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Rama.

na Mahar i: Mystic as translator
Thomas A. Forsthoefel
Ramana Mahar.si (1879-1950) has been hailed as a ' mystic of the first order'
(Bharati 1976: 29),~ whose life and teaching represent a quintessential expression
of modern nondualism. During his many years at Arun. acala, the sacred hill near
the South Indian town of Tiruvannamalai, Raman.a was patiently insistent upon
nonconceptual, nondual awareness as the ultimate truth of reality. But such a
truth requires, both for philosophical coherence as well as for compassionate
teaching, a doctrine of ' weak ineffability.' In this case, concepts and categories
are fundamentally flawed as applied to ultimate reality, unable in any final or
decisive way to ' capture' that reality: paradoxically, to accept this as an inelucta-
ble datum does in fact say at least one thing about that reality, namely, that it is
' ineffable.' Moreover, weak ineffability allows, for the benefit of the disciple,
various teaching strategies which fundamentally engage the mind, if onl y, in the
end, to transcend the mind. Perhaps Raman.a's most prominent and effective
form of teaching was the so-called ' silent upade,~a,' which Wilhlem Halbfass
properly, though cryptically, notes was ' at least as important as what he did say'
(1992: 384). However, Raman.a did engage in various teaching strategies, of
which translation of Sanskrit texts was one. This essay examines his Tamil
translation of the medieval classic, Vivekacad. aman. i, often held to be written by
Safikara and will highlight continuities with the Sanskrit text as well as relevant
variations which accord with Rama.na's own version of nondualism in theory
and practice. These translation choices become sites of commentary f or Rama.na,
revealing nuances in the substance and method of his teaching while at the same
time showing an affinity for a traditional Hindu pedagogy.
There is much to note in Raman.a's translation.'- First, he appears to take
liberty with his rendition in a number of ways, the most obvious, though
perhaps of less critical importance overall, being the order of the text. Raman.a
takes poetic license with the arrangement of the verses, occasionally skipping
International Journal of Hindu Studies 5, 2 (August 2001 ): 109-30
© 2003 by the World Heritage Press Inc.
110 / Thomas A. Forsthoefel
verses altogether; somet i mes however the ' missing' verse appears, though out of
sequence; so some reconstructive effort on the part of the reader is required. Of
more importance, however, are the occasions when Ramana adds his own
thoughts to the translation of the text, offering his own glosses of technical
terms of Advaita or summaries of what he takes to be the ' essential' elements of
Vedhnta. Often such inclusions are consistent with Advaita philosophy, though
occasionally they reflect a significant creative contribution to Advaita thought.
This is most evident in Rama.na's use of the term '1-I' (aham-aham, n~t3-ndn_) as
the best locution to signify the immediate flash of liberating consciousness.
These additions and glosses introduce a modern variation on an enduring theme
in Hindu philosophy, namely, the ubiquity of the nondual Self. While in the
main ! agree with Joseph Milne that a consistency can be seen among nondualist
thinkers ' up to and including Raman.a' (1997: 185), I would suggest that
Rama.na nuances his version of Advaita in interesting and subtle ways and,
moreover, uses his Tamil translation of the Vivekacad. dmani as a principle
mechanism to do so.
The primary difference between the two is their differing emphases in the
epi st emol ogy of religious experience, a particularly lively area of research and
debate in cont emporary philosophy of religion. Cont emporary thinkers, such as
William Alston and Alvin Plantinga, have used the epistemological categories
of internalism and externalism in their efforts to probe the epistemic merits of
religious experience. These categories are useful heuristics to help us understand
how we know anything all, let alone how we know religiously, lnternalism
proposes that individuals are equipped with the relevant mechanisms to arrive at
justification and the account of knowledge. These mechanisms are internal to the
subject, and the j ust i fyi ng factors in the account of knowledge are somehow
directly and cognitively available to the subject. Externalism is the denial of
this thesis and holds that at least some of the justifying factors in the process of
knowing need not be internally accessible; they may be external to the agent,
and they may be contingent as well. These, in the case of religious knowing,
may include socially established doxastic mechanisms, replete with appropriate
intellectual and ethical checks and balances. These categories can be applied as
useful heuristics to Advaita. Gi ven the axioms of nondualism, the inward,
introspective turn of internalism seems at first glance an appropriate interpreta-
tion of Sankara' s epi st emol ogy of religious experience, and this certainly has
been the position advanced by twentieth-century apologists for Advaita, such as
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and T. M. P. Mahadevan.
While an extensive analysis of Sankara' s epistemology of religious experience
is beyond the scope of this article, let me suggest that internalist presumption
notwithstanding, Sankara relies rather heavily on externalist mechanisms in
R a m a n a Ma h a r , y i : M y s t i c a s t r a n s l a t o r / 1 I 1
the process of religious knowing; these include , ~rut i , g u r u , a d h i k d r a , and
s a m. n y d s a . Rama.na, on the other hand, operates much more decisively from an
inward or internalist epistemology of religious experience than ~aflkara, relying
less on external (and cultural) propaedeutics. His is a particularly modern
version of nondualism, one with no formal affiliations to the m a t h a s of S.rflgeri,
Badrin~th, K~fici, or any other traditional Advaitin institutions. Indeed, it is
probably misguided to identify Raman.a as an ' Advaitin' at all, since Advaita
represents an entire cultural and institutional matrix which minimally consists
of formative texts, traditions, and teachers; all of these in turn constitute an
' external circuitry,' as it were, a compl ex set of socially established doxastic
mechanisms which inform and shape traditional Advaitin programs of liberation
and their subsequent verbal claims. While there is much to note in Rama.na's
translation, here I will be most concerned with the mechanisms which produce
saving knowledge. Raman.a's decisive inward or internalist epistemology opens
his ' modern' version of Advaita to a broader milieu, in effect ' liberating'
Advaita from its local context. In doing so, he strengthens the universalism that
fundamentally accords with the metaphysics of nondualism.
RAMANA' S I NTRODUCTI ON TO THE V I V E K A C I ] D . T t M A N . I
Looki ng at Raman.a's prose introduction, his translation of the V i v e k a c ~ . a m a n . i
is useful for it reveals something of Raman.a's view of the universe, much of
which is in keeping with time-honored views in Hindu, especially Advaitin,
metaphysics. First, he recognizes the universal desires for happiness and
freedom from suffering. The former however is our true nature, the latter is not;
ignorance is the endemic flaw which traps humanity in the endless cycle of
existence, typically generating a misguided program of substituting ephemeral
pleasures l ot true bliss. However, uttering words that could have been spoken by
the Buddha, Rama.na writes: "But there never is happiness without suffering'
(Maharsi 1 9 8 7 : I 1 1 ) ) It is for this reason, holds Raman.a, that Lord Siva,
assuming the form of Safikara ( c a i l k a r a r c a i i k a r a v ~ s a m p a n . t.u), wrote the
commentaries on the VedS~ntic canon and, moreover, demonstrated the path to
liberation ( n ~ r va_li) in his own life (val_i kat.t.i nat.antun. ) .
