Ramana Maharshi: ‘…unless you give up the idea that the world is real…’

ramana maharshi eyes of grace

Question: I cannot say it is all clear to me. Is the world that is seen, felt and sensed by us in so many ways something like a dream, an illusion?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal, if you are seeking the Truth and the Truth alone.

Question: Why so?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: For the simple reason that unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it. If you take the appearance to be real you will never know the Real itself, although it is the Real alone that exists. This point is illustrated by the analogy of the ‘snake in the rope’. As long as you see the snake you cannot see the rope as such. The non-existent snake becomes real to you, while the real rope seems wholly non-existent as such.

Question: It is easy to accept tentatively that the world is not ultimately real, but it is hard to have the conviction that it is really unreal.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Even so is your dream world real while you are dreaming. So long as the dream lasts, everything you see, feel, etc., therein is real.

Question: Is then the world nothing better than a dream?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What is wrong with the sense of reality you have while you are dreaming? You may be dreaming of something quite impossible, for instance, of having a happy chat with a dead person. Just for a moment you may doubt in the dream saying to yourself, ‘Was he not dead?’, but somehow your mind reconciles itself to the dream vision, and the person is as good as alive for the purposes of the dream.

In other words, the dream as a dream does not permit you to doubt its reality. Even so, you are unable to doubt the reality of the world of your wakeful experience. How can the mind which has itself created the world accept it as unreal? That is the significance of the comparison made between the world of wakeful experience and the dream world. Both are but creations of the mind and so long as the mind is engrossed in either, it finds itself unable to deny the reality of the dream world while dreaming and of the waking world while awake.

If, on the contrary, you withdraw your mind completely from the world and turn it within and abide thus, that is, if you keep awake always to the Self, which is the substratum of all experience, you will find the world, of which alone you are now aware, just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream.

The above excerpt was taken from Maharshi’s Gospel

Why do we find so many troubles in the world? The five types of Maya and how to remove them| Ramana Maharshi

Ramana letters.jpg

Tom: the following text is from Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 21st May 1947. In the first part Ramana will tell us the basic theory. In the second part he will tell us how to realise this truth for ourselves:

Yesterday morning at 8 o’clock, Dr. Syed who is a worker for Arya Vignana Sangha and one of the disciples of Bhagavan, came here for Bhagavan’s darshan and asked “Bhagavan says the whole world is the swarupa of Atma. If so, why do we find so many troubles in this world?”

Tom: Swarupa, literally meaning form of the self (Swa = self; rupa = form), usually is translated as ‘essential nature’ or ‘true nature’. Atma or Atman means Self. The questioner above is therefore asking about the true nature of the Self – “if all is Atma Swarupa, then why all this trouble in the world?”

With a face indicating pleasure, Bhagavan replied “That is called Maya. In Vedanta Chintamani, that Maya has been described in five ways. One by name Nijaguna Yogi wrote that book in Canarese. Vedanta has been so well dealt with in it, it can be said to be an authority on the Vedanta language.

There is a Tamil translation. The five names of Maya are, Tamas, Maya, Moham, Avidya and Anitya.

Tamas is that which hides the knowledge of life.

Maya is that which is responsible for making one who is the form of the world appear different from it.

Moha is that which makes a different one look real: sukti rajata bhranthi — creating an illusion that mother-of-pearl is made of silver.

Avidya is that which spoils Vidya (learning).

Anitya is transient, that which is different from what is permanent and real.

On account of these five Mayas troubles appear in the Atma like the cinema pictures on the screen. Only to remove this Maya it is said that the whole world is mithya (unreal).

Atman is like the screen. Just as you come to know that the pictures that are shown are dependent on the screen and do not exist otherwise, so also, until one is able to know by Self-enquiry that the world that is visible is not different from Atma, it has to be said that this is all mithya.

But once the reality is known, the whole universe will appear as Atma only. Hence the very people who said the world is unreal, have subsequently said that it is only Atma swarupa. After all, it is the outlook that is important. If the outlook changes, the troubles of the world will not worry us. Are the waves different from the ocean?

Why do the waves occur at all? If asked, what reply can we give? The troubles in the world also are like that. Waves come and go. If it is found out that they are not different from Atma this worry will not exist.”

Tom: How many times have we heard the above metaphor about the movie and the screen? But do we truly understand? Are we truly free? The questioner therefore asks the following:

That devotee said in a plaintive tone, “However often Bhagavan teaches us, we are not able to understand.”

