At the end of his book ‘The Salient Features of Sankara’s Vedanta’ (see link to download PDF below), Swami Satchitanandendra Saraswati (SSS) lists the key features of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta.
Among them is the notion that liberation can result from either hearing the teachings (Sravana), reflecting upon the teachings (Manana) or meditating upon the teachings (Nididhyasana), depending on the maturity and fitness of the aspirant (we can see Sri Ramana Maharshi give the same teachings here). Not realising this, SSS notes that various commentators either say that sravana alone is the only way or that nididhyasana alone is the only way.
SSS then goes on to state that the way that these methods lead to liberation is by turning the mind inwards towards the Subject-Self (Atman).
Let us see what SSS writes on page 82:
6. Sravana (study of sacred revelation), Manana (reflective thinking) and Nididhyasana (concentrated contemplation), are all means for realizing Atman. Highly developed souls, however, who can immediately grasp the true meaning of the Vedic teaching, do not stand in need of any additional effort.
Not taking this principle into account is responsible for the divergence of opinion among commentators of Sankara Bhashya about the relation of Sravana and Nididhyasana. Of these, some assert that Sravana is the principal means and the other two are only ancillary to it; while others insist that nididhyasana is the one means to direct realization and without it mere Sravana would be of no avail.
7. Sravana and the other means are enjoined only so far as they turn the seeker inwards and direct him to stay his mind on Atman, but the resultant knowledge is no object of any injunction.
Tom: We can see that the purpose of Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana are to turn the mind inwards, towards the Subject-Self (Atman), and that the resultant ‘Knowledge’ is not a result of any action or practice, but a synonym for the One Eternal Infinite Blissful Self that is ever-attained, ie. Liberation.
Please see here for Sri Ramana’s teachings on this same topic.
The following is taken from the wonderful text Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice) written by Sri Sadhu Om, a direct devotee of Sri Ramana’s. This text not only gives us the essence of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching, but also directs us to the true Vedanta teachings. The notes are written by Sri Sadhu Om himself. The sub-headings have been added by myself to aid readability. You can download the full text as a PDF using the above link.
- If we did not have the good fortune of having attained a human body, which enables us to experience daily the three states of waking, dream and sleep, how could we have the fitness to do Selfinquiry? Therefore, this human birth is indeed superior to all other births.
- Except in this human body, all these three states are not experienced in one lifetime by any soul, whether deva (divine), animal or plant. Therefore, a very great boon indeed is the boon God has bestowed upon us in the form of this human birth, which is such a good opportunity enabling us to inquire and know the Self.
Note: Celestial beings (devas) experience only the waking state; animals experience only sleep and a dream-like waking state; plants experience only sleep**; and insentient objects like stones are always in a state like swoon. Only in the human birth, does one experience all the three states of waking, dream and sleep. Hence, even devas must take birth as human beings if they wish to attain Selfknowledge, the state of liberation.
**Note: Compare Talks, no. 617, p. 580.
- The three states of waking, dream and dreamless deep sleep are experienced daily by all human beings, are they not? If we keenly scrutinize the nature of these three states, knowledge of the state of liberation, which is the reality of these three states, will be attained by us as a direct experience.
The I AM
- In the waking state we exist as “I am”; but in this state, beside us, so many second and third person objects of various kinds are also known by the mind. How have all these come here?
- In dream also we exist as “I am”, having become the one who sees everything there; but in that state also so many second and third person objects of various kinds are again known by the mind. How did all those come there?
- In sleep also we exist as “I am”; however, in that state we do not see anything appearing as other than us. Therefore, our state of existing as “I am” alone shines always without ever slackening or being obstructed, whereas our state of knowing objects other than us undergoes change. Hence, our state of existing as “I am” is alone the one unchanging state.
- The state of our existing as “I am”, which shines in all the three states continuously and without ever coming to an end, is our exalted state of real knowledge; it is the state of purna (the Whole). Objects other than “I” do not exist in all the three states. Hence our own nature, the Self-existence “I am,” alone is the reality which ever exists.
- Since objects other than “I,” such as the body and world, do not exist unceasingly in all the three states, but rise and appear to exist only in between in the waking and dream states, they cannot be the reality, which exists always and without being obstructed. This conclusion arrived at by scrutinizing our experience in these three states, is the foundation for the practice of Self-inquiry.
- These objects other than “I,” which exist at one time and do not exist at another time, are truly non-existent even at the time when they appear to exist. When scrutinized, waking and dream are both found to be only one in nature, because the objects, which appear to exist in each of these states, unfailingly cease to exist in any other state.
- That state, in which any object seen is not experienced as other than the one who sees, is alone the state of reality. If the seer, who is an unreal ego, rises, then only will all the unreal objects other than “I” rise, and seem to exist.