This last point is significant because Sankara hi msel f never appeals to his
own experience as proof for the truth of nondualism. But Raman.a here clearly
indicates that the moral authority of a spiritual leader has considerable
persuasive force. While Sankara was highly discreet about his own personal
experience, he nonetheless recognized the authority of a holy teacher in the
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Upade~asahasri, as did the author of the Vivekac~damatfi. Rama.na also
recognizes the importance of authentic personal witness. He was discreet about
the fruits of his experience, though not as discreet apparently as 5;afikara. For
example, the importance of his account of realization at the age of seventeen lies
in the fact that it is not only an ex post facto interpretation of a particular,
extraordinary experience but also that such kind of an experience becomes a
model for the spiritual path. Spiritual success requires neither great learning nor
erudition but an ability, so well exemplified by Raman.a, to ' di ve within' to
discover the end of the body-mind and the source of empirical consciousness,
that is, the deathless Sel f (Swami 1993: 21). The importance of his representa-
tion is underscored by its repetition in virtually every account of his life, either
in biographies or as introductions to his writings or teachings (fOr example,
Mahar.si 1992: 1, 1993: 7-9; Swami 1993: 21-22).
In addition to his personal account, Raman.a makes other references to his
experience. For example, Raman.a appeals to his own experience to account for
the authority of his experience, not participation in a guru parampara. When
asked by Olivier Lacombe if his teachings fol l owed those of Safikara, Ramana
replied, ' Bhagavan' s teaching is an expression of his own experience and
realization. Others find that it tallies with Shankara' (Mahar.si 1993: 9). No
lineage renders his teaching authoritative, but his direct experience does.
Elsewhere, following a discussion of what might be called ' spiritual anat omy, '
Raman.a locates the heart on the right side of the thoracic cavity, not on the left.
When pressed about this, Raman.a insists that he is not speaking of the physical
heart but of Brahman itself, and in an embodied soul, this inner witness is on
the right side of the cavity. How does he know this? ' The heart of which I speak
is on the right. That is my experience, and I require no authority for it' (Maharsi
1993: 32). Mahadevan captures the point of Ramana' s ' plenary experience' as
well in his review of Raman.a's various references to ~ruti and smrti. According
to Mahadevan, such texts were brought to Raman.a's attention after his enlight-
enment experience; he read and reviewed them in order to clear the doubts of his
disciples: in the end, however, ' it is quite clear that these citations are offered
only as confirmations of the truth discovered by Bhagavan hi msel f in his own
experience' (Mahar.si 1994b: iv). Mahadevan' s point is that experience came
first in the case of Raman.a and words, categories, and explanations came later.
While Mahadevan minimizes the significance of Raman. a' s religious and cultural
background as a contributing factor in Raman.a's account of his experience, not
to mention the actual experience itself, his point is clear: Rama.na's authority
lies not with a battery of texts but with his own di rect experience of enlight-
enment.
Returning to Raman.a's introduction, he suggests that Safikara wrote the
Rama¢za Maharsi: Mystic as translator / 113
Vivekacaddmatzi tbr those mumuk.yus less skilled in scholarship but still ardent
for liberation. He then offers a short summary of the text befbre commencing
his translation. His introduction is significant t or it demonstrates Raman.a's
appropriation of traditional terms and fitting them to his program of liberation.
In his summary of the Vivekacad. dman. i, he highlights the traditional Advaitin
emphasis on knowledge as the proximate means t br liberation; such efficacious
knowledge, however, ' is achieved onl y through steady inquiry' (Mahar.si 1987:
112). Additionally, his representation of the Vivekacad. dmatfi emphasizes both
the importance of the guru to teach the met hod of proper inquiry and the
importance of one' s own eflbrt to attain ultimate bliss (tat3 pirayattatjam~
mukkiyam). In the end, such effort or personal experience, ' felt knowledge, ' as it
were, is ultimately productive of liberation, t br ' t he bliss of liberation is
unavailable by mere book knowledge' (Mahar.si 1987:112).
Raman.a then summarizes what he takes to be the purport of the Viveka-
cad. amat3i, namely, the process of inquiry (vicara), which he defines according
to the traditional Advaitin method of gravan, a, manana, and nididhy~sana.
Sravan. a begins the destruction (nacam) of ignorance and presupposes a working
relationship with a realized teacher. Elsewhere, Raman.a was fond of a particular
metaphor to describe the readiness of individuals for ultimate truth; he admits
three kinds of disciples and likens them to gunpowder, dry charcoal, and wet
charcoal (Mahar.si 1992:18). Those already purified are prepared to hear the truth
of the Sel f may realize it instantly, like the flash of ignited gunpowder. Less
prepared souls must attend carefully to the truth, steeping it deepl y with steady
inquiry until, like the slowly burning charcoal, the truth burns slowly and
consistently in these disciples. Others need various practices of purification to
prepare the soul | br truth. In this case, the soul is likened to the damp charcoal
that first must dry out before being kindled. The didactic description of these
grades of aspi rant s--hi ghest , medium, and l owest --appears in Vicdrasaiz-
graham: the highest are prepared to determine the nature of the real through
inquiry; the medium direct the mind to rest in the heart through continuous
meditation; and the lowest must rely on the mechanics of breath control in order
to master mind control (Maharsi 1994b: 37). Release however is the same in
every case----destruction of the mi nd- - and so all efforts have as their aim the
control of the mind (Mahar.si 1994b: 36).
His representation of manana compares well to the ~tm~naonaviveka found in
the Vivekacadaman. i, especially in the analysis of the ko.~as. This process, which
also parallels Saflkara's anvayavyatireka method of interpreting mah~vakyas,
determines that the kogas and the entire aggregate of the mental and physical
universe are not-the-Self or ' not - I / Thr ough manana (sustained reflection), the
inner Self, residing in the heart, is delicately drawn out ' like a stalk of grass
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drawn out from its sheat h' (Mahar.si 1987: 36).
Appropri at e instruction of the Sel f and the Supr eme is upadega and includes a
proper analysis of mahavakyas such as 'tat tram asi.' The guru then enjoins the
disciple to remain in state of aham-brahman. However, the l brmer tendencies
of the mi nd (parva vacanaikal.) constitute an obst ruct i on (tat.ai). Nididhyasana
amount s to resolving the mind in the heart until these t brces are destroyed. Thi s
is also called by various cognate terms, such as atmOnusandhanam, bhakti,
yoga, or dhydna. What is interesting to note is that Raman. a' s first gloss on
nididhydsana---atmanusandhanarn--includes bot h analytical and affective over-
tones. The verb anusandha means ' t o inquire i nt o, ' ' t o search, ' ' t o exami ne, '
and so on, but its semant i c range additionally includes ' t o cal m, ' ' t o qui et , ' and
' t o compose. ' One mi ght then interpret Raman. a' s use of the term atmanusan-
dhanam as the ' cal m that emerges through i nqui ry. ' To convey the importance
of such extended contemplation, Rama.na borrows a met aphor from many
traditions of meditation; he suggest s that unswervi ng concentration on the
Self, constant like the unbroken fl ow of oil, produces nirvikalpa samadhi, a
nonconceptual awareness of the effulgent Self. Thi s awareness amount s to a
' knowi ng beyond knowl edge, ' an awareness that transcends all categories and
conceptualizations; this process, which clearly uses the mi nd in order finally to
transcend the mi nd' s dualistic tendencies, ' readi l y and spont aneousl y yields that
direct, immediate, unobstructed, and universal perception of Brahman, which
is at once knowl edge and experience and which transcends time and space'
(Mahar.si 1987: 113).