“People say that they are not able to know the Atma that is all-pervading. What can I do? Even the smallest child says, ‘I exist. I do; and this is mine’. So, everyone understands that the thing ‘I’ is always existent. It is only when that ‘I’ is there, the feeling is there that you are the body, he is Venkanna, this is Ramanna and the like. To know that the one that is always visible is one’s own self, is it necessary to search with a candle? To say that we do not know the Atma swarupa which is not different but which is in one’s own self is like saying ‘I do not know myself ’,” said Bhagavan.

Tom: Ramana above is stating that the Self is always realised – it is the knowledge ‘I am’. Everyone knows they exist! This is self-knowledge or self-realisation! However the problem is when you identify as being the body the trouble starts. Now the questioner has figured out the path laid out before him, and Ramana confirms the way forwards in order to secure removal of this wrong identification with the body. There is no need to gain self-knowledge, just to remove wrong identification (ignorance):

That means that those who by sravana (hearing) and manana (repeating within oneself) become enlightened and look upon the whole visible world as full of Maya, will ultimately find the real swarupa by nididhyasana [meditation],” said the devotee.

“Yes, that is it. Nidi means swarupa; nididhyasana is the act of intensely concentrating on the swarupa with the help of sravana and manana of the words of the Guru. That means to meditate on that with undeflected zeal. After meditating for a long time, he merges in it. Then it shines as itself. That is always there. There will be no troubles of this sort if one can see the thing as it is. Why so many questions to see one’s own self that is always there?” said Bhagavan.

Ashtavakra Gita – all is illusion, I am the Self

Janaka ashtavakra

Sage Ashtavakra, the young boy with contorted limbs, teaches King Janaka, and the result is the Song of Ashtavakra, or Ashtavakra Gita. Here are some selected verses, enjoy:

2.1. Oh, I am spotless, tranquil, Pure Consciousness, and beyond Nature. All this time I have been mocked by illusion.

Tom – Now the triad of knower/knowing/known are said not to exist. Note that this triad essentially encompasses all arising or objective phenomena:

2.15. Knowledge, knower and the known – these three do not exist in reality. I am that stainless Self in which this triad appears through ignorance.

Tom – here the remedy is prescribed:

2.16. Oh, the root of misery is duality. There is no other remedy for it except the realisation of the unreality of all objects of experience and that I am One, Pure Consciousness, and Bliss.

2.18. I am neither bound nor free. My illusion has ended. The world, though appearing to exist in me, has in reality no existence.

2.19. My conviction is that the Universe and the body have no reality. The Self is Consciousness alone. How can the world be imagined in it?

2.20. I am the Self, and my nature is pure Consciousness. The body, heaven, hell, bondage, freedom, and fear are merely imagined, and I have no relationship with them.

3.13. Knowing the object of perception to be naught by nature, that steady-minded one neither accepts this nor rejects that.

5.3. Though the Universe is perceptible by the senses, it has no factual existence, like the snake in the rope. Therefore, enter into Laya, the state of dissolution.

Tom – Again the essential teaching is dispensed:

11.8. He who is convinced that this manifold and wonderful Universe has no real existence, becomes free from desire, is pure Consiousness, and finds peace in the Knowledge that nothing is real.

15.16. The world is the result of ignorance of your own nature. In reality, you alone exist. There is neither jiva (the individual person) nor Ishvara (God), nothing other than thyself.

15.17. He who has fully realised that the Universe is a pure illusion, becomes desireless and Consciousness Itself – such a one abides in peace.

16.11. Even though Shiva, Vishnu, or Brahma instruct you, unless you regard the world as unreal, and dismiss all sense of egotism, you will not become established in your own nature (the Self).

17.19. Devoid of the feeling of ‘This is mine’ and ‘This I am’ and knowing for certain that nothing objective exists in reality, the knower of Truth is at peace within himself, his desires have subsided. Though appearing to act, in fact he does not engage in action.

18.14. Where is delusion, where is the universe, where is renunciation, moreover where is liberation for the great-souled one who rests beyond the world of desires?

Tom – the implication in verse 18.14 above is that all the items listed – namely ignorance, the universe, renunciation and liberation – all of these are illusion.