The waking dream
- The dream-world – and the one who, living there identifying a dream-body as “I,” and sees that dream-world – both together constitute the dream. The waking state is also like that; that is, not only this seemingly vast world that is perceived in front of us, as if existing as other than us, and also we, the jiva who sees this waking world, both together constitute the appearance of this dream, which is called the waking state.
- In practice, waking and dream are only one and the same. Just as in waking the mind thinks, “I am this body,” so in dream also the mind projects a body by its creative power of imagination and functions there, feeling “I am this body.”
Ending the dream
- Until the root-tendency (mula-vasana) to identify a body as “I” ceases to exist, the appearances of the waking and dream states that arise due to delusion (maya) will not come to an end. If you, with a one-pointed mind keenly and incessantly attend to the consciousness of your existence, which shines as pure “I am,” the root-tendency “I am the body,” and all its products and other tendencies, will cease to exist.
Ignorance and deep sleep
- To remain inactive forgetting the feeling “I am the body,” is sleep. In the dense ignorance of this sleep, arises a creative imagination of the mind (mana-kalpana), and this alone is the cause for the appearance of dream. Therefore, it is the mind alone that projects a dream.
- Similarly, in the long sleep of ignorance (ajnana), which has engulfed us due to our forgetfulness of our true state of pure Self-consciousness, an imagination in mind (mana-kalpana) rises identifying a contemptible fleshy body as “I”, and this alone is the cause for the rising and appearance of this despicable waking state, which we are now experiencing.
Samsara (the cycle of birth and death)
- Just as sleep alone is the cause for the appearance of dream, so the sleep of forgetfulness of our true Self-Knowledge is alone the cause for the appearance of this waking state. In this long sleep of Self-forgetfulness, many dreams in the form of countless births come and go.
- Know that just like a person who without coming to the waking state, merges in deep sleep after the dream he was seeing has come to an end, if the dream of the present birth that this person has taken is brought to an end by death, before he attains the true waking state of Self-knowledge, he will merge again into the underlying ancient sleep of Self-forgetfulness.
- Just like a person who was seeing a dream and who then leaves that dream and falls into deep sleep without coming to the waking state, if the waking-body dies before we attain the state of Selfknowledge, we will fall into a state like deep sleep. Just as a dream appears as soon as the mind of a person immersed in sleep rises and begins to wander, so after the death of this waking-body, as soon as the mind rises and begins to wander on account of its former tendencies, a waking state will again arise in which a body will seemingly exist as if “I”.
- Taking birth again, having come out of the delusion-enfolded state of death, and living a life of whirling about in this waking state, and finally dying without attaining Self-knowledge, is just like a person rising as “I” from deep sleep, seeing a dream again, and finally once again merging in sleep. You will not take birth again only if you awaken into the true state of Self-knowledge. Awaken thus.
Awakening: Waking up from the dream & Turiya
- If a person who has fallen asleep and is seeing a dream suddenly wakes up, by his awakening he will attain a state in which sleep and dream have both been dispelled. Similarly, if a person awakens from the present so-called waking state by attaining the exalted state of Self-knowledge, the dream of birth and death and the underlying sleep of Self-forgetfulness will both be dispelled, and he will thereafter never again undergo either birth or death. The state of real awakening (turiya), which he thus attains, and which transcends the three ordinary states of waking, dream and sleep, is the state of liberation.
The method of Sadhana (spiritual practice) – Self-enquiry
- If the power of attention, which sees the second and third person objects existing in dream, turns to attend to itself, both the first person (who sees the dream) and the dream will disappear; the sleep that is the cause for the rising of that first person will be dispersed, and the worthy state of true awaking will be experienced.
- Similarly, if the power of attention, which knows the second person objects existing in the waking state, turns to attend to itself (the “I” who sees this waking state), the waking state will disappear; the long sleep of Self-forgetfulness which is the cause for the rising of the individual sense of “I” will be dispersed and the true waking state of Self-knowledge will be attained. Therefore, attend only to yourself, the first person consciousness “I.”
Karma and Self-Realisation
- Even before the experience of the current destiny (prarabdha karma) which caused the appearance of a dream has come to an end, if the mind is struck by intense fear, joy or suffering, its power of attention will be driven Selfwards and return to the heart, whereupon waking will result.
Note: Prarabdha is that part of one’s destiny (or karma) that has to be worked out in this life. Sanchita is one’s karma accumulated in former lives that has not yet taken effect.
- Similarly, even before all the accumulated sanchita karmas have been exhausted by being experienced in the form of prarabdha, if in this present life, which was started by prarabdha, the mind either gains firm dispassion (vairagya), being unable to bear the severe sufferings of life, or experiences intense fear of death, it will turn Selfwards and merge in the heart; whereupon the true awakening of Selfknowledge will result.
