Realizing The Non-existence Of Ignorance

Recently, my wife Alexandra read aloud an excellent passage from S.S. Cohen’s little book Guru Ramana:

[Female Disciple]: Why then do we need to concentrate?

[Ramana]: Concentration, meditation and all spiritual practices are not performed with the object of realising the Self, because the Self is ever-present, but of realising the non-existence of ignorance.

This is very direct teaching.

Note that Ramana Maharshi is not urging upon us the need to “polish the mirror.” According to this teaching, one that I myself have drawn from and commonly cited, Reality is a mirror that appears, in any case, to be obscured by all the specks and stains upon it. Consequently, the point of spiritual practice, in this understanding, is to do what is necessary to let go of as many obscurations and vexations as is needed in order for Reality to be clearly apprehended.

Ramana is speaking even more directly than this. Spiritual practice, he insists, isn’t even about polishing the mirror. In fact, all it “does” is to reveal the inherent nature of our very blessed being. Thus, one carries on with spiritual practice only so long as is necessary to directly realize “the non-existence of ignorance.”

Can we be even clearer about his teaching?

The True Self is always already the case. Period. Ever-present, it goes nowhere and comes from nowhere else. Period. As the Single Reality, it therefore can’t be realized or unrealized. Period. In the strongest possible sense, then, it is. Or, simply, isness.

Therefore, we can only ever, in truth, be enlightened, awake, liberated. This direct vision, this immediate understanding, however, can only seem opaque so long as we continue to mistakenly believe that we are ignorant of our true nature.

We need to be careful, here, so as not to fall into Neo-Advaita’s false teaching: stop spiritual practice and just–intellectually–affirm that you are the True Self.

This Neo-Advaita stance is not what Ramana Maharshi says. In his reply, he unequivocally underscores the need for spiritual practice (again, “[c]oncentration, meditation and all spiritual practices”), a need that applies to anyone who is still enthralled by the false belief that he or she is not enlightened.

The practical point of all this? To sit deeply is to cease all seeking. And what remains is precisely, as it has ever been, This.