Freedom from Bondage

From The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman

Liberation is our very nature. We are that. The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is to get rid of the false notion that we are bound. When we achieve that, there will be no desire or thought of any sort. So long as one desires liberation, so long, you may take it, one is in bondage.

It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The real is as it is always. We are not creating anything new or achieving something which we did not have before. The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.

Question: As the bodies and the selves animating them are everywhere actually observed to be innumerable how can it be said that the Self is only one?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the idea ‘I am the body’ is accepted, the selves are multiple. The state in which this idea vanishes is the Self since in that state there are no other objects. It is for this reason that the Self is regarded as one only.

Since the body itself does not exist in the natural outlook of the real Self, but only in the extroverted outlook of the mind which is deluded by the power of illusion, to call Self, the space of consciousness, dehi (the possessor of the body) is wrong.

The world does not exist without the body, the body never exists without the mind, the mind never exists without consciousness and consciousness never exists without the reality.

For the wise one who has known Self by divining within himself, there is nothing other than Self to be known. Why? Because since the ego which identifies the form of a body as ‘I’ has perished, he (the wise one) is the formless existence-consciousness.

The jnani (one who has realised the Self) knows he is the Self and that nothing, neither his body nor anything else, exists but the Self. To such a one what difference could the presence or absence of a body make?

Realisation is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought ‘I have not realised’.

[Note: Comments by David Godman: Sri Raman Maharshi occasionally indicated that there were three classes of spiritual aspirants. The most advanced realise the Self as soon as they are told about its real nature. Those in the second class need to reflect on it for some time before Self-awareness becomes firmly established. Those in the third category are less fortunate since they usually need many years of intensive spiritual practice to achieve the goal of Self-realisation. Sri Ramana sometimes used a metaphor of combustion to describe the three levels; gunpowder ignites with a single spark, charcoal needs the application of heat for a short time, and wet coal needs to dry out and heat up over a long period of time before it will begin to burn.

For the benefit of those in the top two categories Sri Ramana taught that the Self alone exists and that it can be directly and consciously experienced merely by ceasing to pay attention to the wrong ideas we have about ourselves. These wrong ideas he collectively called ‘not-Self ‘ since they are an imaginary accretion of wrong notions and misperceptions which effectively veil the true experience of the real Self. The principal misperception is the idea that the Self is limited to the body and the mind. As soon as one ceases to imagine that one is an individual person, inhabiting a particular body, the whole superstructure of wrong ideas collapse and is replaced by a conscious and permanent awareness of the real Self.

At this level of the teaching, there is no question of effort or practice. All that is required is an understanding that the Self is not a goal to be attained, it is merely the awareness that prevails when all the limiting ideas about the not-Self have been discarded.]

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Stillness or peace is realisation. There is no moment when the Self is not. So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-realisation, the attempt should be made to rid oneself of these thoughts. They are due to the identification of the Self with the not-Self. When the not-Self disappears, the Self alone remains. To make room, it is enough that objects be removed. Room is not brought in from elsewhere.

Question: How shall I reach the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now, and it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self, you are already that.

The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance supervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self which is bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance which is merely wrong knowledge. The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains.

Therefore, realisation is for everyone; realisation makes no difference between the aspirants. This very doubt, whether you can realise, and the notion ‘I have not realised’ are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.

Question: How long does it take to reach mukti (liberation or freedom)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti(liberation) is not to be gained in the future. It is there forever, here and now.

Questioner: I agree, but I do not experience it.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The experience is here and now. One cannot deny one’s own Self.

Questioner: That means existence and not happiness.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Existence is the same as happiness and happiness is the same as being. The word mukti (liberation or freedom) is so provoking. Why should one seek it? One believes that there is bondage and therefore seeks liberation. But the fact is that there is no bondage but only liberation. Why call it by a name and seek it?

Questioner: True – but we are ignorant.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Only remove ignorance. That is all there is to be done.

All questions relating to mukti(liberation) are inadmissible. Mukti means release from bondage. There is no bondage and therefore no mukti either.

Question: Of what nature is the realisation of westerners who relate that they have had flashes of cosmic consciousness?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It came as a flash and disappeared as such. That which has a beginning must also end. Only when the ever-present consciousness is realised will it be permanent. Consciousness is indeed always with us. Everyone knows ‘I am’. No one can deny his own being. The man in deep sleep is not aware; while awake he seems to be aware. But it is the same person. There is no change in the one who slept and the one who is now awake. In deep sleep he was not aware of his body and so there was no body-consciousness. Therefore the difference lies in the emergence of body-consciousness and not in any change in the real consciousness.

The body and body-consciousness arise together and sink together. All this amounts to saying that there are no limitations in deep sleep, whereas there are limitations in the waking state. These limitations are the bondage. The feeling ‘The body is I’ is the error. This false sense of ‘I’ must go. The real ‘I’ is always there. It is here and now. It never appears anew and disappears again. That which is must also persist for ever. That appears anew will also be lost. Compare deep sleep and waking. The body appears in one state but not in the other. Therefore the body will be lost. The consciousness was pre-existent and will survive the body.

There is no one who does not say ‘I am’. The wrong knowledge of ‘I am the body’ is the cause of all the mischief. This wrong knowledge must go. That is realisation. Realisation is not acquisition of anything new nor is it new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.

The ultimate truth is so simple. It is nothing more than being in the pristine state. This is all that need be said.

Question: Is one nearer to pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The sleep, dream and waking states are mere phenomena appearing on the Self which itself is stationary. It is also a state of simple awareness. Can anyone remain away from the Self at any moment? This question can arise only if that were possible.

Question: Is it not often said that one is nearer pure consciousness in deep sleep than in the waking state?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The question may as well be ‘Am I nearer to myself in my sleep than in my waking state?’

The Self is pure consciousness. No one can ever be away from the Self. The question is possible only if there is duality. But there is no duality in the state of pure consciousness.

The same person sleeps, dreams and wakes up. The waking state is considered to be full of beautiful and interesting things. The absence of such experience makes one say that the sleep state is dull. Before we proceed further let us make this point clear. Do you not admit that you exist in your sleep?

Questioner: Yes I do.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are the same person that is now awake. Is it not so? So there is a continuity in the sleep and the waking states. What is that continuity? It is only the state of pure being.

There is a difference in the two states. What is that difference? The incidents, namely, the body, the world and objects appear in the waking state but they disappear in sleep.

Questioner: But I am not aware in my sleep.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: True, there is no awareness of the body or of the world. But you must exist in your sleep in order to say now ‘I was not aware in my sleep’. Who says so now? It is the wakeful person. The sleeper cannot say so. That is to say, the individual who is now identifying the Self with the body says that such awareness did not exist in sleep.

Because you identify yourself with the body, you see the world around you and say that the waking state is filled with beautiful and interesting things. The sleep state appears dull because you were not there as an individual and therefore these things were not. But what is the fact? There is the continuity of being in all the three states, but no continuity of the individual and the objects.

That which is continuous is also enduring, that is permanent. That which is discontinuous is transitory. Therefore the state of being is permanent and the body and the world are not. They are fleeting phenomena passing on the screen of being-consciousness which is eternal and stationary.

Question:What prevents the infinite, undifferentiated light of consciousness arising from the Heart from revealing itself to the ajnani (ignorant)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Just as water in a pot reflects the enormous sun within the narrow limits of the pot, even so the vasanas or latent tendencies of the mind of the individual, acting as the reflecting medium, catch the all-pervading, infinite light of consciousness arising from the Heart. The form of this reflection is the phenomena called the mind. Seeing only this reflection, the ajnani (the ignorant) is deluded into the belief that he is the finite being, the jiva, the individual self.

Question: What are the obstacles which hinder realisation of the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They are habits of mind (Vasanas).

Question: How to overcome the mental habits (Vasnas)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: By realising the Self. It is the ego which raises such difficulties, creating obstacles and then suffering from the perplexity of apparent paradoxes. Find out who makes the enquiries and the Self will be found.

Question: Why is this mental bondage so persistent?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The nature of bondage is merely the rising, ruinous thought ‘I am different from the reality’. Since one surely cannot remain separate from the reality, reject that thought whenever it rises.

Question: 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 scriptures speak of mukti (liberation)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti is synonymous with the Self. Jivan mukti (liberated while still in the body) and videh mukti are all for the ignorant. The jnani(self-realised) is not conscious of mukti or bandha (bondage). Bondage, liberation and orders of mukti are all said for an ajnani (ignorant) in order that ignorance might be shaken off. There is only mukti or liberation and nothing else.

Question: If there is neither bondage nor liberation, what is the reason for the actual experience of joys and sorrows?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They appear to be real only when one turns aside from one’s real nature. They do not really exist.

Question: Is the world created for happiness or misery?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Creation is neither good nor bad; it is as it is. It is the human mind which puts all sorts of constructions on it, seeing things from its own angle and interpreting them to suit its own interests. A woman is just a woman, but one mind calls her ‘‘mother’’ another ‘‘sister’’ and still another ‘‘aunt’ and so on. Men love women, hate snakes, and are indifferent to the grass and stones by the roadside. These value-judgements are the cause of all the misery in the world. Creation is like a peepul tree; birds come and eat its fruit, or take shelter under its branches, men cool themselves in its shade, but some may hang themselves on it. Yet the tree continues to lead its quiet life, unconcerned with and unaware of all the uses it is put to.

It is the human mind that creates its own difficulties and then cries for help. Is God so partial as to give peace to one person and sorrow to another? In creation there is room for everything, but man refuses to see the good, the healthy and the beautiful. Instead, he goes on whining, like the hungry man who sits besides the tasty dish and who, instead of stretching out his hand to satisfy his hunger, goes on lamenting, ‘Whose fault is it, God’s or man’s?’

It is true that we are not bound and that the real Self has no bondage. It is true that you will eventually go back to your source. But meanwhile, if you commit sins, as you call them, you will have to face the consequences of such sins. You cannot escape them. If a man beats you, then, can you say, ‘‘I am free, I am not bound by these beatings and I don’t feel any pain. Let him beat on’? If you can feel like that, you can go on doing what you like. What is the use of merely saying with your lips ‘I am free’?


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Consiousness – the three stages

Three States of Consciousness
As taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman

Question: For one who has realised his Self, it is said that he will not have the three states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Is that a fact?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What makes you say that they do not have the three states? In saying “I had a dream; I was in deep sleep; I am awake”, you must admit that you were there in all the three states. That makes it clear that you were there all the time. If you remain as you are now, you are in the wakeful state; this becomes hidden in the dream state; and the dream state disappears when you are in deep sleep. You were there then, you are there now, and you are there all the times. The three states come and go, but you are always there. It is like a cinema. The screen is always there but several types of pictures appear on the screen and then disappear. Nothing sticks to the screen. Similarly, you remain your own Self in all the three states. If you know that, the three states will not trouble you, just as the pictures that appear on the screen do not stick to it. On the screen, you sometimes see a huge ocean with endless waves; that disappears. Another time, you see fire spreading all around; that too disappears. The screen is there on both occasions. Did the screen get wet with the water or did it get burned by the fire? Nothing affected the screen. In the same way, the things that happen during the wakeful, dream and sleep states do not affect you at all; you remain your own Self.

Question: Does that mean that, although people have all three states of consciousness – wakefulness, dream and deep sleep – these do not affect them?

