by Alan Jacobs
Alan Jacobs was born in 1929 in London. From an early age he has been interested in religion and mysticism. He commenced a personal search for truth, and studied comparative religion. He then entered the Gurdjieff Society in 1957 and remained there until the early seventies. He then met Jiddu Krishnamurti, and studied his teachings until 1979. Next, he discovered Ramana Maharshi and became familiar with his extensive literature and spiritual practice. He is currently President of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation, UK.
His first book was Dutch And Flemish 17th C. Painters: A Collectors Guide for McGraw Hill. He then compiled an anthology, Poetry For The Spirit, published by Watkins Publishing and Barnes & Noble. As a poet he has versified for O Books, The Bhagavad Gita, The Principal Upanishads, and The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, as well as compiling a major prose anthology, The Ocean Of Wisdom. For Watkins Publishing, he edited Ramana, Shankara and the Forty Verses, versified The Essential Gnostic Gospels and compiled an anthology, the Wisdom of Ramesh Balsekar. XLibris have published a volume of his own poetry, Myrobalan of The Magi, and a history of London from a spiritual perspective, Mysterious London. He has just completed an anthology, The Wisdom of the Native American Indians, Plato's Republic: An Abridgemnent and Modernisation and When Jesus Lived In India, all for Watkins Publishing.
His latest book, published by O Books, is a Utopian novella exploring up-to-now undiscovered land of the legendry Emperor Prestor John, found in Ethiopia, founded on Gnostic principles; Eutopia: The Gnostic Land of Prestor John describes their direct path to Self-realization.
Eutopia: The Gnostic Land of Prester John
(O Books, 2010)
Buy Amazon.US or Amazon.UK
Visit Alan's blog and Facebook page, for more information about his work.
The following is an article that was published in the July-September 2008 issue of Mountain Path.
Just as the pearl diver ties a stone to his waist,
to the bottom of the ocean bed, and there takes the pearls,
so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment,
dive within himself and obtain the Self-Pearl.
The first clear statement pointing to the practice of 'Diving into the Heart' appears in Bhagavan�s second written work entitled, Who Am I, composed in 1901. Thus, my chosen quotation, from the Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, verse 19 of this seminal work is quoted at the head of this article.
Ramana used different metaphors and phraseology to describe this practice, which forms one of the key approaches to Self Enquiry, but the metaphor of the Pearl of Great Price pointing to liberation is also used by Jesus Christ and is often found in the poetry of Jalal ad-Din Rumi and the Sufi mystics.
It is, however, in the Ramana Gita that verse two in Chapter Two has become immortalized by the great Tamil poet and yogi, Ganapati Muni, who in 1915 was rewarded by Sri Ramana himself with the answer which is popularly named as the Eka Sloki. Of over three hundred verses in the Ramana Gita, all the questions and answers were transcribed by the Muni into Sanskrit verse, with the exception of this one, which was composed metrically by Bhagavan himself, in 1915, also in Sanskrit. This was his first composition in that language, rather than Tamil.
There are several fine English translations of the famed Eka Sloki of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, but I have selected the poetic metrical one used in the current edition of Bhagavan�s Collected Works on page 151, under the title The Self in the Heart where in the eighth stanza of the Supplement to the Forty Verses (1928), it was repeated by Ramana exactly as he gave it in the Ramana Gita, but now in Tamil:
In the inmost core, the heart
Shines as Brahman alone,
As I-I, the Self aware.
Enter deep into the Heart
By search for Self, or diving deep,
With breath under check.
Thus abide ever in atman.
Later, in verse three of Chapter Two, the Muni writes in 1917: 'This verse is the utterance of Bhagavan Maharshi himself and is the essence of the Upanishads and Vedanta!' Then in verse 47 of the Marital Garland of Letters, Bhagavan himself writes, �Oh let me by Thy Grace, dive into Thy Self, wherein merge only those divested of their minds and thus made pure, O Arunachala.� Furthermore, to add to the pointers in which Sri Bhagavan obviously emphasizes this suggested practice for us, we have in the Upadesa Sarum or Thirty Verses a different metaphor, but pointing to the same or similar practice. In verse 11, he writes:
Holding the breath controls the mind
like a bird caught in a net.
Breath regulation helps absorption
in the heart.
We shall be discussing the finer distinctions between breath control and breath regulation as I begin to look at approaches to the actual practice, but meanwhile we have the most important 28th and 29th verses in the Ulladu Narpadu or Forty Verses on Reality:
28. Controlling speech and breath, and diving deep within oneself
� like one who, to find a thing that has fallen into water, dives deep down �
one must seek out the source whence the aspiring ego springs.
29. Cease all talk of I and search with inward diving-mind whence the thought of I springs up.
This is the way of wisdom. To think instead, I Am not this, but that I Am,
is helpful in the search but it is not the search itself.
