One Venkatarama lyer questioned Ramana, in Skandasramam days, whether combining activities and Self-attention is possible.
Q: Whichever way one turns, one finds that the mind has to be subdued. We are told it has to be controlled. Can this really be done when on the one hand the mind is an entity not easily grasped and on the other one continues to have worldly worries?
Bhagavan: "A person who has never seen an ocean must take a trip to it to know about it. Standing there before the huge expanse of water, this person may wish to bathe in the sea. Of what use is it if, seeing the roaring and rolling of the waves, he were to just stand there thinking, 'I shall wait for all this to subside. When it does, I shall enter it for a quiet bath just inthe pond back home?’ He has to realize either by himself or by being told that the ocean is restless and that
it has been so from the moment of creation and will continue likewise till pralaya (destruction). He will then resolve to learn to bathe in it, as it is.
"He may wade into it and learn to duck under a wave and let it pass over him. He would naturally hold his breath while doing so. Soon he would be g skilled enough to duck at a stretch,wave after wave and thus achieve the purpose of bathing without coming to grief. The ocean may go on with its waves and though in it, he is free from
its grip. So too here."
Paul Brunton has also plied Sri Ramana with questions on this point.
Q: How is it possible to become selfless while leading a life of worldly activities?
A: "There is no conflict between work and wisdom."
Q: Do you mean to say that one can continue all old activities, in one’s profession for instance, and at the same time get enlightenment?
Bhagavan: “Why not? But in that case one will be centered on That, which is beyond the little self.”
The busiest hours will not be different from those earmarked for
meditation. The current generated by association with the energy source in the heart would be the continuous substratum with its overflowing peace and joy.
The habit of externalization of the mind is long ingrained. Till the experience of an inward way of life with its beauty and bliss grows upon one there is need tor steadfast practice. To use Ramana's words "Long cultivated tendencies can indeed be eradicated by long continued meditation". He asks, "Can a man become a high officer by merely seeing such an officer once?... Can a beggar become a king by merely visiting a king and declaring himself one?.... Gradually one should. by all possible means, try always to be aware of the Self. Everything is achieved if one succeeds in this." (S.E.)
During the practice of the Ramana Way one would be in and out of the experience of the natural state and its bliss. Knowledge and ignorance would be intermittent, and co-exist at this transition stage. But as the experience of the power of the Self grows, the mind's capacity to lure one away would weaken. Ramana's purpose would have been
done when all straying ceases, when the mind is merged in its source firmly, without a break, who can describe the joy of such a life?
A traveller on the spiritual journey may wander around on indirect paths, may take detours, but in the end he has to come to self-enquiry and the way of the heart. The individual separated from his roots, from his moorings, from his source, must inevitably get back to this
true home as surely as the restless rain drops rejoin their source, the wean, or the birds return to earth from which they have risen and for a while in the sky.
(Timeless in Time, A.R. Natarajan)