Ramana Maharshi: Is the world perceived after realisation?

Ramana smiling

In the scriptures many types of Realisation are discussed. In some scriptures it states the world no longer appears after True Realisation, and in other scriptures it says the world continues to appear. Other scriptures describe two broad categories of Realisation, one in which the world does appear, and another in which the world no longer appears. Due to these confusing scriptural contradictions Ramana was asked many times about this.

In summary his answers usually went something like:

(1) Don’t worry about this question and instead do self-enquiry – this question is a mere intellectual distraction

(2) It doesn’t matter if the world appears or not

(3) Realisation is the removal of the ego-entity that asks this question

Here is one example of how Ramana responded to this question when it was asked to him directly. You can find other examples here:

A visitor: Is the jagat (world) perceived even after Self-Realization?
M.: From whom is this question? Is it from a Jnani or from an ajnani?
D.: From an ajnani.
M.: Realise to whom the question arises. It can be answered if it arises after knowing the doubter. Can the jagat or the body say that it is?
Or does the seer say that the jagat or the body is? The seer must be there to see the objects. Find out the seer first. Why worry yourself now with what will be in the hereafter?

[Tom – ie. Ramana is telling the questioner not to worry about this question of the nature of liberation and instead attend to himself ie. to do self-enquiry]

Sri Bhagavan continued: What does it matter if the jagat is perceived or not perceived? Have you lost anything by your perception of jagat now? Or do you gain anything where there is no such perception in your deep sleep? It is immaterial whether the world is perceived or not perceived.

[Tom: Now Ramana answers the question directly:]

The ajnani sees the Jnani active and is confounded. The jagat is perceived by both; but their outlooks differ. Take the instance of the cinema. There are pictures moving on the screen. Go and hold them.
What do you hold? It is only the screen. Let the pictures disappear.
What remains over? The screen again. So also here. Even when the world appears, see to whom it appears. Hold the substratum of the ‘I’. After the substratum is held what does it matter if the world appears or disappears?
The ajnani takes the world to be real; whereas the Jnani sees it only as the manifestation of the Self. It is immaterial if the Self manifests itself [Tom: as the world] or ceases to do so.
From Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 65

Here is another example:

The non-dualist says that the world is unreal, but he also says, ‘All this is Brahman’. So it is clear that what he condemns is, regarding the world as objectively real in itself, not regarding it as Brahman. He who sees the Self sees the Self alone in the world also. It is immaterial to the Enlightened whether the world appears or not. In either case, his attention is turned to the Self. It is like the letters and the paper on which they are printed. You are so engrossed in the letters that you forget about the paper, but the Enlightened sees the paper as the substratum whether the letters appear on it or not.
Day by Day with Bhagavan, pages 307-8

In Ulladu Narpadu (Forty Verses On Reality by Sri Ramana Maharshi) Verse 3 states:

3. ‘The World is true’; ‘No, it is a false appearance’; ‘The World is Mind’; ‘No, it is not’; ‘The World is pleasant’; ‘No, it is not’ — What avails such talk? To leave the world alone and know the Self, to go beyond all thought of ‘One’ and ‘Two’, this egoless condition is the common goal of all.

Here we can clearly see that Ramana is telling us not to argue about such things such as the Reality of the world but instead it is wiser to leave such worldly things behind and instead know what you are through self-enquiry/self-attention, and ‘discover’ your true nature beyond thoughts and concepts, beyond objects and devoid of egotism.

Similarly, also from Ulladu Narpadu, the final verse, verse 40, states:

40. If asked, ‘Which of these three is final liberation: With form, without form, or with-and-without-form?’ I say, Liberation is the extinction of the ego which enquires ‘With form, without form, or with-and-without-form?’

These three types of liberation described in this verse are essentially the three in my opening paragraph of this post, namely some say in final liberation there are no forms present (ie. no world is perceived), others say forms still continue to appear in liberation (ie. the world is still perceived), and others says it is both (ie. that the world somehow both appears and does not appear depending on how you look at it or want to phrase it). Ramana concludes his Ulladu Narpadu by emphatically stating that true liberation is the extinction of the ego-entity that is wondering about such conceptual frivolities!

A text that Sri Ramana recommended that Annamalai Swami read was Ellam Ondre. Ramana said to Annamalai Swami If you want moksha, write, read and practise the instructions in Ellam Ondre.’ In verses 7 and 8 of Chapter 2 it states the following:

7. Therefore your true state is that fourth one which is distinguished from the waking, dream and deep sleep states. You are that only. What is this fourth state? It is knowledge which does not particularise anything. It is not unaware of itself. That is to say, the fourth state is Pure Knowledge which is not conscious of any object, but not unconscious itself. Only he who has realised it even for a trice, has realised the Truth. You are that only.
8. What is there more for him who has gained the fourth state? Practically, it is not possible for anyone to remain forever in that state, that is, the state of no particular knowledge. He who has realised the fourth state later wakes up in this world, but for him this world is not as before. He sees that what he realised as the fourth state, shines forth as all this. He will not imagine this world as distinct from that Pure Knowledge. Thus what he saw within, he now sees without in a different form. In the place of the differentiation of old, he is now established in the state of non-differentiation everywhere. Now, he is all. There is nothing distinct from himself. His eyes closed or open, howsoever the things may change, his state remains unchanged. This is the state of Brahman. This is the natural eternal state. You are that ever-true state.

You will see there is a distinction made here between the method (verse 7) and the result (verse 8). The method here involves gaining the state of Turiya in which there are no objects seen and only pure consciousness remains. The result of this is dissolution of the ego, but that this objectless state of pure consciousness does not remain so forever, so when the word-image returns, there is no longer any duality and all is ‘seen as Self’.

There are however may types of liberation described by the scriptures, and this post here explores some of the ways liberation has been classified.

I will leave you with the following from Bhagavan Ramana’s short masterpiece, Nan Yar? (Who Am I?):

All the texts say that in order to gain release one should render the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive teaching is that the mind should be rendered quiescent; once this has been understood there is no need for endless reading. In order to quieten the mind one has only to inquire within oneself what one’s Self is;

2 thoughts on “Ramana Maharshi: Is the world perceived after realisation?

  1. “Just as a spider spins out thread from within itself and again draws it back into itself, so the mind makes the world appear [or projects the world] from within itself and again dissolves it back into itself. When the mind comes out from ātma-svarūpa, the world appears. Therefore when the world appears, svarūpa [one’s own form or real nature] does not appear; when svarūpa appears (shines), the world does not appear.”

    Also from Nan Yar?.


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