None of my words are really true, and neither are any of your words either, not when it comes to ‘Non-duality’. This is not ultimately about having the right concepts or having an accurate description of the ways things ‘really’ are, thankfully.
It is much simpler than that, and from the vantage point of the dualistic mind, much more radical too.
There is just an energetic pointing to a total freedom which can never be encapsulated solely by words, but words may be used (apparently) nonetheless.
Sri Ranjit Maharaj was the guru-brother of the more famous Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, that is they had the same guru – Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj. Here are some quotes from Sri Ranjit Maharaj:
The body and the world
Everyone gives value to the world. The realised being, who has gone beyond the world, beyond knowledge, only gives value to zero. When you understand that the world is untrue and that everything is zero, then all that remains is Reality.
You reduce yourself to being a body and then you constantly worry for it. Why? By thinking “I am the body”, you have reduced yourself to such a small creature. The body is nothing. It comes from zero and will soon return to zero.
When you lose all love for the illusion, He automatically is there. You get absorbed into Reality because He and you are the same, nothing else. There is no “you” or “self” in Reality. Forget about self. The real understanding is, “I don’t exist.”
The world is nothing but a long dream, take it for granted.
There’s nothing there, so what is there to say? As long as the body is there, he acts, no doubt. He calls his mother “mother”, and his wife “wife”, but still he knows. If somebody asks him, “What is your name?”, he gives his name, but he knows, “I am not this.”
The master is the greatest illusion because all that he says with full hear and frankness is false. But the false words that the master tells you can make you reach Reality.
The master takes you to that place where there is no one to understand anything. There is no knowledge nor ignorance and so understanding has no meaning. Let everything appear within That, but say that it is not true. There is no need to change anything because it doesn’t exist. When you forget the sense of the world, which is nonsense, then you will know the real sense and Reality opens up to you.
An enlightened person says at once, “One plus two is three! I know!” He says it so strongly. Understanding should come. Master awakens your understanding.
Nobody comes, nobody goes. All is a dream. In a dream you can become a great master, but when you wake up, you come back to your ordinary state. Who has gone there and who has come back? Nothing has happened.
The concept of a “great master” has come upon you, and you have become the “great master”, but when you wake up you feel, “All this is nonsense. How can I be a great master? I know nothing!” Still, in the dream, you were giving lectures and were talking easily about all these things, but when awakening comes, all this knowledge vanishes. It was only a dream.
The so-called sage who says, “I am the reincarnation of God”, doesn’t know Him, doesn’t know Reality. On the contrary, he is the slave of his ego, of illusion. When knowledge itself has no entity, there is no question of all these things.
Thinking that the master has a form is only ignorance. I tell you. When you accept what He tells you then you are always with Him.
The ego is like the son of a barren woman – it doesn’t exist. It is a false projection of a confused and ignorant mind.
Knowledge & Understanding
Understanding should come, and finally one should see that knowledge is also not true. Forget everything. Knowledge, ignorance . . . all is zero.
Understand this way: that you should be free from ignorance and finally from knowledge, also. Knowledge is the greatest ignorance. Understand this way and forget everything. In that moment, you are He.
First mental understanding is required and after that comes a practical understanding. Intellectual talent is the greatest thing. Without the intellect, one cannot understand. So, you have to understand with the full intellect and then, that knowledge, or that understanding will submerge, because knowledge is a thought. A good thought or a bad thought, both are thoughts. So, knowledge is a golden thorn, and ignorance is an ordinary thorn and both are bondage. Suppose your hands have been put in handcuffs. Maybe they’re iron cuffs or maybe they’re golden, but it’s still bondage. So, both are thorns. One should understand and throw them away. It is very difficult to throw out the knowledge, because ego remains up till knowledge. Knowledge is the ego, nothing else. To erase that knowledge, one should say, “I know nothing.”
Ignorance came by hearing and is dispelled by hearing. By words you have become bound and by words you can be free. Words are false, but their meaning is true. The illusion is needed in order to go beyond it.
