Annamalai Swami: maya, the body and self-enquiry

annamalai swami final talks

(The following is an excerpt from the above book and comprises most of Chapter 3):

A devotee who came to Annamalai Swami had so much pain in one of his legs, he found it very difficult to sit comfortably  on the floor. Observing his difficulties, Annamalai Swami (AS) made the following remarks:

AS: Though the body is needed for Sadhana, one should not identify with it. We should make good use of it and look after it well,but we should not pay too much attention to it.

There are so many thoughts in the mind. Thought after thought after thought. They never stop.  But there is one thought that is continuous, though it is mostly subconscious.  ‘I am the body’ – this is one string on which all other thoughts are threaded. Once we identify  ourselves with the body by thinking this thought, Maya follows. It also follows that if we cease to identify ourselves with the body, Maya will not affect us anymore.

‘I am the body’ – this is one string on which all other thoughts are threaded.  Once we identify  ourselves with the body by thinking this thought, Maya follows.

Maya is fundamentally non existent. Bhagavan said that Maya literally means ‘that which is not.’ It is unreal because everything that Maya produces is an outgrowth of a wrong idea. It is a consequence of taking something to be true that is not really true. How can something that is not real produce something that is real? If a barren woman says that she has beaten by her son, or that she has been injured by the horns of a hare, we would rightly take her to be deluded. Something that does not exist cannot be the cause of suffering or of anything else.

Maya is fundamentally non existent.

How to get rid of this ‘I am the body’ feeling and of the Maya that is produced by it?  It goes when there is ‘saman bhava’  the equanimity  or equality of outlook that leaves one unaffected by the extreme opposites such has happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain. When ‘saman bhava’ is attained, the idea ‘I am the body’ is no longer present and Maya is transcended.

Question:  Is the body to be regarded as unreal, as ‘not me’? What attitude should I have towards this body and all the sensory information it provides me with?

AS:  By itself, this body is jada, inert and lifeless. Without the mind, the body cannot function. And how does the mind  function? Through the five senses that the body provides.

Mind and body are like the tongue and teeth in the mouth. They have to work in harmony with each other. The teeth do not fight with tongue and bite it. Mind and body should combine in the same harmonious way.

However, if we want to go beyond the body, beyond the mind, we have to understand and fully accept that all the information the senses provide is not real. Like the mirage that produces an illusory oasis in the desert, the senses create information that there is a real world in front of us that is being perceived by the mind. The apparent reality of the world is an illusion. It is merely a misperception. When the mind perceives a snake where in reality there is only a rope, this is clearly a case of the senses projecting an imaginary image onto a real substratum. This, on a large scale, is how the unreal appearance of the world is projected by the mind and the senses onto the underlying reality of the Self….

…Self Inquiry is the  process by which attention is put on the substratum instead of on names and forms that are habitually imposed on it. Self is the substratum out of which all things appear to manifest, and the Jnani is the one who is continually aware of the real substratum. He is never deluded into believing that the names and forms that are perceived by the senses have any  real existence.

Self Inquiry is the  process by which attention is put on the substratum instead of on names and forms that are habitually imposed on it.

Whatever we see in this room, for example, that picture of Bhagavan over there, is unreal. It has no more reality than objects we perceive in our dreams. We think we live in a real, materially substantial world, and that our minds and bodies are real entities that move around in it. When the Self is seen and known, all these ideas fade away and one is left with the knowledge: Self alone exists.

Question: If I regard all the people that I see and meet as unreal projections, what do I base my moral sense on? I can go around killing then or robbing them without feeling guilty because i would know that they are just characters in my dream.

AS: Everything that we perceive is maya, an unreal dream,  but one should not then think, “Since everything is unreal, I can do what I like”. There are dream consequences for the bad acts committed in the dream, and while you still take the dream to be the reality, you will suffer the consequences of your bad behaviour. Do no evil and have no hate. Have equanimity towards everything.

 

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