A few months ago I received an email from a woman who works with Dr. Srikumar Rao, a bestselling author and former professor at Columbia Business School. She said they both enjoyed my articles and asked if I’d be interested in meeting Dr. Rao.
After perusing his CV, I jumped at the chance. Suffice it to say, Dr. Rao has had an impressive career and I was flattered that he wanted to talk. We had a long chat over Zoom about a month ago.
Talking about Sri Ramana Maharshi
Though we covered many topics, the one that stood out was Dr. Rao’s deep devotion to the revered Indian saint, Ramana Maharshi. Who’s that? If there was a Mount Rushmore of Indian saints, Ramana Maharshi would be on it. He was a high being who influenced generations of spiritual seekers in the last hundred years.
Dr. Rao asked me to read A Search in Secret India, Paul Brunton’s iconic bestseller about his travels through India in the 1930s. Brunton, a Brit, traversed India in search of authentic yogis. He met with Meher Baba, among others.
But the one yogi who blew him away was Ramana Maharshi. Brunton’s recounting of their conversations is profoundly moving.
This article is about a part of one of those conversations. Brunton presses the sage about the state of the world. He asks if good times are ahead or “chaos and war?” After several attempts at extracting an answer, Brunton receives this response from Ramana Maharshi:
“Without understanding yourself, what is the use of trying to understand the world? This is a question that seekers after truth need not consider. People waste their energies over all such questions. First, find out the truth behind yourself; then you will be in a better position to understand the truth behind the world, of which yourself is a part.”
I love this. It simplifies our lives and leads to a massive decrease in wasted energy, as Maharshi puts it, not to mention anxiety and worry.
This doesn’t mean we don’t interact with the world and question matters. It simply means that we don’t waste mental and psychic energy trying to understand things we are incapable of understanding…
Until we understand ourselves. Which is where we do need to place our energies.
Finding the truth behind ourselves
What does Ramana Maharshi recommend we do to find the truth behind ourselves?For the devotees who surrounded him, he said that the best way was to simply sit with him as he sat in silence. That that in itself, by a sort of spiritual osmosis, would help people to realize their true selves.
Second best was to listen to his words on the subject. What were those words? He taught that we should get quiet and continually ask ourselves, “Who am I?” Over and over and over. Crucially, he urged not to try and answer that question, but merely to pose it.
The truth lies in the silence
As with most sages, he taught that understanding oneself cannot happen through words or concepts. It can only occur through the silencing of the mind.
That’s the key. Quieting the mind.
That’s where the answers are found, to the truth behind yourself, and of the world.
In the silent stillness.
I’ll cut the words short here and leave you with that.