The "Lost Years" of Ramana Maharshi

by Peter Holleran

Two Deaths, Two Hearts, Two Teachings

   Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was one of the most respected of modern Indian sages. At the age of sixteen he had a well-known spontaneous “death experience” without any previous sadhana or spiritual disciplines, which many have equated with his permanent establishment in Self-Realization, or the enlightened condition - but is that actually the case? This question will be the primary subject of this essay.

   Among the most influential early disciples of Ramana Maharshi were Paul Brunton, Mouni Sadhu, and Arthur Osborne, who helped in spreading his teachings to the West. Papa Ramdas, Paramahansa Yogananda, U.G. Krishnamurti, and HWL Poonja (“Papaji”) also spent time in his company. Annamalai Swami and Lakshmana Swami were among his most advanced Indian disciples, considered by some to be Self-Realized sages. For fifty years Ramana shed the beacon light of truth near the sacred mountain Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, South India. Of Maharshi, Brunton once remarked that at times he felt as if he were in the presence of "a being from another planet, or, perhaps, another species." (1) Even so, and despite being graced by the sage with advanced inner experiences, Brunton later came to feel Ramana’s philosophical position was incomplete. This was largely based on the way the initial communication of his realization was presented, which we will shortly explain.

   As a boy Ramana was ordinary in most respects, but there was one unusual characteristic about him. He was a very heavy sleeper, requiring vigorous shakes to rouse him, and he was also subject to periods of half-awake sleep at night during which his playmates would sometimes drag him around, beat him, cuff him, while he would put up with their sport with a meekness and passivity unknown to him in the waking state.

   At the age of sixteen Maharshi underwent a now famous spontaneous death experience during which he was overwhelmed by fear. He was unable to do anything to avoid this fear, the fear of death, and he surrendered himself and passed through it to realize the deathless Self, prior to the ego-I. His description of this event has been repeated many times:

   "It was in 1896, about 6 weeks before I left Madurai for good (to go to Tiruvannamalai - Arunachala) that this great change in my life took place. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle's house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it nor was there any urge in me to find out whether there was any account for the fear. I just felt I was going to die and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or any elders or friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there. The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: "Now death has come; what does it mean? What is that is dying? This body dies."

   And at once I dramatised the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out still as though rigor mortis has set in, and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, and that neither the word "I" nor any word could be uttered. "Well then," I said to myself, “this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burn and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Is the body I? It is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of I within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit. All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truths which I perceived directly almost without thought process. "I" was something real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on that "I". From that moment onwards, the "I" or Self focussed attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time. Other thought might come and go like the various notes of music, but the "I" continued like the fundamental sruti note which underlies and blends with all other notes."

   A current of awareness in the heart, the “aham sphurana”, led him to the consciousness of the Self, which he called the "I-I" (or the "I AM" prior to the primal I-thought), and which became his constant enigmatic fascination henceforward. He clearly related that a "great power" had taken him over, and that he had done no sadhana, while apparently achieved in one half-hour what it takes most aspirants years or lifetimes to do.

   After this event, he lost interest in school-studies, friends, and relations. Avoiding company, he preferred to sit alone, absorbed in concentration on the Self, and went daily to the Meenakshi Temple, ecstatically devoted to the images of the Gods, tears flowing profusely from his eyes. This should be kept in mind by those who assume Ramana had permanently and fully realized the non-dual Self by his first dramatic death experience. When questioned in 1946,

   "With what bhava (feeling) did Bhagavan cry before those images? Did Bhagavan pray he should have no further birth,
or what?"
, he replied, "What bhava? I only wanted the same grace as was shown to those saints. I prayed I should have
the same bhakti that they had. I knew nothing of freedom from births or bondage."

   Six weeks later he left his home in Madurai bound for Tiruvannamalai and the sacred mountain, Arunachala, where he would spend the rest of his life. The process that had begun in him continued to have its effects, and he felt a burning sensation in the body, which he said was due to “an inexpressible anguish which I suppressed at the time", until the moment he entered the temple Arunachaleswara in Tiruvannamalai.

   Ramana had little or no previous knowledge of spiritual traditions; it was only later that he found confirmation of his experience in the scriptures. After this he was for many years absorbed in trance samadhi much of the time, oblivious to the world. Indeed, he spent the years 1899-1916 in Virupaksha Cave, and 1916-1922 in the larger Skandasramam Cave on Arunachala where his mother and others joined him. He said that in the beginning sometimes he would open his eyes and it was day, and other times it would be night. An early disciple Palanaswami tended to most of his needs. Ramana lived with a discipline of extreme tapas, or asceticism, once revealing that he did so to conserve energy, apparently for inner sadhana, which in his case at this time appears to have been a sadhana of identification with the Self-essence, i.e., the fall into jnana samadhi wherein the transcendental Self is experienced by exclusion of the body-mind and the world. He described this “Heart” felt relative to the body as on the “right side”, but in truth the formless, infinite, bodiless consciousness. While, as stated, to outward eyes at this time it appeared like he was perpetually immersed in inner samadhis, nevertheless he also would read scriptures and undoubtedly engaged some form of contemplation or practice of self-inquiry (which he came to teach as “Who Am I?”), thus gradually stabilizing his initial profound glimpse until his identification with “the Self” was complete.

   It was this tendency to be immersed in absorptive samadhi, however, along with his first descriptions of the Heart as the exclusively inner source of the thought or the feeling of "I", that led some, such as advaitic philosopher V.S. Iyer, and possibly even PB at one point, to consider Ramana a saint or yogi and not a full sage.

   In 1912, when he was thirty-two, he went through a lesser-known second death experience which seemed to mark his complete return to normal outward activity. He remarked numerous times that the current of the self he had realized at aged sixteen had never changed, but while this new experience may not have upstaged his previous realization it did serve to reintegrate him with his bodily vehicle and with life. This is how he described what happened. While walking back from Virupaksha Cave one day he was suddenly overcome with physical weakness. He lay down and the world disappeared as if a bright white curtain was drawn across his vision. His breathing and circulation stopped and his body turned a livid blue. For fifteen minutes he lay as if in a state of rigor mortis, although still aware of the Self within. The current of awareness that was his daily experience persisted even with the shutdown of all bodily systems. Then suddenly, he explained, he felt a rush from the Heart on the right to the left side of his chest and the re-establishment of life in the body. After this he was more at ease in everyday circumstances, and began to increasingly associate with those seekers who gathered around him.