RAMAN. A' S TRANS LATI ON
Despite a rather tree arrangement of the verses, Raman. a' s translation of the
Vivekacad. dman. i in general faithfully represents the principal themes of the text.
This is not to say his translation is ' accurat e, ' i f by this one means a scrupulous
attention to the order of verses and the sequences of words and phrases. Raman.a
tends to rearrange the order of the text and to omi t or condense Sanskrit words
or phrases, even if much of his translation does faithfully capture the Sanskrit
text. Thi s itself is none too serious, though it somet i mes makes for a difficult
effort to match Tami l sentences with Sanskrit verses. For exampl e, Viveka-
c~d. amani 494 expresses the ubiquity of the Supreme as the ultimate reality
behind all phenomenal appearances, including deities, in a manner that clearly
echoes the tenth chapter of Bhagavad Gfta. Raman.a condenses several verses
surrounding VivekacfMaman. i 494 and translates, ' I indeed am Brahman, Vi.sn. u,
Rama.na Mahar,yi: Mystic as translator / 115
Rudra, T~a, Sad~giva' (Mahar.si 1987: 170). Such a sentence certainly is faithful
to the spirit of Vivekacad. dmat.zi, if not to its letter. Indeed, Raman. a' s omi ssi on
of Nfir~yan.a and his inclusion of Sadfi~iva may first raise the question of
sectarian bias; but on cl oser inspection Vivekacad. dmat.zi 490 includes Sadfi~iva,
and N~rayan. a of course is another name t br Vi.sn. u.
Al t hough he takes liberty with the arrangement of the Vivekacad. aman. i, there
is no question that his translation is true to nondual phi l osophy and true even to
numerous ancillary concerns of Advaita. For exampl e, his representation of the
qualities of a guru seems to capture well the list in the VivekacfM. 6mat.zi 33- 40,
as does his representation of the ~tm~n~tmatattvaviveka especially in his
anal ysi s and estimate of the human body (83-105) and of the kogas (147-88).
Still, there are places where Raman.a omi t s a word or t wo of the verse, adds
t erms that are not in the Sanskrit text, or interpolates a bri ef excursus. Some of
these variations, in turn, do not seem to be overl y invasive. For exampl e, the
repeat ed refrain of Vivekacad. amatfi 408-10, hrdi kalayati vidvan, is omi t t ed; its
omi ssi on may be somet hi ng of an injustice to the Sanskrit, but it does not
vitiate the overall continuity of the Tamil version with its Sanskrit original.
Moreover, resolving the mind in the heart is precisely the program of Raman.a' s
met hod of inquiry. In the main, the fact that he occasionally omi t s words or
phrases appears to be particular translation choices that do not vitiate the program
of the Vivekacad. dman. i. Other variations, however, do seem to hi ghl i ght
Raman. a' s unique approach to Advaita. The fol l owi ng pages will highlight some
of these variations as well as stress important points of continuity between the
Sanskri t Vivekacad.~mat.zi and Rama. na' s Tamil translation.
One of important sites of continuity in the two versions is the consideration
of the means which produce liberation. Raman.a accurately translates several
verses of the Vivekacagl. aman. i which relativize the merits of external factors and
emphasi ze the importance of internal experience. For exampl e, Raman. a translates
Vivekacad. aman. i 281 quite literally, ' [One knows the sell] through scripture,
reasoning, and one' s own experience' (Mahars'i 1987: 148). The Tami l reflects
Rama. na' s own hierarchy of preferred soteriological mechani sms, t ermi nat i ng in
' one' s own experience (sv~_nupavatt~lum).'
And although the Sanskrit Vivekacad. amat.zi does indeed relativize the
i mport ance of scripture, the text nevertheless stresses the need for hearing and
internalizing of the truth of scripture (241--45). Raman.a concurs in his transla-
tion, for he clearly includes the Vivekacadamani's insistence on internalizing
the (nondual) truth of scripture as part of the process of liberation. Raman.a
el sewhere repeats the VivekacOgl.~mat.zi's emphasi s on the need for scripture; one
exampl e illustrates both the theory of innate mok.ya and the witness val ue of
scripture: ' Precisely being the partless Brahman is liberation: this i t sel f is the
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esoteric conclusion of the entire Vedanta to which gruti testifies' (Mahar.si 1987:
169; emphasis added).
Additionally, Vivekacad. dman. i 474 offers a summary of the means of valid
knowledge for the mumuks, u: scripture, reasoning, the words of the guru, and
one' s own experience are the pramdn, as of liberation. Raman.a offers a literal
translation that accords well with the Sanskrit: ' curut i , yukt i , kuruvdcanam,
akat t i l ul l . a tan anupav am ivai pram~t.zaizkal.' (Mahar.si 1987: 169). What is
interesting to note here is the implied call to inner experience that appears in
both the Sanskrit and Tamil (Sanskrit antah. -siddha, literally 'perfected
internally' or ' perfected within' ; Tamil akat t i l ul.l.a a_nupavam, ' experi ence which
is internal' ). This is in keeping with the introspective turn first experienced and
then advocated by Raman. a and suggests another reason why he was drawn to the
Vivekacad. amani .
Still, the author of the Vivekacad. amani was not afraid to minimize the merits
of scripture, nor was Rama.na. Indeed, Raman.a was a frequent critic of ' book
learning,' and so the Vivekacad. aman. i ' s own negative estimation of erudition
suggests another reason why Raman. a found it appealing, for it accords well with
his own predispositions. Following in this spirit, Rama.na accurately represents
Vivekacadamat3i 6, important for its devaluation of typical religious practices
and its consequent valorization of transcendent knowledge: ' No matter what one
does for whatever number of eons- - r ead the scriptures, perform paj d to gods, do
ritual action, worship spi ri t s--wi t hout knowl edge of the nondual Brahman
liberation is impossible' (Mahar.si 1987: 115).
Similarly, he offers a rather literal translation of Vivekacad. amani 59, which
poetically dismisses the ultimate importance of scripture: ' If one is ignorant of
the nature of the ultimate, reading scripture is ineffective, and indeed after one
knows the Supreme, reading scripture is completely unnecessary' (Mahars.i
1987: 122). Indeed, according to Rama.na's Tamil rendition of Vivekac&t. aman. i
60, one must ' cross the great forest of gast ras which dupe the mi nd' and rely,
with the help a realized teacher, on a particular kind of experiential knowledge of
the Sel f to be liberated (Mahar.si 1987: 122).