The only way
There is only one way to know Reality – forget everything and instantly you are He. Short and sweet. There are no words for Reality. Forget the illusion and He is there. Do everything, but say that it is not true. That is the main point.
A disciple should put a zero on everything, including himself, otherwise he cannot advance. No one wants to put a zero on their self because they fear not being accepted by others. Be mad and do it!
The Ignorance and the wise
An ignorant person always sees the world as true. The realised sage sees the world as not true. That is the difference.
When you feel that something can touch you, or harm you, it means that you are in the illusion. How can nothing touch you? Everything in the illusion is nothing.
Why to fear? Nothing is there. Everything is illusion. Keep your mind in that fearless state only. Just as the poisonous tooth is taken out, in the same way, play with the world, play with the illusion, there is no harm. It won’t affect your mind. Live fearlessly; no death, no fear, knowing that “I am that real power.” There is nothing! What will harm you?
In the same way, here we experience many things due to the objectivity of the mind. You see all the objects and immediately believe that they are real. At the moment you realise who you are, you see that everything is nothing. That is the main point. Mind should accept that everything is zero. Once the mind accepts that everything is nothing, then nothing remains and my Self is Truth.
The world is full of Him. Nothing is there except Him. What you see is Him.
No matter if you are poor, sitting on a throne or lying in the gutter, still you are always Reality. The outside appearance has nothing to do with who you are. Everyone is He, no matter what state you may be in.
For example, when you sleep you dream, and in the dream somebody gives you a slap on the face. You feel the slap and immediately you you wake up to find only pillows. You then realise, “Oh, it was nothing ! Nobody slapped me.” In the dream, somebody kills you, “Ahhh, I am killed!” Then you wake up. “All is false, nobody was there to kill me.” Then your fear goes away. Awakening brings makes you fearless. One should realise that by nature you are fearless. Being fearless, the mind becomes completely naked and you know that nothing is true.
This understanding of no doer may initially take time to become embedded, and you may have to ‘practice’ it to start with. It’s just like many other forms of knowledge:
Take the example of a child learning his (or her) name. At first he doesn’t know his name. Upon his parents repeating his name to him multiple times, he finally starts to realise that his name is ‘Tom’. Maybe at first he forgets his name a few times and doesn’t respond when someone calls him. After sometime it becomes ingrained and embedded into his mind and he no longer has to think about it.
Eventually he can’t help but know his name. When someone calls out ‘Tom’, he automatically knows someone is calling him, whether he like it or not.
It’s the same with the understanding ‘there is no doer’. Initially the understanding may be a bit shaky, but after sometime, after repeated practice, after going through the logic behind it a few times and seeing the truth of it, it becomes more ingrained. Eventually it becomes effortless as knowing your name.
Do you know for certain that you are the body?
Do you know for certain that you are not the body?
The honest answer to both these questions is ‘no’.
‘I am not the body’ is a tool by which one can weed out the ‘I am the body’ notion.
Then once the work is done, like the thorn used to remove a thorn, throw them both away.
What is reality then?
Reality is simply whatever is left over when concepts of self and no-self are no longer believed in.
Reality is the ineffable indescribable indefinable ever-obvious ever-present ‘now’.
These verses will be elucidated further in upcoming posts:
This passage below is taken from ‘Illusion vs. Reality’ (page 6) by Shri Ranjit Maharaj. Shri Ranjit’s guru (Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj) was also the Guru of Nisardagatta Maharaj, making Ranjit and Nisargadatta ‘guru-brothers’, ie. contempories in the same teaching lineage.
The address is false but when you reach the goal, it is Reality. In the same way, all the scriptures and the philosophical books are meant only to indicate that point, and when you reach it they become non-existent, empty.
…For example, to remove a thorn in your finger you use another thorn; then you throw both of them away. But if you keep the second thorn which was used to remove the first one, you’ll surely be stuck again.