   By some accounts he said that there was no discipline, effort, or change in his conscious awareness since the first event in 1896, but it must be kept in mind that he, like other spiritual masters, said different things to different people, as will be explained below. This second death event, however, seemed to initiate his full transition into the stage of sahaj wherein the body-mind and the world are not excluded or seen apart from self-realization.

   When the disciples began to arrive, Ramana at first was silent, but later gave out the method of Self-Inquiry, or Atma-Vichara, where, as stated, one asks of himself, "Who am I?", and pursues the source of the "I-thought". Not to be merely an intellectual exercise, he emphasized that this inquiry demanded an intensely introverted mind and was, thus, for ripe souls, whose entire lives of spiritual discipline and understanding fitted them for the quest in its ultimate form. This form of inquiry requires a high degree of free attention in the disciple for its fruitful use. The "I-thought" or "aham vritti" of which Ramana spoke is actually more like the feeling-of-I, or the separate self-sense itself. It is not a mere thought like all of the rest, but the root thought and feeling of identity from which mentation springs. It has also been described as the self-knot or granthi, or the thought “I-am-the-body”.

   The inquiry that Maharshi advised was, therefore, not a mere mental exercise but a matter of total consideration of what the sense of “I” was all about. Sometimes he was said to speak using the terms “what is this me?”, rather than “who am I ?” While fundamentally jnana yoga, this inquiry is also essentially a submission to the core or heart of the being. Recognizing that not everyone was capable of engaging self-inquiry in its pure form, therefore, Ramana offered devotees the option of simply surrendering to him in the traditional manner as Guru or Divine Self. He suggested that one must do either of two things: find the source of the "I" or ego-self by self-inquiry, or surrender that self and let the Divine strike it down. In this manner he was not as dogmatic as some other of the non-dual sages, allowing a traditional devotional approach to him when appropriate and necessary. Ramana’s heart was said by devotees to be as soft as butter, and would also get choked and weep up when reading about or hearing devotional recitations, plays and stories.

   An important aspect of Ramana Maharshi's teaching and realization is the distinction he clearly draws between the crown center, or sahasrar, and the Heart, which he describes as the very source of conscious existence, yet felt or intuited in relationship to the body as being two digits right of the midline of the chest. For most yogis the center for realization is generally considered the sahasrar, whereas for Maharshi (and ancient Rishis as well) it was the heart. [Therefore the Biblical verse, “The wise man’s heart is at the right side; the foolish man’s heart is at the left.”] He maintained that the divine light appears (again, relative to the body) to flow upwards from the causal Heart to the sahasrar and from there downwards, enlivening the bodily centers below. To attain Self-Realization, Maharshi initially said, it was necessary for the attention to be inverted within and the “I-thought” drawn into its source in the Heart. [For a more detailed explanation of this see the excellent “The “I” and the “I-I” by David Godman]. He compared the Heart to the sun and the sahasrar to the moon, and said that the latter only contained the reflected light of the former. In contradistinction to most of the yogis, he argued that there was a terminal bend to the sushumna nadi from the sahasrar down into the heart, which was the true source from which the mind and sense of self emerged.

   At various times, then, Ramana would remark that self-realization was only for the fit, and that it required intense introversion of the mind. His disciple Lakshmana Swamy was adamant that the mind must fall into the Heart and die, or there is no self-realization (see No Mind, I Am the Self). As late as 6-27-46 Ramana said:

   "As often as one tries to surrender, the ego raises its head and one has to try to suppress it. Surrender is not an easy thing. Killing the ego is not an easy thing. It is only when God Himself by His grace draws the mind inwards that complete surrender can be achieved. But such grace comes only to those who have already, in this or previous lives, gone through all the struggles and sadhanas preparatory to the extinction of the mind and killing of the ego." (3)

   Paul Brunton often concurred that preparation was required for the end stages of the path:

   "To attain knowledge of Brahman, the mind must be held in the prerequisite state of being calm, tranquil, and in equilibrium - not carried away by attachment to anything. After this is established, and only then, can you begin enquiry with any hope of success." (4)

   At other times, however, Ramana would say that, while scriptures say one should proceed by doing sravana, manana, and niddidyasana, or attain savikalpa, then nirvikalpa, then realization, "why should one wander in that maze only to come round in the end to the Self? why not realize the Self here and now?" (5) With this and many other remarks he implied that inner trance states or samadhis were not required for realization of the non-dual 'non-state' of our Unborn true nature (which of course many current non-dualists are quick to latch on to because it is so much easier than the traditional yogic or advaitic approach - but who knows what Ramana would say to them in person!). He said to one devotee:

   "To imagine Muladhara at the bottom, the Heart at the center, or the head at the top or over these, is completely wrong. In one word, to think is not your nature." (6)

   That is to say, the Self or Soul is formless, bodiless, with its realization having nothing ultimately to do with the chakra system or any process occurring within time and space. In this second way of presenting the problem, Ramana seems to be suggesting that yogic inversion and the opening of the cave of the heart or the small almond-shaped aperture about the size of a thumb that is normally closed but open in the jnani, was not necessary. As he was not firm on this, it is not surprising that disciples and followers of him have taught either approach. The later perspective suggests Ramana's graduation to being the sage in sahaj, and no longer the saint or yogi as Iyer had claimed. In fact, Ramana once remarked that if he had known how simple it all was he would never have left his home in Madurai! So there was obviously a maturation process that occurred in his case after his first death experience, despite the commonly repeated belief that he had a rare, one-of-a-kind instant enlightenment. He was rare and unique, but his enlightenment wasn’t, as Anthony Damiani would say, a “one-shot” affair.

