Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Ramana Maharshi and Christianity

First biography of Ramana, by Narasimha Swami, contained many Biblical quotations and comparisons of Ramana to Christ. The Western and specifically Christian influence here is obvious.

Lakshmana Sarma also refers to many Christian sources in his book Maha Yoga:

Jesus told his disciples: Be ye perfect even as thy Father in Heaven is perfect (Maha Yoga, 3).

Sarma says that this refers to being a sage, not a saint. He refers to Jesus’ saying, “Ask,and it shall be given; knock and It shall be opened” (Maha Yoga, 6). And to the saying “know the Truth and let it make you free” (Maha Yoga 22, fn).

And we have also seen how some people like Abhishiktananda have interpreted Ramana
in Christian terms.

But it is not only these people who have used Biblical references in relation to Ramana.Ramana himself quoted the Bible. Ramana went to a Christian school as a boy, so that is where he learned about Christianity. He interpreted his pivotal experience at the age of 16 in terms of his “Father in Heaven.” Humphreys reported in 1911 that Ramana was “well acquainted with Christian History and Bible Times” (Glimpses, 28). In his discussions, Ramana makes frequent quotations and ideas from the Bible, especially the following:

1. “I am that I am”

Be still, do not think, and know that I AM (Conscious Immortality, 49).

Know the Self, and God is known. Of all the definitions of God, none is so well put as the Biblical “I am that I AM’ in the book of Exodus.(Conscious Immortality, 159)

God says “I AM before Abraham.” He does not say “I was” but “I Am’ (Talks, 408).

Your duty is TO BE and not, to be this or that. “I AM THAT I AM” sums up the whole truth: the method is summarized in ‘BE STILL’ (Maharshi’s Gospel, 33)

The Christ also declared that He was even before Abraham (Talks, 127,para. 145; said to Brunton).

The Hebrew Jehovah=I am expresses God correctly (Talks, 106).

TO BE is to realise–hence I AM THAT I AM, I AM is Siva (Reflections,101).

The Cosmic Mind, being not limited by the ego, has nothing separate from itself and is therefore only aware. This is what the Bible means by ‘I am that I am’ (Reflections, 111).

Christ also said that he was before Abraham (Teachings, 28).

“I am that I AM” and “Be still and know that I am God.” (Talks, 307).

Of all the definitions of “God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement” I AM THAT I AM in Exodus (Cap. 3). There are other statements, such as Brahmaivaham, Aham Brahmasmi and Soham. But none is so direct as the name JEHOVAH=I AM. The Absolute Being is what is–It is the Self. It is God. Knowing the Self, God is known. In fact God is none other than the Self.” (Talks. 103)

The ‘I’ thought is the ego and that is lost. The real ‘I’ is ‘I am that I am.’
(Teachings, 58; Talks, 164).

TO BE is to realise hence I AM THAT I AM, I AM is Siva (Reflections,101).

The Cosmic Mind, being not limited by the ego, has nothing separate from itself and is therefore only aware. This is what the Bible means by 'I am that I am' (Reflections, 111).

Of all the definitions of God, none is so well put as the Biblical ‘I am that
I AM’ in the book of Exodus (Conscious Immortality, 159).

An entire article on ‘I Am’ has since appeared in the journal for Ramana’s ashram, The Mountain Path. It collects all the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus. The article specifically refers to Abhishiktananda, and cites some of his letters.

Ramana had a discussion with the sage Yogananda about the nature of the Self. It is
interesting that Ramana refers to the Self as one’s Being, and then refers to the Biblical definition of God in Exodus: “I am that I am.” Ramana also says that if we search for the source of the ego, then Bliss is revealed (Talks 102).

Ramana compares the name of Yahweh to the advaitic experience. He says that the
Hebrew ‘Jehovah’ is equivalent to ‘I am’, and that it expresses God correctly.
Lakshmana Sarma (one of Ramana’s early disciples) refers to Ramana’s statements about
I AM THAT I AM.He also uses Jesus’ statement “My father and I are One” to
describe Ramana’s own enlightenment. He says that Ramana became a “perfect sage”
when he realized that he and Arunachala, whom he called his Father, were one.