Maharshi: Yes, that is it. All these states come and go. The Self is not bothered; it has only one state.

Question: Does that mean that such a person will be in this world merely as a witness?

Maharshi: That is so; for this very thing Vidyaranya, in the tenth chapter of the book Panchadasi, gives as example the light that is kept on the stage of a theatre. When a drama is being played, the light is there, which illuminates, without any distinction, all the actors, whether they be kings or servants or dancers, and also all the audience. That light will be there before the drama begins, during the performance and also after the performance is over. Similarly, the light within, that is, the Self, gives light to the ego, the intellect, the memory and the mind without itself being subject to processes of growth and decay. Although during deep sleep and other states there is no feeling of the ego, that Self remains attributeless, and continues to shine of itself.

Actually the idea of the Self being the witness is only in the mind; it is not the absolute truth of the Self. Witnessing is relative to objects witnessed. Both the witness and his object are mental creations.

Question: How are the three states of consciousness inferior in degree of reality to the fourth (Turiya)? What is the actual relation between these three states and the fourth?

Maharshi: There is only one state, that of consciousness or awareness or existence. The three states of waking, dream and deep sleep cannot be real. They simply come and go. The real will always exist. The “I” or existence that alone persists in all the three states is real. The other three are not real and so it is not possible to say they have such and such degree of reality. We may roughly put it like this, Existence or consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking, we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep, we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen, on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it. Because by long habit, we have been regarding these three states as real, we call the state of mere awareness or consciousness the fourth. There is however, no fourth state, but only one state.

There is no difference between dream and the waking state except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Because the waking state is long, we imagine that it is our real state. But, as a matter of fact, our real state is Turiya or the fourth state which is always as it is and knows nothing of the three states of waking, dream or deep sleep. Because we call these three Avastha (states) we call the fourth state also Turiya Avastha. But it is not an Avastha, but the real and natural state of the Self. When this is realised, we know it is not a Turiya or fourth state, for a fourth state is only relative, but Turiyatita, the transcendent state.

Question: But why should these three states come and go on the real state or the screen of the Self?

Maharshi: Who puts this question? Does the Self say these states come and go? It is the seer who says these come and go. The seer and the seen together constitute the mind. See if there is such a thing as the mind. Then, the mind merges in the Self, and there is neither the seer nor the seen. So the real answer to your question is, ‘They neither come nor go.’ The Self alone remains as it ever is. The three states owe their existence to non-enquiry and enquiry puts an end to them. However much one may explain, the fact will not become clear till one attains Self-realisation and wonders how one was blind to the self-evident and only existence so long.

For the Jnani (who is self-realised), all the three states of consciousness are equally unreal. But the ajnani (ignorant or who is not self-realised), is unable to comprehend this, because for him the standard of reality is the waking state, whereas for the jnani the standard of reality is reality itself. This reality of pure consciousness is eternal by its nature and therefore subsists equally during what you call waking, dreaming and deep 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 the world that is seen, felt and sensed by us in so many ways something like a dream, an illusion?

Maharshi: There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal if you are seeking the truth and the truth alone, 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. You may be deceived into believing that a piece of rope is a snake. While you imagine that the rope is a snake you cannot see the rope as a rope. The non-existent snake becomes real to you, while the real rope seems wholly non-existent as such.

Questioner: 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.

Maharshi: Even so is your dream world real while you are dreaming. So long as the dream lasts everything you see and feel in it is real.

Question: Is then the world no better than a dream?

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.

It is the same in the waking state, for you are unable to doubt the reality of the world that you see while you are awake. 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 the waking state and the dream world. Both are creations of the mind and, so long as the mind is engrossed in either, it finds itself unable to deny their reality. It cannot deny the reality of the dream world while it is dreaming and it cannot deny the reality of the waking world while it is awake. If, on the contrary, you withdraw your mind completely from the world and turn it within and abide there, that is, if you keep awake always to the Self which is the substratum of all experiences, you will find the world of which you are now aware is just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream.


Question: We see, feel and sense the world in so many ways. These sensations are the reactions to the objects seen and felt. They are not mental creations as in dreams, which differ not only from person to person but also with regard to the same person. Is that not enough to prove the objective reality of the world?

Maharshi: All this talk about inconsistencies in the dream world arise only now, when you are awake. While you are dreaming, the dream was a perfectly integrated whole. That is to say, if you felt thirsty in a dream, the illusory drinking of illusory water quenched your illusory thirst. But all this was real and not illusory to you so long as you did not know that the dream itself was illusory. Similarly with the waking world. The sensations you now have get coordinated to give you the impression that the world is real.

If, on the contrary, the world is a self-existent reality (that is what you evidently mean by objectivity), what prevents the world from revealing itself to you in sleep? You do not say you did not exist in your sleep.

Questioner: Neither do I deny the world’s existence while I am asleep. It has been existing all the while. If during my sleep I did not see it, others who were not sleeping saw it.

Maharshi: To say you existed while asleep, was it necessary to call in the evidence of others so as to prove it to you? Why do you seek their evidence now? Those others can tell you of having seen the world during your sleep only when you yourself are awake.

With regard to your own existence it is different. On waking up you say you had a sound sleep, and so that extent you are aware of yourself in the deepest sleep, whereas you have not the slightest notion of the world’s existence then. Even now, while you are awake, is it the world that says, “I am real”, or is it you?

Questioner: Of course I say it, but I say it of the world.

Maharshi: well then, that world, which you say is real, is really mocking at you for seeking to prove its reality while of your own reality you are ignorant.

You want somehow or other to maintain that the world is real. What is the standard of reality? That alone is real which exists by itself, which reveals itself by itself and which is eternal and unchanging.

Does the world exist by itself? Was it ever seen without the aid of the mind? In deep sleep there is neither mind nor world. When awake, there is the mind and there is the world. What does invariable concomitance mean? You are familiar with the principles of inductive logic which are considered the very basis of scientific investigation. Why do you not decide this question of the reality of the world in the light of those accepted principles of logic?

Of yourself, you can say “I exist”. That is, your existence is not mere existence, it is existence of which you are conscious. Really, it is existence identical with consciousness.

Questioner: The world may not be conscious of itself, yet it exists.

Maharshi: Consciousness is always Self-consciousness. If you are conscious of anything you are essentially conscious of yourself. Unselfconscious existence is a contradiction in terms. It is no existence at all. It is merely attributed existence, whereas true existence, the SAT, is not an attribute, it is the substance itself. It is the Vastu (Reality). Reality is therefore known as SAT-CHIT, being consciousness, and never merely the one to the exclusion of the other. The world neither exists by itself, nor is it conscious of its existence. How can you say that such a world is real?

And what is the nature of the world? It is perpetual change, a continuous, interminable flux. A dependent, unselfconscious, ever-changing world cannot be real.

Question: Are the names and forms of the world real?

Maharshi: You won’t find them separate from the substratum (Adhishtana). When you try to get at name and form, you will find reality only. Therefore attain the knowledge of that which is real for all time.

Question: Why does the waking state look so real?

Maharshi: We see so much on the cinema screen, but it is not real. Nothing is real there except the screen. In the same way in the waking state, there is nothing but Adhishtan(substratum). Knowledge of the world is knowledge of the knower of the world. Both go away in sleep.

Question: Why do we see such permanency and constancy in the world?

Maharshi: It is seen on account of wrong ideas. When someone says that he took a bath in the same river twice, he is wrong because when he bathed for the second time the river is not the same as it was when he bathed for the first time. On looking twice at the brightness of a flame a man says that he sees the same flame, but this flame is changing every moment. The waking state is like this. The stationary appearance is an error of perception.

Question: Where is the error?

Maharshi: Pramata (the knower).

Question: How did the knower come?

Maharshi: On account of the error of perception. In fact, the knower, and his misperceptions appear simultaneously, and when the knowledge of the Self is obtained, they disappear simultaneously.

Question: From where did the knower and his misperceptions come?

Maharshi: Who is asking the question?

Questioner: I am.

Maharshi: Find out that “I” and all your doubts will be solved. Just as in a dream a false knowledge, knower, and known rise up, in the waking state the same process operates. In both states on knowing this “I” you know everything and nothing remains to be known. In deep sleep, knower, knowledge and known are absent. In the same way, at the time of experiencing the real “I” they will not exist. Whatever you see happening in the waking state happens only to the knower, and since the knower is unreal, nothing in fact ever happens.

Question: Is the light which gives the “I” –sense identity and knowledge of the world ignorance or chit, consciousness?

Maharshi: It is only the reflected light of CHIT that makes the “I” believe itself different from others. This reflected light of Chit also makes the “I” create objects, but for this reflection there must be a surface on which the reflection takes place.

Question: What is that surface?

Maharshi: On realisation of the Self you will find that the reflection and the surface on which it takes place do not actually exist, but that both of them are one and the same Chit. There is the world, which requires location for its existence and light to make it perceptible. Both rise simultaneously. Therefore, physical existence and perception depend upon the light of the mind which is reflected from the Self. Just as cinema pictures can be made visible by a reflected light, and only in darkness, so also the world pictures are perceptible only by the light of the Self reflected in the darkness of Avidya (ignorance). The world can be seen neither in the utter darkness of ignorance, as in deep sleep, nor in the utter light of the Self, as in Self-realisation or Samadhi.


From Aitareya Upanishad, I, iii, 12

Atman (the individual self thus embodied) has three abodes, three conditions of sleep. This is one abode, this is another, this is the third.

[Note: The reference is to the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. An unenlightened person, during the waking state, is ignorant of truth and takes the unreal to be real. Therefore the waking state is not, for him, different from sleep.]
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Contributions from The Advaita Ashrama, Culcutta

The following article explains: Gross, Subtle and Causal Body, Microcosm and Macrocosm,Vishva, Taijas, Prajna,Akshara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat, AUM

Three States of Consciousness 
By S.S.Raghavachar, M.A.
Dept. of Philosophy, University of Mysore, India
(This article was written on 28-01-1962)

Human experience passes through three states, Waking, Dream and Deep-sleep. These three must be studied closely and their distinctive characteristics noted.

In Waking, there is the experience of the solid external world through sense-perception.

In Dream, senses do not function. The impressions deposited in the mind by previous experiences are revivified and shaped into the likeness of waking itself. The internal perception by the mind of these revivified impressions lodged within itself, as if they are realities of the waking state itself, is dream.

In Deep-sleep, neither the senses function nor the mind functions. The self withdraws into itself as it were, but there is no self-understanding. The self is covered by a primeval ignorance from which spring all wakings, and dreams. This ignorance covers the self in all its states, but it does not set up the presentation of the non-self in the deep-sleep as it does in the waking and dream.

This analysis of the states brings out the threefold nature of embodiment. In the waking state the self is embodied in what is called the gross body consisting of the five gross elements and their modifications. In the Vedic philosophy of nature, at least three stages are discernible.

In the first stage, as represented by the Chandogya Upanisad, three elements, namely, Fire, Water and Earth are posited.

In the second stage, as represented, for instance, in the Taittiriya Upanisad, there is the addition of Air and Space. Further on, the empirical fact that these elements are not to be found in their pure and unmixed state and that they are clearly independent substances is not much of a demonstrated scientific truth must have led to the explanation that the five elements are pure and independent only in their subtle state, while as found empirically they are mixed up a great deal.