   The Heart as fully realized by Ramana, then, was distinct from both the physical organ, the subtle heart-chakra, and even the causal heart-root; rather, it is actually the transcendental source and very condition of the separate self, body, mind, and world. He said:

   "The spiritual Heart-center is not an organ of the body. All that you can say of the Heart is that it is the very Core of your being." (7)

   Swami Yogeshwaranand Saraswati proposed a similar argument for the causal heart-center in his book, Science of Soul (which remains one of the best sources for a description of the subtle anatomy of man, including the relationship between the "sheaths", "koshas", and "bodies" mentioned in yoga philosophy) :

   "A stream of rays pertaining to the life-force arises from the bliss-sheath and goes to the astral body and from there to the physical body." (8)

   He argues that the manamaya (mental) and vijnanamaya (discriminative) koshas (which comprise the subtle (or astral) body) exist in the brain, whereas the anandamaya kosha or bliss-sheath (causal body) is in the heart. (9)

   The transcendental heart of which Maharshi spoke, however, is not to be identified with this yogic center but is coterminous with, as well as beyond, all koshas and experiences. It is Reality. Sages will assert, moreover, that as the subtle and causal dimensions, sheaths, or bodies interpenetrate the gross or physical, one can have the intuition or insight of consciousess, the Self, as well as engage effective purifying sadhana, in this very world itself without penetrating the veil of incarnation as the yogis maintain. Even repeated experiences of nirvikalpa samadhi itself will not directly produce realization, because the seed of ego has not dissolved in its source but still exists as an unconscious determinant of one's experience; the age-old vasanas, or active as well as latent tendencies of egoity are also not undone by this means, and therefore stable sahaj is not yet possible, for all intents and purposes. These vasanas, said Maharshi, must be checked by knowledge, one by one as they arise, until the mind surrenders and allows the true non-dual Self to reveal itself. There is also no knowledge of the Self in Nirvikalpa, since there is no knower there; and in Savikalpa samadhi there is at best an "experience of the Self shining in the Intellectual sheath", as Ramana repeatedly said, but not knowledge that one IS the Self. That comes only through understanding in the waking state. Traditionally one is told to realize this first within, chiefly in order to break gross identifications, but later such exclusive realization is transcended.

   Brunton clarifies:

   "The point in the heart is a focus for meditation and also an experience during meditation. When, however, one rises to the ultimate path he disregards the heart because the Overself has nothing to do with localities or geography of any kind; it cannot be measured." (9a)

   The evolution in Maharshi's teachings is also evident within the freely rendered translation of Sankara's Vivekachudamuni written while he lived at Virupaksha Cave (1899-1916). In the earlier part of the work he argued that the traditional vedantic means of preparation: sravana, manana, and niddhiyasana, would lead to Nirvikalpa Samadhi, through which was attained the strength essential for direct realization of the supreme Self, and which in fact (Nirvikalpa) led spontaneously to the direct perception or knowledge of Brahman. He also wrote in this translation:

   “It is the projecting power of Maya together with its veiling power which unites the soul with the ego, the cause of delusion, and, through its qualities, keeps a man dangling like a ghost. If the veiling power is destroyed the Self will shine of itself, and there will be no room either for doubt or obstruction. Then the projecting power also will vanish, or even if it persists, its persistence will only be apparent. But the projecting power cannot disappear unless the veiling power does....Pure discrimination born of perfect knowledge distinguishes the subject from the object and destroys the delusion due to ignorance....Thus, only when one obtains realization of the Supreme Identity through Nirvikalpa Samadhi will ignorance be destroyed without vestige and the knot of the heart loosed..Thus the discriminating soul must know the Atma tattva in order to be free from the bondage of samsara....Brahman can be clearly experienced without any barrier only through Nirvikalpa Samadhi." (10)

   [Vedantic scholars are fairly unanimous that Sankara himself never asserted the necessity of samadhi for liberation - although he was certainly capable of it, being a great adept - and that it was much later that neo-advaitins familiar with the yoga traditions added this idea].

   Near the conclusion of the translation, however, Ramana reverted to traditional non-dual advaitic teaching:

   “It is impossible to argue that bondage (samsara) is caused by the veiling power (tamas) of Maya and Liberation by its destruction, since there is no differentiation apart from Maya. Such an argument would lead to a denial of the truth of Non-duality and an affirmation of duality. This would be contrary to the authority of the scriptures”...There is in truth no creation and no destruction; no one is bound, no one is seeking Liberation, no one is on the way to Deliverance. There are none Liberated. This is the absolute Truth.” (11)

   When the dialogues in the mid-1930’s that later became the book,Talks with Ramana Maharshi, were held it is very clear, as mentioned above, that Bhagavan repeatedly emphasized that even repeated experiences of Nirvikalpa Samadhi were not necessary for, nor did they automatically lead to, Self-Realization or Sahaj, but that only constant checking of the identifications of the mind and eradication of the vasanas as they arose would do so. It is therefore fairly apparent that his understanding of realization evolved over time.

   [An interesting side note is that while Ramana was insistent that nirvikalpa samadhi was not necessary for, or equivalent to, Self-realization, he did once suggest that the failure to go into such a state from time to time, for bodily refreshment, was the cause of Adi Sankara's early death at the age of thirty-three due to burnout from a whirlwind schedule of travel and teaching. Maharshi himself continued to intermittently enjoy such states, although with less frequency and duration than in the years after his initial death experience].

   In his later years Maharshl suffered from severe arthritis and resplratory troubles. He developed a sarcoma on his left arm that resisted medical treatment and eventually succombed to the cancer. The story of his final illness is revealing and a lesson in obedience and sensitivity to the Guru, for it was his stated wish on several occasions not to have the tumor interfered with by invasive therapy, but he gave in to repeated urgings by doctors and devotees to have it operated on, with the result that , as he remarked, "the tumor fought back" and got progressively worse until it was untreatable. When asked to intervene on his own behalf he replied, "Who is there to will this?" Kirpal Singh in the last week of his own life, was also asked by a devotee, "Master, you are all-powerful, why don’t you heal yourself?" His reply was "anyone whom you love, if he gives you something, would you refuse it? Tell me .. He should gladly accept it." This was similar to Maharshi's assessment of his own condition, albeit a bit less negative:

   "The body itself is a disease that has come upon us. If a disease attacks that original disease is it not good for us?" (12)

   Maharshi commented to those who anticipated the loss of his physical company, "They say that I am dying but I am not going away. Where could I go? I am here." [Isn't that the first word in "here-after", ie., here?] Thus he testified to his realization of the Transcendental condition and that after his death his devotees would still have access to the same presence and grace that was available to their true devotion while he was alive. The evening he died his devotees started chanting a hymn to Arunachala and tears streamed down Ramana's face. There was no struggle. He took one final breath before the end. A large shooting star visible for miles passed slowly across the sky to disappear behind the sacred hill Arunachala. The body of the most influential jnani of the twentieth century was consigned to the flames while his spirit continued to shine brightly in the hearts of his followers.

