I Am Not Going Away. Where Could I Go?

by Robert Powell

Sri Ramana Maharshi, just before his death when the devotees were grieving over his imminent departure, reassured them with the above statement. What is the meaning of these immortal words?

We have the idea that upon death, we are going somewhere; we are departing from this earth, from this world. It is necessary and, I think, very fruitful to thoroughly investigate this situation for oneself. In the first place, what really is “here” and is one ever going anywhere? Also, what is “now” and what is the future? Are not these terms always a function of body-mind-sense activity? In the waking state, I can assert that I find myself “here” (or at such and such a place) in the present. I have a sense of presence, which is a direct function of my being conscious. In the absence of body-mind-sense activity, where is “here” and where is “there”? And when the senses are dormant, such as in the deep sleep state, where are “here” and “now”? It must be obvious that the sense of location and time are a direct result of somatic activity and not absolute “givens.”

Now it may be objected that my sense of being here is confirmed every step of the way by my fellow beings, who can confirm that I am here with them, in the present moment. But is not every one of them, without exception, equally a product of body-mind-sense activity in their determination of what is “here and now”? Is there even one human being who possesses a sense of absolute location and time divorced from physiological-mental activity, who can serve as an independent referee or reference point to others? Obviously, there is not. Therefore, the only “certain knowledge” individuals have in the matter is based on “hearsay.” Einstein proved that an observer’s location could never be determined in absolute space and time.

Now we are taking this one step further and point to the truth that ultimately, that is absolutely speaking, no space and time exist at all—not even “relativistic” or relative space-time—and therefore no “separate” beings exist. We must state emphatically that to be aware of space-time rests on an initial descent into “physicality.” This phase in turn germinates as a sense of identity derived from identification with a certain form “presented” (that is, manufactured) by the senses, and psychologically as an impression left in the collective consciousness, an image impressed on our supposed fellow-beings—friends and family. This image may have a certain status and give rise to various emotive states or engender pleasure. All that is involved in the resulting feeling of “being someone,” which is never examined but taken as a “given.” One has fallen in love with one’s own form, one’s own image, as it were. Practicing vichara (the way of enquiry) into the self, as enjoined by Sri Ramana Maharshi, frees one from the suffocation of the unreal relationship. If one is fearless in one’s endeavor, one is bound to arrive at the liberating truth of the self or the emptiness of ego. This basic discovery culminates in the unraveling of the entire web of Maya and the re-establishment of one’s original unicity.

Thus, when meditated upon in this way, the words of the Maharshi acquire a new meaning when he states with complete certainty that he would not go anywhere, that in the deepest sense he would always be with his devotees, in fact with anyone who would recognize Him for what he really is, their very Self, the Consciousness, which is prior to space and time.