Question: In the West there are proponents of advaita and especially the teachings of Ramana Maharishi who place little emphasis on meditation. They encourage knowing the Self in the present and discourage reliance on any progressive techniques, like meditation. How are Self-inquiry and meditation linked?
I honor Maharishi Ramana and offer my salutations to Him, but if people place little emphasis on the teaching of meditation and encourage only the Self-inquiry and if they discourage meditation, by condemning it, they are committing a mistake. They are “half-baked beans.” They are not the perfect ones. They have also not understood Self-inquiry. In fact, what Maharishi Ramana taught, what Shri Shivabalayogi taught are all the same. If you have to enquire about the Self, there must be some technology. If you simply try to think and go on thinking “Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?,” thoughts will arise, imaginations will arise and, in the process, you again hypnotize yourself, as to who you are really. But actually what Maharishi Ramana tried to tell was, “Observe from where the existence of the Self's Consciousness is arising.” This observance is nothing but meditation. “Observing the Self's Existence-Consciousness arising” means you have to pay attention on the arising of the Self's Consciousness. Paying attention means, you meditate. That is dhyana - dhyana means “your attention to”.
Thus meditation and observing the Self, “Who am I?”, are all the same. You have to apply methods, that is technology, the techniques. Thus, my Guru, Swamiji, also taught the highest way of realizing the Self. Just like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa also said, “A salt doll, trying to know the depth of the sea, jumped in, and in the process became one with it.” When you observe from where the Consciousness of the Self is arising, your mind gets absorbed into It. Meditation is also the same. That's why Swamiji also initiated by telling, “Do not imagine anything. Just pay your attention. Concentrate your mind and sight.” So when the mind gets concentrated, gradually, because it stops thinking, then you are able to meditate. When it stops thinking, it gets purified, loses its imagination. So its attention towards the world decreases and it goes introvert. When it goes introvert, it gains the ability to observe the inner, real Self. That is the real meditation. So when it observes, meditates like this, this mind gradually gets absorbed into the Self, and you get Enlightenment. You become one with the Self. That is the recommended goal. Thus, meditation (dhyana) is the same (as Self-Inquiry). It is the highest technique, the highest way.
Through meditation also, you will know the Self in the present, because you will lose the past and the future. If you have imaginations of the mind, you're always brooding about the past or you are anxious about the future. But when you meditate, you lose both these effects of the mind, and it gets neutralized, comes to the present. It gets absorbed into the Self. Thus you will become simply present. You Exist. This is what you achieve through meditation also. It's only the difference in terminology. Actually, there is no difference in meditation and Maharishi Ramana's teachings also. It is all the same.
Question: It recently became very hard to look at the space between the eyes. Then in frustration, I alternated between this technique and the I AM meditation, learned indirectly, years ago, from books on Ramana Maharshi. Quickly the two meditations merged, until now, I feel looking into the space between the eyebrows, that I AM, God, in fact everything I desire, is in that space, and I am able to merge there much faster and sustain there. Is my process alright? Is this an example of being guided from within meditation, or something else?
Your progress in meditation and understanding is fine. That is what is required. Keep going until the mind becomes effortlessly quiet and remains as such, totally contented.