Reflections on the “Lost Years”

   The following was written by James Shwarz (Ram) on his website,, in the section entitled “Satsangs”:

   "It is a common misconception that you can just ‘get it’ once and for all and from that point on life is just endless bliss.  I don’t know if you are familiar with the story of Ramana Maharshi, but if you are, ask yourself why, if after his death experience and the awakening it caused, he spent twenty years sitting alone in caves?  If he was the Self as he had experienced, then what is the point of sitting in caves?  Isn’t it rather stupid to say the reality only shines in caves, that it does not shine in the world?  Why not just go back home and live like a normal person?  The answer is that he had experienced the Self and he could not forget it and his mind was turned inward, ‘’by a powerful fascination’ to use his own words.  But this was just the beginning of his spiritual life.  There was still somebody there that was fascinated, inspired, by the Self.

   Ramana’s greatness was that he understood that the best way to get rid of Ramana, his sense of duality, was to keep his mind fixed on the Self (he called it Self inquiry) and just burn out all those old dualistic notions.  The best way to do it for him was to follow the tradition and go sit in a cave where he would not be distracted.  At some point the small Ramana that he thought he was, the one who had had the experience, disappeared and from that point on the name Ramana referred to the Self, not to a person who had realized the Self.  A person did not disappear because there was no person there in the first place.  All that disappeared was his notion of himself as an incomplete being.

    Awakening [causes] you to understand what the Self is but the next step is to understand that you are the Self.  Getting this understanding is hard work.  Every time you find the mind thinking as a limited ‘I’ you correct it.  You put it to work asserting your wholeness and completeness, not denying it.  And slowly the mind changes.  You can keep up this work because you know that you are the Self, not [xyz].  This is why it is not brainwashing or a kind of religious belief.  You can actually see what the Self is and that you are it.  One day, the mind gives up arguing with you.  It surrenders.  It accepts you as are you are and no longer tries to convince you that you are a limited little worm, a beggar in need of inspiration or anything else.  It sees you as you are.  This is the end of it....

   If there is only one Self and this Self always knows who it is, i.e. that it is limitless and whole and therefore does not need any particular experience to erase its sense of limitation and make it whole, how can it forget who it is?  Vedanta says that it can't forget but that it can forget.   Or to put it another way it says that there is only one Self, pure Awareness, and that this Self is capable of both knowledge and ignorance.   It would not be limitless if it were unable to be ignorant. This capability of being two opposite things at once is called Maya.   The definition of Maya is: that which is not. You can see the problem in the definition. How can something that is not, be?   Well, strangely, it can.

   There is a strange notion that when one permanently experiences the Self the intellect is switched off for good and you just remain forever as the Self in some kind of no thought state.  The fact is that the intellect keeps right on thinking from womb to tomb.  God gave it to us for a good reason.  Clear logical practical thinking is absolutely necessary if you are going to crack the identity code.  It is called inquiry.  You want to think before realization, during realization and after realization.  Realization is nothing more than a hard and fast conclusion that you come to about your identity based on direct experience of the Self.  Only understanding will solve the riddle....No experience will eradicate vasanas born in ignorance and reinforced with many years of negative behavior.”

   Question: Is self-realization a discrete occurrence in time...or is the removal of self ignorance a gradual process over time?

   Ram: It can be either or both.  Usually one realizes who one is, falls again under the sway of ignorance, applies the knowledge again, realizes again and so on.  It goes on over and over until one day there is absolutely no doubt and the process of enlightenment/ endarkenment stops for sure. Ignorance is persistent and aggressive and one needs to practice the knowledge until the last vestige is rooted out.   I have a friend, a self realized person, who said, “I realized the Self five hundred times before my seeking stopped” to illustrate that point.”

     [End James Schwarz' material]

   Ramana also repeatedly said this. When asked, "will the knowledge gained by direct experience be lost afterwards?", he replied:

   "Kaivalya Navanita says it may be lost. Experience gained without rooting out the vasanas cannot remain steady. Efforts must therefore be made to eradicate all the vasanas. Otherwise, rebirth takes place. Some say direct experience results from hearing from one's Master; others say it is from reflection; yet others say from one-pointedness and also from samadhi. Though appearing different on the surface, ultimately they mean the same. Knowledge can remain unshaken only after all the vasanas are rooted out." (13)

   He also distinguished the specific practice he often recommended from that of yogic absorption or trance (even though he was adept at that with obvious tendencies from previous births):

   "Abhyasa consists of withdrawal within the Self every time you are disturbed by thought. It is not concentration or destruction of the mind, but withdrawal into the Self." (14)

   This is more a sense of retreating mentally into subjectivity away from objects as opposed to actual yogic absorption into an inner void to escape objects.  Going within thus described is not to be understood in a spatial manner, but as an orientation towards ones sense of awareness, which is ultimately realized as both within and without and beyond both. The void, when conceptualized, as something to be absorbed into within, is not the subjectivity Ramana is pointing to, but is still more or less an object, as the witness self is yet objective to the Self.

   Ed Muzika, disciple of the American sage Robert Adams, himself a disciple of Ramana, had this to say about his difficulties with the "Who am I?" inquiry:

   "It took me a long time to realize that going within, for me, meant space/void/mind exploration, while what I really needed to do was to flee into subjectivity away from objects as opposed to fleeing into the Void to escape objects [important point].  Until you have done this practice for time, it is hard to notice the difference.  Going within is not a spatial thing, but a heading towards the sense of the source of sentience. The void is not subjectivity, it is still an object."

