Individualizing the Abhyasa | Gems from Ramana

Question: “Can this path of inquiry be followed by all aspirants?

Ramana Maharshi: “This is suitable for the ripe souls.The rest should follow different methods according to the state of their minds.”

One of the most common misconceptions in the path of yoga is the assumption that everyone will benefit from the same practice or abhyasa. This misconception is also found among the followers of Ramana Maharshi who assume that the only abhyasa recommended was Atma-Vichara or Self-Inquiry.

The above quote spoken by Ramana clearly reveals that not every practice was suitable for every person. The mental atmosphere or “state of the mind” of the aspirant is paramount when considering the potential options for abhyasa. This brings in the importance of Yoga Psychology and the role of the Gunas creating the mental environment. Ramana Maharshi was an extremely advanced Soul and his teachings are more complex than they may appear to be on first examination. 

One of the most important works to examine concerning these matters is the “Sri Ramana Gita” composed by Sri Vasishta Ganapati Muni. This text is essential study when examining the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and adjusting the practices to the unique personality of the practitioner.

Ramana also strongly recommended the study of the important texts Advaita Bodha Deepika (Lamp of Non-Dual Knowledge), Kaivalya Navaneeta (Cream of Liberation), and the Ribhu Gita.Therefore, besides the use of the advanced practice of Atma-Vichara and individualizing the abhyasa, Ramana also highly recommended the practice of svadhyaya or Self-Inquiry, which is defined as the study of moksha shastras.

When one dives below the surface of the ocean of teachings of Ramana Maharshi, a vast array of practices is revealed, each one meant to be customized to the unique personality and mental disposition of the practitioner.

This mirrors the approach of Ayurvedic medicine individualizing the therapies based upon the unique state of imbalance or vikriti contrasted with the ideal state of balance or prakriti of the respective patient. In Ayurveda, there is no one diet for all to follow, one herbal formula which fits everyone. Each therapy must be individualized to the unique constitution of the patient living in a particular season and in a particular locale. Yoga practices are no different, regardless of what a contemporary yoga asana studio may advertise. 

The importance of the teacher or clinician becomes important when considering these ideas, as it is not easy to self-diagnose or self-prescribe diets, medicines, or yogic sadhana. In some cases, it may appear to be a simple solution, however things are not always what they seem when one swims into the deeper waters of the mental gunas and their influence on the mind-space of the practitioner. But even with the guidance of an expert clinician, teacher, or Guru, one must not forget the most important ingredient in the recipe: sraddha or faith.

“The development of transcendental love begins with sraddha or faith. Sraddha leads one to associate with spiritually advanced persons, sadhu-sanga.”

     Bhakti-rasamrta-sinda, I.4.15

“Those imbued with faith and who are devoted to controlling their senses attain this knowledge very swiftly. Thus they attain supreme peace.

 Those who are deluded, without faith and full of doubt are ruined. Such faithless people find no happiness in this world or next.”

     Bhagavad Gita, 4.39-40

“One who practices Bhakti for a desired end finds no fulfillment on attaining it and then again worships god for the sake of eternal happiness.

 Bhakti, even when accompanied by desire, does not cease with the achievement of the desire. Faith in the Supreme Person develops and goes on increasing.

 Growing thus, Bhakti in course of time becomes perfect. By means of this perfect and supreme Bhakti, even as by Jnana, one crosses the Ocean of Becoming.”

     Sri Ramana Gita, 16.10-13

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