In Vivekacad. amani 479, Raman.a follows the Sanskrit which in this case
makes no reference to ' inner experience' but instead emphasizes one' s own
reasoning powers (t an yukt i yal um) , scripture ( curut i pramat.zattalum), and the
clarifying words of the gur u (uraitta kuruvacanat t al um) as the means by which
the disciple knows the Sel f ( at mat at t uvam a_rintu). Still, all this generates the
direct experience of the nonduai Self, and indeed, following the disciple' s brief
(ko~ca kal am) experience of heightened absorption in the Self, the disciple offers
his salutations to the gur u and honors him with the epithet, ' O One of consum-
mate experience! (maka_nubhava).' Such a title reveals both the met hod and the
Ramana Mahar,.~i: Myst i c as t ransl at or / 117
goal of Raman.a's project t br ultimate awareness: a particular kind of experience
which is both revelatory and sell-guaranteeing. And yet it is an extraordinary,
special kind of experience. Concerning this unique experience Ramana once
explained, ' What is anubhava? It is only going beyond the pairs of opposites or
the triputis' of knower, known, and knowledge (Mudaliar 1989: 216).
Such knowledge is nonconceptual and nondual, a kind of knowing beyond
knowledge. The experience of the Self is a particular kind of knowledge which
should not imply a localized knower - - someone who has knowledge of the
Sell" for in keeping with the premise of Advaita, there is nothing separate
from the Sel f that can be known. Knowledge, on this take, is a direct awareness
of the one real in which the duality of subject and object has ceased to exist.
Concerning the triput.i Raman.a is quite clear: ' There is a reality beyond these
three. These appear and disappear, whereas the truth is eternal' (Mahar.si 1994a:
342). The authority with which he speaks is noteworthy. Raman.a here does not
engage in debate or persuade with incontrovertible logic; instead, he issues a
comprehensi ve pronouncement about the nature of reality. The implicit source of
the authority is no scriptural canon or canons of logic but the truth of Ramana' s
own experience.
To help the disciple access the reality beyond subject and object, Raman.a
highlights the importance of single-minded concentration necessary to eliminate
mental chatter and to prepare for the flash of 'I-1,' what he calls the aham-
sphurti. In his other works as well as in his translation of the Vivekacad. amat.ff,
Raman.a frequently uses the Tamil term nik.yt.ai (' medi t at i on' ) to convey this
sense of heightened concentration. However, he borrows terms from early and
later Yoga traditions to gloss absorption in the Self, in effect redefining them
according to his principles. For example, in his introduction to the Viveka-
cad. ~mani, he speaks of nira, ikalpa samadhi, his term t br asampraj ~dt a sam~dhi
in the Yoga tradition. But the Vivekac~.aman. i rarely uses these terms and
certainly not in the highly technical program of psychological transformation
found in the Yoga Satra. In fact, there is no reference to ' nirvikalpa samddhi ' in
the Yoga Sat ra. The four samapat t i s of Yoga Sat ra 1. 41 imply heightened
states of awareness ' with cognition' (sampraj~dta). These four states are 'argu-
mentative' (savitarka), ' nonargumentative' (nirvitarka), ' reflective' (savicdra),
and ' superreflective' (nirvicdra) (Eiiade 1990: 80). These technical terms refer to
an intense training of the mind, a gradual penetration of an object of meditation
through single-pointed concentration until one obtains a state in which subject
and object disappear and being and knowing become fused. At this point in the
Yoga system, one is prepared to ' enter' an even more refined state in which
consciousness receives a direct revelation of the Sel f (Eiiade 1990: 83; Miller
1995: 39-42).
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But this hyperintense program of psychol ogy is hardly the agenda of
Vivekacad. dman. i or of Raman.a. Raman.a nowhere recommends the arduous
psychological program of yoga as ul t i mat el y effective because it i mpl i es a
process of becomi ng, somet hi ng bot h Raman.a and Safikara considered anti-
thetical to the truth. Concerni ng the f amous maxi m in the Mund. aka Upanisad,
' He who knows Brahman becomes Br ahman' (3.2.9), Raman.a is blunt: ' I t is not
a matter of becomi ng but bei ng' (Mudal i ar 1989: 232). El sewhere, he comment s,
' I s it not ludicrous? To know Hi m and become Hi m? They are mere words. The
sage is Br ahman- - t hat is all' (Mahar.si 1994a: 173).
While Raman.a does concede some t emporary benefit to breath control,
penetrating inquiry remains his preferred mechani sm to reveal one' s true Self.
Still, Rama.na typically appeals to nirvikalpa sam~dhi, a nondiscursive
realization of the Sel f voi d of all conceptualization (vikalpa) (Mahar.si 1987:
113, 123, 157-58). Occasi onal l y he adds a further gloss of the term, speaki ng of
sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi, a t erm which also does not appear in the Yoga
Satra and often suggests Tantric overtones. For exampl e, in his review of
various Yoga traditions, Mircea Eliade exami ned medi eval schools of Tantra,
especially that of KSn. ha, and suggests the tbllowing:
Li ke the brahman of the Upani.sads and Vedanta, and the nirvana of the
Mah~y,~nists, the state of sahaja is indefinable; it cannot be known
dialectically, it can onl y be apprehended through actual experience .... One
' real i zes' the state of sahaja by transcending the dualities (1990: 268--69).
While Raman. a is hardly concerned with the more outr~ met hods of Tantra, he is
concerned with the innate (sahaja) quality of liberation. His appropri at i on of
various technical terms in yoga illustrate his use of t hem for his own particular
purposes. Less concerned with a careful progression of ecstatic states according
to traditional yoga, he is more concerned with a particular kind of innate state
(sahaja sthiti) that transcends all concept s and dualities. Rama.na hi msel f clearly
knew what he was doing in his creative departure from the Yoga school:
In yoga the t erm samadhi refers to some kind of trance and there are various
kinds of samadhi. But the samadhi I speak of is different. It is sahaja
samadhi. From here you have samadhana (steadiness) and you remain calm
and composed even while you are active. You realize that you are moved by
the deeper real Sel f within. You have no worries, no anxieties, no cares, lor
you come to realize that there is nothing bel ongi ng to you. You know that
everyt hi ng is done by somet hi ng with which you are in consci ous union
(Mahar.si 1992: 150- 5 ! ).
Ramana Mahar,yi: Myst i c as t r ans l at or / 119
This conscious union is sahaj a samadhi . Indeed, Ramana uses various t erms to
indicate the Supreme, nondual real: God, the Self, the Heart, the ' I - I ' ; s ahaj a
may be included among these synonyms of the divine to indicate that one' s Sel f
is the real, natural state of one' s being. When a questioner worried over the
transience of states of samfidhi, Raman. a replied with the same poetic sensibility
which he t ypi cal l y used when gl ossi ng traditional terms: ' What is samadhi ?
Samadhi is one' s essential nature. How then can it come and go?' (Mahar.si
1994a: 552).
Another slight variation also emphasi zes the external mechani sms of gur u and
gruff and is shown in his reproduction of the s. at s ~dhanas ampat . Here he tbllows
the Vivekacad. aman. i ' s gloss on f r addhf i (faith), with one notable exception.