Fear, suffering and self-realisation
- When such intense fear or suffering are experienced, if the mind with mature discrimination (viveka) at once earnestly scrutinizes, “To whom does this fear or suffering arise?” then the extroverted power of attention, which was till then being dragged out towards objects other than itself, will turn inwards to face itself, whereupon the truly awakened life of Self-abidance will immediately be attained.
Self-knowledge: ending the dream
- Just as all that happens in dream is experienced as real so long as one is seeing that dream, so all that is now happening in this waking state is experienced as real. If the dream comes to an end, all that was seen there will be known to be unreal. Similarly, for those who have awakened from this so-called waking state by attaining Self-knowledge, all the happenings in this state are clearly known to be unreal.
- As soon as the inwardly awakened state of Self-abidance is attained, all the adjuncts in the form of the wrong identification that the actions of the body are one’s own actions will become devoid of reality, being found to be mere superimpositions upon one’s nameless and formless nature, just like the blue color superimposed upon the colorless sky; and the truth, that one is only the adjunct-free Self, will clearly shine forth.
- Only in this real waking state of Self-abidance will true knowledge blossom in the form of the ajata experience, “No mundane dual activity such as birth and death has ever touched me; I am Self, the existence-consciousness which is ever devoid of the body and the senses.”
- The pure consciousness “I,” which exists in sleep devoid of all adjuncts, is the Supreme Reality (Brahman). If we do not slip down from that state of pure consciousness due to attachment to the body (dehabhimana), that itself is the Supreme Abode (parandhama). If we remain, without leaving Self, that itself is liberation.
Do you exist in deep sleep?
- Though we think sleep to be a state of darkness, because no other objects are known there, know that it is not possible for anyone to deny his own existence in sleep. When you are able to affirm your experience in sleep, “It was darkness,” “There were no thoughts” and “It was a happy state,” is it not clear that you existed in sleep? To be able to affirm thus, who was that “you” who existed in sleep? Tell me.
- Your ability to affirm all the three experiences mentioned above shows not only that you existed in sleep, but also that you knew these experiences there, does it not? This existence-knowledge, which existed and was known in sleep, is indeed the peerless existence-consciousness (sat-chit), your own state, and the real nature of self.
Deep sleep and bliss (ananda)
- In sleep, in which you existed solitarily as the mere existence-consciousness (sat-chit), you were the experiencer of sublime happiness devoid of even a single petty misery, even though you were separated from all the possessions and all the objects which you seek in the waking state for happiness, were you not? That happiness which you experienced in sleep is indeed bliss (ananda), your true nature.
- To become a hero who abides as Self, the infinite reality (paripurna Brahman) whose nature is existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), devoid of the experience of any body or any world, is the fruit to be gained by proper scrutiny of the three states of waking, dream, and sleep.
- The supreme Guru Sri Ramana has given the above clues so that, having thoroughly scrutinized the three states, we may finally abide blissfully forever as Self, our own true nature which transcends the three states.
The following text is taken from the wonderful text Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice) written by Sri Sadhu Om. This text not only gives us the essence of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching, but also directs us to the true Vedanta teachings. The notes are written by Sri Sadhu Om himself.
- The ego is only a trivial entity; besides, it is unreal (asat) and powerless (asakta). It is a mere adjunct which rises and subsides. Therefore, what foolishness it is to think, “The spiritual practice (sadhana) done by the strength of this ego will by itself bestow the goal of life; the supreme power of divine Grace is not of any consequence (and is not necessary in order for one to attain the goal)”!
Note: Not believing Grace, but thinking one’s own individual effort alone to be of very great consequence, is mere foolishness.
- Is not the unreal help which one unreal man renders to another unreal man, experienced by everyone in this world as real? Therefore, O Sadguru, the embodiment of Grace, the sole reality, is it impossible for You to save me by dispelling the unreal ego? What doubt or wonder is there in Your being able to help me thus
Note: A man or jiva is merely an unreal appearance, and hence whatever help he may seem to render to another man is also unreal. But when such unreal help rendered by an unreal man is experienced by everyone as real, why should we doubt the ability of the Sadguru, who alone is truly real, to render us the real help of destroying the unreal ego? Such help from the Sadguru will certainly be experienced by us as more real than the help that we feel is rendered to us by others.
- Unless our Lord, Sri Ramana, who is the form of God, Himself bestows His divine Grace, who can by his own effort attain that heroic state of firmly abiding as Self, having clearly known one consciousness other than the body to be the real “I”?