Each empirically given gross element has within it, according to this view, all the other elements also. For instance, in the gross Earth, half of it consists of pure earth and the other half consists of the other four pure elements. This process of the composition of the gross elements is what is called Panchikaranam.
[Note: ‘Panchikarana’ The fivefold combination which the five subtle rudimentary elements have to undergo to become gross ones.]

Experience of these elements and their products through sense-perception is characteristic of waking life. In the dream-state the embodiment is said to be subtle. The body of the dream-self, in the first place, contains the five organs of knowledge and the five organs of action, which are ten in all and are called Indriyas (organs).

[Note: The five organs of knowledge are Tongue (taste), Nostrils (smell), Ears (sound), Eyes (vision) and Skin (touch). The five organs of action are Tongue (speech), Hands, Feet, organ of Excretion and the Generative organ.]

It also contains the five vital breaths called Pranas. [Note: The five Pranas are Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana. See page ‘Prana-Apana-Vyana’ column on the left.]

It has the internal sense, (Antahkarana) consisting of intellect (Buddhi), mind (Manas), and ego-sense (Ahamkara) and the faculty of contemplation (Chitta). It also contains the five subtle elements. In addition to these five factors, i.e., organs of knowledge, organs of action, vital breath, internal sense and the subtle elements, it also has their foundation Avidya, Kama and Karma. These eight factors (according to Varttika of Sri Suresvara) constitute the subtle body of the self.

Seventeen-fold Subtle Body
According to another enumeration, the subtle body consists of seventeen factors. They are the ten organs of knowledge and action, the five vital breaths, the intellect and the mind. This is the analysis of the subtle body as decisively given in some works like Sankshepa Shariraka (3-20).

The Panchikarana of Sri Sankaracharya enumerates the five subtle elements, the five breaths, the ten Indriyas, Manas and Buddhi as constituting the seventeen-fold subtle body.

In deep-sleep the body of the self is said to be causal, meaning that it is the seed of the subtle and the gross bodies and that it is the pure unactualised potentiality of the body. It consists of the original Nescience (ignorance) from which spring the phenomenal manifestations of the dream and waking worlds.

This nescience is not the negation of the native consciousness of the Atman (self), for it must itself subsist in the presence of that consciousness, even as a cloud, however much it may conceal the Sun, owes its being to the Sun. Moreover, it covers and does not annihilate the self-effulgence of the Atman. This nescience truly defies definition, analysis and description.

It is neither real nor unreal. Nor is it both real and unreal. It is neither one nor many, nor one and many. It is neither simple nor composite, nor both. All that can be positively asserted about it is that it is subject to termination by only the knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Atman. The problem of explaining it does not arise when one is unaware of the Atman. When he comes to be aware of the Atman, the ignorance has disappeared and does not exist enough to call for an explanation.

It is only the co-existence of the clear awareness of the Atman and ignorance concerning it that would raise a problem. But that co-existence is impossible. Hence the nature of the primeval nescience is inexplicable. But it positively disappears when we awake to reality. This ignorance is the causal body operating by itself in the state of deep-sleep. Thus the Atman is encased in a threefold body.

Gross, Subtle and Causal Body
The three states and the three bodies are relative to the self. We can speak of three selves from the empirical standpoint in relation to the states and bodies.

The self as embodied in the gross body and undergoing the experiences of waking is called VISHVA.

The self as encased in the subtle body and undergoing dream-experiences is the TAIJASA.

The self as resting in the causal body in the state of deep-sleep is the PRAJNA.

This is the terminology to be adopted when we take an individualistic or Microcosmic point of view. But if we adopt the Macrocosmic point of view and regard the totality of being, the Cosmic Self or the Deity can be said to maintain itself in three planes of phenomenal manifestation.

In its primordial plane as associated with Maya or cosmic self-concealment it is AKSHARA.

As enfolded in the cosmic totality of subtle bodies and dream-state, it is Sutratman or HIRANYAGARBHA.

In relation to the totality of the gross universe as revealed to waking consciousness, the cosmic spirit is said to be VIRAT. (pronounced Viraat).

Thus there are three phases of the individual self corresponding to the three planes of the phenomenal appearance of the universal spirit.

AUM

PRANAVA or the syllable AUM consists of three component elements. They are A, U and M.

The Mandukya Upanisad initiated the tradition of regarding the three sound elements of AUM as corresponding to and as signifying the phases of the self conditioned by the three bodies, and as manifesting itself in the three phenomenal states.

A signifies the VIRAT in the Macrocosm and the VISHVA in the Microcosm.

U represents HIRANYAGARBHA in the Macrocosm and TAIJASA in the Microcosm.

M signifies PRAJNA in the Microcosm and AKSHARA or ISVARA in the Macrocosm.

[Note: VIRAT: The Consciousness associated with the aggregate of all gross bodies.

VISHVA: The Consciousness which identifies itself with the individual gross body and the waking state. HIRANYAGARBHA: The subtle objective totality. TAIJASA: The Consciousness associated with the dream state and the subtle body. PRAJNA: The Consciousness associated with the deep-sleep state and the causal body or ignorance.

AKSHAR(ATMA): The indestructible (spirit). ISVARA: The great cause of the universe, the Pure Consciousness associated with its own power called MAYA.]

This fusion of the particular and cosmic standpoints is insisted upon and we are to see in the three constituents of AUM the signification of the three phases of the one integral spirit.

Thus the whole universe is viewed in three levels, the causal, the subtle and the gross. The spirit which is the ultimate reality, appears conditioned by these. Now the philosophical problem for man is to ascend to the apprehension of the real as transcending the conditions in which it is seemingly embodied.

The spiritual problem is to release oneself from these limiting conditions and to realise one’s identity with the Ultimate Principle. The symbol AUM is maintained to contain the direction for developing this transcendent integrality of knowledge and life.

The first sound-constituent of AUM, namely A represents the gross point of view. It connotes the native realism and pluralism of common sense.

From this we ought to move on to the level of thought represented by U. U signifies the understanding of the world as the projection of the universe by the Spirit itself. The point of view is found on the dream-experience and its philosophy may be described as Dynamic Idealism. Spirit, through the instrumentality of mind, sets up within itself the entire cosmos. When this standpoint reaches maturity, we must pass beyond it.

The next stage is represented by M. The diversity of presentation conjured up in the dream-world is nothing real. It is a projection of the unreal. Such projection is founded upon the non-apprehension of the real. The realisation of this fact of radical non-apprehension is promoted by the consideration of the experience of deep-sleep.

We dream because we are asleep. The worlds taken as real in waking is really of the same status as dream world and the pre-supposition of such comic dreaming is the failure to see that the Atman is the sole reality.

This failure is most clearly illustrated in deep-sleep. We must pass into the frame of thought according to which our empirical life which is in reality a dream, is due to our being asleep to spirit, the fundamental substance of our being. We are most asleep when we fancy ourselves most awake. Even as the chanting of the sacred Pranava (AUM) culminates in the serenity of silence after the final sound M, the philosophic contemplation of man’s experience in its entirety must pass after the consideration of the state of deep-sleep into the unconditioned effulgence of the pure and transcendent Self.

The seed of phenomenal life namely ignorance most strikingly present in sleep must be destroyed and the sleeper must wake up to the infinite reality of the spiritual essence. This ultimate self-affirmation is the goal of contemplation. The agnosticism of sleep must be burnt up in this transcendent self-realisation.

Following the Pranava (AUM) in all its phases, and to its farthest merger in silence, one must review the spirit’s manifestation in the three states and up to its embodiment in the Nescience-body and pass beyond even that causal sheath into the utter freedom of its absolute illumination. An analysis of man’s three states does thus fulfil itself in the vision of his Divine essence in all the glory of its “stateless” eternity.


Panchikaranam – A small treatise on Vedanta 
By Sri Sankaracharya

AUM. . The VIRAT is said to be the sum total of all the quintuplicated five elements and their effects. This is called the gross body of the Atman (soul).

Waking is that state, where the senses give rise to the knowledge of objects. The Atman, which identifies Itself with both the waking state and the gross body, is known as the VISHVA

These three (the gross body, the waking state and the VISHVA) together are represented by the first letter ‘A’ in the syllable ‘AUM’.

[Note: ‘Quintuplicated’: A particular process by which the five elementary constituents of the universe are said to be compounded with one another to form grosser entities that serve as units in the composition of the physical universe.]

2. The five unquintuplicated rudimentary elements and their effect, the subtle body, both together constitute what is called the HIRANYAGARBHA. The material subtle body has seventeen parts, viz. the five vital forces, the ten organs of perception and action, the mind and the intellect. This is said to be the subtle body of the Atman (soul).

3. When the sense-organs are quiescent or withdrawn, the knowledge arising out of impressions of the waking state and the imaginary objects there perceived, are together called the dream state. The TAIJASA is the Atman which identifies Itself with both the dream state and the subtle body. These three, i.e. – the subtle body, the dream state and the TAIJASA – are represented by the second letter ‘U’ in ‘AUM’.

4. Bound up with reflection of Pure-consciousness, the Nescience, which hides the Atman and is the cause of both the gross and the subtle bodies, is called the ‘AVYAAKRTA’ or undifferentiated. This is the causal body of the Atman. This is neither existent nor non-existent, nor even both existent and non-existent; neither different from, nor identical with, nor both different from and identical with, the Atman. This Nescience is neither composite, nor non-composite, nor both composite and non-composite, but removable by the knowledge of the identity of Brahman and the Atman alone.

When all thoughts cease and the determinative intellect, too, lapses into its causal condition, the state of deep-sleep appears. The personality appropriating these two, i.e., the causal-body and the deep-sleep state is described as ‘PRAJNA’.

These three (the causal-body Nescience, the deep-sleep state and the PRAJNA) are symbolised by the last letter ‘M’ in ‘AUM’.

Now, ‘A’ the waking-personality, should be resolved into ‘U’, the dream-personality, and the ‘U’ into ‘M’ i.e., the deep-sleep personality. Again, the ‘M’ should be reduced into ‘AUM’ and the ‘AUM’ into ‘I’. I am, the Atman, the Witness of all, the absolute of the nature of Pure Consciousness; I am neither Nescience nor even its effect but I am Brahman alone, Eternally Pure, Ever Enlightened, Eternally Free and Existence Absolute. I am the Bliss Absolute, One without a second and the Innermost Consciousness.

Remaining in this state of absolute identification is what is called ‘SAMADHI’ or the Super-conscious state.

‘Thou art That’, ‘I am Brahman’, ‘Consciousness-Bliss is Brahman’, ‘This Self is Brahman’, etc. – all these Srutis, i.e., the Upanisadic sayings (known as Mahavakyas or the great dictum) are direct evidences to the identity of the Atman, the individual soul, and Brahman. This is what is called ‘PANCHKARANAM’ or quintuplication.

Here ends the small treatise named ‘Panchikaranam’
by Bhagavan Sri Sankaracharya.


The Five Great Elements

Further elaboration of
PANCHIKARANAM
By Sri Suresvaracharya
Sri Sankaracharya’s worthy disciple

AUM is the essence of all the Vedas and reveals the highest Truth. The method of concentration of mind through that AUM is hereby being expounded for the sake of the aspirants after liberation.