18.28. That man of peace, beyond distraction and contemplation, is neither an aspirant for liberation, nor is he bound. Knowing the Universe to be an illusion, though perceiving it, he remains in the absolute state.

18.70. The pure one knows for certain that this universe is nothing but the product of illusion and that nothing exists. The Imperceptible Self is revealed to him, and he naturally enjoys peace.


Tom – As if the above verses were not enough, here, in the last chapter, chapter 20, the point is driven home again. Everything in the phenomenal world is negated as being mere dream-like illusion, a product of imagination, from the scriptures, to the seeker, from the teacher to the teaching. Even notions of liberation, bondage, knowledge, ignorance, time and space and lastly even duality and non-duality – all these are said to be mere illusion.

20.1. In my Perfect Self (Atman), neither the elements, nor the body, nor the sense-organs, nor the mind, nor the void, nor despair, exist.

20.2. Where are the scriptures, where is Self-Knowledge, where is the mind not attached to sense-objects, where is contentment, and where is desirelessness for me who am ever devoid of the sense of duality?

Tom – ie. scriptures, self-knowledge, the unattached mind, happiness and desirelessness are all illusory

20.3. Where is knowledge and where is ignorance; where is ‘I’, where is ‘this’, and where is ‘mine’; where is bondage and where is liberation? Where is an attribute to the nature of my self?

Tom – ie. knowledge, ignorance, bondage, liberation, subject and object are all illusory. And so the verses continue in the same fashion:

20.6. Where is the world and where is the seeker of liberation; where is the Yogi and where is the Jnani; where is bondage and where is liberation for me who am non-dual by nature?

20.7. Where are creation and destruction; where is the end and where the means; where is the seeker and success for me abiding in my non-dual nature?

20.8. Where is the knower, the means to knowledge, the object of knowledge or knowledge itself; where is anything, and where is nothing for me who am ever pure?

20.9. Where is distraction, where is concentration; where is knowledge, where is delusion; where is joy and where is sorrow for me who am ever actionless?

20.13. Where are instruction and scriptural injunction, where is the disciple and where is the guru; where, indeed, is the object of life for me who am absolute good and free from limitation?

20.14. Where is existence, where is non-existence; where is unity, where is duality? What need is there to say more? Nothing emanates from me.

Ramana Maharshi: The world should be considered like a dream

ramana umbrella


The Dream

Here is an essential instruction from Ramana Maharshi:

‘The world should be considered like a dream’
Who Am I?


The following are supportive quotes:

Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference
Who Am I?

The present waking state is no more than a dream
Talks 244


The Dream Guru

In the following two quotes we see that Ramana is describing the Guru or Teacher or Teaching as a mere dream-guru or dream-teaching, a part of the illusion. There is no real teaching, no real teacher, no real seeker, no real liberation. These are all illusion. The example given is that we dream the guru up, rather like dreaming of a tiger that then causes us to awake from the dream:

A man dreams of a tiger, takes fright and wakes up
Talks 473

It is said that awaking from ignorance is like awaking from a fearful dream of a beast
Talks 627


The Guru does not need to teach others

In the following excerpt Ramana points some flawed reasoning. Firstly why does a liberated sage not need to go out and preach to the world?

People often say that a mukta purusha [ie. liberated person; mukta = liberated, purusha = person] should go out and preach his message to the people. They argue, how can anyone be a mukta so long as there is misery by his side?

True. But who is a mukta? Does he see misery beside him? They want to determine the state of a mukta without themselves realising the state.

From the standpoint of the mukta their contention amounts to this: a man dreams a dream in which he finds several persons. On waking up, he asks, ‘Have the dream individuals also wakened?’ It is ridiculous.

Talks 498


Two false teachings

Secondly, the flawed thinking in those who say to themselves:

a) ‘I don’t mind if I don’t get mukti’ or

b) ‘Let me be the last person to be liberated and instead help all others become liberated first’. (ie. what in Mahayana Buddhism is known as the Bodhisattva ideal)

Again, a good man says, “It does not matter even if I do not get mukti. Or let me be the last man to get it so that I shall help all others to be muktas before I am one.” It is all very good. Imagine a dreamer saying, “May all these wake up before I do”. The dreamer is no more absurd than the amiable philosopher aforesaid.

