Three Must-Read Ramana Maharshi Texts

by L. Ron Gardner

Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was India’s greatest twentieth-century guru, and his spiritual teachings are must-reading for all serious students of Self-Awakening. But which texts should those interested in his teachings read?

I have read numerous texts that contain sayings of and/or conversations with Ramana Maharshi. And I have read many texts that elaborate on Ramana’s teachings. But, in my opinion, if one reads three books – “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi” (avoid the dumbed-down Inner Directions version), “Sri Ramana Gita,” and “Sat-Darshana Bhashya and Talks with Maharshi” – there is no need to read any other Ramana books, because they won’t add anything substantive to the material in these three. I welcome anyone who has read these three books to point me to a Ramana Maharshi text that provides unique and profound teachings not found in them.

Herewith, in order, are my five-star Amazon reviews of “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi,” “Sri Ramana Gita,” and Sat- Darshana Bhashya”:

Must-Reading for Students of Self-Awakening

As an esoteric eclectic, I have devoted the past four decades to both the study and practice of the foremost spiritual traditions—Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu Raja Yoga, Advaita Vedanta, and Kashmir Shaivism, Daism (the teachings of Adi Da), and Christian Hermeticism; and in this time, I have never encountered a spiritual book better than “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi.” If I could give it six stars, I would. The book is a collection of enlightening talks between Ramana and numerous individuals representing the entire spectrum of spiritual development. The talks, which took place between 1935 and 1939, include conversations with such luminaries as Paramahansa Yogananda and W.Y Evans-Wentz, author of “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”

I am well aware of the progression of Advaita Vedanta gurus since Ramana, and I’ve read the books by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramesh Balsekar, Papaji, Jean Klein, Andrew Cohen, Gangaji, Adyashanti, and many of the others who have come after Ramana. As a spiritual teacher, when I’m asked to compare these “gurus” to Ramana, I usually become like Sparky Anderson, who managed the Big Red Machine in the 1970s. When Sparky was asked to compare other catchers to the Reds’ catcher Johnny Bench, his reply was: “I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”  Sometimes someone will insist that Sri Nisargadatta’s “I Am That” is better than “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi.” All I can do at that point is be like Jesus and “forgive them, for they know not what they say.”  Nisargadatta, unlike Ramana, did not awaken as the Heart and radiate Hridaya (or Cit) Shakti, and he didn’t talk about Amrita Nadi, the radiant force-current between the Hridaya, or Heart-center (just to the right of the center chest, and distinct from the anahata, or heart, chakra).

What separates Ramana from the other Advaita Vedanta gurus is the breadth and depth of his teachings. For example, I read Adyashanti’s book “Emptiness Dancing” many years ago, and in it, he said that he said he had a Kundalini experience when he practiced Zen (before later becoming an Advaita Vedanta-type guru). But he never said another thing about Kundalini in the book: how it relates to the enlightenment process and Self-realization. By contrast, Ramana says Kundalini is another name for the Self. In other words, for Ramana, the Self is not just static Consciousness, but also dynamic Energy; in other words, Siva-Shakti. Although Ramana is considered an Advaita Vedanta guru, his teachings transcend the tradition.

None of the other Advaita Vedanta gurus I mentioned explicitly taught or teach Ramana’s method of Self-enquiry (“locating” the transcendental ‘I,’ or Self, by undermining the false ‘I,’ or ego-self) Self-enquiry is the most powerful and direct method to realize the Self (in, and eventually as, the Heart)--and it is beyond my comprehension how any true Advaita Vedanta guru could not teach it. Along with Dzogchen-type contemplation, it is what I teach my students.

If you decide to buy Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, do NOT buy the Inner Directions publication, which has been shamelessly edited (and grossly de-esotericized). Instead, get the Sri Ramanasramam one, by Munagala Venkataraman, available at Amazon.com (or Google Arunachala Ashrama and get a higher-quality hard-cover version). If you decide to start out with an introductory Ramana book, get the excellent compendium “Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi” by David Godman.

An Utterly Unique, Ultra-Profound Self-Realization Text

“Sri Ramana Gita” is a pamphlet-size book of just over fifty pages in English (side by side with the pages in original Sanskrit), but don't let its small size dissuade you from getting it. It is an utterly unique, ultra-profound text packed with Sri Ramana Maharshi's unprecedented esoteric wisdom regarding the superphysics (or non-physical "mechanics") of the" Self-realization process. If you want to know what elevates Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings beyond those of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and all the other Advaita Vedanta and neo-Advaita Vedanta gurus who have followed him, this book will answer your question.

In “Sri Ramana Gita,” Maharshi (1879-1950), India's greatest twentieth-century guru, not only explains Jnana and Bhakti from the highest perspective, but also elaborates on Shakti, the cutting of the Heart-knot, and the function of Amrita (or Atma) Nadi in En-Light-enment.

A great companion book to get in conjunction with “Sri Ramana Gita” is “Sat-Darshana Bhashya and Talks with Maharshi.” These books and many other fine ones pertaining to Ramana Maharshi are available at Arunachala.org.

Utterly Unique, Absolutely Profound

Over the past four decades, I’ve read over 2,000 texts in the esoteric spiritual traditions, and “Sat-Darshana Bhashya and Talks with Maharshi” ranks among the ten best of these. I just re-read this little book for the fourth time, and again I’m blown away by its unique profundity.