The Supreme Brahman (Supreme Reality), eternally free and immutable, existed alone. That owing to the superimposed identity with its own Maya became, as it were, the seed of the universe as the unformed and the unnamed.

[Note: ‘Maya’: It is the power of Brahman transforming itself into the universe and is the cause of all illusions. Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas are the three constituent essence of Maya. It is neither real nor unreal and hence inexplicable. It cannot be proved by reasoning which itself a product of ignorance or Maya. And with the knowledge of the identity of Jiva (Individual soul) and Brahman Maya disappears just as the mistaken idea of a snake is removed when right knowledge reveals that a rope was mistaken for a snake. The illusory idea of snake was superimposed upon the rope.

‘Seed’: Brahman, the Pure, Unalloyed Consciousness is neither the cause nor the effect of anything. Only when it is associated with Its own power, Maya, It (Saguna-Brahma) is said to be Ishvara, the cause of the universe.]

(How the unconditioned Brahman appears to be the cause of the universe has been depicted in the preceding verse. Now the process of gradual super-imposition of the so-called creation on It is being demonstrated.)

From That originated Space (akasha), which is characterised by sound. From Space, Air, having the characteristic of touch, came into existence. Thence again Light, characterised by form was produced. From Light arose Water, of the nature of taste. From Water came out Earth with its distinctive quality of smell.

[Note: The grosser the element the more are the qualities in it. Quality exclusive to each element, and also those retained by the succeeding elements from the preceding ones are being described here in a concise way.]

5. & 6.
Space (Akasha) has the quality of sound only. Air possesses the double qualities of sound and touch. Light or Fire is said to have the triple qualities, sound, touch and form. Water has got four qualities- sound, touch, form and taste, whereas Earth is endowed with five qualities, viz., sound, form, taste and smell. Out of all these subtle elements came into being the great, universal, all-pervading principle, called ‘SUTRA’.

[Note: ‘Sound only’: The subtle, i.e. the rudimentary, uncompounded elements have got their own characteristic respective qualities of sound, touch, form, taste, and smell only.

‘SUTRA’: The total vital force before manifestation, is the soul that pervades the universe like a thread passing through the beads of a garland. (The word ‘sutra’ means thread). It is also called ‘PRANA’ for having the power of activity. ‘HIRANYAGARBHA’ is its another name. The consciousness identifying itself with the aggregate of all subtle bodies is known as ‘SUTRA’ or ‘HIRANYAGARBHA’, whereas the consciousness associating itself with the individual subtle body is called ‘TAIJASA’. In fact, the same principle viewed collectively and individually appears as the two.]

(Like the origin of the subtle bodies from the subtle elementary constituents, the creation of the gross elements and bodies through their quintuplication is now being described.)

7. Those subtle elements produced the gross ones, from which, again, the VIRAT- the Macrocosm or the objective totality- came into existence. The learned call the elements as gross only after their undergoing the process of quintuplication.

[Note: VIRAT or VAISHVANAR is the consciousness which identifies itself with all the gross bodies in the universe. The process of quintuplication is now being explained in the following three verses.]

8. 9. & 10.
Each of the several elements, Earth etc., must be divided into two equal parts. One of these two parts should be further split into four equal parts. Now to one half of each element should be added one quarter of each of the other four halved elements towards the formation of one gross element. Thus in Space (akasha) there will be five constituent parts. Half of it will be Space (akasha) and the other half will consist of the four parts contributed together by all the other four elements. Thus it is known in the case of the other four elements, like air, etc. This process is the fivefold combination according to the wise.

[Note: ‘Fivefold etc.’: i.e., quintuplication. The first originated five subtle uncompounded elements cannot produce the gross objects of the universe. They have to go through this fivefold combination in the above-mentioned proportion to do the same. So, according to this process, although every gross element has got some part of the other elements too, in it- still it retains its own name owing to the preponderance of its own part.]

(That the compounded elements go into the formation of the gross Universe is being stated here.]

.The gross elements are all compounded. These produce the VIRAT, i.e., the sum total of all the gross bodies. This is the gross body of the disembodied Atman (soul).

[Note: ‘VIRAT’: Here Virat means the aggregate of all the gross bodies. In fact, the Consciousness associated with those bodies is what the word ‘Virat’ or ‘Vaishvanara’ denotes. Because of its appearing as diverse in form It is called ‘VIRAT’. Identifying Itself with all the individual souls It is known as ‘VAISHVANARA’.]

(The whole creation which is a superimposition on the Atman (soul) is being shown in its threefold aspect.)

12. The one indivisible Brahman appears threefold through illusion and not in reality. These three forms are- ‘the sphere of the gods’, ‘the sphere pertaining to the body’, and ‘the sphere of the elements’.

(That the respective gods associated with the particular senses set them in action is being stated here.)

The senses being stimulated by the respective gods give rise to the knowledge of objects. That knowledge coming through the apprehension of the external objects like sound etc. is called the waking state.

[Note: ‘The senses’:– The organs of perception together with the organs of action.

‘The respective gods’: The Macrocosm (Brahmandam) is represented in miniature in the Microcosm (Pindandam). So the senses of knowledge and action do their work aided by the respective universal principles in the Macrocosm, called gods.]

(For the sake of clear understanding, the threefold division, mentioned previously, is being further illustrated in the following fifteen verses.)

The sense of hearing belongs to the body, whereas, what is heard, namely, sound, belongs to the sphere of the elements. And the quarters, in this connection, are said to be included in the sphere of gods.

[Note: ‘The elements’: (Adhibhuta) here means the objects of the respective sense. The sense-organs originate from the Sattwa quality of the subtle elements.

‘And the quarters’: i.e., the deities associated with them entered the ears in the form of the sense of hearing. (AitareyaUpanishad 2.4)]

The sense of touch, it is said, belongs to the body and what is touched, characterised by the sense of touch pertains to the sphere of elements. And the god of air is here the presiding deity.

[Note: ‘God of air’: Herbs and trees entered the skin in the form of the hairs (Aitareya Upanishad 1.4). Although cited in the Sruti (Scripture) as deities, herbs and trees are not known as such. So air, which dominates them, has been designated as the presiding deity here.]

The sense of vision belongs to the body. That which is seen, characterised by form, pertains to the sphere of elements and the Sun is the corresponding deity in the sphere of the gods.

[Note: ‘The Sun’: The Sun-god, in the form of the sense of seeing, entered the eyes. – Aitareya Upanishad 2.4.]

The sense organ of taste belongs to the body and what is tasted by the tongue belongs to the sphere of elements. Varuna (water), the god, is the presiding deity in the tongue.

[Note: ‘Varuna’: Taste implies water which is dominated by the deity Varuna. That Varuna, too, is a deity, is evident from the Sruti (scripture) (Sham No Mitrah Sham Varunah) meaning May Mitra, the deity who owns Prana and Day; and Varuna, the deity who owns Apana and Night, bestow on us all happiness.- Taittiriya Upanishad 1.1.]

The sense organ of smell is said to be belonging to the body. That which is smelt, possessed of the nature of smell, belongs to the sphere of the elements, and the earth-god is here the presiding deity.

[Note: ‘Earth-god’: The sense organ of smell is derived from the earth. So the Earth-god has been said here to be the presiding deity. In the Sruti (Vaayuhu Praano Bhootvaa Naasike Praavishat) meaning Air, in the form of Prana, entered the nostril – Aitareya Upanishad 2.4. Air has been described as the deity of the organ of smell, still air-god should be understood as subsidiary to the Earth-god.]

The organ of speech is said to be belonging to the body, whereas, that which is spoke, of the nature of sound, belong to the sphere of elements. The Fire-god is the presiding deity.

[Note: ‘Fire-god’: The Fire-god, in the form of the organ of speech, entered the mouth. Aitareya Upanishad 2.4.]

(Like the five organs of perception, the five organs of action too, which originate from the ‘Rajas’ quality of the subtle elements, have got their respective deities.)

The organ of hands, it is said, belongs to the body. That which is handled is in the sphere of elements and the god Indra is there the presiding deity.

[Note: ‘Indra’: “Indra is the god of my strength”. “Strength is considered to be contained in the arms”. Such sentences in the scriptures describe Indra as the deity of the hands.]

The organ of feet is said to be pertaining to the body, whereas that, which is, in this connection, the object or place gone to, belongs to the realm of elements. God Vishnu is the presiding deity thereof.

The excretory organ is in the sphere of the body. Excrescence is of the sphere of the elements. The god of death is the corresponding presiding deity.

The generative organ belongs to the body. The objective source of pleasure is the corresponding factor in the sphere of the elements. God Prajapati is the corresponding deity.

[Note: ‘Prajapati’: “Water in the form of seminal fluid entered the generative organ” (Aitareya Upanishad 2.4.). Water has been observed as the deity, still it is to be understood that by the word ‘water’ there, Prajapati, the god of reproduction has been hinted at.]

The mind is said to be in the realm of the body. Whatever is thought of, belongs to the world of elements. The moon-god is the presiding deity of the mind.

The determinative intellect (buddhi) is in the sphere of the body, whereas whatever is subject to determinative intellection belongs to the sphere of the elements, and in the sphere of gods, Brhaspati stands as the presiding deity.

[Note: ‘Brhaspati: From Agamas (Tantras) (Brhaspatiriva Budhyaa) meaning May I become like Brhaspati in intellect.]

Likewise, the sense of ego is in the bodily plane and all that concerning which the sense of ego is exercised belongs to the world of elements. The god Rudra, is the presiding deity.

The contemplative faculty (chittam) is said to be in the bodily realm and that which is the object of reasoning belongs to the sphere of the elements. The ‘Kshetrajna” or the witnessing Consciousness is the corresponding deity in the sphere of the gods.

Ignorance (Tamah), it is said, belongs to the bodily sphere, whereas the mutations happening therein are in the sphere of the elements. The supreme “God-head” is the presiding deity.

[Note: ‘Ignorance’: The causal body./ ‘God-head’: Ishvara, the cause of the world who controls Maya. For more explanation see Pages “Nature of Reality” and “Maya” ]

Thus by ‘waking state’ is meant the knowledge of the respective objects resulting from the operation of senses, both external and internal, aided by their corresponding deities.

(The first letter ‘A’ of the syllable ‘AUM’ represents the gross body, the waking state and the Consciousness called ‘VISHVA’ associated with them. Now the word ‘VISHVA’, of the text is being explained here.)

That which identifies Itself with both the waking state and the body, which is the seat of the senses, is described as the VISHVA.

[Note: ‘The body’: In the waking state, Consciousness identifies Itself with the gross body and in doing so, It evidently identifies Itself with the subtle body, which is contained by the former one. This has been hinted at by saying that the gross body is the seat of the senses (i.e., of the subtle body. The causal body, ignorance, the basis of the subtle body, too, comes into the picture and is identified with himself by Vishva. So, as a matter of fact, Vishva identifies Itself with all the three bodies. (Sukshmashariramaparityajya Stoolsharirapraveshtavaat Vishvah) meaning Consciousness having entered, as it were, the gross body without giving up Its identification with the subtle body is called VISHVA.]

(Vedanta always strives to establish the identity of the individual and the Universal Soul.)

In the preceding verse VISHVA has been said to be one with the gross body, and in verse 11 it has been stated that the compounded elements go to form the VIRAT. That this is possible only in case where the two are identical, is being described now.

