The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
(Edited by David Godman)
Question:Does a jnani have Sankalpas (desires)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The main qualities of the ordinary mind are Tamas (sloth, inertia) and Rajas (passion, excitement); hence it is full of egoistic desires and weaknesses. But the jnani’s mind is Suddhi-Sattva (pure harmony) and formless, functioning in the subtle Vijnanmayakosha (the sheath of knowledge), through which he keeps contact with the world. His desires are therefore also pure.
Question: What is the relation between the pure consciousness realised by the jnani and the ‘I am’-ness, which is accepted as the primary datum of experience?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The undifferentiated consciousness of pure being is the Heart or Hridayam, which is what you really are. From the Heart arises the ‘I am’-ness as the primary datum of one’s experience. By itself it is completely pure (suddha-sattva) in character. It is in this form of pristine purity (suddha-sattva-swarupa), uncontaminated by Rajas and Tamas (activity and inertia, that the ‘I’ appears to subsist in the jnani.
Question:In the jnani the ego subsists in the pure form and therefore it appears as something real. Am I right?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The existence of the ego in any form, either in the jnani or ajnani, is itself an experience. But to the ajnani who is deluded into thinking that the waking state and the world are real, the ego also appears to be real. Since he sees the jnani act like other individuals, he feels constrained to posit some notion of individuality with reference to the jnani also.
Question: How then does the Aham-Vritti (‘I’ thought, the sense of individuality) function in the jnani?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It does not function in him at all. The jnani’s real nature is the Heart itself, because he is one and identical with the undifferentiated, pure consciousness referred to by the Upanishads as the Prajnana (full consciousness). Prajnana is truly Brahman, the absolute, and there is no Brahman other than Prajnana.
Question: I am trying to understand the jnani’s point of view about the world. Is the world perceived after Self-realisation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why worry about the world and what happens to it after Self-realisation? First realise the Self. What does it matter if the world is perceived or not? Do you gain anything to help you in your quest by the non-perception of the world during sleep? Conversely, what would you lose now by the perception of the world? It is quite immaterial to the jnani or ajnani if he perceives the world or not. It is seen by both, but their view-points differ.
Question: If the jnani and the ajnani perceive the world in like manner, where is the difference between them?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Seeing the world, the jnani sees the Self which is the substratum of all that is seen; the ajnani, whether he sees the world or not, is ignorant of his true being, the Self.
Take the instance of moving pictures on the screen in the cinema-show. What is there in front of you before the play begins? Merely the screen. On that screen you see the entire show, and for all appearances the pictures are real. But go and try to take hold of them. What do you take hold of? Merely the screen on which the pictures appeared. After the play, when the pictures disappear, what remains? The screen again.
So with the Self. That alone exists, the pictures come and go. If you hold on to the Self, you will not be deceived by the appearance of the pictures. Nor does it matter at all if the pictures appear or disappear. Ignoring the Self the ajnani thinks the world is real, just as ignoring the screen he sees merely the pictures, as if they existed apart from it. If one knows that without the seer there is nothing to be seen, just as there are no pictures without the screen, one is not deluded. The jnani knows that the screen and the pictures are only the Self. With the pictures the Self is in its manifest form; without the pictures it remains in the unmanifest form. To the jnani it is quite immaterial if the Self is in the one form or the other. He is always the Self. But the ajnani seeing the jnani active gets confounded.
Question: Does Bhagavan see the world as part and parcel of himself? How does he see the world?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Self alone is and nothing else. However, it is differentiated owing to ignorance. Differentiation is threefold:
- Of the same kind
- Of a different kind; and
- As parts in itself
The world is not another Self similar to the Self. It is not different from the Self; nor is it part of the Self.
Question: Is not the world reflected on the Self?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: For reflection there must be object and an image. But the self does not admit of these differences.
Question: What is the difference between the Baddha and the Mukta, the bound man and the one liberated?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ordinary man lives in the brain unaware of himself in the Heart. The jnana-siddha (jnani) lives in the Heart. When he moves about and deals with men and things, he knows that what he sees is not separate from the one supreme reality, the Brahman which he realised in the Heart as his own Self, the real.