     "For the longest time, when I went within, there was a feeling of "solidity" within the void that was centered in my heart area. That is, I felt my essence, so to speak, was involved with the heart center and that it was my job to penetrate and clarify that area. Strangely, this was Ramana's instruction, to look within the heart area. But this is a mistake. There is still a looker who is objectifying the heart area phenomenon which was within space and time; yet, who is the looker? Seeking within the heart area makes it important and more real, just like concentrating on the body makes it more real. In one mind, inward and outward disappear."

     "Robert describes the "Who am I?"  Meditation as not following the I inward, but asking the question and gently probing within for He who asked the question, and in that space, to abide in silence—that is, without seeking. I do not like this meditation....because of my misconception of the question as a device to seek an ever retreating subject, I got lost in the Void. “Who am I?” has altogether too much mentation."

     "Therefore, search within for that which is the perceiver and attempt to abide there.  The attempt itself will be a failure, but persistence will allow one to abide in silence, as the dichotomy disappears, and the ultimate subjectivity will reveal its mysteries just in this calm abidance.”
(Ed Muzika, Dancing With God)

   Ramana said:

   "Even without 'diving' in, you are That. The ideas of exterior and interior exist only so long as you do not accept your real identity...It was said because you are identifying with the froth and not the water. Because of this confusion, the answer was meant to draw your attention to this confusion and bring it home to you. All that is meant is that the Self is infinite, inclusive of all that you see. There is nothing beyond it or apart from it. Knowing this, you will not desire anything; not desiring, you will be content." (15)

   So right there he is re-emphasizing that initial instructions to go 'within' are just to counter the age-long tendency to perceive things as being 'without', but that trance is not necessary, or even the true subjectivity he is really talking about, which is beyond all categories, including time and space.

   The different point of view of jnana may take some time to discern for one practiced in a yoga path. It is not just an academic point but one filled with much importance. As the Buddhist text, The Transmisson of the Lamp, states:

   "The ordinary man is going astray, but in a way is enlightened; the Sravaka, however, who is enjoying the bliss of absorption for ever so many kalpas, is, from the point of view of the Bodhisatva, suffering the fires of hell, having buried himself in emptiness with no possibility of insight into the Buddha-Nature itself."

   Continuing, PB wrote:

   "“The ego is a collection of thoughts circulating around a fixed but empty centre. If the habits of many, many reincarnations had not given them such strength and persistence, they could be voided. The reality - MIND - could then reveal itself... [But] the ego is a knot tied in the middle of our inner being, itself being compounded from a number of smaller knots. There is nothing fresh to be gathered in, for b-e-i-n-g is always there, but something to be undone, untied...The ego finds every kind of pretext to resist the practice required of it...There is no limit to the ego's pretensions...The ego lies to itself, lies to the man who identifies with it, and lies to other men" (16)

   The preceding counters the simplistic notions among some “neo-advaitic” teachers who argue practice and effort are not necessary. It seemed to Schwarz that there was a reason that even a great one such as Maharshi did not immediately set up shop and teach after his first awakening, and spent years in seclusion meditating, inquiring, pondering, studying, before doing so, and even then somewhat reluctantly. In a illuminating interview, Schwartz, in precise language, analyzes why he feels Ramana spoke the way he did in the situations he was in, why his early teachings may have differed from the later ones, how he spoke more often from the language of yoga and experience than that of advaita and identity because of the culture he grew up in and the people he was surrounded with, why there is need for discrimination in talking about whether the mind or ego needs to die, what that really means, and the differences between partial realization or awakening and full enlightenment. See Commentary on the Teachings of Ramana Maharshi. This excellent interview ties together many of the points that have been touched upon within this article and is a must read. Also see this clarifying dialogue of his on the issue of "eradicating the vasanas".

   Schwartz's view is, of course, a controversial one. Swamis associated with Ramanashram are insistent that Ramana's pronouncement that his realization did not change at all from the moment of his first death experience is the case, despite outer appearances to he contrary. For a challenging dialogue on this issue, as well as the differences between experience and knowledge, samadhi and jnana, in advaita, see this excellent piece from the Mountain Path magazine, in which Schwartz and an influential swami engage in Dharma Combat.

   Vedantist V.S. Iyer was even more outspoken and had quite a different view of Ramana's time in seclusion. He felt Ramana overstayed his time in the caves because of the early influence of the shakti worshipping Sri Seshadri Senegal, who was the person who rescued the young Ramana when the latter was immersed in penance in the underground vault called Patala Lingam located in the Thousand-pillared Hall of the Arunachaleshwarar temple, while ants and other insects were gnawing away at his body. Although Palanaswami soon took over the lifetime job as Maharshi's personal assistant, Sri Sehashri and Ramana remained closely related for a period of time, with Ramana sometimes affectionately called a "Little Seshadri" by the villagers in the area. Iyer wrote:

   "If Maharshi had a proper guru and not the mad Seshadri who was his guru but an incompetent one, he would have been told, "You now realize that the world is an idea." "So go and live amongst others, keeping your insight all the time. it is not necessary to remain in solitude any longer." (17)

   Seshadri had the popular reputation of being somewhat mad, but also the ability to make anything he touched prosper and flourish, so villagers tolerated his antics.

   Whether Maharshi was fully realized or not before he left Madura, for most aspirants there is a need to inquire or investigate one’s realization to the point of knowing one is the Self, without a doubt, as opposed to just settling for the initial glimpse of seeing that there is such a Self, and foregoing what for most is the hard work to establish oneself permanently in that state. Some have asked, “Why should this have to be done? Why not just awaken and that's it?” Simply because, again, for most, as H. Ross Perot once said, "Folks, it just don't work that way!" And for one more extensive explanation we can turn to PB’s philosophy about the relationship between the ego, the Overself or Divine Soul, and the World-Mind, along with an understanding of the Three Primal Hypostases of Plotinus. [for more on this, see The Integrationalists and the Non-Dualists-1. Also, for those unfamiliar with the unique terminology used by PB (Mind, World-Mind, World-Idea, Overself), please click here for a precise explanation].