This VISHVA (the individual Consciousness identifying Itself with the waking state and the gross body) must be looked upon as identical with VIRAT (the Microcosmic Consciousness) so that duality may be sublated.

In the following seven verses (31-37) the subtle body of the Atman (soul) is being expounded.)

31 to 34.

The sense organs of perception are five, viz., the organs of hearing, touch, vision, smell and taste. The organs of action, too, are five, namely, that of speech, the hands, the feet, and the organs of excretion and generation.

There are four internal organs, namely, the mind, the intellect, the ego and the apparatus of contemplation. The mind is that which considers the pros and cons of a subject, and the intellect is that faculty which determines. Likewise, the principle of ego is said to be of the nature of the sense of ownership, and Chitta or memory is that factor which remembers.

[Note: ‘Internal organs’: The inner organ (ANTAHKARANA) is called Manas (Mind), Buddhi (Intellect), Chitta (faculty of contemplation and memory), and Ahmkara (Ego) owing to its different functions. Manas (mind) when it cannot determine an object (doubting). Buddhi (intellect) when it is assured of the nature of the object (determines). The Chitta (memory) when it remembers. Ahamkara (ego) when it identifies with itself with the body as its own Self.

From Viveka Chudamani of Sankaracharya: verses 93/94: The inner organ (Antahkarana) is called Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkara or Chitta, according to their respective functions. Manas from its considering the pros and cons of a thing; Buddhi, from its property of determining the truth of objects. The Ahamkara (ego), from its identification with this body as one’s own self. Chitta, from its function of remembering things it is interested in.

‘Pros and cons’: When a person cannot determine whether an object is this or that, and whether or not to perform a particular action, Manas or the mind is then said to be functioning .]

35. & 36.
The PRANA, APANA, VYANA, UDANA and SAMANA- all these are called the five vital forces. The subtle elements are also five in number, viz., space, air, fire, water and earth. All these five groups together with Nescience (ignorance of our real nature), Desire, and Action (also called or described as eight ‘cities’) go to form the LINGA body. This is the illusory subtle body of the innermost Self or Atman.

[Note: ‘Prana’: From Viveka Chudamani of Sri Sankaracharya: Verse 95: “One and the same Prana (vital force) becomes Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana according to their diversity of functions and modifications, like gold, water, etc.” (Just as the same gold is fashioned into various ornaments, and as water takes the form of foam, waves etc.)].

‘Prana’: The same Prana, the vital force, is called the Prana while inhaling and exhaling; the Apana while excreting; Vyana while it pervades the entire body; Udana when it helps passing out from the body Samana when it assimilates food and drink. Prana is said to be seated at the tip of the nose, being directly felt there, Apana in the excretory organ, Vyana in the entire body, Udana in the throat (generally the subtle body passes out through this exit), and Samana in the middle part of the body.

‘Nescience’: Ignorance of our real nature as the blissful Self. This ignorance leads to desire, which pushes one into action, the cause of countless sufferings.

‘The eight cities’: 1. The five organs of perception. 2.The five organs of action. 3.The five vital forces. 4.The five subtle rudimentary elements. 5. The inner organ consisting of the mind, intellect, etc (Antahkarana), 6. Nescience (ignorance), 7.desire and 8.Action.

‘Linga body’: The subtle body. The word ‘subtle body’ may, in ordinary parlance, mean something like a spirit or ghost, so in Vedanta, ‘Linga’ body is a better term. It is formed out of the eight aforesaid constituents.

‘Illusory’: This indicates that this body is not real.

‘Subtle body’: Made up of the eight cities (see Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.5.6.)]

(The workings of the subtle body are being elaborated further in verses 37-38.)

37. & 38.
Dream is the state conditioned by the inactivity of the senses, the potency of the impressions of waking state and the functioning of consciousness in the role of both the subject and object. The ego, which has the sense of ownership in relation to both (the dream state and the subtle body), is called TAIJASA.

(The wise one should look upon this TAIJASA as identified with HIRANYAGARBHA, the subtle objective totality.)

(Thus explaining the subtle body, the dream state and the consciousness associated with them – all these together representing the letter ‘U’- the author now proceeds to show the causal body, the state through which it is endowed with experiences, and the consciousness combined with both, in order to explain the last letter ‘M’ of AUM. Verses 39-40.)

39. & 40.
Bound up with the reflection of Pure Consciousness, the Nescience of the Atman (soul), the cause of the gross and subtle bodies constitutes the Unmanifested, also called Undifferentiated (i.e., un-named and unformed). This is neither existent nor non-existent nor both existent and non-existent. It is neither different from, nor identical with the Atman.

[Note: ‘Nescience’: Maya, Avidya, Ajnana, Avyakta, Avyakrita, Nescience, Prakrti- these terms are often synonymously used.]

41. It (this Nescience), is neither made up of parts, nor is it non-composite, nor even both composite and non-composite. By virtue of its being unreal, it is liable to elimination by the comprehension of the identity of Brahman and Atman.

[Note: ‘Unreal’: Because it is wrongly imputed to the Atman (soul). All wrong imputations (Adhyaropa or superimposition) vanish at the dawn of the knowledge of the real nature of the thing. As when in the dark, a rope is mistaken for a snake. The idea of a snake being superimposed upon the rope. The illusory idea of the snake vanishes the moment the true identity of the rope is realised. When the rope is known to be distinct from the snake (in a rope-snake superimposition), the snake then is said to be unreal. It is then neither in the rope nor elsewhere. The rope does not actually change into a snake, but only appears to be a snake, an illusion caused by ignorance.

This is called the VIVARTA-VADA theory, the only pivot on which the structure of the ADVAITA VEDANTA philosophy stands. As a snake is the VIVARTA of a rope, so is the universe the VIVARTA of Brahman (the Supreme Reality). This illusion, consisting of only name and form, can be removed only by the knowledge of Brahman. The removal of the illusion is called APAVADA. Appearing as something else is called VIVARTA.]

(After expounding the nature of the causal body, the state of deep-sleep, associated with it is now being explained.)

42. On the analogy of the Banyan tree in the seed, when all thoughts vanish and when the determinative intellect merges into its causal condition, the state of deep-sleep dawns.

[Note: ‘All thoughts vanish…’: All thoughts vanish in the state of final liberation, and sometimes in the waking state, too, when the mind is free of all ideas, but that cannot be said to be the deep-sleep state. The mind etc., gets merged in the causal condition, i.e., ignorance, at the time of (or during the state of) deep-sleep, from which again, everything springs up during the waking and dream states.]

43. The personality which appropriates these two (the deep-sleep state and the causal body) is described as PRAJNA. One should look upon this PRAJNA as one identical with the Great Cause of the universe, ISHVARA.

[Note: ‘Prajna’: Consciousness in a state of deep-sleep is termed Prajna. In the waking state the Self is called Vishva, in the dream state Taijasa. In deep-sleep, though the Prajna remains unified with Brahman (the Supreme Reality), owing to its being covered with ignorance, its knowledge is limited. TURIYA is beyond these three states, where the Soul, divested of all ignorance, becomes fully aware of its perpetual identity with Brahman.

‘Identical with the Great Cause of the universe’: The knowledge of identity of the individual soul with the universal one is the only thing that Vedanta aims at.]

(That all these manifold divisions like Vishva, Taijasa, etc., being of illusory nature, do not actually mar the non-duality of the Absolute Self is being described now.)

44. The Ultimate Reality which is of the nature of Pure Consciousness, though one, appears, through illusion as the multitude of Vishva, Taijasa, Prajna, Virat, Sutra (Hiranyagarbha) and Akshara forms.

[Note; ‘Multitude’: Duality appears only owing to the illusory limiting adjuncts.

‘Akshara’: i.e. Ishvara, the Consciousness associated with the collective causal body.]

(In reality truth is only One and That, through illusion, appears as many. The way to attain this knowledge through the process of Apavada, i.e., sublation, is being shown now.)

45. The three forms, Vishva, Taijasa and Prajna, must be contemplated as identical with Virat, Sutratma and Akshara respectively, so that the non-existence of the difference of those entities may be established.

[Note: ‘Apavada’: It is the negation of the illusory super-imposition, consisting of only name and form, and the consequent discovery of Brahman, the underlying Reality.

‘non-existence’: The three individual forms of consciousness, after sublation, become identical with the three collective forms of Consciousness, and so only the latter three remain in place of six. How these three also are progressively reduced into One Pure Consciousness will be shown later.]

(Here the identity of words and their meanings are being shown so that by way of sublating the above three as described in the preceding verse, the words, too, will get merged in Pure Consciousness simultaneously.)

46. ‘AUM’ is the entire universe constituted by the three selves, Vishva, Taijasa and Prajna. This is so because there is no ultimate difference between the name and the named (entity) and also because the two are never cognized in mutual separation.

[Note: ‘Entire universe’: A = Vishva + individual gross body + waking state.

U = Taijasa + individual subtle body + dream state

M = Prajna + individual causal body + deep-sleep state

‘Name and named’: as leaves are covered by arteries, so all names are pervaded by AUM (Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.3). The modification being only a name arising from speech. (Chandogya Upanishad 6.1.4).

(The identity of AUM in general with the whole universe has been spoken of. Now the parts (A, U, M ) are being shown as one with their respective meanings.)

47. The constituent letter ‘A’ is Vishva and the letter ‘U’ is to be considered as Taijasa, while the last letter ‘M’ is one with Prajna. Thus the identity of these constituent parts of ‘AUM’ and the three selves must be comprehended in the proper order.

(So far contemplation preparatory to Samadhi (a state of absorption with the Ultimate Truth) has been described. Now the process which immediately leads to that state is being narrated.)

48. Even prior to the time of Samadhi contemplating on this Truth with great care, one should resolve all these progressively in the order of gross, subtle and causal states into the Supreme Atman (soul), which is of the nature of Pure Knowledge.

Note: ‘Samadhi’: The state of complete absorption in the Absolute and non-dual Brahman (Supreme Reality), arrived at as a result of discrimination and deep contemplation with the help of ‘AUM’ as stated here.

‘With great care’: Because such contemplation can be done by one with unswerving perseverance, patience, faith and renunciation only.

(How these are to be progressively merged into the Pure Consciousness, is being shown here.)

49. The waking personality of Vishva, symbolised by ‘A’ must be resolved into ‘U’ (i.e., the dream personality). The subtle radiant personality of dream, the Taijasa, symbolised by ‘U’ must be merged into ‘M’ (i.e., the personality of deep-sleep). Again, the Prajna, that deep-sleep Consciousness symbolised by ‘M’ and which is the causal personality, must be finally reduced to the Atman, of the nature of Pure Consciousness.

[Note: ‘Finally reduced’: This sort of meditation is called Laya Upasana or Ahamgraha Upasana- meditation with the help of the sacred AUM.]

(It has been said how the whole universe has to be reduced to the Supreme Atman (Soul) which is of the nature of Pure Consciousness. Now by way of showing the process of attaining the ‘SAMPRAJNATA SAMADHI’, the essential characteristics of the Atman are being presented here. Verses 50-51)

50. & 51.
I am the Atman, the Pure Consciousness, eternally pure and Intelligence Absolute, ever free and One without a second. I am the Bliss Infinite. I am Vasudeva, the all-pervading Supreme Spirit and I am ‘AUM’. Thus comprehending, the contemplative faculty must also be merged into that Witness, the Absolute Atman.