There is a mighty battle going on for control of your mind. Heaven and earth intersect in your mind; the tugs of both spheres influence your thinking. I created you with the capacity to experience foretastes of heaven. When you shut out the world and focus on My Presence, you can enjoy sitting with Me in heavenly realms. This is an incredible privilege reserved for precious ones who belong to Me and seek My Face. Your greatest strength is your desire to spend time communing with Me. As you concentrate on Me, My Spirit fills your mind with Life and Peace.
The world exerts a downward pull on your thoughts. Media bombard you with greed, lust, and cynicism. When you face these things, pray for protection and discernment. Stay in continual communication with Me whenever you walk through the wastelands of this world. Refuse to worry, because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of My Presence. Stay alert, recognizing the battle being waged against your mind. Look forward to an eternity of strife-free living, reserved for you in heaven.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus – EPHESIANS 2:6
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. – ROMANS 8:6
Do not love the world or anything in the world… The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. – 1 JOHN 2:15-17
The above text, including the cited biblical verses, is taken from a book called ‘Jesus Calling’ (entry dated September 19th) – this is a wonderful daily devotional text for lovers of Jesus and Source, written by Sarah Young
‘Sri Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi] once remarked that of all the commentaries on Ulladu Narpadu which then existed, Lakshmana Sarma’s Tamil commentary was the best.’
T. N. Venkataraman
(former president of Sri Ramana Ashram)
Many have said that Ulladu Narpadu (The Forty Verses on Reality) is the most important of Bhagavan Sri Ramana’s own written works.
Many have said, including Bhagavan Sri Ramana himself, that K. Lakshmana Sarma’s commentary on Ulladu Narpadu is the best available commentary. It was published under the title ‘Sri Ramana Hridayam’ and later translated into English by K Lakshnama Sarma himself under the title ‘Revelation’.
However many have informed me that they have not been able to locate a copy of this text and so not been able to benefit from it. This here is an attempt to make this text more widely available – I hope it is of benefit to you.
You can download as a PDF it here:
In the version of this text published by Sri Ramana Ashram, the entire commentary was included in a separate section after the verses. I have instead chosen to intersperse the commentary among the verses which I hope aids readability by preventing the reader having to flick back and forth through the text.
Words underlined in the commentary are words that Lakshmana Sarma (LS) himself chose to emphasise and not my own additions.
Throughout I have added a few comments in italiscised blue, but the aim has been to keep my comments to a minimum so the text speaks for itself.
I encourage you to read the text slowly in order to take in the depth of meaning. For most repeated readings will be necessary. And do not forget to put the teachings into practice.
The accuracy, veracity and value of this work
Here are some reasons we should take this work to be an accurate and clear reflection of Sri Ramana’s teachings:
1) LS was a devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramana for more than twenty years.
2) He was one of two people, the other being Sri Muruganar, who had the opportunity to study one-on-one with Bhagavan about the meaning of Bhagavan’s own written works.
3) Moreso, he was the only devotee who received extended and comprehensive instruction from the Master on the subject of Bhagavan’s master-work, Ulladu Narpadu.
4) Bhagavan repeatedly checked LS’s translation of Ulladu Narpadu from the original Tamil into Sanskrit verse by verse, and usually made him change the translation several times until he was satisfied that the meaning had been accurately conveyed. This process went on for 2-3 years.
5) Around 1931 a book purporting to be a commentary on Bhagavan Sri Ramana’s teachings was published. LS was unhappy to see that it had misrepresented Bhagavan Sri Ramana’s teachings. LS sought Bhagavan’s advice and thereafter proceeded to write a commentary on Ulladu Narpadu in Tamil in order that Sri Ramana’s teaching would be correctly understood.
6) This commentary was written and published during Bhagavan’s lifetime and Bhagavan often directed devotees to this particular commentary if they had questions regarding the meaning of the verses.
7) Bhagavan himself said that LS’s commentary was the best one available at the time.
8) Bhagavan personally requested that Ramana Ashram publish this work.
The structure of the text
Ulladu Narpadu (40 verses on reality) was written in Tamil by Bhagavan Sri Ramana. K Lakshmana Sarma translated this text into Sanskrit and then wrote a Tamil commentary upon the text under Sri Bhagavan’s guidance which was published in 1936. How this was done has been described both above and below. K Lakshmana Sarma then translated these, namely the Sanskrit verses and his Tamil commentary, into English himself, and this is what is presented here in this text.
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya!
For the Sri Ramana Ashram translation of Ulladu Narpadu found in the Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, see here.
Please join us – all are welcome and no prior knowledge is required. We meet online twice every week (every Thursday and Sunday). After the meeting there is an opportunity to stay and connect with other people attending the meeting. To join or find out more please see this link.