Sonntag, 14. September 2008

18.3. The Spiritual Heart

Sri Ramana liked to speak about the ‘Heart’ (hridayam) as the place of the spiritual experience. The ‘Heart’ referred to is not the physical heart, but the spiritual Heart, which is on the right side, two finger-widths to the right of the middle of the chest. There dwells the experience of one’s true identity. This can be demonstrated in everyday experience by the fact that people intuitively point to this spot when pointing to themselves. The I-thought arises here. “Hridayam = hrit + ayam = this is the centre. It is that from which thoughts arise, on which they subsist and where they are resolved. The thoughts are the content of the mind and, they shape the universe. The Heart is the centre of all.”142

The teaching about the spiritual Heart did not originate with Sri Ramana himself. He found it and adopted it, as it corresponded to his own experience. In the Maha Narayana Upanishad which is one of the sacred Hindu scriptures it says, “It must be understood that the Heart resembling the lotus, a span below the throat and a span above the navel hangs upside down and is the chief seat of the Universal form of paramatman.”143

Sri Ramana’s teaching about the Heart is found in particular in the famous verse included in Ganapati Muni’s ‘Ramana Gita’ and which has already been quoted in chapter 8,
“In the interior of the Heart-cave Brahman alone shines in the form of the atman with direct immediacy as I, as I. Enter into the Heart with questing mind or by diving deep within or through control of breath, and abide in the atman.”

The Sanskrit verse starts with “Hridaya kuhara madhye”, “in the interior of the Heart-cave”. The sacred Hindu scriptures stress that Brahman shines in the heart of all living beings. Sri Ramana takes up this statement and develops it in more detail. In the cave of the Heart, i.e. in its inmost centre, atman, which is identical with Brahman is experienced as ‘I-I’. ‘I-I’ means continuous Self-consciousness, Self-awareness, which is in each person’s immediate experience, and which cannot be doubted, even in deep-sleep. ‘I-I’ is the true ‘I’ or Self, which was already there, is eternal and never changing. The individual I, the changeable and unsteady ego, has its source here. If the I-thought is traced back to its origin and merges there, it finally comes to an end there forever, and this is ‘Self Realization’.

In this verse three paths are mentioned by which one can enter the Heart:- the path of Self-enquiry, the path of diving deep and the path of breath control. Sri Ramana’s teaching concentrates mainly on Self-enquiry. “Diving deep” is explained by the example of the pearl-diver, which Ramana gives in ‘Nan Yar’ saying that just as the pearl-diver ties a stone round his waist, holds his breath and concentrates one-pointedly on his single goal, which is to dive into the sea in order to find the precious pearl, likewise the seeker should dive into the Heart.

The path of breath-control does not refer to pranayama as practised in hatha yoga, but simply to watching the breath, as is practised in some forms of Zen meditation, as mind and breath have the same root, as Ramana repeatedly stressed. If the breath is watched, it comes to rest.

Whatever means one uses, the important thing is the goal, which is to reach the Heart and remain there forever, to be it. In the Heart, Self-enquiry finds its end, it dissolves in the realisation of the Heart, as Sri Ramana once said, “What is finally realized as a result of such enquiry into the Source of Aham-vritti [I-thought] is verily the Heart as the undifferentiated Light of pure Consciousness, into which the reflected light of the mind is completely absorbed.”144

In its deepest meaning the spiritual Heart is identical with the Self (atman), God and Guru and in the final analysis not restricted to any particular spot in the body. To a question from a disciple about the meaning of the Heart Sri Ramana answered, “Call it by any name, God, Self, the Heart or the Seat of Consciousness, it is all the same. The point to be grasped is this, that Heart means the very Core of one’s being, the Centre, without which there is nothing whatever.”145 And elsewhere, “The Heart is not physical. Meditation should not be on the right or the left. Meditation should be on the Self. Everyone knows ‘I am’. Who is the ‘I’? It will be neither within nor without, neither on the right nor on the left. ‘I am’ – that is all.”146
142 Talks, p. 92 (from Talk 97)
143 transl. in: Sadhu Arunachala: Reminiscences, p. 97
144 Maharshi’s Gospel, p. 83. About the spiritual Heart see also in the same book part II, chapters 4 and 5.
145 dto., p.66
146 Talks, p. 229 (from Talk 273)

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