[Note: ‘Bliss Infinite’: All enjoyments culminate in Brahman which is of the nature of Supreme Bliss. (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.32). The Avyakta or the Aksharatma is, as it were, a part of Brahman through the limiting adjunct ignorance; the Sutratma or the cosmic mind is again a part of that Avyakta, and the Virat, i.e., the Cosmic Soul identified with the gross universe is considered to be a fraction of the Sutratma. Even the bliss of the Virat-hood is something beyond the comprehension of the finite minds of ours. So Brahman is Bliss Infinite.

‘Vasudeva’: From Vishnu Purana: “As He (the Supreme Spirit) evenly pervades everything, so the wise ones call Him Vasudeva”.

‘The comprehending’: Here the process of attaining ASAMPRAJNYAAT SAMADHI or Nirvikalpa Samadhi is being described. This comprehending- i.e., after practising the Savikalpa Samadhi for long. Savikalpa Samadhi is that state where the mind assumes the form of Brahman (Supreme Spirit) and rests on it with the distinction between the subject and object still persisting. When with the deepening of that state the duality of subject and object vanishes altogether, and the aspirant becomes one with Brahman, the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi is said to have been achieved. So the former kind of Samadhi culminates into this.

‘Contemplative faculty’: The faculty involving the threefold divisions of meditation, meditator and the meditated.

‘Witness’: Because it directly illumines everything superimposed on it without the mediacy of any modification of the mind – it is called the Witness.

(The state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi is being narrated now)

When the contemplative mind is merged into the Atman (Soul), the Pure Consciousness, then it should not be disturbed. One should then remain as that Infinite Consciousness like the full and motionless ocean.

[Note: ‘One should then remain’: From Mandukya Karika 3.44.: Shamapraaptam Na Chaalayet etc. When the mind, free from all obstacles, is controlled, do not distract it any more. Do not linger on the bliss that comes from the Savikalpa Samadhi but be unattached through discrimination.]

(Constant practice of this Samadhi gradually culminates in realisation.)

Thus attaining perfect absorption through constant practice, an aspirant, endowed with faith and devotion, and having overcome the senses and anger, perceives (realises) the Atman; the One without a second.

[Note: ‘Endowed with faith and devotion’: These virtues have to be constantly and most reverentially practised for long till realisation dawns. From Yoga Sutra 1.14: “Sa Tu Deerghakala Nairantarya Satkaarsevito Drdhabhoomihi- meaning : Firmness of the ground is achieved through long and constant practice with love.]

(It may be argued that such constant practice is not possible in the presence of mundane duties. In reply it is being brought to our notice that renunciation of, or aversion to, all perishable objects, the most important pre-requisite for an aspirant, has to be developed firmly right through the period of that practice.)

This empirical world, as a whole, is of the nature of sorrow in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end. Therefore, after renouncing everything an aspirant should steadfastly be establish in Truth.

[Note: ‘Nature of sorrow’: From Gita 13.8. : Reflection on the evils of birth, death, old age, sickness and pain- all these produce sorrows. Indifference to sense objects is born of this reflection and gradually one turns towards the Atman for attaining freedom from all sorrows.

‘In the beginning’: From Panchadasi 7.139 Wealth is hard to acquire. Its protection entails lots of worries. When lost or spent, it becomes the cause of untold sorrows. Fie on such wealth! Panchdasi 7.140.141: In this way everything has to be discriminated.

‘After renouncing’: From Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12. : Not by rituals, not by progeny or wealth, but by renunciation alone immortality has to be achieved. / Arriving at the conclusion through reasoning that the worlds, acquired by rituals, are impermanent, a Brahmin (an aspirant ) in a spirit of dispassion, renounces everything, knowing those rituals full well as not conducive to the attainment of Brahman (Supreme Spirit). For the Knowledge of Brahman the aspirant must go with wood-fuel in his hand (or some flowers etc. as offerings, in a spirit of service and humility) to the teacher (Guru) who is endowed with Vedic learning and thoroughly merged in Brahman. (This knowledge does not come without being taught by a teacher.)

(Perfect satiety is the due outcome of realisation.)

For him, who sees the all-pervading Atman, of the nature of supreme peace and bliss and the sole reality, there remains nothing more to be attained and nothing more to be known.

[Note: ‘Nothing more to be attained’: All enjoyments or joys being included in the Bliss of Brahman, nothing more achievable is left behind. So a man of Knowledge is free from all duties, and he is no linger bound by any injunctions.

‘Nothing more to be known’: Because by knowing Him everything becomes known. Brahman alone, and nothing else, really exists. So when Brahman is known, nothing more remains to be known.]

(The state of perfection (where nothing more remains to be achieved or known) is further elucidated.)

A wise one attain the acme of life having nothing more to be achieved, and thus becomes eternally free although still living. With the whole of his mind and heart thoroughly filled with the Atman, he does not perceive this world.

[Note: ‘Eternally free’: During the time of Samadhi as well as when he is busy with outward activities.

‘Still living’: This is called Jivanmukti. When the knowledge of the Self-Brahman is attained, one is said to be liberated. But the body has to work out its pre-destined term of existence due to Prarabdha. So till the Prarabdha is exhausted through experience, such a man is called liberated while still living (Jivanmukta). After the fall of the body, the same is said to be Videhamukta (i.e., one who has attained disembodied or absolute freedom).

Prarabdha : There are three kinds of actions.

1.Sanchita-i.e., those accumulated in previous countless births (lives).

2. Agami – Those that have yet to come i.e.those that are done in this life after the attainment of knowledge.

3. Prarabdha. Part of the accumulated results of the past actions (i.e., Sanchita) which has started bearing fruit by giving birth to the present body is called Prarabdha. The knowledge of Brahman destroys all the results of the past accumulated actions (Sanchita) and makes impotent those that are done after attainment of Knowledge (Agami), for, the realised man is not at all touched by them. But the Prarabdha persists and runs its own course by producing various experiences till death. This is the state of Jivanmukti. When the Prarabdha exhausts itself, the body of the liberated man falls and he attains the state of Videha-mukti i.e., disembodied or Absolute liberation. (Brahma sutras 4.1.13.19)

‘Does not perceive’: Although he may perceive the appearance of the world comprising name and form, still that has no reality for him and he is always fully conscious of Supreme Atman, for him and he is always fully conscious of Supreme Atman, his real nature, the substratum of all illusory imputations.]

(That an emancipated soul is always free even while engaged in worldly activities is now being explained.)

Sometimes even when he perceives duality in the ordinary course of life, he does not really perceive it as different from the Ever-Conscious Atman, for Consciousness runs in and through all.

[Note: ‘Sometimes’: When not in the state of Samadhi. An ignorant man always sees duality as real and is attached to it. To a man of knowledge, the world of name and form appears, no doubt, but that has no reality for him and he is also not lured by it.

‘Does not really perceive it’: Because whatever he perceives is just a false appearance. This false appearance of name and form is due to Prarabdha which has got to be exhausted through experience.

A man of knowledge does only what is good and beneficial for mankind. Although not bound by any law, the good habits, which he practised for long till the attainment of knowledge, persist, and he never transgresses the time honoured customs and the sanctions of the scriptures. Sri Sureshvaracharya says in his immortal book ‘Naishkarmya-Siddhihi’ : “If a man who has realised the non-dual Truth, goes out of bounds, then as regards consuming impure and forbidden things, what makes the difference between him and a dog?” 4-62.

“All qualities like non-violence etc., (Gita Ch.12, Shlokas 13 to20), attend a man of realisation automatically and they have not to be practiced with effort.” 4-69.

Gita Ch.12/ 13 to 20 :

He who hates no creature, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from attachment and egoism, balanced in pleasure and pain, and forgiving.

Ever content, steady in meditation, possessed of firm conviction, self-controlled, with the mind and intellect dedicated to Me, he, My devotee, is dear to Me.

He by whom the world is not agitated and who cannot be agitated by the world, and who is freed from joy, envy, fear and anxiety- he is dear to Me.

He who is free from wants, pure, expert, unconcerned, and untroubled, renouncing all undertakings or commencements- he who is thus devoted to Me, is dear to Me.

He who neither rejoices, nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, renouncing good and evil, and who is full of devotion, is dear to Me.

He who is the same to foe and friend, and also in honour and dishonour, who is the same in cold and heat and in pleasure and pain, who is free from attachment. (Honour and dishonour indicates at the level of the intellect; cold and heat indicates at the physical level; pleasure and pain indicates at the level of the mind or the emotional sphere of the mind)

He to whom censure and praise are equal, who is silent, content with anything, homeless, of a steady mind, and full of devotion – that man is dear to Me.

They verily who follow this immortal Dharma (doctrine or law) as described above, endowed with faith, regarding Me as their supreme goal, they, the devotees, are exceedingly dear to Me.

(It has been said that wise one never accepts duality as anything real. Now his angle of vision is being explained further.)

58.
Moreover, a man of perfection perceives the world of duality as unreal even as one may see two moons and mistake directions though fully knowing the correct stand all the time. The illusion of his body lingers away to the liquidation of his Prarabdha.

[Note: ‘Two moons’: Like wise the One Brahman (Supreme Reality) appears as many due to various limiting adjuncts arising out of ignorance.

‘Mistake directions’: The Supreme Atman, similarly, is mistaken as the universe.

‘Lingers away’: Because false appearance cannot in any way contradict Knowledge and liberation.]

(What has been said in the previous verse is now being corroborated with the authority of the scriptures.)

59. The Upanishad says, “As long as the Prarabdha lasts” etc. The persistence of the Prarabdha in the case of the liberated one sustains only the appearance of the body etc., with no deluding potency.

[Note: ‘As long as’: Ignorance (Maya) is said to have two powers viz., the veiling power (Aavarana Shakti) and the power of projection (Vikshep Shakti). The former conceals the real nature of Brahman (Supreme Reality) and the latter gives rise to the illusion of name and form. The Knowledge of Brahman negates and completely destroys the veiling power, but the power of projection, although negated, i.e., known as false, persists till the exhaustion of the Prarabdha and gives rise to the appearances of name and form for that duration. A man of Knowledge has to deal with these names and forms till death but he has no sense of reality in them. Even after (the identity of) the rope is known, it may resemble a snake, but the sense of reality in the snake is gone for ever. Similarly, the appearance of the body and the world may persist but the balanced mind of a liberated man is not adversely affected by it.

Compare from Chandogya Upanishad 8.12.1 “O Indra, this body is mortal, always held by death. It is the abode of the Self, which is immortal and incorporeal. The embodied self is the victim of pleasure and pain. So long as one is identified with the body, there is no cessation of pleasure and pain. But neither pleasure nor pain touches one who is not identified with the body.]

(A man of Knowledge never accepts the appearance of duality presented by his Prarabdha as real, because one who has known the truth is always free i.e., not merely after the fall of the body but even when living; not merely when in Samadhi but even when engaged in outward activities. The moment one attains Knowledge one verily becomes Brahman: (Brahma Ved Brahmavaiva Bhavati) from Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.9. and so, in spite of the persisting appearance of the body etc., due to Prarabdha, such a person is not at all affected by them.

After his Prarabdha is exhausted through experience the enlightened one attains disembodied liberation.)