   The non-dual position of PB may be reduced to the following classic passages:

   ”His first mental act is to think himself into being. He is the maker of his own “I.” This does not mean that the ego is his own personal invention alone. The whole world-process brings everything about, including the ego and the ego’s own self-making.” (PB V6, 8:2.15) That’s mentalism in a nutshell. That’s the whole mentalistic doctrine. The Soul has for its content the World-Idea, and it actualizes that or projects that World-Idea out from within itself. And included in that World-Idea is the ego and the process that it’s going to go through.” (18)

   “The ego to which he is so attached turns out to be none other than the presence of World-Mind within his own Heart. If identification is then shifted from one to the other, he has achieved the purpose of life."

   It is simply built into the universe, regardless of philosophy, that not only has this ego been constructed out of the thought-content of the World-Idea by the World-Mind and projected through the Soul, with this thought due to the power of maya spuriously taking itself to be real, but this very ego, as illusory, temporary, and insubstantial that it may be, must also still surrender itself if realization is to be lasting and uncontradictably REAL, otherwise ignorance and illusion will reassert themselves sooner or later. The length of time this will take after a spiritual glimpse will depend on whether, as Adyashanti once said, one's ego has been just "nicked" in the process or has suffered a "mortal wound". Robert Adams was also clear on this issue of surrender. Through the power and exercise of discipline, moral effort, and vichara, or inquiry, the mind also becomes more and more sattvic or purified, isolating the ego and bringing it to the point of such surrender where there is simply nothing left for it to do, and grace will then assert itself and bring us through the door, the "gateless gate" of enlghtenment. Paradoxical? Yes, but that seems to be the way it is. Jnana and bhakti are inseparable as long as one lives. Ramana believed either of the paths were capable of taking one to liberation. To a bhakti he remarked, "If the longing is there, liberation will be forced on you even if you don't want it."

   Chittaranjan Naik likewise poetically summarizes the 'end-game' on the path of knowledge:

   ”Traditional advaita says that when you have prepared well, a disguised person will come to you at a Crossroad that you cannot now see. He will carry with him a sword that will slice clean through your neck. His is an act of Love. He is a mercy-killer! He will kill Death that Life may shine through. He is your Self personified in the mystery of Maya...Who says there is no path to liberation? It is not a path made of clay and earth. It is a path that leaves no trace. That you cannot point out a traceless path is no fault of the path.” (20)

   Furthermore, for many people this realization occurs in two stages, one, the realization of the transcendant Witness (the exclusive 'experience' OF the Self, or the awareness of awareness), and, two, the realization or knowing one's true identity AS the Self (Oneness, Being, or Pure Consciousness). Not always, but often it transpires this way. This may be reflected in Ramana sometimes using the word "Turiya" (the "fourth state") versus "Turiyatita" ("beyond the fourth"). (20)   PB wrote:

   "Although the aspirant has now awakened to his witness-self, found his "soul," and thus lifted himself far above the mass of mankind, he has not yet accomplished the full task set him by life. A further effort still awaits his hand. He has yet to realize that the witness-self is only a part of the All-self. So his next task is to discover that he is not merely the witness of the rest of existence but essentially of one stuff with it. He has, in short, by further meditations to realize his oneness with the entire universe in its real being He must now meditate on his witness-self as being in its essence the infinite All. Thus the ultramystic exercises are graded into two stages, the second being more advanced than the first. The banishment of thoughts reveals the inner self whereas the reinstatement of thoughts without losing the newly gained consciousness reveals the All-inclusive universal self. The second feat is the harder." (22)

   Anthony Damiani leaned toward the opinion that one had to go through the witness self to realize Being. Contemporary teacher Adyashanti, while not admitting that it was absolutely necessary, said that the experience of the transcendant witness was a common doorway, and distinguished between the two realizations in language almost identical to that of PB:

   "So there are two qualities or two aspects to awakening....One of the aspects of awakening is the realization of your own nothingness, your own no-thingness.  It's the direct realization that there is no separate individual being called me.  It's the realization that what you are is much more akin to simple and pure awareness without form, without attributes.  This is one aspect of realization.   It is the most common aspect of realization. The second aspect of realization is the realization of Pure Being.  It's the realization of true Oneness. Whereas to realize your own nothingness is in a manner of speaking is to go from somebody in particular to being the transcendent witness.... One can have that realization without having the realization of being. Being is...not caught in the realization of emptiness.  It's not caught in the witness.  It is that realization where we see that the "I" is universal...Everything is actually of exactly the same essence and that essence is, that substance is what you are...Some people get the realization of nothingness without the realization of Oneness really, of pure Being.  That will maybe come weeks, months or years later...And often the doorway to Oneness, to pure Being is through the doorway of pure awareness, of no-thing-ness. That's why it's often talked about. It's often the doorway. To dislodge the identity from its false image and to realize that you are not the image but the awareness of the image is a much easier step in one manner of speaking than to realize that everything is one being, one spirit." (from a talk at the Omega Institute, 2007)

   Plotinus seemed to be pointing to this in the Enneads when he wrote:

   "If a man could but be turned about - by his own motion or by the happy pull of Athene [the Overself?] - he would see at once God and himself and the All. At first no doubt all will not be seen as one whole, but when we find no stop at which to declare a limit to our being we cease to rule ourselves out from the totality of reality; we reach to the All as a unity - and this is not by any stepping forward, but by the fact of being and abiding there where the All has its being." (23)

   John Sherman, on the other hand, would be in the "it's not necessary" school, holding to a most radically simple interpretation of the practice given by Ramana in "Truth is easy".

