In a lecture, Swamiji was asked, “Can there be true God-consciousness even while living and functioning in the physical world, with all its suffering and misery?” This was Swamiji’s reply.
God-consciousness, or Samadhi, doesn’t mean that one just sits motionless like a rock! True God-realization involves realizing God right here and now, bringing the knowledge and equanimity gained in silent, mystical communion with the Supreme down to the world. That is Sahaja Samadhi–the natural Samadhi. The realized person remains in constant union, constant identification with God, yet he continues to use his body and mind for the benefit of humanity. We have the mind and body for this purpose– and here we are! The important point is that so long as we are living in this physical world, the mind and body are still subject to the laws of matter.
I know it sounds hard, but we must remember that when we see suffering, it is not the immortal Self that suffers. It is difficult, yet let us remember that it is not our essence– our true identity as children of God–that undergoes anguish and pain. Even a realized person, what we call a Jivanmukta, will have to live out his Karma until he is finally free. That is why great saints like Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi experienced cancer. Often I am asked, “Why should such great souls have such horrid diseases? They even appear to have suffered. “The answer is that as the Self, they never had cancer. Their bodies were diseased, their minds experienced profound pain, and yet they themselves were watching–yes, like bystanders. I saw it myself when I had the great privilege to be with Ramana Maharshi before he left his body. I could hardly stand the sight, yet he smiled and teased me and the others as if we were fools. “What kind of Yoga is this, eh?” He would say, “Why do you worry so? This body is just undergoing its Karma.“
Occasionally he would cry out in pain–and then he would smile, “Ah, the poor mind can’t bear it. Poor mind, poor body, it seems to you a heavy burden, eh?” He underwent a cancer operation without any sedatives–a cancer operation! The doctors said it would be impossible without anesthesia. But Ramana Maharshi steadfastly refused. “No. Just do it.” As they were removing the cancer: “Poor arm, tsk, tsk, tsk… I told them not to operate on you but they insisted. Okay. So now you must be strong and accept it.“ He spoke with profound compassion, as if he were consoling somebody else. And really he was talking to his own body, telling his own mind. Because he knew that before the cancer, during the cancer and after the cancer he would still be the Self. He had attained this God-conscious state and he rested in that peace. For myself, I could no longer stand the sight of it. I wept and told him so; I told him that I wanted to go. Fourteen days before he left the body, I took leave of him. And he understood; he just nodded his head. I went straight to Rishikesh, and the day I arrived the radio brought the news that Ramana Maharshi had passed away.
Ramana Maharshi witnessed the mental and physical feelings, resting secure in the knowledge that everything in this world must pass away. Through detachment, through constant questioning, we can realize this God-conscious-state too. It is our own true and abiding nature. “Who am I, having this hunger? Who is this, feeling thirsty? Who is this who feels unhappy? Am I always this way? No?” I seem to go through these moods, thoughts, feelings, wants. I experience them–they come and go; ‘I’ remain.” So, I am something different than them. This questioning, this detachment is a path towards realizing the true Self.