Sri Ramana and My Teacher Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu-Ji: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar
All of us come from different backgrounds, and we walk the path in our own unique way. Yet, we all have the same innermost longing to know the deepest mystery of our own nature and being. Reflecting on the purest teachings of the Self and on the nature of Ahimsa as nonmovement of the mind, we are bound to have experiences and openings in our consciousness.
When my teacher, Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu-ji visited Sri Ramana, he was just a teenager. Chitrabhanu-Ji became a Jain monk in 1942 at the age of 20. Prior to that, he was searching and visiting different saints in the various traditions of India and asking them questions about the spiritual path and how to become Self-Realized.
Gurudev Sri Chitrabhanu
Chitrabhanu-Ji told me that of all the saints and sages he visited in India in his teen years, a few were unforgettable and stood out to him. Sri Ramana was one of them.
When I was 22 and studying with Chitrabhanu-Ji, he saw me carrying books of different spiritual teachers for my reading pleasure. He asked to see these books and thumbed through them. He knew most of the authors personally. Swami Rama of Himalayan Institute had come to our meditation center. One time I saw Swami Chidananda, the disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, when he came to visit my teacher. Swami Chidananda was very thin even then and was leading a very pure and ascetic life.
After looking through my books, Chitrabhanu-Ji told me that I should read the dialogues with Ramana Maharshi and study his teaching. That is how I was led to Sri Ramana. Of course, after I read the classic, “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi”, it was indeed like magic and I knew deep in my heart that this was my way.
The Author at 21-22 studying With Sri Chitrabhanu-Ji
Going back to Chitrabhanu-Ji, he wanted to know the meaning of life at a very young age. He had lost his mother, his sister, and then his girl friend and so the world did not seem so attractive to him even at a young age. He wanted to know the mystery of life and death and what is beyond. In that quest, he started visiting many saints and sadhus and also visited Sri Ramana.
On one such visit to the Sage of Arunachala, Chitrabhanu-ji asked Sri Ramana about how to gain the highest state of enlightenment. According to the Jaina tradition (Chitrabhanu-ji came from a Jain family and was later a Jain Muni), upon bodiless liberation, Siddhas being free from all bondage of matter, attain to the highest space in the cosmos.
It happened that on this visit, Sri Ramana was keeping silence. As devotees know, sometimes Sri Ramana became silent for a while. At such times, the brilliant students close to him gave the answers according to the teachings. So the question was asked about the highest state of Realization and the Sage of Arunachala was silent.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Chitrabhanu-ji told me that upon being asked about the way to the highest realization, Sri Ramana did not speak. The Sage, however, smiled and pointed his finger first to the sky and then to his heart. Sri Ramana was saying that whatever is the highest reality, the highest god, the highest heaven, however we conceive it, it can be found by looking directly into one’s own heart, the center of being.
My teacher is very fond of Sri Ramana and spoke about him to me often. I recall with much warmth that within a short time of my meeting with him, Chitrabhanu-Ji sensed that I would find Sri Ramana’s teaching to be the right one for me. He told me to study the teachings of the Sage of Arunachala carefully and practice the method of self-inquiry, the self-awareness, what Jains call Upa Yoga.
As soon as I read the “Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi”, I realized that the practice of inquiry and self-awareness had started in me spontaneously almost 5 years back at the beginning of my college when I was about 17. All these years, I had no name for this mental and cognitive process of self-reflection which had one day erupted and had become ongoing and continuous. There was nothing glamorous or blissful about it at all. It was something inescapable, a subtle watchfulness, awareness aware of itself, that started one day and then simply did not go away. So when I read Sri Ramana’s method of self-inquiry, I realized that the method he was advocating was something that was essentially a state of mind or it required a certain state of mind to be cultivated and effective.
Chitrabhanu-ji taught me that the main guiding principle for life conduct and supporting others on the spiritual path is said by sages to be, Ahimsa (Nonviolence). What is Nonviolence can differ depending on the context of the situation. Nonviolence essentially means to respect life and to not harm living beings or minimize harm. Our sharp self-awareness changes us and we are able to apprehend the principle of Ahimsa, and have reverence and respect for life that supports our physical existence.
Sri Promoda Chitrabhanu
In Jainism, the religion of my teacher, Nonviolence or Ahimsa is the cardinal principle. From the principle of Nonviolence follows the secondary principle of Anekantvad (relativity in perspectives or multiple perspectives on reality), which implies being able to see and co-exist with other points of views and non-imposition on others of our will. It means accepting that we are all different and perceive reality in a way that is unique to our karmic/personality makeup.
The third main principle in Eastern traditions is the doctrine of Karma. This doctrine implies that the perceived universe is governed by exact laws at both the subtlest form of matter as well as the grossest form of matter. Conceptually, the philosophy of Karma is inseparable from the doctrine of Reincarnation.
Gurudev Chitrabhanu’s wife Sri Promoda Chitrabhanu is very active in promotion of the principle of Ahimsa. One can see in the picture above, her face radiating with kindness and love. Promoda-Ji is the President of Jain International Meditation Center in Mumbai, India. She is also on the board of directors of PETA in India and works for animal welfare and the vegetarian way of life.
So all the other qualities needed for Self-Realization follow from the main principle of Ahimsa. Even in Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, Ahimsa is mentioned first before all other virtues. At a practical level, for human beings and nations, there is no antidote to rage, anger, and hatred other than Ahimsa or Nonviolence. Without embracing it, the cycle of suffering continues indefinitely.
Sri Ramana used to say Ahimsa Param Dharma. It means that Nonviolence is the Supreme Principle on the spiritual path. Many of the ancient sages such as Buddha are known for their emphasis on compassion and forgiveness. Bhagavan Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankra, was a prophet of Nonviolence. In the Bible, it says also that God is Love.
“Love itself is the actual form of God”.
Sri Ramana Maharshi