   To summarize this section, it seems likely that from the first spontaneous death experience of Ramana as a boy in Madurai until the event in 1912, much went on spiritually within the young sage. He studied scriptures, meditated, inquired and stabilized his initial overpowering glimpse into a steady abiding as the non-dual Self. In this he would have been like Zen Master Bankei who proclaimed:

   "When it comes to the truth I uncovered when I was twenty-six and living in retreat at the village of Nonaka in Ako in Harima - the truth for which I went to see Dosha and obtained his confirmation - so far as the truth is concerned, between that time and this, from beginning to end, there hasn't been a shred of difference. However, so far as penetrating the great truth of Buddhism with the perfect clarity of the Dharma Eye and realizing absolute freedom, between the time I met Dosha and today, there's all the difference of heaven and earth!" (24)

Ramana’s Realizations: Astrology and the World-Mind

   I thought it would be worthwhile to see if we could correlate these ideas with the role that astrological forces play in a person’s life and spiritual transformation, and in particular, in the case of Ramana. For simplicity, let us just classify the planets in the chart up to Saturn as “ego-forming” (with some considering Saturn actually playing a transitional, initiatory role), and the three outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) as “ego-transcending, dissolving, and transforming”. They are “Gods”, as it were, impersonal divine forces that are only friends for those truly on the path. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if the awakening experiences and realizations of great masters, such as Ramana Maharshi, were accompanied by the graceful presence of these beneficent divine helpers as transits in their natal charts? In fact, that seems to be the case, in many examples I have uncovered. For now, let’s just take the example of Ramana. Here is his natal chart [scroll down past accompanying biography for chart].

   Right away one sees many outstanding configurations, some of which a study of mine has shown to be prominent in famous Indian saints and sages, and spiritual teachers generally. Among these are: a GRAND TRINE one angle of which is the focal point of a T-SQUARE, which I would suggest demonstrates a human vehicle and psyche with a smooth flow of spiritual energies and the developmental tension necessary both for personal growth and the ability to deal with karmic complications of devotees. Kirpal Singh, Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Aurobindo, Brahmananda, and Meher Baba had this, to name but a few. Ramana had TWO grand trines (water and earth) and TWO T-squares (focal planets Mercury and Saturn), interconnected to form a a Star of David as well. Also very common in Indian godmen particularly has been the sign of Capricorn (the glyph itself roughly traces the shape of the subcontinent, and the sign is associated with tradition, discipline and renunciation) and a well placed ninth house, domain of the higher, philosophic mind. Of course, there is alot more but I will skip to the chase.

   When Ramana was sixteen years old, Uranus was conjuncting his second house Venus in Scorpio, and opposing his natal Pluto, planet of death in the eighth house of death (ruled by the Scorpio Venus). Result: heart awakening and death-in-life, based on fruitful past karma and extreme readiness (represented by the well-integrated chart).   [note: this chart appears to use the whole sign method; if Placidus is used as I originally did when I cast Ramana's chart years ago, Venus and Pluto are in the second and eighth houses, not the first and seventh as shown here; even so, the themes remain the heart, death, and the not-self].

   Fast forward sixteen more years. Ramana experienced the shutdown of his body almost as if in death, in which he felt the Self within and the current of the heart maintaining the body. This was shortly followed by the re-animation of the body after which he seemed to have been enabled to function more freely and energetically from the position of sahaja-nirvikalpa-samadhi in daily life.

   During this episode Ramana had Neptune transitting conjunct the ninth house Moon, and Saturn conjunct the eighth house Pluto and opposite Venus (also ruler of the Ascendant). The Cancer Moon on the Midheaven along with all of the rest could be used to explain his more outward (or less exclusively inward) heart-orientation after this transformation.

   Of course, there can be varying interpretations and such astrological dynamics will not effect everyone equally, but essentially what are we saying here? Anthony Damiani put it this way. He first quotes PB:

   "This whittling away of the ego may occupy the entire lifetime and not seem very successful even then, yet it is of the highest value as a preparatory process for the full renunciation of the ego when - by Grace - it suddenly rises up in the heart." (25)

   “When the time comes [i.e., "There is a tide in the affairs of men" - Shakespeare], if you haven’t done the work you won’t know it. But if you have done that work, and there comes a moment where the situation arises where you have to surrender the ego, that makes it possible for you to give up the ego - or at least recognize that this is what’s being called for. But you have to do the work first. You’re not going to give up the ego just like that..But an occasion may arise, when the possibility of surrendering the ego will take place: in meditation, some crisis, or something. And if you haven’t struggled all the time with it, you certainly will not at that time attempt to surrender're not going to get rid of your ego until you have sufficiently developed it, purified it, and brought it under the higher discipline, the higher philosophy...Actually, you don't get rid of it, you have to transform it...the ego has to be evolved, matured. It won't be capable of that sacrifice until it does reach that maturity..[Is it possible that true surrender takes place without your really knowing it?] Don't worry, you'll know it. It will be the most agonizing thing you've ever gone through....The ego will not destroy itself. Even if you're in the process of going through certain spiritual disciplines which are attempting to reduce the ego's strength, the ego will resist....[But] you reach a certain level or a certain stage of contemplative exercise and it's taken out of your hands. It's the King within that starts guiding the whole process, the individual ego would never be able to do that. That Grace takes over and directs, and of course you'll be aware of that intuitively, that it's doing it.” (26)

And further:

   “Without the fullness of the understanding that comes from penetrating into the World-Idea - in other words, the full development of the faculty of understanding which comes to a soul through the World-Idea - in the trance state one would be utterly unprepared to understand the mysterious Void...Or we can put it this way: It will take all the teaching that the World-Mind can bring to bear upon the soul, in order for the soul to understand its origins, its own priors...that's what is necessary to become the sort of philosopher that not only understands the nature of the soul but also something about the prior principles that are, let's say, eternally generating it." (27)

   As PB's teacher, V.S. Iyer stated:

   "You must begin with the external world because it lies before you first. How can you understand the inner self correctly if the world which is in front of you is not correctly understood?" (28)

   For vedantist Iyer, the world, including one's body, must first be realized on inquiry or investigation to be ideas; only then may the ego itself be seen as an idea, and then the Atman or Mind itself known as the source of these ideas; once this is achieved, the universe or totality on further inquiry becomes known as Brahman. This is a radical departure from the view of most yogis and mystics, who venture only within for the truth.

