In Advaita Vedanta it is said that the Ultimate Truth is that Maya never existed, and that there never was a world (Jagat), individual person (Jiva), or a God (Isvara). See here for an example of this teaching. Here in Guru Vachaka Kovai we have Sri Muruganar stating the same:
‘…I have known that in truth there is never in the least any attainment of bondage, liberation, and so on, which are fabricated when one imagines one is separate from reality’ Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 1241
Someone recently made a comment to me that this sounds remarkably like Neo-Advaita, to which my response was as follows:
They sound remarkably similar because on the verbal level both traditional and neo-Advaita talk about Ajata Vada (the view that there is no maya, no objects truly exist, and therefore no true meaning, no seeker, no teaching, no teacher, etc) as being the ultimate truth, but traditional advaita also talks about teachings from vivarta vada (world is a projected illusion) and shristi dristi vada (world is real) viewpoints and prescribes self-enquiry as a (paradoxically) valid method for this to be realised on these latter 2 levels for those who cannot fathom ajata vada. Upon this realisation it is ‘realised’ there was never a seeker and no real realisation either. Sri Ramana Maharshi explains it more fully hereif you are interested.
The following are the first 21 verses from Sadhanai Saram (The Essence of Spiritual Practice) by Sri Sadhu Om. These initial verses beautifully display both devotion to Bhagavan and the path of Self-Enquiry.
O Sri Ramana, bestow Your Grace upon me so that I may in experience flawlessly attain the unequalled and unsurpassed essence of the practice (sadhana) of Self-knowledge, the excellent path “Who am I?” which you have discovered to be the central and foremost among all the various paths.
O Sri Ramana, the Heart, who through Your Grace protects me at every moment by guiding me along the correct path, rise from within and teach me the true import of Your divine and unequalled teachings so that I may know them in their undefiled pristine purity.
The Greatness of This Birth
Among countless births, one like this birth of ours is very rare to achieve. Ah! When Lord Ramana has assumed a sacred body on earth, we have attained the blessed boon of becoming slave to His Holy Feet.
However many crores of births they may take, it is indeed very difficult for anyone to have the opportunity of gaining such a great benefit as that which is gained in this birth of ours, in which we have come to the Feet of Bhagavan Ramana, who is a rare treasure for the world. So great is the benefit of this birth.
The Wealth of Sri Ramana
The wealth of the almighty Sri Ramana’s enlightenment (Jnana) is a treasure that is ever available to be plundered by all people who want it; and, however much it is plundered, it will never decrease even in the least. However, only good people who are true devotees know how to plunder it; and though other people who are too immature go near that treasure, they cannot see anything there.
The Grace of Sri Ramana
Sri Ramana, the Bestower of Grace, will never give the least dissatisfaction to those who weepingly pray to Him, “Make me Your possession.” I know that our Lord uses countless inexpressible tricks in order to protect and save those who have become His slaves.
What our Lord uses to save us are tricks of Grace. Even by the skill of our intellects, it is impossible for us to know all those tricks. If He wishes, even an ocean will enter and disappear into a mustard seed. Therefore, as soon as the glance of Sri Ramana’s Grace falls upon us, the Supreme Reality will be revealed.
Since He is not bound by time or even by the limitation of place, He will not wait for some suitable time or suitable place to bestow His Grace upon His devotees. He has far greater compassion than even a compassionate mother, who has no plan that she will give her baby milk to drink only when it cries (and hence, even without our crying for it, He will bestow His Grace upon us of His own accord).
O Bhagavan, innumerable are the wrongs (the mistakes and misfortunes) from which I, this poor creature, have escaped by Your Grace unknown to myself. You know all of them, but I do not know anything except enjoying the bliss of being saved by Your Grace.
O Sri Ramana, those who have taken refuge at Your Feet are protected perfectly not only on one or two occasions but on more than a crore of occasions. From many incidents that happen in their life, this is a truth that is clearly known to the hearts of Your devotees.
The state of abiding in the Heart as the Heart as it is (that is, as the adjunctless and thoughtfree existence-consciousness “I am”) is the ineffable and most excellent state. He, who nurtures the fruit of such Self-abidance by sowing the seed of clarity of mind and by watering it with divine Grace, is only our Self-realized or Celestial Preceptor (Sadgurudeva), Sri Ramana.
We and all our possessions, beginning with the body, are in truth only the possessions of Sri Ramana. When the responsibility of saving us and protecting our possessions is borne by Him alone, why should we worry about anything in our life on this earth thinking it to be either pleasure or pain? Where is any such thing as wrong, evil, harm or suffering now?
All That He Does is Happiness for Me
The almighty Sri Ramana, who exists within the heart of everyone, who unfailingly helps me at all times, and who cannot be banished from my mind even for a moment, has brought me close to Him only to take me as His slave. Therefore, whatever He now does with me is only happiness for me; how can anything that He does hereafter appear to me as something undesirable or painful?
Leave it to Him
He knows the best of all, Leave it to Him, be calm; Believe Him most of all, Then rests the mental storm.
Explanatory paraphrase: Our Sadguru (Selfrealized Guru, or guide) Sri Ramana, alone knows what is best for us. Therefore, entrusting all our burdens and cares to Him, we should always remain peaceful and calm. If we believe Him more than we believe anyone or anything else, knowing that He alone is the Supreme all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving reality, then, at that very moment, we will attain that perfect pace in which the raging storm of thoughts will have come to an end, forever.
Grace Alone is of Prime Importance
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”?
What is Worthy to be Desired?
The great wealth that exists in enlightened sages (Jnanis) is only the subtle secret of how to be still, abiding in perfect peace as the mere thoughtfree existence-consciousness “I am.” Therefore, how wretched it will be if one greedily desires to attain from them mere worldly pleasures, such as gold, wealth or fame, which will only make one suffer in delusion.
Sense-Pleasures are Worthless
Instead of eating the fruit that is in your hand, why do you desire to eat the unreal fruit which is seen in a mirror and which is merely a reflection of the fruit in your hand? Is the reflected fruit an object which can be eaten and give real enjoyment? Similarly, instead of drowning deep within the heart by keenly attending to Self and thereby enjoying the bliss of Self which is ever shining there, why do you desire to enjoy the pleasures experienced through the five senses of this perishable body, which are merely an unreal reflection of the true happiness within you?
Endeavor and Result
For those who seek (and make effort to attain) Self, not only Self but also all other benefits will automatically be attained in full. But if one desires and makes effort to attain worldly objects (either through worldly endeavors or through spiritual practices), know that they will be attained only partially and to the extent of one’s endeavor, and that Self will not be attained at all.
If we deeply ponder over the natural yearning of all living beings to remove their miseries (through some means or other), it will be decidedly known that the sole aim for which the whole world is striving is only to remain always in perfectly imperishable bliss.