60. 61.& 62.
After the residual Prarabdha has been gone through, the enlightened one attains that status of Vishnu, the Supreme Reality, attains that, which is free from the darkness of Nescience and divested of all appearances, which is of the nature of stainless consciousness and absolute purity, which transcends mind and speech and the distinctions of name and the named, which is neither to be shunned nor to be accepted, and which is of the nature of self-luminous Consciousness and Bliss.

[Note: ‘Gone through’: i.e., after the dissolution of his body.

‘Vishnu’: The all-pervading Brahman, one without a second.

‘Divested etc.’: This is the state of disembodied liberation where name and form no longer appear at all.

‘Stainless’: Having no connection with ignorance or its effects.

‘To be shunned’: There being nothing apart from Atman with whom the liberated soul is completely identified.]

(For the benefit of the seekers after liberation, the pre-requisites, i.e., the absolutely necessary conditions for going through this course of Sadhana (training) are being enumerated now.)

This treatise must be studied and properly understood under men of God-realisation. One must bring to bear on the study proper dispositions like humility, loving service, etc., to the teacher.

[Note: ‘Treatise’: This “Varttika-Prakarana” is generally a collection of explanatory verses where things, spoken of in the main composition, are elucidated; things not spoken of, are illustrated, and things imperfectly stated, are clearly shown. ‘Prakarana’ is a small work which deals concisely with the main theme, avoiding detailed consideration of the subject.

‘Under men of God-realisation’: An aspirant must go a spiritual guide (guru), a realised soul, for enlightenment.

Bhagavan Sri Sankaracharya in his commentary on the Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12. says “One though well versed in the scriptures should not search independently after the knowledge of Brahman. Compare Chandogya Upanishad 6.14.12. A man who has accepted a teacher attains true Knowledge.

‘Humility etc.’: The reference is to the twenty virtues enumerated in the Gita, Ch.13, verses 7 to 11.

Gita Ch.13

Humility, unpretentiousness, non-injury, forgiveness, uprightness, service of the teacher, purity, steadfastness, self-control.

Indifference to the objects of the senses and also absence of egoism, perception of (or reflection on) the evil in birth, death, old age, sickness and pain.

Non-attachment, non-identification of the Self with son, wife, home and the rest, and constant even-mindedness on the attainment of the desirable and the undesirable.

Unswerving devotion unto Me by the Yoga of non-separation, resort to solitary places, distaste for the society of men.

Constancy in Self-knowledge, perception of the end of true knowledge- this declared to be knowledge, and what is opposed to it is ignorance.

‘Service etc.’: From Gita, 4.34. “Know that by prostrating thyself, by questions and by service, the wise who have realised the Truth will instruct thee in that Knowledge”.

The disciple must be well equipped with all these qualifications and then the teacher, too, should instruct such a disciple properly. Sri Sankaracharya, in his commentary on Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.13. says: on the part of the teacher, too, it is obligatory that he should instruct a disciple properly equipped with all the virtues as enumerated in the scriptures, and thus help him to cross the ocean of ignorance.]

(After having learnt the true purport of this book under the guidance of efficient and realised teachers one should devote one’s life and soul to the practice of the grand theme, dealt with herein.)

64. One striving earnestly for union with the Supreme, possessing excellence of understanding, and detachment from pleasures of both earthly and heavenly character, must practice this science thoroughly and with determined efforts during twilights, all his life.

[Note: ‘Possessing etc’: One who has done Hearing (Shravanam), and Reasoning (Mananam) for a considerable length of time and has thus qualified himself for contemplation (Nididhyasanam) on the Atman.

‘Detachment etc.’: Detachment means Vairagyam or the renunciation of both the earthly and heavenly enjoyments.

‘With determined efforts’: Avoiding all social formalities, giving up the ideas of decorating the body, and abandoning too much studies of the scriptures, try, to totally remove the superimposition that has come upon you. 
-viveka-Chudamani 270.(Sri Sankaracharya)

‘Twilights’: During twilights one should repeat, too, this treatise, with proper understanding.

‘All his life’: It becomes firmly grounded by long, constant practice with great love (for the goal to be attained). Yoga Sutra 1.14. Also from Gita 18.52: Success does not come in a day, but by long continued practice.

Here ends the ‘Varttika’ composed by Sri Suresvaracharya on ‘Panchikaranam’ of Bhagavan Sri Sankaracharya.


From DRG-DRSYA-VIVEKA 

(An inquiry into the nature of the) ‘SEER’ and the ‘SEEN’
Translation and notes by Swami Nikhilananda
Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centre, New York

In the state of deep sleep, when (the thought of) ego disappears and the body also becomes unconscious. The state in which there is the half manifestation of the ego is called the dream state and the full manifestation of the ego is the state of waking. (Verse 10)

[Note: Now is described the world-bound nature of the Atman (soul) as well as its associations with the three states, which are possible only when the ego identifies itself with the body. 
‘Disappears’ : The ego merges itself in the causal ignorance which is characterised by the non-apprehension of empirical objects. This state in which there is no perception of duality is called the state of deep sleep. The ego in this state does not identify itself with the body. The result of past Karma, then, is not noticed. Therefore, we become unconscious of our body in that state.
‘Dream State’ : In the dream state the ego does not perceive any object external to itself. The seer, the objects seen and the act of seeing which constitute dream experiences are only the mental modifications of the ego. 
Compare Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, 4-3-10: “There are no real chariots in that state, no horses, no roads but he himself creates chariots, horses and roads. There are no pleasures, joys or delights there, but he creates the pleasures, joys and delights. There are no pools, (water) tanks or rivers there, but he creates the pools, tanks and rivers. For he is the agent.” 
The dream experiences, though they appear during the dream state as outside the body of the seer, are known to be only modifications of the mind from the standpoint of the waking state. Therefore from the waking standpoint the dream state is only a partial manifestation of the ego.

“Full manifestation” : In the waking state the ego experiences the gross external objects by means of its internal organs. The ego and the non-ego which constitute the entire world of experience are both cognised in the waking state. In dream it is the mind alone of the sleeper which appears both as the ego and the non-ego. Therefore the full manifestation of the experience covering both ego and non-ego is seen only in the waking condition]

The inner organ (mind) which in itself is but a modification (vritti) identifying itself with the reflection of Consciousness imagines (various) ideas in the dream. And the same inner organ (identifying itself with the body) imagines objects external to itself in the waking state with respect to the sense-organs. (Verse 11)

[Note: How the experiences of the waking and dream states are but the modification of mind is described here.
“Inner organ” : This comprises mind (manas), mindstuff (chittah), intellect (buddhihi) and egoism (ahamkarah).
“Identify” : It is like identification of the heat (fire) with the (red hot) iron ball. 
“Ideas” : The ideas of the ego and the non-ego as well as their mutual relationship.
“Imagines” : We remember our dream experiences in the waking state. The dream experiences which have the same natures as the waking ones are known to be internal only in the waking state. The waking experiences are also mere ideas or thoughts of the perceiving mind.]

The subtle body which is the material cause of the mind and egoism is one and of the nature of insentiency. It moves in the three states and is born and it dies. (Verse 12)

[Note: The real nature of the inner-organ (antahkarana) is thus described.
“Subtle body” : This is the same as the Antahkarana and is called Lingam, because it enables the Jiva or the embodies being to realise Brahman (Supreme Reality). This subtle body has been described in other Vedantic texts as composed of seventeen parts, viz., five organs of perception, five organs of knowledge, five modifications of prana, mind (manas) and intellect (buddhihi).
“One” : The subtle body (lingam) and the inner-organ (Antahkarana) are really one and identical, though from the empirical standpoint they appear as different. Like the water and the wave the Antahkarana (vrittimaan) and the ideas which manifest themselves as powers of knowledge and activity (Jnana shakti and Kriya shakti) which are only modifications (vritti) of the mind, are identical.
“Nature etc.” : It is because the Antahkarana (inner- organ) is the modification of the Avidya which is of the nature of insentiency. It appears as sentient on account of its identification with the reflection of Consciousness.
“Moves etc”. : The identification with the three states as well as birth, death, etc., can be predicated of the ego only and not of Atman or Self who is not associated with these conditions.]

[The following comments relate to Verse 13.
The existence of the material world is a matter of indubitable experience. The question arises, what is its cause? Brahman (the Supreme Reality) which is beyond all causal relations, cannot create it. Therefore the scriptures postulate MAYA as the cause of the appearance of the universe. This MAYA is extremely illusive. It cannot be described either as real or unreal. (See ‘Maya’- Pages column on the left). 
The best way to describe MAYA is to explain its two aspects, which is done in the following verse.]

Two powers, undoubtedly, are predicated of MAYA, viz., those of projecting and veiling. The projecting power creates everything from the subtle body to the gross universe.
(Verse 13)

The manifesting of all names and forms in the entity which is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss and which is the same as Brahman, like the foams etc. in the ocean, is known as creation. (Verse 14)

The other power of MAYA conceals the distinction between the perceiver and the perceived objects which are cognised within the body as well as the distinction between Brahman and the phenomenal universe which is perceived outside (one’s own body). This power (shakti) is the cause of the phenomenal universe. (Verse 15)

[Notes: “Manifesting” : This manifestation is due to the projecting power of Maya which is potential in Brahman from the causal standpoint.
“Names” : By which things are designated.
“Forms” : That which is expressed by a name. Both names and forms are mere forms of thought as can be understood by the analysis of names and forms experienced in dream, which are nothing but the modifications of the mind.
“Entity” : Reality is not a void or negation. The appearance of the manifold cannot be based on an Absolute negation. In empirical experience, every appearance has a positive substratum. The illusion of names and forms appears from, and disappears in, Brahman.
“Existence etc.” : These are not positive attributes of Brahman, which cannot be described by word or thought. Words etc. can describe only what is perceived in the perceptual world.
“Like etc.” : This illustration is for the purpose of showing the indescribable nature of creation. Foams, waves, bubbles, etc., are not separate from the ocean, because all these are made of the same stuff as water. Again, they are not identical with the ocean, because we do make a distinction between the ocean and the waves etc. Similarly the manifested manifold is not separate from Brahman, as the Sruti (scriptures) says, because no separate universe can be conceived of, which according to the Sruti, is not of the nature of Existence-Consciousness_Bliss. Again from the Sruti we know Brahman as separate from the world, which we perceive to be gross, solid, extended in time and space, etc. This appearance of the universe as separate from Brahman is due to MAYA.
“Creation” : Vedanta explains the origin of the universe by saying that it the unfolding of Brahman through Its inscrutable power, called Maya. As the rope appears in the form of the snake or as the ocean appears in the form of foams, waves etc., or as the sleeping man appears to be living in a dream world, so also Brahman appears in the form of the world. From the causal standpoint, Brahman is both the material and efficient cause of the world.
“Other power” : It is known as the Avarna-shakti or the veiling power of Maya.(Projecting power is known as Vikshep shakti).
“Perceiver” : The witness (sakshi) which is the cause of the immediate perception of “I”. It considers itself as the enjoyer etc. by identifying itself with the gross and the subtle body. Really speaking, it is the relationless Atman (Self).
“Objects” : It includes everything from the empirical ego to the gross body. The Sakshi is distinct from the perceived objects. But the veiling power of Maya does not enable us to see the distinction and therefore the sakshi appears to have identified itself with the empirical ego, mind, sense-organs, etc.
“Brahman” : Brahman is said to be of the nature of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. But through the veiling power of Maya It seems to have identified Itself with names and forms and thus appears as objects of enjoyment.