Talks 498


Others do not need to be saved

Does a man who sees many individuals in his dream persist in believing them to be real and enquire after them when he wakes up?
Talks 571


There are not many jivas/egos/people

Here a questioner asks are there not many jivas? Ramana informs the questioner there is only one jiva:

A question was asked why it was wrong to say that there is a multiplicity of jivas. Jivas are certainly many. For a jiva is only the ego and forms the reflected light of the Self. Multiplicity of selves may be wrong but not of jivas.

M.: Jiva is called so because he sees the world. A dreamer sees many jivas in a dream but all of them are not real. The dreamer alone exists and he sees all. So it is with the individual and the world.

There is the creed of only one Self which is also called the creed of only one jiva*. It says that the jiva is only one who sees the whole world and the jivas therein.

Talks 571

*This is called the doctrine of eka jiva vada (the view there is only a single jiva/ego/person). Our own body-mind, and the body-mind of apparent others are all projections of the Self. Like a dream, it appears we are many, but actually this entire dream world is an illusion, and there is only the Dreamer, the Self, the Consciousness from which all is projected. Tat Tvam Asi, You are That.


Ramana Maharshi:

The world should be considered like a dream’

Waking is long and a dream short; other than this there is no difference.
Who Am I?

The present waking state is no more than a dream.
Talks 244

Yoga Vasishta clearly defines Liberation as the abandonment of the false and remaining as Being.
Talks 442

A man dreams of a tiger [the guru], takes fright and wakes up
Talks 473

It is said that awaking from ignorance is like awaking from a fearful dream of a beast.
Talks 627

Does a man who sees many individuals in his dream persist in believing them to be real and enquire after them when he wakes up?
Talks 571

Jiva is called so because he sees the world. A dreamer sees many jivas in a dream but all of them are not real. The dreamer alone exists and he sees all. So it is with the individual and the world.
Talks 571

There is the creed of only one Self which is also called the creed of only one jiva. It says that the jiva is only one who sees the whole world and the jivas therein.
Talks 571

Shankara: the world or universe is a projection of the mind

Shankara bondage is a mirage

From Shankara’s Vivekachudamani:

170. In dreams, when there is no actual contact with the external world, the mind alone creates the whole universe consisting of the experiencer etc. Similarly in the waking state also; there is no difference. Therefore all this (phenomenal universe) is the projection of the mind.

171. In dreamless sleep, when the mind is reduced to its causal state, there exists nothing (for the person asleep), as is evident from universal experience. Hence man’s relative existence is simply the creation of his mind, and has no objective reality.

Nonduality: doership, attachment and the world

Remove the notions of:

(1) doership (ie. the belief that I am the thinker and doer)
(2) attachment to outcomes and
(3) the belief that the world (ie. body, mind and world) is real…

…what’s left?

Note that (1) and (2) are implicit in (3) but are elucidated to make the teachings clearer.

Also note that (1) and (2) together could be called the ego, so this could be alternatively phrased as ‘remove the notions of the ego being real and the world being real’.

 

Ramana Maharshi: The World and Self-Realisation

ramana escape the tricks of maya

Here are some verse from Guru Vachaka Kovai, perhaps the most comprehensive and accurate record of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s spoken teachings. I have used this version which contains comments from Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James. Much gratitude to them for making this wonderful text available. My comments are in italicised red:

71. Just as the goat’s beard wanders and wags for nothing, people roam about merrily but in vain, doing Karmas for the fulfillment of their worldly desires, while despising the disciplines [followed by aspirants] which lead to eternal Moksha in Self. Ah, what a pitiable spectacle is the condition of these worldly people!

Tom: Ramana states that people engaged in worldy actions (karmas; the work karma literally means ‘action’ in Sanskrit, often used to denote cause and effect, here just refers to action) are to be pitied, and notes the irony that those who are ignorant shun the very practice (ie. self enquiry) that leads to eternal Moksha (liberation)

72. Longing for a tiny grain of pleasure, people toil so hard using the mind to plough the field of the five senses, but they never wish for the flood of Bliss which is the fruit that comes by ploughing the Heart, the Source of the mind, with [simple] Self-attention. Ah, what a wonder!

Tom: Simple self-attention is all that is needed instead of chasing all these pleasures which not only takes so much effort, but also causes so much suffering.

73. The moon-like jiva [the mind], ever wedded to the sun-like Self, should always remain in her home, the Heart; to forsake the Bliss of Self and go astray for worldly pleasures, is like the madness of a wife who spoils her precious chastity.

