not trust your driver. You do not keep the jewelry outside because you are afraid that your maid servant will take it away. The irony is that human beings do not even believe their Yoga teachers or gurus. And they always say that the world has changed and these days we cannot believe anybody or anything. They do not understand that this is the same opinion others have about them in turn too.
A man or woman who has realized that he is in an eternal sleep, yet in complete wakefulness does not fear the other. He does not have anything to lose. He is rich yet he cannot be robbed. He is rich because his wealth is his realization itself. A robber can take away books but he cannot take away knowledge. The saints are said to be naked people. They are the people who burn their abodes and go out in the open completely naked. We call them mad because they do not conform to our ideas about life which is based on competition, suspicion and success. These people who have burnt down their palaces and gone out in the open naked do not have anything to lose. Whatever kept them bound are now gone. They are free people. They have gone into their sleep which gives them peace and solace, at the same time there they are completely awaken. They are not afraid of people. Their burning of the abodes and walking in nude are metaphorical expressions. That is the only way they could tell people that nothing is needed; neither abodes nor clothes. One who wears sky as clothes and subsists on nature cannot be defeated or robbed. He cannot be contested or held captive. He is a man who has lost his ‘I-ness’ and has become the ‘I’ itself. How can one fight sun with a mirror? In the world of false gods and rich sadhus and gurus, such naked people are a rarity. But they are there and they are not seen in the guise of Sadhus or Sannyasis. There are people, absolute grihastis, who live in marriage and worldly life, completely immersed in practical life still without fear. They handle their worldly issues with equanimity. They are naked from inside. Neighbor’s dog does not challenge him. A big car overtaking his small car does not hurt him. He may not overtly help others. But he does not go out to destroy others because for him there is no other. Annihilating the other for him is annihilating himself, destroying his sleep as well as his wakefulness.
Suddenly I wake up from sleep and I look at my watch. It is four in the evening. Shibu Natesan sleeps tight next to me. I look at his face. No lines of disturbance are seen on his face. My getting up has caused a gentle rocking of the swing cot. It moves. Was I dreaming? Before sleeping, Shibu had told me that we would go to the Ramana Ashram for evening prayer. You will find peace, he had assured. I sit there a bit dazed. I feel a sort of blankness. Then the thoughts start coming one by one; what am I doing here? Where are my children now? What could be my future? Will something happen to me if I go and sit at the prayer hall at the Ramana Ashram? If something happens? Whatever I understood while sleeping was a dream or wakefulness? Is my head aching? Should I take a Dispirin? What about my aching legs? The footwear is so heavy. Shouldn’t I buy a light pair of walking shoes? With a smile I realize that I have come back to the world of little ‘I-ness’. But give it a chance. Give the would be experience also a chance. I turn once again to Shibu. Da Dey, I call him, a code word between us. He opens his eyes and smiles. It’s time, I tell him. No, it’s not the right time, he says and goes back to sleep. The cot swings again. I stand up and see myself marooned in my loneliness and anticipation.