Is Heart the Seat of the Self? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar
What is the authority on which Ramana Maharshi says that the Heart is the seat of the Self or that is where the Self is realized. Sri Ramana also says at times that the Self is not physical and beyond the body. It seems like a contradiction. If the Self is the Universal Self and is everywhere, how can it be found in a physical location in the human body. This point is not clear to me. Why do we even need to talk about the Heart? Is it just not another concept that causes confusion.
The Heart is a very important notion in Hinduism. In the classic Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita Bhagavan Krishna says, “I am in the Heart of all beings…….” There is deep and profound meaning behind that verse.
Bhagavan Ramana has spoken extensively about the Spiritual Heart. The authority to say such things as Bhagavan Ramana does about the Heart comes from the strength of Self-Realization. No other authority is needed by Bhagavan. However, the sacred Hindus scriptures (Upanishads) also make reference to the Heart which is the root Center and the source behind all the physical and psychic centers that gives life to the body and the mind.
The point you raise is certainly a logical one. How can God or the Universal Self be contained in the body at a particular location? Your framing the question this way suggests the need to understand the nature of the Heart in more depth. Look at the following article for an explanation of what the term Heart signifies in Bhagavan Ramana’s teaching.
Please also see the link below for one of Bhagavan Ramana’s classic quote on the Spiritual Heart (at the end of the article).
It is important to know both the theory and the practical applications of Bhagavan Ramana’s teachings as indicated by Bhagavan’s words, behavior, and interaction with many devotees over a period of over fifty years. Without understanding the totality of Bhagavan’s pure grace, we can get caught up and fixated upon certain words.
The Absolute Self is not physical or in a physical location. It is One without a second and so such ideas of location, time, and space are moot in reference to the Self.
However for the ego identity, space, time, body, mind, etc., are quite real. Hence various experiences play out on the screen of the mind in relationship to the gross and subtle bodies. As long as the ego identifies with the body, it will travel along many paths and enjoy a variety of experiences on the physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual planes.
When the ego/mind subside into its source, the Heart, the Self is realized as one’s very own Being. This merging of the ego mind just before the Self is realized is felt strongly in the chest region. Some advanced devotees who have this experience of the Spiritual Heart for the first time describe it as an elephant stepping on the chest and crushing it and the breath being sucked away. This is followed by Kevala Nirvikalpa Samadhi in which Self is recognized with the utmost clarity.
However, these experiences are rare and beyond the typical kundalini and samadhi states. After the mind is merged in the Heart, all physical and mental identification is gone. One recognizes One’s Self as pure awareness, as one’s own being and hence there can be no more talk of the body, mind, time, space, location, universe, Heart, etc.
Although the spiritual experiences of sages are determined by their karma, the knowledge of the Self is the same. Bhagavan often said that it is only necessary to inquire “Who am I”? And when the inquiry is ripe, the mind will automatically sink into the Heart. The Heart pulls the mind in like a huge magnet as if a black hole is sucking in the entire universe.
There really is no debate about the purest teaching of Self-Inquiry as Bhagavan Ramana gave it. Bhagavan encouraged people regardless of whatever their spiritual inclinations were and said that, in the end, they will come to the Heart.
For the one who Knows the Heart, there is absolutely no conflict between knowing the Heart at various levels, and simultaneously transcending those levels completely. It is the Same Heart at every level! That which is the True Heart center of the body is the Heart Center of Cosmos. It Is Pure Being.
That is as far as words can go. Everyone must inquire and when the mind is ready and ripe, through Grace, the mind will sink into the Heart. In that state, one becomes the Heart, the Self, and sees that One has always been That.
Harsh K. Luthar