Tom: note the seeker’s job here is to discern the teaching rather that be side-tracked by whether or not this verse is politically correct in today’s social landscape. Ramana equates seeking wordly pleasures with infidelity. Instead we are to remain faithful to ourselves and abide as the Self in the Heart.

74. Only when the world’s allurement is lost will true Liberation be possible [and its allurement cannot be lost unless it is found to be unreal]. Hence, to try to foist reality upon this world is to be just like an infatuated lover who tries to foist chastity upon a prostitute.

Sadhu Om: A lover foists chastity upon a prostitute only because of his infatuation with her, and similarly some schools of thought argue and try to insist upon the world’s reality, only because of their immense desire for the enjoyment of this world. Therefore Liberation, which is the fruit of desirelessness, is absolutely impossible for them. 

75. Only for the mad folk who are deluded, mistaking this fictitious world as a fact, and not for the Jnani, is there anything to revel in except Brahman, which is Consciousness.

Tom: There is only Consciousness

76. Will those who are rooted in the Knowledge of Truth stray to worldly ways? Is it not the base and weak nature of animals that descends to the sensual pleasures of this unreal world?

77. If you ask, “What is the benefit of sacrificing the innumerable sensual pleasures and retaining mere Consciousness?”, [we reply that] the fruit of Jnana is the eternal and unbroken experience of the Bliss of Self.

Sadhu Om: Any experience of worldly pleasure is small and interrupted, whereas the Bliss of Self attained through Jnana is eternal and unbroken, and is therefore the greatest benefit.

78. Truly there is not the least happiness in any single worldly objects, so how then is the foolish mind deluded into thinking that happiness comes from them?

79. Fools are now so proud and happy of the wealth and pleasure of this world, which may at any time abandon them in disappointment and distress.

80. Suffering from the heat of the three-fold desires, all living beings wander in the empty and arid desert of this dream-world, which is created by the whirl of past tendencies. The shade of the Bodhi-tree which can completely cool this heat is only Self, which shines as Turiya [the fourth state].

Michael James: The three-fold desires are for women, wealth and fame.

Tom: do not wander into the arid desert of the world, or ‘dream-world’ as is written above, instead be still, abide as the Self, That which you already are in your very Being.

HOW CAN I ATTAIN REALISATION?

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Q: When will the realization of the Self be gained?
Ramana Maharshi: When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.

Q: Will there not be realization of the Self even while the world is there?
Ramana Maharshi: There will not be.

Q: When will the world which is the object seen be removed?
Ramana Maharshi: When the mind, which is the cause of all cognition’s and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.

TOM’S COMMENTS:

Many people avoid these kinds of teachings which advocate turning away from the world and stilling the mind, and give various seemingly logical reasons for this philosophical stance (note that it is a philosophical stance for the most part, based on logical reasoning, belief and a certain ideology), but for most people, without prolonged stillness of mind, egotism finds a way to perpetuate itself and suffering, separation and ignorance also continue. Don’t just take my word for it. Step outside of your mind, look into your heart and know this to be true for yourself  

Jesus – ‘do not love the world or things in the world’

Jesus walks water

The following quotes are taken from the Bible, and whilst they are taken out of context, together they do reveal a certain power of their own:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:15

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:4

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:17

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and  children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14.26

…the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
1 John 5:19

…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Luke 14:33

…the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:5

Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.
John 18:36

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Matthew 6:24

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
1 John 3:13

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Luke 6:26

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 15:18-19

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
1 John 2:16

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
John 17:14

His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed
Daniel 7:14

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Collosians 3:2

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Luke 9:23-24

He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’”
Matthew 16:23

One day Jesus invited a man to follow Him and become His disciple—but the man refused. He said he would follow Jesus later, but first he wanted to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead”
Matthew 8:22.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22

Krishnamurti: meditation is not an escape from the world

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Meditation is not an escape from the world; it is not an isolating self-enclosing activity, but rather the comprehension of the world and its ways. The world has little to offer apart from food, clothes and shelter, and pleasure with its great sorrows.

Meditation is wandering away from this world; one has to be a total outsider. Then the world has a meaning, and the beauty of the heavens and the earth is constant. Then love is not pleasure. From this all action begins that is not the outcome of tension, contradiction, the search for self-fulfillment or the conceit of power.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, taken from his book ‘The Only Revolution’