The Sanskrit text holds that faith is the ' f i r m conviction of the truth of scripture
and the words o f a g u r u ' (Vivekacad. 6mani 25). Rama.na translates: ' Fai t h is the
certainty which accepts both the truth of the words of Vedfintic scriptures and
the words of a gur u' (Mahar.si 1987: 117). However, he adds that faith ' i s the
cause of direct awareness of Brahman (cfiksfitkaratti_r k~tuva_na ci rat t ai ) , ' which
slightly nuances the Sanskrit text which says ' fai t h is that by which the real is
perceived (sfi yayd vastu upal abhyat e) . ' Both versi ons seem to gi ve pride of
place to faith in the causal matrix leading to liberation. Thi s is at first
perplexing, if one operates out of a typical theistic understanding of faith.
But faith here is not the devot i onal i sm of theistic Vedanta whereby one
recognizes one' s difference from the divine and surrenders to the Supreme in
humble submission, even in servitude ( kai i zka~a) . God and surrender are indeed
often referred to in Rama. na' s comment s with disciples, as we saw above;
however, he had little patience for the dualistic presupposi t i ons of some forms
of Vai~n.avism: ' So God cannot get on without their services? On the contrary,
God asks: "Who are you to do service to MeT' He is al ways saying: "I am
within you; who are you?" One must try to realize that and not speak of service'
(Mudaliar 1989: 227). Still, surrender is an important psychol ogi cal moment in
the life of the disciple. Surrender here means gi vi ng up of private plans and
particular agenda, all of which are marked by will and pleasure. Surrender is
letting go of a constricted identity, the ego, in favor of the unlimited Self.
So the i mport ance of faith as part of the causal matrix for realization should
be clear. Faith al l ows for a restructuring of mind and affect to receive and deepen
Vedfintic truth. One' s mind is refashioned according to the truth of nondualism.
But while faith hardly amount s here to popul ar devot i onal i sm, it still suggests,
at least initially, a cogni t i ve assent and affective resolution perhaps best seen in
popul ar devotional movement s. This is why the aut hor of the Vivekac~.ama.ni
also adds that ' among the mechani sms which produce liberation, bhakt i indeed
is supreme' (32). Ramana concurs in his translation: ' among the means which
120 / Thomas A. Forsthoefel
result in the attaining of liberation, bhakti al one enjoys highest prestige (baktiy¢
mikavum cirOks, t.am)' (Mahars'i 1987: 118). The reason for the high prestige of
devotion in the process of liberation is the same as that of faith. Devotion, as
faith, consists of a mental and volitional energy whose out come is the
refashioning of heart and mind. This energy in Raman.a's philosophy and that of
the Vivekacad. dmani springs from the same source: the inefthble Self; therelbre,
the energy of concentration which focuses on this source is the same, however it
is termed. This is why Raman.a says, in his introduction to the Vivekacad. aman. i,
that 'nididhydsana which is constancy in the self (dtmd_nu-cantdnam) is
otherwise called bhakti, yoga, dhydna' (Mahar.si 1987: 113).
Such constancy of course demands individual effort, anot her theme we saw in
the various dialogues collected by Rama.na's disciples. Thi s theme is repeated in
the Vivekacud. dman. i (5), and Raman. a highlights it with a slight variance in 110:
[Vivekacad. dmani:] Having renounced all action, let the intelligent, the wise,
who are prepared for the practice of the self, strive for the liberation from the
bonds of existence.
[Ramana:] Therefore the one possessed of great courage . . . . having rejected the
entire lot of action and having renounced the cycle of existence which consists
of birth and death, must make effort in order to attain liberation (Mahar.si
1987: 116).
Raman.a's translation admittedly is quite close to the Sanskrit version. They
both of course emphasize effort. The Sanskrit however seems more hortatory; its
main verb after all is in the optative tense. Raman.a's version seems to describe
both a normative model of renunciation and a normative discipline. As in the
Sanskrit, Raman.a's translation includes adverbial participles which indicate a
preliminary phase of training and practice (' having rejected, ' ' having renounced' )
but then concludes with a common normative construction in Tamil, the
infinitive plus v~n.t.um. Raman.a also reduces the number of the subject from
plural to singular, in a sense constructing not only a normat i ve program (' must
make effort ' ) but also a single, normative exemplar, the ' courageous one. '
Although individual effort, necessarily with faith, also is part of the causal
matrix leading to liberation, the mumuk.yu is not without assistance; the role of
guru is highlighted in both original and translation. The guru--in the end the
supreme Sel f works within and without the disciple to draw him internally to
access the immutable real. While this is the ultimate truth of the ' theory of
guru,' according to Raman.a, he nonetheless confers importance to the physical
guru as well. Again, part of the appeal of the Vivekacftddman. i for Raman.a is
Ramana Mahar,.s'i: Mystic as translator / 121
precisely its model of the guru-.~i..~ya relationship, for it accords with his under-
standing of the importance of that relationship. A fivanmukta has inestimable
moral and persuasive authority. Better to associate with him (satsai~g) and
thereby benefit in numerous ways: doubts cleared, passions calmed, perspective
reordered. In short, the guru model s a way of being in the world; but this is no
mere vocational disposition, as, say, an artist models a bohemian lifestyle or a
scholar models a life of research. More correct is that the realized guru is being,
as Raman.a concluded from the Mun. d. aka verse; so, as a result of conscious
union (sahaja sam~dhi) with the Self, the fivanmukta emanates compassion,
wisdom, and grace. In short, the compelling witness of a life integrated with
wisdom provides a compelling ' epi st emol ogy of holiness' very much wort hy of
scrutiny and, where appropriate, perhaps worthy of imitating.
We noticed above that faith is part of the causal matrix which terminates in
liberation, but both the Tamil text and its Sanskrit original insist that the object
of faith includes the ' words of the guru' (Tamil kuru vakkivam; Sanskrit guru
vakya). The guru hi msel f is extolled in the beginning of the Vivekacad.amat3i,
when a qualified aspirant beseeches him, and at the end of the text, when the
disciple glows in the knowledge of the Self, owing to the efficacious upadega
of the guru. Raman.a's translation of these sections is again true to the spirit
of the text, if not to its letter. The realized teacher is pure (nirmalaray), one
who has terminated the state of bondage (pava pantattai niviruttippavaray),
omniscient (carvamum a_rinthavaray), pure compassion (kirupacakaray), best
among knowers of Brahman (pirahmavit cirOk,ytar~,); indeed, he is a ' friend to
all sadhus who cling to him' (Mahar.si 1987: 118).
The importance of the guru is clear in both texts, but Raman.a underscores it
with additions not found in the Sanskrit. For example, Vivekac~damat3i 60
warns of the problem of intellectualism, the ' net of words, the great forest, the
cause of the wandering mind; therefore, those who are aware of this fact ought to
strive to know the truth of the Self.' Raman.a again changes things slightly but
also adds a telling phrase: ' One must pass through the dazzling forest of texts,
which only produce a confused mind, and experience the true Sel f through the
guru, who is a ~ n i ' (Mahar.si 1987: 122). To render Raman.a's Tamil into
English is slightly awkward because he includes two related constructions, an
infinitive adverbial phrase and an instrumental phrase, both of which suggest the
means or manner by which one does something. In the first case, the infinitive
' to know' (a_riya) is combi ned with an adverbial construction (a_nupavam~,).