Question: What about the ordinary man?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: I have just said that he sees things outside himself. He is separate from the world, from his own deeper truth, from the truth that supports him and what he sees. The man who has realised the supreme truth of his own existence realises that it is the one supreme reality that is there behind him, behind the world. In fact, he is aware of the one, as the real, the Self in all selves, in all things, eternal and immutable, in all that is impermanent and mutable.
Question: Does a jnani have dreams?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, he does dream, but he knows it to be a dream, in the same way as he knows the waking state to be a dream. You may call them dream number one and dream number two. The jnani being established in the fourth state-Turiya, the supreme reality- he detachedly witnesses the three other states, waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, as pictures superimposed on it.
For those who experience waking, dream and sleep, the state of wakeful sleep, which is beyond those three states, is named Turiya (the fourth). But since that Turiya alone exists and since the seeming three states do not exist, know for certain that turiya is itself turiyatitta (that which transcends the fourth).
Question: For the jnani then, there is no distinction between the three states of mind?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: How can there be, when the mind itself is dissolved and lost in the light of consciousness?
For the jnani all the three states are equally unreal. But the ajnani is unable to comprehend this, because for him the standard of reality is the waking state, whereas for the jnani the standard is reality itself. This reality of pure consciousness is eternal by its nature and therefore subsists equally during what you call waking, dreaming and sleep. To him who is one with that reality there is neither the mind nor its three states and, therefore, neither introversion nor extroversion.
His is the ever waking state, because he is awake to the eternal Self; his is the ever dreaming state, because to him the world is no better than a repeatedly presented dream phenomenon; his is the ever sleeping state, because he is at all times without the ‘body-am I’ consciousness.
Question: Is there no Dehatma Buddhi (I-am-the-body idea) for the jnani? If, for instance, Sri Bhagavan is bitten by an insect, is there no sensation?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is the sensation and there is also the dehatma buddhi. The latter is common to both jnani and ajnani with this difference, that the ajnani thinks only the body is myself, whereas the jnani knows all is of the Self, or all this is Brahman. If there be pain let it be. It is also part of the Self. The Self is Poorna (perfect).
After transcending dehatma buddhi one becomes a jnani. In the absence of that idea there cannot be either Kartritva (doership) or Karta (doer). So a jnani has no karma (that is, a jnani performs no actions). That is his experience. Otherwise he is not a jnani. However, the ajnani identifies the jnani with his body, which the jnani does not do.
Question: I see you doing things. How can you say that you never perform actions?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The radio sings and speaks, but if you open it you will find no one inside. Similarly, my existence is like the space; though this body speaks like the radio, there is no one inside as a doer.
Question: I find this hard to understand. Could you please elaborate on this?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Various illustrations are given in books to enable us to understand how the jnani can live and act without the mind, although living and acting require the use of the mind. The potter’s wheel goes on turning round even after the potter has ceased to turn it because the pot is finished. In the same way, the electric fan goes on revolving for some minutes after we switch off the current. Prarabdha (predestined Karma) which created the body will make it go through whatever activities it was meant for. But the jnani goes through all these activities without the notion that he is the doer of them. It is hard to understand how this is possible. The illustration generally given is that the jnani performs actions in some such way as a child that is roused from sleep to eat eats but does not remember next morning that it ate. It has to be remembered that all these explanations are not for the jnani. He knows and has no doubts. He knows that he is not the body and he knows that he is not doing anything even though his body may be engaged in some activity. These explanations are for the onlookers who think of the jnani as one with a body and cannot help identifying him with his body.
Questioner:It is said that the shock of realisation is so great that the body cannot survive it.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There are various controversies or schools of thought as to whether a jnani can continue to live in his physical body after realisation. Some hold that one who dies cannot be a jnani because his body must vanish into thin air, or some such thing. They put forward all sorts of funny notions. If a man at once leaves his body when he realises the Self, I wonder how any knowledge of the Self or the state of realisation can come down to other men. And that would mean that all those who have given us the fruits of their Self-realisation in books cannot be considered jnanis because they went on living after realisation. And if it is held that a man cannot be considered a jnani so long as he performs actions in the world (and action is impossible without the mind), then not only the great sages who carried on various kinds of work after attaining jnana must be considered ajnanis but the gods also, and Iswara (the supreme personal God) himself, since he continues looking after the world. The fact is that any amount of action can be performed, and performed quite well, by the jnani, without his identifying himself with it in any way or ever imagining that he is the doer. Some power acts through his body and uses his body to get the work done.