There have been numerous translations and commentaries on these two verses. The one I personally found to be the most helpful was in the Sat Darshan Bhashya by K (Sri Kapali Sastriar), the respected, brilliant and erudite young disciple of Ganapati Muni .The original text was written in Tamil by Bhagavan but the Muni translated it into Sanskrit. He then asked Kapali, who was highly fluent in the use of the English language, prosody, and Vedantic Philosophy, to write the commentary, and translate the verses metrically into English, thereby preserving much of the original �rasa� or delight of Ramana�s own metre. According to Kapali Sastriar�s Diaries, in his Collected Works, (published by the Aurobindo Ashram), where Kapali eventually took up residence, this text and commentary was shown to Sri Bhagavan, amended, and, where necessary, improved. The numeration in this translation differs as the invocatory verses were numbered one and two, thus the verses under discussion appear as 30 and 31.
S S Cohen, for example, makes the cogent point, in his commentary on verse 28; he writes, 'Deep Diving is a metaphor that implies salvaging the ego from the depths of ignorance into which it has fallen, not amateurishly, but very expertly and unremittingly, or else success will be sporadic and even doubtful.' At this point it is worthy of mention that Sri Kapali Sastriar also wrote an exhaustive commentary on the Ramana Gita, published by Ramanasramam. His Diaries vividly recount his meeting with Ramana that took place, and the text approved after ammendation. This was composed in Sanskrit in 1941. It also includes a comprehensive commentary on the famous second verse of Chapter Two, the Eka Sloki (much too long for this essay but well worth studying by those interested in pursuing this practice). However K�s commentary on this verse in the earlier Sat Darshan Bhashya is both long and powerful. On these verses, he makes many powerful points, and some of these I have extracted.
For example in verses 30 and 31, he writes, �Just as one forgets all other thoughts and keeps aside all other cares... holding breath and speech gets into the well and plunges deep to find the lost article.' This method called 'Plunge' is suggested, and this is the real test of earnestness: 'the attempt involves gathering up all one�s divided interests and dissipated energy into a concentrated effort of the whole man, of his being in all its entirety, then the real quest for the Self may be said to begin.� It is my own opinion and that of others with whom I have discussed this important practice that Diving and Plunging are synonyms for this approach to Self Enquiry. On page 26 of this Sat Darshan Bhashya (published by Ramanasramam), in one of the introductory chapters entitled 'Sadhana and Siddhi', K writes, 'it throws the whole being into a consuming fire as it were, takes hold of the life breath, which is lost in the bodily feeling, and separating it from the bodily grip, enters it into the Heart... such is the real jij~nAsA, the genuine earnest desire and search for the Self.'
Before moving onto the actual approach and experience of this great practice, it is necessary to point out that there are numerous references on �Diving�, in the celebrated Talks with Ramana Maharshi. As these are not separately indexed, I note some important ones here. In Talks 252, page 210, he gives a full answer to the question, �How is the mind to enter the heart?� (which is much too long to quote here, and anything taken out of context would fail to do justice to the text, and it would be preferable to look up the original). Similarly, in an answer also much too long to quote here, is Talks Number 616 on page 576, where there is a very long dissertation on the 'jIvanadi' during which Bhagavan says, 'the seekers aim must be to drain away the vAsanA-s from the heart and let not the reflecting medium obstruct the light of eternal Consciousness. This is achieved by the search for the origin of the ego and by Diving into the Heart. This is the direct method for Self Realisation.' I feel this is a key quote.
It is, however, in the recently published Padamalai: The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi recorded by Muruganar and edited and annotated by David Godman, that the richest haul for the potential 'Pearl Fisher' or 'Diver' may be found. Again these are not separately indexed so I list some here. On Page 92: 'One�s own reality is Ananda, if you were to dive knowingly into the Atman, with the conviction born of this experience, then the state of Self would be experienced.' (From The Power of the Presence, Vol. 1, p.263-4.) On Page 101, Numbers 50 and 51: 'To whatever extent you dive with a one-pointed mind within the Heart, to that extent you will experience bliss. In so doing, the vexation of the clamorous and exceedingly cruel ego ghost, the mind, will perish leaving not a trace.' On Page 146, Number 53: 'Q: How to seek the mind? Bhagavan: Dive within.You are now aware that the mind rises up from within. So sink within and seek.' There is further comment on breath control being an aid, and where the breath sinks, the I-thought arises: 'When the attempt is made, it will itself take you to the goal.' (Talks, Number 195, page 160.) On page 234, Number 210, David Godman gives all of Muruganar�s Vachaka Kovai, verse 46 in which he quotes Ramana as having said, 'Put aside completely the extremely extensive Vedas and Agamas because their true benefit is getting established in the enquiry of diving within oneself.' On page 232, Number 18, he quotes, 'To whatever extent that mind-consciousness dives within, to that same extent will the bliss of the Self spring forth and reveal itself.'
So we see the extent to which Sri Bhagavan repeatedly points to the importance of this practice over and over again. To cap it all we find the Eka Sloki was mounted during Bhagavan�s lifetime, obviously with his consent, above his ornate marble couch in the New Hall, where the verse is engraved in gold Sanskrit letters on a tablet of polished black marble. As Sri C Sudarsanam writes, 'The Kavya Kanta was so overjoyed with this Eka Sloki when Bhavagan first gave it, that he proclaimed it as Ramanopanishad, and is reported as saying, 'The time for that, (a commentary on the Eka Sloki) has yet to come. I shall compose something like the Bhagavad Gita as a commentary.' That is how the Ramana Gita, with the traditional eighteen chapters in Sanskrit poetic metre, was born.'