Together, these words indicate the manner of knowing the Self: through
experience. So the last phrase could be rendered, ' one should know the Sel f
through experience. ' A slightly different English construction conveys the same
point: ' one should have experiential knowledge of the Self' ; the latter phrasing
122 / Thomas A. Forsthoefel
is acceptable as long as one does not consi der knowl edge here as somet hi ng
separate and quantifiable or pertaining to a localized knower. In any case, bot h
versions emphasi ze knowl edge gained through direct experience, a t heme very
much in keepi ng with Raman. a' s phi l osophy. But in his translation of Viveka-
cad. aman. i 60, Raman.a includes a phrase not found in the Sanskrit: j~ani
kuruvdl, an instrumental phrase meaning, ' by or through the realized teacher.'
Raman.a appears to give equal credit here to experiential knowl edge and to the
instrumentality of the guru; or, put in anot her way, he enjoins the need for
experiential knowledge (a_nupavamdy ariya v#n.t.um) which occurs through the
guru' s intercession.
The tension of direct experience and the assistance of the guru carries on.
Raman.a modi fi es 63-65; he aptly renders the Vivekacad. dman. i's met aphor
of sickness ( ' one does not recover from illness mer el y by sayi ng the word
"medi ci ne" ' ) and concludes with a slight but i mport ant vari at i on from the
Sanskrit. The author of the Vivekacad. dman. i writes: ' Wi t hout di rect experience,
merel y uttering "Brahman" will not liberate' (62). Rama.na modi fi es this
slightly by interpolating a mahdvakya, ' Wi t hout direct experiential knowledge,
merel y uttering the phrase, "I am Br ahman, " will not dest roy bondage' (Mahar.si
1987: 122). At first the vari at i on seems of no consequence, and indeed, a crucial
point is cl ear in both versions: one must have an i mmedi at e, authoritative direct
experience of realization; one cannot hope to utter a sacred formul a and expect
cosmi c consciousness; one must experience it, and, apparently, one knows it if
one has had such an experience. 4
But Raman.a interpolates the mahavakya. Thi s is i mport ant for t wo reasons;
he does not ascribe a magical potency to scripture, say, in the manner of
5]ankara' s disciple, Sure~vara. Second, he finds no ultimate worth in traditional
medi t at i ons on the mahdvakyas which at t empt to construct yet anot her identi-
fication that in the end needs to be abandoned. Raman. a' s vicdra met hod in the
end rejects of all positive identifications, even the apparently supremel y positive
identification with Brahman. Instead, Raman. a' s met hod is an inward movement
to the source of consciousness, not a rarefied intellectual process. It is a ' down-
ward' movement to di scover the source of intellect, not a heady, ' upward'
movement of increasing analysis and abstraction. So, his single, persistent
question, ' Who am 1?,' cannot be const rued either as a mantra itself, that is, as
a devi ce for concentration, nor is it an intellectual tool used to arrive at posi t i ve
identifications, ' I am Br ahman, ' ' I am That , ' ' I am Si va, ' and so on. Such
statements are subjective affirmations once removed from the source. Three
satsang responses indicate his estimate of such met hods (Mahar.si 1992):
Even to repeat aham Brahmasmi or think of it, a doer is necessary. Who is it?
Ramana Maharsi: Mystic as translator / 123
It is ' I . ' Be that ' I . ' It is the direct met hod (71).
The text is not meant for thinking, ' I am Br ahman. ' Aham [ T] is known to
everyone. Brahman abides as aham in everyone. Find out the ' I . ' The ' I ' is
already Brahman. You need not think so. Si mpl y find out the ' I ' (70).
Similarly, the bonds of birth and death will not cease merely by doi ng many
repetitions of mahavakyas such as ' I am Si va. ' Instead of wandering about
repeating ' I am the supreme, ' abide as the supreme yourself. The mi sery of
birth and death will not cease by vocally repeating countless t i mes, '1 am
that, ' but onl y by abiding as that (125).
Returning to his translation of the Vivekacad. ama~.zi, he modulates anot her verse,
65, by adding another mahavakya to indicate the ultimate ineffectiveness of
' mer e wor ds' but also of all positive identifications: moreover, in his translation
we again see the importance of the guru and the failure of intellectual met hods
of analysis.
Without destroying the perceived world and wi t hout experiential knowledge
of the Sell, the mere phrase, 'brahmaivaham,' will not produce liberation,
which consists of merel y being Brahman . . . . so one hears a realized teacher' s
exegesis and considers it; but without direct experiential knowl edge and
constant meditation, attaining the Self, which is hidden by may& is
impossible by reasoning and argument (Mahar.si 1987:122; emphasi s added).
A summar y of the sequence of the path to liberation (mok~ya catan_a kiramam) is
suggested in Vivekacad. amani 69 and 70 and includes virtues held in est eem by
all traditions of Vedanta: detachment (vairagya), tranquillity (gama), self-control
(dama), and forbearance (titiks.a); these are i mport ant because they contribute to
the refashioning of will and affect necessary for the revelation of the Self. One
si mpl y cannot experience infinite awareness if one is obsessi vel y preoccupied
with t emporal satisfactions, so a particular culture is necessary to assist in the
shaping of affect and will.
However, with Vivekacad.amani 70 we can once again see the appeal of the
Vivekac~d. aman. i for Raman.a: following the traditional sequence of the practice
of virtues, hearing and reflecting, and meditation, the author of the Viveka-
cCM.amani writes: ' Then the wise one, having attained the i mmut abl e Supreme,
experiences, here and now, the bliss of nirvana.' The key here is the possi bi l i t y
for realization ' here and now' (ihaiva), another t heme that Raman.a repeatedly
stressed. Still, he modul at es the verse as well, using words that carry extended
124 / Thomas A. Forsthoefel
implications for him. He writes: ' The discriminating one experiences the
unending bliss of liberation right here and now, through the immediate and
direct awareness of Brahman; this emerges through nirvikalpa samadhi, in
turn produced by incessant meditation' (Mahar.si 1987: 123). There are several
things to note here. First Raman.a adds much, both by words and emphasis. He
underscores the importance of liberation in one' s lifetime by adding a double
emphatic suffix (it.attiley~), which suggests absolute certainty that this is the
case. Second, he adds terms that are not present in the verse: ' immediate' (Tamil
caksatkara), ' direct' (Tamil aparOk.sa), and ' absorption without conceptu-
alization' (nirvikalpa samadhi). Again, the addition of the qualifiers is of no
grave consequence, for it accords with traditional glosses of the experience of
liberation. And we saw earlier how Raman.a appeals to nirvikalpa samadhi in a
manner di fferent from the schools of Yoga.. But his inclusion of this meditative
state interjects an epistemological truth, where the Sanskrit suggests one of
ont ol ogy. In the latter, the Supreme is unchanging (avikalpa) nature. But
Raman. a suggests that the ultimate state is void of thought, void of imagination.