We find similar emphases on the ‘I am’ experience in other writers dealing with
comparative mysticism. Rudolf Otto comments on Eckhart’s use of the verse “I am that I am”, and compares this to Shankara.D.T. Suzuki says that all our religious or spiritual experiences start from the name of God given to Moses, “I am that I am.” He says this is the same as Christ’s saying, “I am.”

2. “Be still and know that I am God.”

A certain Christian asked Ramana for advice. Ramana told him to follow his words and
practice:

Be still. Be without the disturbance of your mind. Mind only disturbs your natural stillness. Stillness is your nature. (More Talks p. 77 (18.12.44)

“Be still and know that I am God.” Here stillness is total surrender without a vestige of individuality. Stillness will prevail and there will be no agitation of mind. […] “I am that I am.” “I am” is god–not thinking, “I am God.” Realise “I am” and do not think I am. “Know I am God”–it is said, and not “Think I am God.” (Talks 322-23).

The experience of ‘I am’ is to Be Still (Talks, 187).

The whole Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements: “I am that I AM” and “Be still and know that I am God” (Talks, 307).

All that is required to realize the Self is to “Be Still.” (Talks, 345).

Be still and know that I AM GOD. “Stillness” here means “Being free from thoughts.” (Talks, 458).

The only permanent thing is Reality; and that is the Self. You say, “I am,” “I am going,” “I am speaking,” “I am working,” etc. Hyphenate “I am” in all of them. Thus I–AM, That is the abiding and fundamental Reality.This truth was taught by God to Moses: “I AM that I-AM.” “Be still and know that I–AM God.” So “I–AM” is God. (Talks, 487).

We learn that the thoughts in the waking state form the obstacle to gaining the stillness of sleep. “Be still and know that I AM God.” (Talks, 563).

Be still and know that I am God (Erase the Ego, 24).

The Bible says, “Be Still and Know that I am God” (Reflections, 168).

Be still, do not think, and know that I AM” (Conscious Immortality, 49).

The Bible says, Be still and Know that I am God. (Reflections, 168).

G.V. Subbaramayya reports that at Christmas, 1936, he attended Sri Bhagavan's Jayanti
celebration for the first time.

Many Western visitors had come. One of them, Mr. Maurice Frydman, a Polish Jew of subtle intellect, plied Sri Bhagavan with ingenious pleas for practical guidance for Self-realization. Sri Bhagavan followed his arguments with keen interest but kept silent all the time. When pressed to say something, Sri Bhagavan only quoted from the Bible, “Be still and know that I am God,” and added “The Lord said ‘know’ and not, ‘think’ that I am God.” We understood Sri Bhagavan as meaning that all these arguments were spun by the intellect, the stilling of which was the only way to Realisation.

3. “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

Ramana frequently refers to this saying of Christ:

The Kingdom of God is within you (Chadwick, 70).

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you (Reflections, 82).

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you (Conscious Immortality, 122).

Christ told the simple truth: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (Talks, 92).

Sarma refers to the saying in several places, too. He says that the reference to the
kingdom within you is the egoless state, the heart (Maha Yoga, 114 fn and 129).

4. Sons of God

Ramana understood the meaning of the phrase ‘Son of God’ as that Jesus rose after being crucified and went to heaven:

The body is the cross; the sense of its self-hood is named Jesus; his attainment of the State of the Real Self by the extinction of that sense is the resurrection (Guru-Ramana-Vachana-Mala, 18).

H says that all who have won this state are Sons of God.

5. Christ

Ramana had considerable knowledge of Christ and his teachings. But Ramana interprets
Christ’s sayings in Hindu terms and experience. For example, he interprets Christ as
referring to reincarnation and previous births.He refers to Christ’s saying that he was before Abraham (Teachings, 28). Ramana makes a similar reference in Talks, 127.

Christ also declared he was before Abraham. Ramana sees this in terms of Christ having many incarnations. He compares this to Krishna conforming to the outlook of Arjuna.Jesus says he had taught the truth to Abraham. Ramana sees this as evidence that there is no contradiction between not having a selfhood, and having previous births (Conscious Immortality, 53).

For Ramana, Christ-consciousness and Self-Realisation are all the same.

The body is the cross. Jesus, the son of man, is the ego or 'I-am-the-body'-idea. When the son of man is crucified on the cross, the ego perishes, and what survives is the Absolute Being. It is the resurrection of the Glorious Self, of the Christ, the Son of God (Maharshi’s Gospel, 29).