To remove ignorance, knowledge is necessary, but finally both must dissolve into Reality. Your Self is without ignorance, without knowledge.
…If you keep the second thorn, which means knowledge, even if it is a golden thorn, you’ll be stuck [by the second thorn].
…Knowledge is a great thing but it must be only a remedy. When the fever goes off thanks to the medicine you take, you must stop taking it. Don’t prolong the treatment or you will create more problems.
Knowledge is necessary only to remove the disease of ignorance. The doctor will always prescribe a limited dosage!
I have often seen people talk and write about various levels of reality. Typically, they talk of the level of the absolute and the level of the relative. On the level of the absolute, everything is one, so they say. Whereas on the relative level, the level of being a person different rules apply. On the relative level differentiation exists, we talk to each other, we love one another, we get annoyed and irritated, we buy fast-food from time to time, and yet ultimately, at the highest and truest level we are told this is all oneness.
Well let me start off by saying that I reject the notion of levels of reality. I think reality has various aspects, but not levels per se. Now this may seem like a minor difference, a play of semantics if you will, but let me explain the difference.
Talking about the same thing in different ways
When I say reality has various aspects, all I really mean is that there are various ways you can talk about reality – actually there are various ways you can talk about anything. That doesn’t mean there are different levels of reality.
Lets take a simple example: lets take a human body. You can talk about a human body in different ways. You can talk about it in terms of its size: you can say it is big, small, medium. You can talk about its age: is it a young or older body. You can talk about it in terms of organ systems such as the cardiovascular system or digestive system and how they function and describe the body that way, or you can talk about its anatomy and how various parts of it fit together. You can talk about the body’s name and culture – eg. maybe it is called John and it comes from the United Kingdom, you can talk about its occupation. You could talk about its fashion sense, its muscularity…
…ok ok, hopefully you get the idea: there are different ways you can talk about things. There are different conceptual frameworks from where we can view the body. And this is true for anything. We can talk about a pebble in terms of its age, size, geology or how good it would be to skim on a lake’s surface. We can talk about a lake in terms of its scenic beauty, how choppy its water are, its phosphorus content, or remark how it is all made up (mainly) of water.
Now, how many levels does a body or a pebble have? It doesn’t actually have any levels at all – there is only one body or stone (in the above examples) – it’s just that we can talk about them in various ways. In the same way there are no levels in reality, just different ways of talking about it.
No particular conceptual framework is intrinsically higher than another
Also note that no particular way of talking about the body or a pebble is intrinsically better that any other way. It just depends on what you want the conceptual framework to achieve. For example, if you want to skim a stone on the surface of a lake, then it’s less useful to talk about the geology of the stone, and more useful to look at it in terms of its shape and size with respect to achieving your goal (skimming it across the lake). You can’t legitimately claim that one way of viewing something is intrinsically higher and another way is lower, which is something you often hear when talking about ‘ultimate reality’ or the ‘highest level’. It just depends on how well the way you are conceptualising and viewing the object(s) in question fits in with your goal.
It depends on what you want to achieve
Similarly, it is not necessarily better to talk about the body in terms on physiology or organ systems compared to it’s occupation or fashion sense. As previously stated, it just depends on what you want to achieve. If the body has a disease, then understanding the physiology and how to correct any imbalance or defect in this is useful. Conversely if you are going out on a first date, then perhaps a degree of fashion sense would be useful.
No paradoxes, no contradictions
Also there in no contradiction in talking about a single object in different ways depending on the context. There is no paradox that a stone has both an age and a shape, or that a river is a single system made up of a variety of different things, all of which are in motion. There is a consistent underlying reality that underpins the various ways we talk about it. No contradiction or paradox at all.
Different ways of talking about the same experience
Remember, what we are talking about here is our experience of reality. Our reality is our experience – that’s all we know. We can talk about how everything we perceive is non-different to our consciousness, and we can also talk of how things interact within this consciousness, and the rules and consequences thereof. These are just different ways of talking about our experience and our experiences. No particular way is higher or lower, and there are no actual ‘levels’ that exist apart from our conceptualisations.
