'You have to find the place of no-mind
and no effort within yourself.
But don't employ the mind for this. 
Your mind itself implies effort
and it will try to 'do' no effort — and to 'be' nobody. 
This itself takes great effort and, in fact, is impossible.
'Great effort' and the one apparently making it
are seen in a space of no effort.
In that 'no-effort' place — you are.
Observe, know and confirm:
I am That which is synonymous with no-effort.'


Ramana Maharshi

Q: 'If I am infinite how did I become finite?'

M: 'Analyze your words. You begin with 'I'. Know the 'I' first. If the question persists after that, you may consider it then, but not before.. The Self is here and now and alone. It is not new and something to be acquired. It is natural and permanent. The term 'Self' refers to the unlimited, the infinite Self; do not limit its meaning. ... The Self is eternally realized. If it were not eternal it would have to have a beginning. What begins must have an end, and is only transient. There is no use in seeking a temporary condition. The fact is that it is the state of effortless, alert peace. Effortlessness while remaining aware is the Bliss state.'


mantra and japa

Mantra, the continuous repetition of God’s name, is a useful aid for those who were following the path of surrender. Surrender to God or the Self could be effectively practiced by being aware at all times that there is no individual ‘I’ acting and thinking, only a ‘higher power’ which is responsible for all the activities of the world. Sri Ramana recommended japa as an effective way of cultivating this attitude.

In its early stages the repetition of the name of God is only an exercise in concentration and meditation, but with continued practice a stage is reached in which the repetition proceeds effortlessly, automatically and continuously.

To use the name of God one must call upon him with yearning and unreservedly surrender oneself to him. Only after such surrender is the name of God constantly with the man. Ramana would even say that when the Self is realized the name of God repeats itself effortlessly and continuously in the Heart. This ultimate stage is only reached after the practice of japa merges into the practice of self-attention.

The all-pervading nature of the Name can only be understood when one recognises one’s own ‘I’. When one’s own name is not recognized, it is impossible to get the all-pervading Name.

When the japa becomes continuous, all other thoughts cease and one is in one’s real nature, which is japa or dhyana. We turn our mind outwards on things of the world and are therefore not aware of our real nature being always japa. When by conscious effort of japa or dhyana, as we call it, we prevent our mind from thinking of other things, then what remains is our real nature, which is japa. So long as you think you are name and form, you can’t escape name and form in japa also. When you realize you are not name and form, then name and form will drop of themselves. No other effort is necessary. Japa or dhyana will naturally and as a matter of course lead to it. What is now regarded as the means, japa, will then be found to be the goal. Name and God are not different.

‘The all-pervading nature of the Name can only be understood when one recognises one’s own ‘I’. When one’s own name is not recognized, it is impossible to get the all-pervading Name. When one knows oneself, then one finds the Name everywhere. To see the Name as different from the Named creates illusion.’ - Namdev

Surrender yourself first at the feet of the Guru and learn to know that ‘I’ myself is that Name. After finding the source of that ‘I’ merge your individuality in that oneness which is self-existent and devoid of all duality. That which pervades beyond dvaita [duality] and dvaitatita [that which is beyond duality], that Name has come into the three worlds. The Name is Parabrahman itself where there is no action arising out of duality.

Since you yourself are the form of the japa, if you know your own nature by enquiring who you are, what a wonder it will be! The japa which was previously going on with effort will then continue untiringly and effortlessly in the Heart.

Japa may be done even while engaged in other work. That which is, is the one reality. It may be represented by a form, a japa, mantra, vichara, or any kind of attempt to reach reality. All of them finally resolve themselves into that one single reality. Bhakti, vichara and japa are only different forms of our efforts to keep out the unreality. The unreality is an obsession at present but our true nature is reality. We are wrongly persisting in unreality, that is, attachment to thoughts and worldly activities. Cessation of these will reveal the truth. Our attempts are directed towards keeping them out and this is done by thinking of the reality only. Although it is our true nature it looks as if we are thinking of it while doing these practices. What we do really amounts to the removal of obstacles for the revelation of our true being.

Q: Are our attempts sure to succeed?
A: Realization is our nature. It is nothing new to be gained. What is new cannot be eternal. Therefore there is no need for doubting whether one could lose or gain the Self.

No learning or knowledge of scriptures is necessary to know the Self, as no man requires a mirror to see himself. All knowledge is required only to be given up eventually as not-Self.

Nor is household work or cares with children necessarily an obstacle. If you can do nothing more at least continue saying ‘I, I’ to yourself mentally as advised in Who am I?’... if one incessantly thinks ‘I, I’, it will lead to that state [the Self].’ Continue to repeat it whatever work you may be doing, whether you are sitting, standing or walking. ‘I’ is the name of God. It is the first and greatest of all mantras. Even om is second to it. 

If you know who it is that is doing japa you will know what japa is. If you search and try to find out who it is that is doing japa, that japa itself becomes the Self.

Oral japa will be the means for chitta suddhi [purifying the mind]. Oral japa consists of sounds. The sounds arise from thoughts, for one must think before one expresses the thoughts in words. The thoughts form the mind. Therefore mental japa is better than oral japa.

When the japa becomes mental, where is the need for the sounds? Japa, becoming mental, becomes contemplation. Dhyana, contemplation and mental japa are the same. When thoughts cease to be promiscuous and one thought persists to the exclusion of all others, it is said to be contemplation. The object of japa or dhyana is the exclusion of several thoughts and confining oneself to one single thought. Then that thought too vanishes into its source - absolute consciousness.

Japa helps to fix the mind on a single thought. All other thoughts are first subordinated until they disappear. When it becomes mental it is called dhyana. Dhyana is your true nature. It is however called dhyana because it is made with effort. Effort is necessary so long as thoughts are promiscuous. Because you are with other thoughts, you call the continuity of a single thought meditation or dhyana. If that dhyana becomes effortless it will be found to be your real nature. 

A name is given to you and you answer to that name, because you have identified yourself with the name. Therefore the name signified something and it is not a mere fiction. Similarly, God’s name is effective. Repetition of the name is remembrance of what it signifies. Hence its merit.

Your present doubt is due to that false identity, namely of identifying yourself with the mind that does the japa. Japa means clinging to one thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts. That is its purpose. It leads to dhyana which ends in Self-realization or jnana.

One should not use the name of God mechanically and superficially without the feeling of devotion.

Acute diseases will not be cured merely by repeating the name of the medicine but only by drinking the medicine. Similarly, the bonds of birth and death will not cease merely by doing many repetitions of mahavakyas such as ‘I am Siva’. Instead of wandering about repeating ‘I am the supreme’, abide as the supreme yourself. The misery of birth and death will not cease by vocally repeating countless times ‘I am that’, but only by abiding as that.

The Self is the greatest of all mantras – it goes on automatically and eternally. If you are not aware of this internal mantra, you should take to it consciously as japa, which is attended with effort, to ward off all other thoughts. By constant attention to it, you will eventually become aware of the internal mantra which is the state of realization and is effortless. Firmness in this awareness will keep you continually and effortlessly in the current, however much you may be engaged in other activities.

By repetition of mantras, the mind gets controlled. Then the mantra becomes one with the mind and also with the prana [the energy that sustains the body]. When the syllables of the mantra become one with the prana, it is termed dhyana, and when dhyana becomes deep and firm it leads to sahaja sthiti [the natural state].

The object of mantra japa is to realize that the same japa is already going on in oneself even without effort. The oral japa becomes mental and the mental japa finally reveals itself as being eternal. That mantra is the person’s real nature. That is also the state of realization.

Excerpts from 'Be As You Are'
by Ramana Maharshi