Just after Talks with Ramana Maharshi went to press, Ken Wilber was kind enough to answer some questions about what he believes to be the nature of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings, as presented in Talks. The love and respect he has for this beloved sage is apparent in the dialogue, and in his earlier book, Grace and Grit, in which he writes about his wife’s fight with and eventual death to cancer.
IDJ: What was it about Ramana Maharshi that made him so extraordinary?
Ken Wilber: There was, first and foremost I believe the profound and in many ways unexcelled depth of his awakening or enlightenment. It is rare in any tradition, East or West, to find such an extraordinary realization, a permanent awareness of the nature of reality. Many people can have a glimpse of Spirit, but Ramana lived in the direct realization of that Spirit constantly, and he radiated that understanding to anyone who met him. Moreover, this direct realization is vividly alive in his Talks, and these Talks can help to enlighten any who read and contemplate them.
IDJ:How would you characterize his core teaching?
KW: The pure Self—the deepest core of your own being—is one with Spirit, and you (and all beings as such) are ultimately that one Spirit. Further, this pure Self or pure Spirit is what you are right now; it is not something you can become tomorrow. The very search for the Self blocks the realization that it is ever-present. So Ramana would have us inquire into who and what we are right now, so as to realize and recognize our true nature. The realization of that true nature is the discovery of Spirit right here and now, a discovery that answers the deepest questions we have about life, and puts to rest our painful seeking and suffering.
IDJ:How does one go about applying these core teachings in everyday life?
KW: To abide as the Self is simply to rest in the choiceless awareness of this and every moment. This pure nondual awareness, which is available to each and all right now, brings an enormous clarity, equanimity, and ease to one’s life. The effortless resting in this ever-present awareness, which is also a type of panoramic listening and seeing, allows life to unfold with a minimum of friction. You simply bring this present awareness to each task, moment to moment, and thus you bring Spirit to each task, as well.
IDJ:How are these teachings especially pertinent today?
KW: Self-realization, which is the realization of pure and radiant Spirit, is pertinent today and everyday. Nobody needs convincing that the world faces untold potential disasters and unmitigated nightmares. And we all have a tendency to blame other people or forces for these casualties—it’s the oil companies, or old paradigm thinking, or the patriarchy, or Newtonian-Cartesian science, and so on. But, the fact is the ultimate culprit is each one of us who fails to awaken to Spirit, to the pure Self. You and I are to blame for the mess the world is in. And we can begin to truly turn this ugly scene around only as each one of us assumes responsibility for our own Self-realization. Only as you and I become radiantly alive to Spirit in our own lives will the world begin to live in anything resembling peace and harmony. It starts right here, right now, with you and me, and with such precious pointers as can be found in these Talks.