Misquoting Ramana Maharshi ‘neither destiny nor free will’ | Upanishads | Ramesh Balsekar

There is a quote I often see attributed to Sri Ramana Maharshi as follows:

‘There is neither creation nor destruction, neither destiny nor free will, neither path nor achievement. This is the final truth.’

This verse is actually a mistranslation of a verse that is found in several vedanta scriptures including two Upanishads, the writings of Gaudapada and in Shankara’s writings too. Here is how the verse appears in these texts:

There is neither destruction (Nirodha) nor creation (Utpatti), none in bondage (Bandha) and none practicing disciplines (Sadhaka). There is none seeking Liberation (Mumukshu) and none liberated (Mukta). This is the ultimate or highest truth (Paramartha).’

Sri Ramana Maharshi did himself write a version of this verse, which has been captured in verse B28 in Guru Vachaka Kovai (it can be found after verse 1227), which reads as follows:

There is no creation, no destruction.
None bound, none seeking, striving,
Gaining freedom. Know that this
Is the Truth supreme.

As far as I can tell, the mistranslated version of the text, which erroneously refers to destiny and free will, was popularised by Ramesh Balsekar and itself was a quotation from a book by Wei Wu Wei called ‘The Open Secret’. Ramesh often placed prominence on the concepts of destiny and free will in his teachings, so perhaps this was why he gravitated towards this version (ie. mistranslation) of the verse?

Admittedly the verses are not all too different from each other, but they are different nonetheless. I’ll let you decide on the significance of these differences for yourself.