And, unlike some of his more pithy satsai~g statements, here he does suggest an
extended process of liberation: constant meditation (camatinik.yt.anatal) leads
to nirvikalpa sam~dhi, which in turn is ' the cause Ibr the blissful pleasure of
nondual i t y' (Mahar.si 1987: 157).
What I wish to stress among these additions to the Sanskrit is the non-
cognitive (at least in the traditional sense of the term) dimension of realization.
Rama.na rejects all mental identifications, but, additionally and finally, he
rejects the mind altogether. In this regard, Raman.a again shares affinities with
earlier Yoga and Advaita theories of mind. The mind, owi ng to the pervasive
influence of advidya, is the primary engine in the dichotomizing process which
produces existential separation and its consequent suffering. This process, which
issues in separate egos and personalities, is of course fundamentally illusory.
The mind itself is a ' formless ghost ' ; indeed, according to earlier Yoga and
Advaita schematizations, the mind is actually inert, borrowing, as it were,
consciousness from its genuine source, the Self. Rama.na's goal in this case calls
for abandoning the mind returning to its source. The question becomes the
extent of the use of the mind, however limited, flawed (or even inert) it may be,
in order finally to get beyond the mind. If one is optimistic about the mi nd' s
usefulness for liberation, one might empl oy either a positive or negative approach
in versions of Advaita sadhana. Raman.a rejects all positive identifications
outright, even supreme identifications such as ' I am Brahman' or ' I am Siva. '
Additionally, however, he rejects the negative way--neti-neti v~da---of classical
Advaita because it too remains at the level of intellect. The assumption in the
traditional practice is that by peeling away all identifications, the real ' | ' may be
Ramat . l a Ma h a r s i : My s t i c as t r a n s l a t o r / 125
experienced; indeed, this is a driving t heme in the Vi vekacad. dmani . However,
Raman.a repeatedly warned of the intellectualism of the practice, sayi ng that it
was a mental activity that could not definitively take one beyond the mi nd.
Such acts of discrimination sustain, in a residual and subtle manner, the ' l-
t hought ' ; although discrimination intends to el i mi nat e mind and body, the
very act of discrimination retains a residual ego which cannot el i mi nat e itself
(Mahar.si 1992: 68). According to Raman.a, practices which suggest affirmation
( ' I am Brahman' ) or negation ( net i - net i ) share an assumpt i on that the Sel f can
be di scovered through these mental processes; but concerning these approaches,
Rama.na was uncompromi si ng. The goal is to destroy the mind, n o t to empl oy
it in the service of the Self'. s Concerni ng net i - net i meditation, Raman. a once said:
No---t hat is not meditation. Find the source. You must reach the source
without fail. The false ' | ' will disappear and the real T will be realized. The
former cannot exist without the latter.
There is now wrong identification of the Sel f with the body, senses, etc. You
proceed to discard these, and this is net i . Thi s can onl y be done by holding
ont o the one which cannot be discarded. That is i t i (Mahar.si 1992: 70).
What is the real ' 1,' and how does one reach it without the mi nd? How do the
nuances of Raman.a' s phi l osophy square with the Vivekacad.~mat.ff? After all,
discrimination is the premi er virtue in the Sanskrit text, and many verses which
demonst rat e what the Sel f is not naturally exercise that virtue. Moreover,
protests notwithstanding, Raman.a hi msel f must admit at least a provisional use
of the mind; one must after all start somewhere. Indeed, this is the case in his
translation of the Vi vekacad~man. i. For exampl e, his record of the requisites tbr
Advai t a s a d h a n a again slightly modul at es the Sanskrit. Raman. a writes: ' Who is
fit for inquiry into the Self? The intelligent one, who, besides the ot her qualities
cited in scripture, is characterized by a forceful ability to pick out the unessential
and grasp the essential' (Mahar.si 1987: 116). Mental capacity and mental
function are clearly implied here as some process of elimination is necessary to
pick out the ' essential and unessential. ' Indeed, Raman.a later interpolates the
t erm net i - net i as a requirement for the kogamTmams a that begi ns in Viveka-
cad. amat.ti 151; Raman.a writes that one must ' r emove, with sharp intellect, the
obj ect i ve five sheaths from the Self, saying, "not this, not this" ' (Maharsi
1987: 134). By this ' process of removal (tall.urn apavar t t al ) " one comes to
realize that the effulgent Sel f is ' di st i nct from all forms such as body as a stalk
of grass in its sheaths of leaf' (Mahar.si 1987: 134). The i mport ance of the
intellect is once again shown in Rama. na' s translation of Vivekacad.aman. i 136;
moreover, this verse is i mport ant because it is the onl y Sanskrit construction
126 / Thomas A. Forsthoefel
which parallels Raman.a's peculiar term for the inner Se l l the ' I-I.' While there
is actually no other Sanskrit use of the term 'I-I" in the Vivekacad. amat.zi, Rama.na
interpolates it frequently in his translation, trying to draw attention to source of
consciousness from which the localized T emerges; he, of course, used this
term often in his ot her works and in his satsaizg conversations as well. I woul d
suggest that this among the most important reasons why Raman.a was drawn to
the text, for it fueled Ramana' s notion of a source of a nondual consciousness
from which all illusory egos spring. The following is Sanskrit Vivekaca(l.~man. i
135 and Raman.a's translation, which partially includes Vivekacad. aman. i 136;
not ewort hy are the Sanskrit use of 'I-1,' Raman.a's use of the term, and the
importance of the mind in the process of liberation.
[Vivekacad. aman. i:] The supreme Sel f directly shines in the three states of
consciousness as witness of the mind, the I-I (! 35).
|Rama.na:] As the witness to the mind in all three states of consciousness,
know through experience ' This I is Brahman' ; through a one-pointed mi nd
know the supreme Sel f which shines immediately and ever present as ' I-I'
(Mahar.si 1987: 132).
So we need the mind to get beyond the mind. Indeed, ' Wi t hout experiencing
Brahman through the single, subtle, mental mode of samadhi , by those of
subtle intellect, saving knowledge is impossible by any gross outward manner'
(Mahar.si 1987: 157). In this state, ' the j ~dni experiences in the heart the true
"I, " the single totality of Brahman' (Mahar.si 1987: 163). Thi s ' I-I' is the seat
of consciousness, independent of all mental modifications while nevertheless
illuminating them. The term '1-I' appears to be Ramana' s favorite expression
t br the true Sel f in all his works and in his sat sahg conversations. Indeed, in
the Vivekacad~matfi, Ramana offers a Tamil rnaizgala verse that reveals, by
content and by place, the value of the phrase for Raman. a. The benedictory verse
is premi er in the sense that it is textually prior to the translation; but it is also
premier in the sense of value and prestige and so highlights the central dynamic
in Raman. a' s thought. In a clever play on words, Raman.a interchanges the Tami l
word ' akam' (' i nner, ' ' internal,' ' wi t hi n' ) with its Sanskrit homophone ' aham'
(' I' ), without adopting Sanskrit orthography (because the intervocalic ' k' in
Tamii is pronounced as an ' h' ). So, ' the Self shines within (akam ol.ira at ma) as
"I-1" (akam akam), which in turn removes the primal ignorance of ' T' (akam
enum m~lavittaiy akan__rila akam akam)."
