Q: Is it possible to enjoy samadhi while busy in worldly work?
Sri Ramana: The feeling ‘I work’ is the hindrance. Ask yourself ‘who works?’ Remember who you are. Then the work will not bind you; it will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce; your effort is the bondage. What is destined to happen will happen.
If you are destined not to work, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it; if you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it; you will be forced to engage yourself in it. So, leave it to the higher power; you cannot renounce or retain as you choose.
The real search isn’t a search into tomorrow, or to anywhere other than now. It’s starting to look into the very nature of this moment. In order to do that, you have to “stand in your own two shoes,” as my teacher used to say. What she meant by “standing in your own two shoes” is you have to look clearly into your own experience. Stop trying to have someone else’s experience. Stop chasing freedom or happiness, or even spiritual enlightenment. Stand in your own shoes, and examine closely: What’s happening right here and right now? Is it possible to let go of trying to make anything happen? Even in this moment, there may be some suffering, there may be some unhappiness, but even if there is, is it possible to no longer push against it, to try to get rid of it, to try to get somewhere else?
I understand that our instinct is to move away from what’s not comfortable, to try to get somewhere better, but as my teacher used to say, “You need to take the backward step, not the forward step.” The forward step is always moving ahead, always trying to attain what you want, whether it’s a material possession or inner peace. The forward step is very familiar: seeking and more seeking, striving and more striving, always looking for peace, always looking for happiness, looking for love. To take the backward step means to just turn around, reverse the whole process of looking for satisfaction on the outside, and look at precisely the place where you are standing. See if what you are looking for isn’t already present in your experience.
So, again, to lay the groundwork for awakening, we must first let go of struggling. You let go by acknowledging that the end of struggle is actually present in your experience now. The end of struggle is peace. Even if your ego is struggling, even if you’re trying to figure this out and “do it right,” if you really look, you might just see that struggle is happening within a greater context of peace, within an inner stillness. But if you try to make stillness happen, you’ll miss it. If you try to make peace happen, you’ll miss it. This is more like a process of recognition, giving recognition to a stillness that is naturally present.
We’re not bringing struggle to an end. We’re not trying to not struggle anymore. We’re just noticing that there is a whole other dimension to consciousness that, in this very moment, isn’t struggling, isn’t resentful, isn’t trying to get somewhere. You can literally feel it in your body. You can’t think your way to not struggling. There isn’t a three-point plan of how not to struggle. It’s really a one-point plan: Notice that the peace, this end of struggling, is actually already present.
The process is therefore one of recognition. We recognize that there is peace now, even if your mind is confused. You may see that even when you touch upon peace now, the mind is so conditioned to move away from it that it will try to argue with the basic fact of peace’s existence within you: “I can’t be at peace yet because I have to do this, or that, or this question hasn’t been answered, or that question hasn’t been answered, or so-and-so hasn’t apologized to me.” There are all sorts of ways that the egoic mind can insist that something needs to happen, something needs to change, in order for you to be at peace. But this is part of the dream of the mind. We’re all taught that something needs to change for us to experience true peace and freedom.
Just imagine for a moment that this isn’t true. Even though you may believe that it’s true, just imagine for a moment: What would it be like if you didn’t need to struggle, if you didn’t need to make an effort to find peace and happiness? What would that feel like now? And just take a moment to be quiet and see if peace or stillness is with you in this moment.
Falling from Grace
This is a beautiful interview between two beautiful Beings.
The young seeker sits on a stool in front of her beloved Master,
her head bowed, her heart heavy.
The Master says, “Look. I am here. Look.”
She looks up and cries, “Oh Master, I desperately want to awaken!
Please answer my questions and help me to achieve enlightenment!”
The Master says, “Look. I am here. Look.”
The girl gazes at her Master, her eyes filled with tears, unseeing.
And then she asks… and her Master answers:
Why is there suffering?
Belief. Cease and desist participating.
Thought. Witness thought, without judgment.
What is there to be done?
Nothing. Do that, even as activity arises.
Where is there to go?
Nowhere. Stay here.
How is it possible?
By not moving.
Be still. Even as all else appears to move, remain still.
When will I know?
Now. Only, always, now.
Look. I am here. Look.
Awakeness is an innate quality of who you are. What we call “awakening” is recognizing not only that there is awakeness present but that that is who you are. At some point, you recognize the immense limitless perfection and innate awakeness of your true self. This happens on its own with no effort on your part. Spiritual awakening is similar to the recognition that you are awake in the morning after sleeping. All of a sudden you realize that you are awake, the sun is up, and it is time to get up. In the morning you do not do anything to awaken. When the time is right, it just happens. Spiritual awakening also just happens when the time is right.
One of the dilemmas that many find themselves in is that they want to awaken more than life itself and yet they can do absolutely nothing to make that happen. The desire to awaken and the fact that you can do nothing about it are two immovable truths, which crush “you” between them. When you just rest in the place where you admit both of these truths, something indescribable can happen. When you just stay there and don’t turn away just because the situation is impossible, then these two truths can wear away all of your mistaken ideas and illusions. What remains is an empty spaciousness that allows the truth of your being to become obvious. You still haven’t done anything, but everything else has fallen away, leaving a clear space for the truth.
There is a difference between awakening, which is recognizing the truth of who you are, and Freedom, which is the end of suffering. Awakening is a gift of grace. That’s the part that you can do nothing about. You can’t do anything to make awakening happen. It just arrives, and it’s not up to you when. However, Freedom comes as soon as you stop resisting what is happening or grasping after what is not happening. When you do that, the end of suffering is instantaneous. Freedom does not depend on awakening. What it depends on is wanting Freedom more than anything else—more than you want to maintain the illusion of a separate self.
After awakening, there is a natural reduction in the tendency to grasp or resist and therefore a reduction in suffering. However, even after awakening, the tendency to grasp can still arise, usually in more subtle ways, such as trying to hold on to the experience of awakening or longing for that experience to return. When that happens, suffering reappears. The good news is that Freedom is available in every moment—before, during, and after awakening—whenever you surrender your grasping and resistance. By surrendering your futile efforts to change what is, you can be free. This choice to surrender is, in fact, the only true choice you have, since you can’t choose to awaken. Then, as always, awakening will take care of itself.
Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self