Question: Is a jnani capable of or likely to commit sins?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: An ajnani sees someone as a jnani and identifies him with the body. Because he does not know the Self and mistakes his body for the Self, he extends the same mistake to the state of the jnani. The jnani is therefore considered to be the physical frame.
Again, since the ajnani, though he is not the doer, imagines himself to be the doer and considers the actions of the body his own, he thinks the ajnani to be similarly acting when the body is active. But the jnani himself knows the truth and is not confounded. The state of a jnani cannot be determined by the ajnani and therefore the question troubles only the ajnani and never arises for the jnani. If he is a doer he must determine the nature of the actions. The Self cannot be the doer. Find out who is the doer and the Self is revealed.
Question: So it amounts to this. To see a jnani is not to understand him. You see the jnani’s body and not his jnana. One must therefore be a jnani to know a jnani.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The jnani sees no one as an ajnani. All are only jnanis in his sight. In the ignorant state one superimposes one’s ignorance on a jnani and mistakes him for a doer. In the state of jnana, the jnani sees nothing separate from the Self. The Self is all shining and only pure jnana. So there is no ajnana in his sight. There is an illustration for this kind of illusion or superimposition.
Two friends went to sleep side by side. One of them dreamt that both of them had gone on a long journey and that they had had strange experiences. On waking up he recapitulated them and asked his friend if it was not so. The other one simply ridiculed him saying that it was only his dream and could not affect the other.
So it is with the ajnani who superimposes his illusory ideas on others.
Question: You have said that the jnani can be and is active, and deals with men and things. I have no doubt about it now. But you say at the same time that he sees no differences; to him all is one, he is always in the consciousness. If so, how does he deal with differences, with men, with things, which are surely different?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: He sees these differences as but appearances, he sees them as not separate from the true, the real, with which he is one.
Question: The jnani seems to be more accurate in his expressions, he appreciates the differences better than the ordinary man. If sugar is sweet and wormwood is bitter to me, he too seems to realise it so. In fact, all forms, all sounds, all tastes, etc., are the same to him as they are to others. If so, how can it be said that these are mere appearances? Do they not form part of his life experience?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: I have said that equality is the true sign of jnana. The very term equality implies the existence of differences. It is a unity that the jnani perceives in all differences, which I call equality. Equality does not mean ignorance of distinctions. When you have the realisation you can see that these differences are very superficial, that they are not at all substantial or permanent, and what is essential in all these appearances is the one truth, the real. That I call unity. You referred to sound, taste, form, smell, etc. True, the jnani appreciates the distinctions, but he always perceives and experiences the one reality in all of them. That is why he has no preferences. Whether he moves about, or talks, or acts, it is all the one reality in which he acts or moves or talks. He has nothing apart from the one supreme truth.
Question: They say that the jnani conducts himself with absolute equality towards all?
Sri Ramana Maharshi:Yes.
“Friendship, kindness, happiness and such other bhavas (attitudes) become natural to them. Affection towards the good, kindness towards the helpless, happiness in doing good deeds, forgiveness towards the wicked, all such things are natural characteristics of the jnani.” (Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, 1:37).
You ask about jnanis: they are the same in any state or condition, as they know the reality, the truth. In their daily routine of taking food, moving about and all the rest, they, the jnanis, act only for others. Not a single action is done for themselves. I have already told you many times just as there are people whose profession is to mourn for a fee, so also the jnanis do things for the sake of others with detachment, without themselves being affected by them.
