from The Technique of Self-Enquiry chapter,
The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One by Sri Sadhu Om:
Just on waking up from sleep, a consciousness ‘I’ shoots up like a flash of lightening from the Heart to the brain. From the brain it then spreads throughout the body along the nerves. This I-consciousness is like electrical energy. Its impetus or voltage is the force of attachment with which it identifies a body as ‘I’. This consciousness, which spreads with such a tremendous impetus and speed all over the body as ‘I’, remains pure, having no adjunct attached to it, till it reaches the brain from the Heart.
Since its force of attachment is so great that the time taken by it to shoot up from the Heart to the brain is extremely short, one millionth of a second so to speak, ordinary people are unable to cognize it in its pure condition, devoid of any adjunct. This pure condition of the rising ‘I’-consciousness is what was pointed out by Sri Ramana when He said:
In the space between two states or two thoughts, the pure ego (the pure condition or true nature of the ego) is experienced. - Maharshi’s Gospel, Book One, chapter five, entitled ‘Self and Ego’.
For this ‘I’-consciousness that spreads from the brain at a tremendous speed throughout the body, the nerves are the transmission lines, like wires for electrical power. (How many they are is immaterial here). The mixing of the pure consciousness ‘I am’, after reaching the brain, with an adjunct as ‘I am this, I am so-and-so, I am the body’ is what is called bondage or the knot.
This knot has two forms: the knot of bondage to the nerves and the knot of attachment. The connection of this power, the ‘I’-consciousness, with the gross nervous system is called ‘the knot of bondage to the nerves’, and its connection with the causal body, whose form is the latent tendencies, is called ‘the knot of attachment’. The knot of bondage to the nerves pertains to the breath, while the knot of attachment pertains to the mind.
Mind and breath, which have thought and action as their respective functions, are like two diverging branches of the trunk of a tree, but their root (the activating power) is one. – The Essence of Instruction, verse 12 by Sri Ramana.
Since the source of the mind and the breath is one (the Heart), when the knot of attachment is severed by the annihilation of the mind through Self-inquiry, the knot of bondage to the nerves - is also severed. In raja yoga, after removing the knot of bondage to the nerves by means of breath-control, if the mind which is thus controlled is made to enter the Heart from the brain, since it reaches its source, then the knot of attachment is also severed.
When the mind which has been subdued by breath-control is led (to the Heart) through the only path (the path of knowing Self), its form will die. – The Essence of Instruction, verse 14 by Sri Ramana.
However, since the knot of attachment is the basic one, until and unless the destruction of attachment is effected by knowing Self, even when the knot of bondage to the nerves is temporarily removed in sleep, swoon, death or by the use of anesthetics, the knot of attachment remains unaffected in the form of tendencies-habits-predispositions, which constitute the causal body, and hence rebirths are inescapable.
This is why Sri Ramana insists that one reaching kashta-nirvikalpa-samadhi through raja yoga should not stop there (since it is only a temporary absorption of the mind), but that the mind so absorbed should be led to the Heart in order to attain sahaja-nirvikalpa-samadhi, which is the destruction of the mind and the destruction of the attachment to the body.
In the body of such a Self-realized One, the coursing of the ‘I’-consciousness along the nerves, even after the destruction of the knot of attachment, is like the water on a lotus leaf or like a burnt rope, and thus it cannot cause bondage. Therefore the destruction of the knot of attachment is anyway indispensable for the attainment of the natural state, the state of the destruction of the tendencies-habits-predispositions.
The nerves are gross, but the consciousness-power that courses through them is subtle. The connection of the ‘I-consciousness with the nerves is similar to that of the electrical power with the wires, that is, it is so unstable that it can be disconnected or connected in a second. Is it not an experience common to one and all that this connection is daily broken in sleep and effected in the waking state? When this connection is effected, body-consciousness rises, and when it is broken, body-consciousness is lost.
Here it is to be remembered what has already been stated, namely that body-consciousness and world-consciousness are one and the same. So, like our clothes and ornaments, which are daily removed and put on, this knot is alien to us, a transitory and false entity hanging loosely on us! This is what Sri Ramana referred to when He said:
“We can detach our self from what we are not”!
Disconnecting the knot in such a way that it will never again come into being is called by many names such as ‘the cutting of the knot’, ‘the destruction of the mind’, and so on. ‘In such a way that it will never again come into being’ means this: by attending to it (the ego) through the inquiry ‘Does it in truth exist at present?’ in order to find out whether it had ever really come into being, there takes place the dawn of knowledge, the real waking, where it is clearly and firmly known that no such knot has ever come into being, that no such ego has ever risen, that ‘that which exists’ alone ever exists, and that that which was existing as ‘I am’ is ever existing as ‘I am’!
The attainment of this knowledge (Self-knowledge), the knowledge that the knot or bondage is at all times non-existent and has never risen, is the permanent disconnecting of the knot. Let us explain this with a small story:
“Alas! I am imprisoned! I have been caught within this triangular room! How to free myself?” - thus was a man complaining and sobbing, standing in a corner where the ends of two walls joined. Groping on the two walls in front of him with his two hands, he was lamenting: “No doorway is available, nor even any kind of outlet for me to escape through! How can I get out?”
Another man, a friend of his who was standing at a distance in the open, heard the lamenting, turned in that direction and noticed the state of his friend. There were only two walls in that open space. They were closing only two sides, one end of each of them meeting the other. The friend in the open quickly realized that the man, who was standing facing only the two walls in front of him, had concluded, due to the wrong notion that there was a third wall behind him, that he was imprisoned within a three-walled room.
So he asked, ‘Why are you lamenting, groping on the walls?”
“I am searching for a way through which to escape from the prison of this triangular room, but I don’t find any way out!” replied the man.
The friend: “Well, why don’t you search for a way out on the third wall behind you!”
The man (turning and looking): “Ah, here there is no obstacle! Let me run through this way.” (So saying, he started to run away).
The friend: “What! Why do you run away? Is it necessary for you to do so? If you do not run away, will you remain in prison?”
The man: “Oh! yes, yes,! I was not at all imprisoned! How could I have been imprisoned when there was no wall behind me? It was merely my own delusion that I was imprisoned. I was never imprisoned, nor am I now released! So I do not even need to run away from near these walls where I am now! The defect of my not looking behind was the reason for my so-called bondage; and the turning of my attention behind is really the spiritual practice for my so-called liberation! In reality, I am ever remaining as I am, without any imprisonment or release!”
Thus knowing the truth, he remained quiet.
The two walls in the story signify the second and third persons. The first person is the third wall said to be behind the man. There is no way at all to liberation by means of second and third person attention.
Only by the first person attention ‘Who am I?’ will the right knowledge be gained that the ego, the first person, is ever non-existent, and only when the first person is thus annihilated will the truth be realized that bondage and liberation are false.
So long as one thinks like a madman ‘I am a bound one’, thoughts of bondage and liberation will last. When looking into oneself ‘Who is this bound one?’, the eternally free and ever-shining Self alone will (be found to) exist. Thus, where the thought of bondage no longer stands, can the thought of liberation still endure! - Forty verses, verse 39.