In Final Talks with Annamalai Swami, a student asks Annamalai Swami, a disciple of Ramana Maharshi when Ramana was alive and, in later years, a fine teacher in his own right, about how he or she can “stabilize” in the Self. After all, the questioner states, “One can have a temporary experience of the Self… but then it goes away.”
Annamalai Swami reminds the questioner of a common mistake: the Self is not like a lamp that, being lit, “may blow out if the wind is strong.” The Self, or Consciousness, alone is. Therefore, if it appears as if the Self is only temporarily experienced, then it must be because you keep, as it were, putting “a curtain or a veil in front of it.” That is, “you are still believing in wrong ideas,” and these wrong ideas are coloring the Self while appearing to hide it. Indeed, he underscores, “While these ideas are covering up the Self, you still need to do constant sadhana.”
Annamalai Swami’s last remark helps us to clear up a certain confusion. Because Ramana Maharshi was fully realized at the age of 17, when one reads his teachings, sometimes, albeit mistakenly, one can be left with the impression that Self-inquiry is fairly smooth and effortless. Ya know it was so easy for Ramana! So simple: just inquire, “Who am I?” with earnestness–and poof–Self-realization!
That’s not how it was, it seems, for Annamalai Swami. As David Godman tells it,
Annamalai Swami lived and worked with Sri Ramana from 1928 till 1938, supervising most of the construction projects that were undertaken in his Guru’s ashram. In 1938, Sri Ramana asked Annamalai Swami to give up this work and devote himself instead to solitary meditation. All these construction activities and the subsequent years of meditation were graphically described in Living By The Words O f Bhagavan, Swami’s autobiography.
Annamalai Swami: Final Talks, ed. David Godman
Imagine all those decades during which Annamalai Swami was involved in deep meditation. Not until the 1980s did spiritual seekers, according to Godman, come to see Annamalai Swami for upadesa, or spiritual instruction. It can be inferred that Annamalai Swami was very thorough in his investigation of Reality.
From this short biography, it can be gleaned why Annamalai Swami, in his Final Talks, repeatedly emphasizes the need for “constant meditation” on the Self, for Self-inquiry to be continuous. So long as the mind arises, one shall need to undertake Self-inquiry. And when the mind finally sinks back into the Source and abides as the Source, then Self-inquiry is over and Self-abidance naturally takes hold.
I find in Annamalai Swami’s teaching, then, a very compassionate way of helping students, time and again, to make their inquiry into the nature of the Self complete, to make sure that throughout the day Self-inquiry continues, and, ultimately, to see this inquiry through all the way to the end.