Ramana was asked, “But how is crucifixion justified? Is not killing a terrible
crime?” His response was,Everyone is committing suicide. The eternal, blissful, natural State has been smothered by this ignorant life. In this way the present life is due to the killing of the eternal, positive Existence. Is it not really a case of
suicide? So, why worry about killing, etc.? (Maharshi’s Gospel 29)

The first question that Major Chadwick asked Ramana was why Jesus called out ‘My
God, My God” while being crucified. Ramana’s answer was,It might have been an intercession on behalf of the two thieves who were crucified with Him (Chadwick, 21).

Similarly, he gives the “inner meaning” of the Biblical narrative that Jesus rose up after being crucified and went to heaven:

The body is the cross; the sense of its self-hood is named Jesus; his attainment of the State of the Real Self by the extinction of that sense is the resurrection.

All those men that have won this State are (alike) Sons of God, since they have overcome maya; they are worthy of being adored.” (Sarma, Guru Ramana, 18).

And Ramana says that if the ego is killed the eternal Self is revealed in all its glory: Jesus the Son of Man is the ego, or the ‘I am the body’ idea. When he is
crucified he is resurrected, a glorious Self, Jesus, the Son of God!” “Give
up this life if thou wouldst live.” Matt. 10:39 (Conscious Immortality, 88).

Christ is the ego. The Cross is the Body. When the ego is crucified, and it perishes, what survives is the Absolute Being (God), (cf. “I and my Father are one”) and this glorious survival is called Resurrection (Talks, 86).

Many of those who sought advice from Ramana also had knowledge of Christ. In 1908,
V. Ramaswamy Iyer: his question to Ramana was, “Sir, Jesus and other great souls came
into the world to redeem sinners. Is there no hope for me?” Ramana replied in English
that there was hope (Narasimha, 96).

He was asked regarding the “lost soul” spoken of by Jesus. Ramana replied, “There is
nothing to be lost except that which is acquired. The Self can never be lost” (Talks, 18).

Evans-Wentz asked Ramana whether Jesus was a Perfect Being possessing occult powers
(siddhis). Ramana replied that Jesus could not have been aware of his powers.

Ramana relates a strange story (not found in the Bible), of a man cured of his blindness by Jesus. Jesus later met him and asked him why he had become wicked. The man said that when he was blind, he could not commit sin, but since Jesus had cured him, he grew wicked and Jesus was responsible for his wickedness (Talks, 17)

6. Is God personal?

One of Brunton’s criticisms of Ramana was that Ramana did not believe in a personal
God. And yet there are statements where Ramana says the opposite. Ramana responds
to the question, “Is God personal?” as follows:

M. Yes, He is always the first person, the I, ever standing before you.Because you give precedence to worldly things, God appears to have receded to the background. If you give up all else and seek Him alone, He alone will remain as the I, the Self (Maharshi’s Gospel, 55).

But other statements indicate a God far removed from our personal concerns:God has no purpose. He is not bound by any action. The world’s activities cannot affect him. (Osborne, Path of Self-Knowledge, 87, in answer to question is not this world the result of God’s will?)

7. Other statements by Ramana about Christianity

Ramana criticized some Christians for clinging to the idea of a permanently real and
separate ego, although he says that the greatest mystics did not do so (Osborne, Path of Self-Knowledge, 46). With respect to the mystics, he responds to a question about the Christian mystic St. Theresa (Conscious Immortality, 43). Ramana also refers to St. Paul.He said that Paul was always thinking about Christ and the Christians, so when he returned to self-consciousness after his experience, he identified his realization with this predominant thought. Ramana referred to Ravana as an example. He hated Rama, and never ceased to think of him, but in dying, Rama was the uppermost thought in his mind and so he realized God. “Not a question of love or hate, just what is in the mind.” (Chadwick 24).

Ramana refers to the Christian idea of prayer. He says that Western thinkers pray to God and finish with “Thy Will be done!” He comments that it is better to remain silent: If His Will be done why do they pray at all? It is true that the Divine Will
prevails at all times and under all circumstances. The individuals cannot act of their own accord. Recognise the force of the Divine Will and keep quiet (Talks, 546).

Even Ramana’s words to his disciples are similar to what is recorded of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Lo I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20): Bhagavan is always with you, in you and you are yourself Bhagavan.

Source: Jivanmukti Book

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