In this play of words, we see in a condensed form Raman.a's philosophy. The
true Self, the ' I-I,' already is ' embedded, ' as it were, within us. It already shines
Ramana Maharsi: Mystic as translator 127
within us; we in some sense know this source because we operate from it m our
mundane inflections of the first person singular pronoun. So the ' 1-I' is the
hidden source of the ' I , ' the ego, which in turn is the fulcrum for of all identi-
fications and the locus of ignorance. However, since this source (akam akam) is
within (akam), we must di ve inward to di scover it. We must merge our mi nd
into the source. In numerous places Raman.a interjects the t erm ' I - I , ' using it as
a verbal symbol for nonverbal pure experience; he uses it in the mangala verse
and in translations of Vivekacad. dmat.zi 124, 135, 211-12, 218, 380, 408, and
533. So, for exampl e, Raman.a offers the tbilowing exhortation: ' Know through
experience "Thi s I is Br ahman, " that is, know by a single-pointed mi nd the
supreme Brahman which shines perpetually as direct experience, as the "I-I, " the
wi t ness to the mind in all mental st at es' (Maharsi 1987: 132).
So, what we have here is a subtle variation of a traditional category in
Advai t a, the inner Self. The ' I - I ' in one sense could be considered yet another
t erm for the many poetic glosses on one' s real nature: atman, Brahman, japa,
dhy~na, mouna, and so on. Yet, Raman.a prefers the t erm '1-1' as a verbal
expressi on for the ultimate, wordless reality. To grasp or to realize the ' I - I ' does
presume mental operation and fitness of intellect: ' The Sel f makes itself known
as being, consciousness, bliss and is self-effulgent in the heart as "1-1." Through
your subtle intellect, know this eternal blissful awareness to be the Sel f or the
true "1," which al ways shines as "'1-1" in the heart ' (Mahar.si 1987: 142).
SUMMARY
Thi s study highlights continuities and variations between the Sanskrit
Vivekacftd.dman. i and Raman. a' s Tami l translation of it. In short, the Tami l
version is largely in keepi ng with the Advai t a represented by the Sanskrit text,
but it also has numerous variations, some mi nor and of no great consequence
and others which are more interesting. The Vivekacadamar.zi itself shows an
ambi gui t y in its epi st emol ogy of religious experience, dancing, as it were,
between inward or internalist programs of religious knowi ng and externalist
programs which include socially circumscribed sets of bel i ef-formi ng practices
(Forsthoefel 2002). Raman. a' s translation adds glosses and extended explana-
tions concerning ' i nqui ry' which strengthens his own deepl y inward or
internalist epi st emol ogy of religious experience.
One conclusion to be drawn from this study is that the Vivekacad. dmat.zi is a
text perfectly suited for Raman.a' s tastes; it encapsulates many t hemes that
Raman.a has spoken of elsewhere. Above all, liberation comes through experi-
128 / Thomas A. Forsthoefel
ence, not by texts or discursive reasoning. Additionally, the process of libera-
tion is clearly inward, and mental anal ysi s--Raman. a' s protests notwithstanding
- - penet r at es the not -Sel f with discrimination. The hero of this task is the vivekT,
whose efforts at discrimination culminate in the resolution of all cognitions into
blissful nondual awareness, one' s original state (sahaj a sthiti).
But those less skilled mumuk.sus are not alone in their efforts. Although the
Sel f alone is, according to the Vi vekacadamani and Raman.a's Tamil translation
of it, owi ng to the complications of congenital ignorance, the mumuks, u is
' accompanied, ' as it were: grace and gur u set the stage for the deliverance of the
disciple. Moreover, the Vivekacadaman. i offers the same ambivalence toward
scripture that often appears in Rama.na's exchanges with disciples. Scripture may
be a helpful starting point in the path of salvation, but it finally must be elimi-
nated as with all aspects of phenomenal reality. While the Vivekacad. dman. i first
dismisses then privileges the mahavakyas in the economy of liberation, Raman.a
remains consistent in all his writings that self-inquiry alone leads to liberation.
He showed no interest in detailed hermeneuticai theory and even suggested that
traditional patterns of scriptural reflection cannot transcend the mind.
By examining Raman.a's translation, we note clear continuities with the
Sanskrit text but also subtle variations which reveals nuances in his version
of Advaita. Raman.a successfully uses the Vivekacad. dmat.zi to advance his
method of inquiry, the introspective examination of consciousness which,
according to Ramana, issues in the direct experi ence of the Self. This process is,
for Raman.a, the si ne qua non for realization. All external mechanisms are
highly relativized by this method, and thus Raman.a's internalism opens space
for a universal program of liberation, one that successfully transcends culture
and its various doxastic mechanisms. By translating the Vi vekacadamani ,
Ramana, who was silent for so many years at Aru.nficala, nonetheless enters the
world of language and concepts while emphasizing a liberating ' knowing
beyond knowl edge. ' His translation becomes an opportunity for a subtle
commentary with nuanced emphases in his version of Advaita; by doing the
translation, Raman.a not only is faithful to a traditional Hindu pedagogy but
also to the compassionate spirit of weak ineffability; he shrewdly uses transla-
tion from one language into another to facilitate the disciple' s escape from all
language and conceptualization. In this case, the mystic, as translator, becomes a
consummate teacher.
Notes
1. For a review and analysis of the appear of Raman.a in the West, see
Ramatza Mahar,yi: Myst i c as t r ans l at or / 129
Forsthoefel 2001.
2. This essay, as a translation study, extends and develops research that is part
of a forthcoming broader investigation in the epi st emol ogy of religious experi-
ence in classical and modem Advaita. Citations to Raman.a's translation refer to
Mahar.si 1987. Translations are mine, though | am grateful to Francis Cl ooney
for his help and suggestions. There are many editions of the Vivekacaglaman. i;
the translations here are mine, though 1 have consulted earlier translations, such
as that of Turiyananda (1991 ) and Mfidhavananda (i 992). Numbered references
to Vivekacad. atnat.zi (for example, 35) indicate verse.
3. Translations from Raman.a's ¢Sri Ramat.~a Nat'ritat.t.u (1987) are mine.
4. Recall Raman.a's self-referential statements cited above and this observa-
tion: ' The j ~a n i ' s mind is known only to the j f i ~ni . One must be a jfigmi
onesel f in order to understand another j i i 6ni . However the peace of mind which
permeates the saint' s atmosphere is the only means by which the seeker under-
stands the greatness of the saint' (Mahar.si 1992: 42).
5. In Rama.na's appeal to ' destroy the mind,' note parallel' s to Vidyfira.nya's
work (Fort 1996:141 ).
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THOMAS A. FORSTHOEFEL is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
at Mercyhurst College, Erie.