The author of this book, Kapila Sastriar, a learned scholar, possesses deep understanding of the Self-realization process, and using select conversations with Ramana Maharshi, India’s greatest twentieth-century sage, he elaborates on Maharshi’s teachings, and presents a demystifying exegesis of the “mechanics” and “anatomy” of Self-realization, which culminates in the cutting of the Heart-knot.

In my book “Electrical Christianity,” I present what I call the Electrical Spiritual Paradigm (ESP), and it was Sastriar’s book that first awakened me to the electrical (or Ohms Law)-like nature of true spiritual practice.

According to Sastriar, in true meditation, “the ego yields to the pressure of the force of Self-consciousness… and “thus dissolves, being but the apparent [false] self. And the false or ego-‘I,’ which is “nothing but a formation in the consciousness of the Self,” is “reborn as it were into the real ‘I’ that has all along been signified by it.”

Chit-Shakti, the conscious force engendered by the practice of Self-inquiry (meditatively inquiring into one’s true nature) results in palpable pressure. And when the ego yields to this pressure, Chit-Shakti in effect morphs into Anugraha-Shakti (Grace, the descent of Divine Power into the Heart-center), which en-Light-ens the yogi, enabling him to shine as the real ‘I,’ the transcendental Self.

“Consciousness and force,” Sastriar explains, “are really in a relation of identity like light and its radiation.” After experiencing the reality of this, I began to think of spirituality in electrical terms, with conscious force (Chit-Shakti) being analogous to electromotive force (voltage), and the resulting Light-energy flow (Anugraha-Shakti) being analogous to electrical energy (amperage). Years later, thanks to “Sat Darshana Bhashya” and the early writings of Adi Da, who no doubt read Sastriar, I was able to formulate my Electrical Spiritual Paradigm.

Sastriar, who spent considerable time in the company of Maharshi, understands that Self-realization is literally a process of whole-bodily en -Light-enment. He understands that the subtle body (the vital-mental, or life-breath-mind-stuff, sheath), which stands between inconscient matter (the gross physical body) and Consciousness Itself (the Self) must be transformed by virtue of conscious force. He writes:

“Thus, as the subtle body develops, it absorbs in a larger measure the conscious force which eliminates or transforms the element of the inconscient (jada) in the subtle body, and [as earlier stated] the ego yields to the pressure of the force of Self-consciousness. As the ego thus dissolves, being but the apparent self, the immediate sense of ‘I’, it is reborn as it were into the real ‘I’ that has all along been signified by it. What really happens in this process of liberation is this. When, through the development of the subtle body in which it is firmly rooted posing as the Real self, this ego is stung by a sense of its own weakness and falsity, the wide-awake self-awareness of the Purusha, the spirit seated inside in the Heart, finds a true reflection in the subtle body, thus displacing the ego or transforming it into the pure ‘I’ (Shudddha Ahambhava). And in consequence of the birth of the pure ‘I’, the real soul, the subtle body undergoes a remarkable change making it a true vehicle of the soul so formed. Thus freed from the hold of the material body the subtle stuff becomes a true expression of individuaslity, faithful to the Original Self, and an individual centre to its supreme consciousness.”

According to Sastriar, upon Heart-awakening, “as the light of the lamp pierces through the enclosure of the chimney, this conscious light of life streams out from the Heart throught what in yogic parlance is call Amrita Nadi, Atma Nadi, Brahma Nadi or Mukhya Prana Nadi, and sweeping aside all obstruction, overpowers the body and permeates the environment and the world.”

And to emphasize that true Heart-awakening as at once Power as well as Presence, Sastriar quotes Maharshi: “Whoever sees knowledge (Jnana) as divorced from power (Shakti) such an one knows not.”

If you’re interested in an utterly unique and absolutely profound elaboration of Ramana Maharshi’s esoteric teachings regarding the Self (or Heart)-realization, do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

PB May 16, 2017 at 9:40 am

Hi Ron,
What is the best text on raja yoga apart from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra?

Thanks.

Reply

L. Ron Gardner May 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Raja Yoga is the Sutras of Patanjali, so apart from a translation/commentary of the Sutras of Patanjali, I can’t imagine a best a best text on Raja Yoga. I recommend two texts:”The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” by Edward F. Bryant and “Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali by Swami Hariharananda Aranya

Reply

Mr K September 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Hello,
Thanks for pointing me to two of these books, I had been reading the Talks. I’m interested to know what you would think about the Lamp of non-dual wisdom, thanks.

Reply

L. Ron Gardner September 14, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Mr. K, you’re welcome. I have not read that book.

Reply

Jay Gold September 26, 2017 at 3:02 am

>Over the past four decades, I’ve read over 2,000 texts in the esoteric spiritual traditions, and “Sat-Darshana Bhashya and Talks with Maharshi” ranks among the ten best of these

What are the other nine?

Reply

L. Ron Gardner September 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (avoid the dumbed-down Inner Directions version, Sri Ramana Gita, Zen Teaching of Huang Po, Teachings of Tibetan Yoga, Some Sayings of the Buddha According to the Pali Canon, The Knee of Listening, The Method of the Siddhas, First and Last Freedom, The Philosophy of Sadhana, The Cycle of Day and Night.

Reply

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