   PB wrote:

   "The need of predetermining at the beginning of the path whether to be a philosopher (ie., sage) or a mystic arises only for the particular reincarnation where attainment is made. Thereafter, whether on this earth or another, the need of fulfilling the philosophic evolution will be impressed upon him by Nature." (29)

   Aziz Kristof in a different manner argues that one can have a glimpse of the I AM, and the "no-self" ground of being, but that is not the end. One must get stabilized in the I AM, and then open the Heart center to find the Soul, or what he terms the ME (not the ego, which is just a mental image):

   "In effortless abiding, it [the ME] becomes one with the universal I AM, and meets the Creator....The true liberation is not to realize that we have "no-self" but the opposite: to discover our Soul and her separation from the Creator. Only this can bring us back to the Beloved...The Soul is the Beloved, but the Beloved that sees herself as a Soul. In this seeing, the beloved is separated from herself. This is the mystery of Creation....[The] Me expands infinitely into the vastness of the Universal Intelligence. It is the journey of the Spirit into the ultimate experience of love, beauty, and happiness...The Non-dual Perception is not the end of Seeing. The evolution into the Seeing of Reality does not have an end." (30)

   This sounds like a radical departure from much non-dual speech, and as presented here require more elaboration, for which I refer the reader to Aziz's book, Enlightenment Beyond Traditions, and see for themselves whether it is truly unique in answering some unresolved questions or not. He further says that the Heart can be open without the realization of the Absolute, and that one can also have realization of the Absolute with the Heart remaining completely closed. But to truly realize the Soul the Heart must open and also be rested in the Absolute ground of Being. Thus supported, the Soul will then be able to meet its Beloved, the Creator, in whom it most truly lives - and which also rests on the Absolute ground of Being - with the whole affair, the fruit of evolution, guided by Divine Intelligence. These excerpts are again incomplete, and may appear like just confusion to a confirmed advaitist, but I feel he is on to something. So please read the entire book, which may well be worth your time. These brief passages do sound quite like PB, where he describes the concepts of an ever spiralling evolution of the Soul, and the Soul dwelling within the Absolute Soul and also knowing its divine parent, the Intellectual Principle, in whose "image" it is made or emanated. As I have argued, these experiences of the Primals of Plotinus presuppose the non-dual realization of sahaj, and may have been what Ramana meant when after realization he would cry out in ecstasy, "Father, Father." [I could also be mistaken about this, as Ramana's worship of the Tamil saints took place shortly after his first death experience, which, as suggested, may not have ushered in the sahaj state.]

   To me this all means that the Soul cannot come to Self-cognition without the help of the cosmos which it itself ensouls, and without coming to such self-cognition it cannot know God, its Beloved. Even Maharshi may have been content to remain in the caves in blissful inner peace but he was compelled by Divine Intelligence to come to full awakening. In "Outline of the System of Plotinus" from The Shrine of Wisdom,on the WG website, it is summarized:

   "But in order to realize that eternal life and become a conscious and active participant in It, it is requisite for the Immortal Soul to be associated first with that which is mortal, finite and transient ere it can learn to recognize Eternity, the Infinite and the Spirit which will unite it to the Supreme."

   In summary, Realization is a paradoxical affair requiring both our illusory effort, as well as grace, i.e., the help of the Buddhas, as well as the cosmos, the veritable “womb of the Buddhas”, in order to come to fruition.

Select quotes

   "There is no greater mystery than this, that being the reality yourself, you seek to gain reality."

   "You think there is something binding your reality and that something must be destroyed before the reality is freed. This is ridiculous."

   "A day will dawn when you will laugh at all your efforts. What is there to realize? The real is always as it is."

   "You have realized the unreal, in other words, you regard the unreal as that which is real. Give up this attitude and you will attain wisdom."

   "There is nothing new nor anything you do not already have which needs to be gained. The feeling that you have not yet realized is the sole obstruction to realization."

   "In fact, you are already free. If it were not so, the realization would be new. If it has not existed so far, it must take place hereafter. What comes will also go, what can be gained can also be lost."

   "If realization is not eternal it is not worth having. Therefore what you seek is not that which must happen afresh. It is only that which is eternal, but not now known due to obstruction."

   "Remove the obstruction. That which is eternal is not known to be so because of ignorance. Ignorance is the obstruction. Get over the ignorance and all will be well."

   "The ignorance is identical with the 'I-thought'. Find its source and it will vanish. Then the Self alone will shine as it always has, in the stillness of being."

For much more please see Ramana Maharshi - Jnani of the Century on this website.

1. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 10, 2.418 (Burdett, N.Y.: Larson Publications)
2. A. Devaraja Mudaliar, Day By Day with Bhagavan (Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 2002), p. 323-324
3. Ibid, p. 263
4. Bruinton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part 2, 2.24
5. Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Directions Publishing, 2001), p. 119
6. Ibid, p. 254
7. Maharshi's Gospel (Tiruvannamalai, India: Sri Ramanasramam, 1969), p. 68
8. Swami Yogeshwaranand Saraswati, Science of Soul (New Delhi, India: Yoga Niketan Trust, 1987), p. 238
9. Ibid, .p. 237, 254
9a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 14, 3.266
10. The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, edited by Arthur Osborne (London: Ryder & Company, 1969 edition), p. 155-157
11. Ibid, p. 172
12. Sri Sadhu Om, The Path of Sri Ramana: Part One (Kerala, India: Sri Ramana Kshetra, 1981), p. 24
14. Ibid, p. 382
15. Talks with Ramana Maharshi, op. cit., p. 482
16. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 6, Part 1, op. cit., 2.37, 3.45, 3.51, 3.83)
17. V.S. Iyer,Commentaries, Vol 1 (ed. Mark Scorelle, 1999), p. 208
18. Anthony Damiani, Standing in Your Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 125
19. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 6, op. cit., Part 1, 1.127
20. Chittaranjan Naik, "Why Traditional Advaita is Relevant to Liberation"
21. The Wanderling has a different interpretation of Turiya and Turiyatita.
22. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 15, Part 1, op. cit., 6.81
23. Stephen McKenna, Plotinus: The Enneads (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1992), p. 607 (VI.5.7)
24. Peter Haskel, Bankei Zen (New York, N.Y.: Grove Press, 1984, p. 113
25. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 6, op. cit., 4.422
26. Anthony Damiani, Standing inYour Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 214-216
27. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1996), p. 69
28. V.S. Iyer, op. cit., p. 341
29. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.191
30. Aziz Kristof & Houman Emami, Enlightenment Beyond Tradition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999), p. xxi, 129, 131, 156-157