The jnani weeps with the weeping, laughs with the laughing, plays with the playful, sings with those who sing, keeping time to the song. What does he lose? His presence is like a pure, transparent mirror. It reflects the image exactly as it is. But the jnani, who is only a mirror, is unaffected by actions. How can a mirror, or the stand on which it is mounted, be affected by the reflection? Nothing affects them, as they are mere supports. On the other hand, the actors in the world – the doers of all acts, the ajnanis- must decide for themselves what song and what action is for the welfare of the world, what is in accordance with the sastras (scriptures), and what is practicable.
Questioner: There are said to be Sadeha Mukta (liberated while still in the body) and Videha Mukta (liberated at the time of death).
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no liberation, and where are Muktas?
Question: Do not Hindu sastras speak of mukti (liberation)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti is synonymous with the Self. Jivan Mukti (liberated while still in the body) and Videha Mukti are all for the ignorant. The jnani is not conscious of Mukti or Bandha (bondage). Bondage, liberation and orders of Mukti are all said for an ajnani in order that ignorance might be shaken off. There is only Mukti and nothing else.
Question: It is all right from the standpoint of Bhagavan. But what about us?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The difference ‘he’ and ‘I’ are the obstacles to jnana.
Question: You once said: ‘The liberated man is free indeed to act as he pleases, and when he leaves the mortal coil, he attains absolution, but returns not to this birth which is actually death.’
This statement gives the impression that although the jnani takes no birth again on this plane, he may continue to work on subtler planes, if he so chooses. Is there any desire left in him to choose?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: No that was not my intention.
Questioner: Further, an Indian philosopher, in one of his books, interpreting Sankara, says that there is no such thing as Videha Mukti, for after his death, the Mukta takes a body of light in which he remains till the whole of humanity becomes liberated.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: That cannot be Sankara’s view. In verse 566 of Vivekachudamani he says that after the dissolution of the physical sheath the liberated man becomes like ‘water poured into water and oil into oil’. It is a state in which there is neither bondage nor liberation. Taking another body means throwing a veil, however subtle, upon reality, which is bondage. Liberation is absolute and irrevocable.
Question: How can we say that the jnani is not in two planes? He moves about with us in the world and sees the various objects we see. It is not as if he does not see them. For instance he walks along. He sees the path he is treading. Suppose there is a chair or table placed across that path; he sees it, avoids it and goes round. So, have we not to admit he sees the world and the objects there, while of course he sees the Self?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: You say the jnani sees the path, treads it, comes across obstacles, avoids them, etc. In whose eyesight is all this, in the jnani’s or in yours? He sees only the Self and all in the Self.
Question: Are there no illustrations given in our books to explain this sahaj (natural) state clearly to us?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There are. For instance you see a reflection in the mirror and the mirror. You know the mirror to be the reality and the picture in it a mere reflection. Is it necessary that to see the mirror we should cease to see the reflection in it?
Question: What are the fundamental tests for discovering men of great spirituality, since some are reported to behave like insane people?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The jnani’s mind is known only to the jnani. One must be a jnani oneself in order to understand another jnani. However, the peace of mind which permeates the saint’s atmosphere is the only means by which the seeker understands the greatness of the saint.
His words or actions or appearance are no indication of his greatness, for they are ordinarily beyond the comprehension of common people.
Question: Why is it said in the scriptures that the sage is like a child?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: A child and a jnani are similar in a way. Incidents interest a child only so long as they last. It ceases to think of them after they have passed away. So then, it is apparent that they do not leave any impression on the child and it is not affected by them mentally. So it is with a jnani.
Question: You are Bhagavan. So you should know when I shall get jnana. Tell me when I shall be a jnani?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If I am Bhagavan there is no one besides the Self- therefore no jnani or ajnani. If otherwise, I am as good as you are and know as much as yourself. Either way I cannot answer your question.
Coming here some people do not ask about themselves. They ask: ‘Does the jivan muktas see the world? Is he affected by Karma? What is liberation after being disembodied or while alive in the body? Should the body of the sage resolve itself in light or disappear from view in any other manner? Can he be liberated though the body is left behind as a corpse?
Their questions are endless. Why worry oneself in so many ways? Does liberation consist in knowing these things?
Therefore I say to them, leave liberation alone. Is there bondage? Know this. See yourself first and foremost.