The description is not the described
We can chose how to conceptually carve up and talk about our experiential reality in order to achieve certain specific aims. To that end these conceptual maps are useful and often necessary. However we must not mistake any particular conceptual map of (our experience of) reality for reality, just as no particular way of describing the body is the body itself.
One way of talking about spirituality is that it is that which is concerned with the ultimate truth or absolute truth. The concept is that absolute truth is universal, never changes and can be directly perceived/experienced at all times and places. It cannot be learnt or accumulated as it is always already present and known. I use various capitalised words synonymously to describe it, eg. God, Truth, Love, Wholeness, Love, the Universe. The teaching is that its perception does not require special equipment (such as a microscope or telescope) and it does not depend even on the body, mind or senses. It cannot be described and defies and transcends all concepts. Absolute truth cannot even be divided into the absolute and relative, the division being merely a conceptual one.
It cannot be learnt or accumulated as it is always already present and known.
In contrast to this, worldly knowledge can be called relative knowledge or relative truth. This includes scientific knowledge, knowledge of skills such as a sports game or knowing facts such as how tall Mount Everest is. This knowledge is relative because it does not stand alone and is only true in relation to something else. For example the height of Mount Everest depends on various factors such as defining the point from which height is measured and the unit of measurement. The height will also change over time as the mountain topography changes. In fact one of the cardinal features of relative knowledge is that it changes over time depending on specifics relating to time and place. Relative knowledge can also be accumulated and developed over time. Lastly it requires the body-mind-senses to reveal/discover it.
So to summarise we have two concepts, the relative and the absolute. The relative is concerned with those things which change. We can lump all things that change together and call it the world. This world includes the world outside us, as well as our inner world of thoughts, feelings, emotions and psychic perceptions. The absolute is that which, in theory at least, remains the same no matter what. You could call this Spirit. It is always and already known by everyone whether they know it or not.
So to summarise we have two concepts, the relative and the absolute. The relative is concerned with those things which change…The absolute is that which, in theory at least, remains the same no matter what…It is always and already known by everyone whether they know it or not.
Strictly speaking, this division into relative and absolute itself is arbitrary, but because we take ourself to be a doer, this division is provisionally made so our mistake can be corrected. Once corrected, concepts of relative and absolute disappear (we see they are also false concepts), and all that remains is this, the unnameable. But until that point, the concepts are useful teaching aids pointing one in the right direction like the proverbial finger that points at the moon: don’t worship the finger otherwise you will miss the moon in all its heavenly glory. The flip side is that once you have seen the moon, you don’t need the finger any more. Teachings are always conceptual and are to be thrown away eventually.
Strictly speaking, this division in relative and absolute itself is arbitrary, but because we take ourself to be a doer, this division is provisionally made so our mistake can be corrected.
This means, according to my definitions above, talking about and working with emotions, feelings and thought processes is still in the domain of the relative world and so is not spiritual. I would even go as far as to say as that someone who is only interested in these things remains a materialist caught in the clutches of the ego. In this teaching we place our attention beyond the body, senses and mind (including any psychic powers and mystical experiences) and discover what appears to transcend and permeate everything.
Teachings are always conceptual and are to be thrown away eventually.
Now, before I get accused of being a nihilist let me make it clear that I am not saying that we shouldn’t do worldly things. Politics, medicine, health, social work, psychotherapy, psychic work, art, music, etc, all have their place and worth. But there is something more. I sometimes call this Spirit, but you can use any word that resonates with you. Or you can use no word at all.
Through discovering that which already (apparently) transcends the world (which is the same as discovering your ‘true nature’, that which you already are) you can ‘realise’ your Natural State. It’s just noticing something that is already here, but that noticing is powerfully transformative and enables us to realise that we are already, and have always been, free.
Once [the root mistake has been] corrected, concepts of relative and absolute disappear (we see they are also false), and all that remains is this, the unnameable.