One of Ramana Maharshi’s students; Papaji, discussed practice oriented methods:
“During the course of our conversation I said, ‘You are asking people to “be quiet” or “be still”. Some of these Buddhist meditators have been practising vipassana meditation for years, and many of them have attained a strong inner silence. Are these people not better equipped to follow your “keep quiet” teachings than those who come here with no background in meditation at all?’
I asked this because, as many people know, Papaji didn’t have a high opinion of formal meditation.
Papaji replied, ‘No, they are not better equipped, and I will tell you why. When you start to meditate, you usually have a goal that you want to reach, and a route by which you intend to attain that goal. These are just ideas that you invent, nourish and sustain. You are already the Self. You are never away from it, so there is no route to get there. You just have to stop pretending that this is not true, and the way you do that is by giving up all ideas, not by accumulating and cherishing new ones.
‘The ego is very clever and very powerful. If you set up a goal – such as inner silence – and then earnestly devote your time to a practice that you strongly believe will help you to reach that goal, your ego will then create an inner mental realm into which you can immerse yourself and dualistically enjoy peace and silence. You, the enjoyer, will immerse yourself in this inner self-created world, and there you will enjoy the experiences that you desire, or the ones that you think indicate that you are making progress towards your self-created goal. Through effort and concentration you can enter this self-created inner realm and have extraordinary experiences. However, they are all experiences of the mind, created and sustained by your powers of concentration. In ancient time rishis such as Viswamitra could create whole universes in this fashion. But all these inner worlds are imaginary; they are sustained by your belief in them and by the effort you put in to discovering them and abiding in them.
‘If you have an idea of what enlightenment is and how it can be reached, the mind will happily create a place inside itself where your idea of enlightenment, or the steps along the way to attaining it, can be experienced as a pleasant, beautiful, peaceful and blissful place. However, these experiences don’t last because they are not natural; they are created and sustained by the mental effort of the person who wants to experience them. That is why experiences wear off when you stop meditating. Everyone who meditates says, “I experienced some bliss when I meditated, but soon after I stopped meditating, the bliss went away”.
‘What comes and goes is not real. If you experience an ananda that ceases when you stop making an effort, then that ananda is not real. It is something you created yourself because you had an inner desire to enjoy it.
‘These Buddhist meditators, and all other kinds of meditators, are experts at abiding in self-created states that give them validations of their spiritual world view. These meditators get attached to their inner states of quiet and don’t want to give them up even when I tell them that their thoughts about practice and their experiences from pursuing it are actually keeping them away from the place and the state that I am trying to direct their attention to.
So, the people who come here with no mental baggage about enlightenment and how to attain it are often the ones who get what I am pointing at. The ones who have heads full of ideas about practice listen to what I say, and then they tell themselves that they are well on the way to this state of peace I am describing to them because they have been looking for this silence in their meditations for years.
‘The only true ananda, the only true peace, is that which is there all the time. You discover it when you desist from all mental activities. Permanent peace is discovered when the mind stops, not when it concentrates on an object that it thinks will give it peace.’