By the proper practice of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) the senses become fully under your control. They become obedient horses, taking you wherever you want. You become a complete master over them.
The great sage Ramana Maharshi was born in 1879 in South India. At the age of seventeen he had an experience that changed his life. One day he was overcome with a violent fear of death and began to contemplate the source of this fear. Within the same day, this self-inquiry brought him to the experience of Enlightenment. When he got this knowledge directly he was able to experience the Self as different from the body. He never went to any teacher to learn this. He got it directly.
Sambasivam felt blessed to be able to sit at the feet of this jivanmukta (living liberated being). To ask the Master a question was to receive a lesson in the thinking of a true Jnana Yogi. “Sir, I am having the doubt,” the young brahmachari answered. “Who are you?” Sri Ramana persisted. “Find out the answer and come to me then.” Suddenly Sambasivam felt the impact of his meaning and vowed that he would find the answer to that question.
During the time that Sambasivam was staying at this ashram, Sri Ramana’s body was suffering from cancer, but the sage was obviously not disturbed by the ravages of the disease. It was not so easy for the disciples to transcend that bodily consciousness, however, and they were greatly pained to watch his body’s physical deterioration. When he saw the sad faces around him, Sri Ramana would say, “What kind of yoga is this? Where is your proper understanding? The body is simply undergoing its karma. Why do you worry?”
Sambasivam was among those who witnessed the operation that was performed on Sri Ramana’s arm. The yoga master was not interested in having the operation, but at the insistence of his close disciples he finally agreed. Still, he refused anesthesia. As the doctor operated, Sir Ramana watched and spoke to his arm as if it belonged to someone else: “Poor arm, is the operation hurting you? Well, just undergo whatever is necessary. I don’t know what the karma was that makes you have to suffer. I told them not to do this to you, but they insisted on it. The best thing is just to accept it.”
At that time Sambasivam found all this too difficult to watch. His heart went out so much to the sage’s bodily suffering. As the cancer spread through that body, Sambasivam finally approached Sri Ramana, “Please, I beg you, Sir, to give me leave to travel on.” “Why? Are you still attached to the body?” No. I’m not attached to my body, but maybe I’m attached to your body. I find it hard to face this situation. I don’t really feel comfortable in staying and watching the whole thing.”
Sri Ramana understood. He raised his hand in blessing, and Sambasivam continued his journey. Fourteen days later, on the day he reached Rishikesh, Sambasivam heard that Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi had left his body. On that day many people saw a beautiful bright star flash across the sky. The light is always within you but it is up to you to make use of it. Keep the light always in front of you. Follow it always. If you keep that light constantly in front of you to lead your way, you will always be the Master.
There is a cave in Tiruvannamalai known as Virupaksha Cave. In it, Sambasivam meditated. He felt a huge, dark cloud forming within him. Its gray mass expanded until he was completely surrounded in its smoke. Slowly it rose over his head like a mushroom cloud after an atomic explosion. It rose higher and higher until it finally drifted away. When the density had passed, a feeling of lightness and joy remained within Sambasivam. A brilliant light surrounded him like a globe. He was bathed in its warmth. Gradually it condensed, becoming smaller and more concentrated. It became a tiny spark and entered the crown of his head. He fell into a deep trance which lasted two hours. When body consciousness returned he felt the absence of all unholy, karmic vibrations within. A new vibration, filled with light, had taken their place.
(Excerpted from Apostle of Peace, available at Integral Yoga Distribution. IYTA Members receive a 45% discount)