‘Phenomenal” : this is a mere appearance like that of silver in the mother-of-pearl.
“This etc.” : From the highest standpoint there is neither creation not dissolution. Non-dual Brahman alone is and always exists. The appearance of the manifold is due to the veiling power of Maya which conceals the real non-dual nature of Brahman and presents the appearance of the variegated universe. It is just like perceiving dream objects with which the sleeper at that time is in no way connected. From the subjective standpoint a man becomes a world-bound creature on account of the identification of the seer with the mind, sense-organs etc. (object). Ignorance of the distinction between the subject and the object is the cause of one’s sufferings in the world.
Though it is a custom with the Vedantic writers to describe the veiling power (Avarna shakti) as prior to the projecting power (Vikshepa shakti), the author of this treatise (Drg-Drsya-Viveka) makes here a departure. Strictly speaking, the Avarna shakti cannot be said to precede the Vikshepa shakti or vice versa. For, the effects of both are seen simultaneously. One cannot be conceived of without the other.]


From The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, Verse 14

The Blessed Lord said:
Verily, this divine illusion of Mine (MAYA), made up of the three qualities of Nature (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas) is difficult to cross over; those who take refuge in Me alone, cross over this illusion.


From Vivekachudamani 
Sri Shankarachaya

Know that it is egoism which, identifying itself with the body, becomes the doer or experiencer, and in conjunction with the Gunas (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas) assumes the three different states (waking, dream and deep sleep). (Verse 104)

Avidya (Nescience) or Maya, called also the Undifferentiated, is the power of the Lord. She is without beginning, is made up of the three Gunas and is superior to the effects (as their cause). She is to be inferred by one of clear intellect only from the effects She produces. It is She (Maya) who brings forth this whole universe. (Verse 108)

She (Maya) is neither existent nor non-existent nor partaking of both characters; neither same nor different nor both; neither composed of parts nor an indivisible whole nor both. She is most wonderful and cannot be described in words. (Verse 109)

Maya can be destroyed by the realisation of the pure Brahman, the one without a second, just as the mistaken idea of a snake is removed by the discrimination of the rope (by the realisation of the true identity of the rope). She (Maya) has her Gunas as Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas,names after their respective functions.
(Verse 110)


From Svetasvatara Upanishad 

Brahman projects the universe through the power of Its maya. Again, in that universe Brahman (as the Jiva) is entangled through maya. (Chapter 4,Verse 8)

Know then, that prakriti is maya, and that the Great God is the Lord of maya. The whole universe is filled with objects which are parts of His being. (Chapter 4, Verse 10)


From Mandukya Upanishad 
Explanations drawn from the writings of Swami Nikhilananda
Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York

[Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest of the
major Upanishads, containing only 12 verses.]

The first chapter of Mandukya Upanishad discusses Turiya by means of the Vedic symbol AUM. The restless mind cannot think of the transcendental Reality without the help of a concrete symbol. Thinking is possible only through symbols. The student is asked to imagine four parts in Brahman, or Cosmic Reality. They are called four quarters. The first three- gross, subtle and causal- constitute the phenomenal world. The fourth, so called only in relation to the three just mentioned, is transcendental, being beyond time, space and causality. It is Turiya, or the unconditioned Brahman.

Brahman and Atman (Self) are identical. The gross aspect of Brahman has its counterpart in the waking state (Visva) of Atman, when the external world is perceived by means of the sense-organs; the subtle aspect, in the dream state (Taijasa), when the internal world, created by waking experiences, is perceived; and the causal aspect, in deep sleep or dreamless sleep (Prajna), characterised by bliss and the cessation of mental activity. The transcendental aspect of Atman, or Pure Consciousness, which is its true nature, is the same as Turiya.

Like Brahman, AUM also has four parts, called letters. The first three are A, U, and M, corresponding to the first three quarters of Brahman and Atman. In addition to these there is an undifferentiated sound of AUM, which comes after the first three letters are pronounced. Devoid of all characteristics, it is not any particular sound, but the substratum of all sounds. It is the same as the unconditioned Brahman, or Turiya. Turiya is here figuratively called a quarter. In reality it does not denote any part. It is Brahman Itself, which does not admit of any differentiation. The knowledge of the fourth quarter is realised by merging in it the previous three. That is to say, the waking state is merged in the dream state, the dream state in dreamless sleep, and finally, dreamless sleep in Turiya, or Pure Consciousness. Thus through meditation on AUM one can realise Brahman both in its cosmic and in its acosmic aspect.
[Note: “Unconditioned Brahman”: For explanation, refer to Page ‘The Nature of Reality’, see column on the left].

The four quarters are like the quarters of a coin, and not like the four feet of a cow. A large coin, for instance a silver dollar, can be divided into four quarters. But these quarters are not essential or intrinsic characteristic of the dollar; they are designed to serve a practical purpose. That is not true of the four feet of a cow, which are essential parts of it. Atman (Self) is partless. Therefore the four quarters mentioned in the text are superimposed upon Atman as the quarters are superimposed on the coin. Again, the waking state merges in the dream state, the dream state in the dreamless sleep, and dreamless sleep in Turiya. The three preceding states are the means of realising the fourth, or Turiya. The attainment of Turiya is the object of philosophical inquiry. Turiya is not a part of Atman.

Mandukya Upanishad

HARIH AUM! Aum, the word, is all this [i.e. the whole universe]. A clear explanation of it is as follows: All that is past, present, and future is, indeed, AUM. And whatever else there is, beyond the three- fold division of time- that also is truly Aum. (Mandukya Upanishad,Verse 1)

All this is, indeed, Brahman (the Supreme Reality). This Atman (Self) is Brahman. This same Atman has four quarters (padas). (Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 2)

The first quarter (pada) is called Vaisvanara, whose sphere of activity is the waking state, who is conscious of external objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who is the experiencer of gross objects.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 3).

[Note: “Who is conscious of external objects”, : The self in the waking state is aware of objects other than itself. Consciousness appears to be related to outer objects. This is due to Avidya, or ignorance. From the standpoint of Reality, Brahman or Atman, is Pure Consciousness. Consciousness is non-dual and nothing exists outside it. The duality of ego and non-ego, subject and object, appears in the Cosmic Mind due to avidya. Material objects are illusory in nature and have no independent existence.

“Seven limbs”: The word limbs is used here to denote parts of the body. The seven limbs are the head, the eyes, the mouth, the breath, the middle part of the body, the kidney, and the feet. They have their counterparts in the universe, namely the heavens, the sun, fire, air, akasa (space), water, and earth.

“Nineteen mouths”: Namely, the five organs of perception (hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell), the five organs of action (the organs of speech or the tongue), hands (for grasping etc.), feet (for locomotion), generation (for procreation), and excretion, the five pranas (the vital breath in its five aspects: prana, apana, vyana, samana, and udana), the mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), I-consciousness (ahamkara), and the mind-stuff (chitta). These are, as it were, the mouths or organs by means of which the waking person (Vaisvanara) experiences gross objects. Like the seven limbs, these also are superimposed through avidya (ignorance), upon Atman. The etymological meaning of the word ‘Vaisvanara’ is “common to all men”.

The universe may be regarded from two standpoints: the microcosmic and the macrocosmic. The microcosmic (subjective) entity (adhyatma) is endowed with four quarters, namely, Vaisvanara (or Visva), Taijasa, Prajna, and Turiya. Likewise the macrocosmic (objective) universe, comprising the sphere of the sun, the moon, the stars, etc., has four quarters. The first three are known as Virat (the totality of gross physical bodies), Hiranyagarbha (the totality of subtle bodies), and Isvara or Avyakrita, the Unmanifested (the totality of causal bodies). The attributeless Brahman, like Turiya, is the fourth. It is transcendental, beyond all causal relations, and is the unrelated substratum of all appearances. A parallelism runs through the subjective and the objective. The macrocosm is superimposed upon Brahman, and the microcosm upon Atman (Self), through avidya (ignorance). Both are illusory appearances. On account of the non-difference between the subjective and the objective, the limbs of Vaisvanara are described in terms of the objective universe. The purpose is to show the illusory nature of the entire phenomenal world and establish the non-duality of Atman (Self) and Brahman (Supreme Reality).

The identity of Vaisvanara and Virat indicates the similar identity of Taijasa and Hiranyagarbha, and also of Prajna and Isvara. Taijasa is the dream self, the experiencer of subtle ideas. Hiranyagarbha is Consciousness identified, through maya, with the totality of minds. At the time of deep sleep all distinctions between subject and object, and also between objects themselves, as experienced in the waking state and the dream state, are obliterated. The same thing happens at the time of cosmic dissolution.]

The second quarter (pada) is Taijasa, whose sphere of activity is the dream state, who is conscious of internal objects, who is endowed with seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who is the experiencer of subtle objects.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 4)

[Note: “Dream state”: The impressions of waking experiences are reproduced in the form of dream objects. From the empirical standpoint there is a causal relationship between the waking state and the dream state.

‘Internal”: In dreams mental states consisting of the impressions of the waking state are experienced. During the dream state the sleeping man is aware of the external world and of internal ideas. But when he awakes and reviews the dream experiences, he comes to realise that they were nothing but the internal activity of the mind. When a man is asleep his sense organs are inactive. Therefore the dream experiences cannot but be mental states.

“Endowed with..”: The experiencer in the dream state is non-different from the experiencer in the waking state.

“Subtle objects”: In the waking state one’s consciousness is associated with gross objects, whereas in the dream state one sees the impressions of past experiences. But in reality the experiences of waking and dreaming are of the same nature; for in both states the perceiver is aware only of his mental states. From the standpoint of dreams, the dream objects are as gross and physical as those experienced in the waking state. It is from the standpoint of waking alone that one infers that the dream objects are subtle, inasmuch as in the dream state no gross object exists for the dreamer.]

That is the state of deep sleep wherein one asleep neither desires any object nor sees any dream. The third quarter is Prajna, whose sphere is deep sleep, in whom all experiences become unified, who is, verily, a mass of consciousness, who is full of bliss and experiences bliss, and who is the door leading to the knowledge of dreaming and waking. (Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 5)

[Note: “That is the state of deep sleep”: All three states have a common feature, namely, the absence of the knowledge of Reality. But deep sleep differs from waking and dreaming in that it is associated neither with gross objects nor with subtle impressions, which are the characteristics of the other two. Though the same person, ignorant of Reality, experiences the three states, yet the experiencer of the waking state perceives gross objects, and the experiencer of the dream state perceives dream objects.

“Prajna”: That is to say, the knower par excellence. This state is characterised only by general consciousness. The other two states are associated with the knowledge of particulars.

“Unified”: In deep sleep all the diversified experiences of waking and dreaming, which are nothing but the activities of the mind, reach the state of non –discrimination, without, however, losing their peculiar characteristics- just as the various objects perceived during the day lose their diverse appearances when enveloped by the darkness of night. This state of non-discrimination is known in empirical language as the causal state. A person viewing dreamless sleep from the waking state takes it to be the causal state because he finds that the experiences of waking and dreaming merge in deep sleep. This unified experience of deep sleep is quite different from the unity experienced through the knowledge of Brahman; for in the waking or dream state that follows it, one again takes multiplicity to be real. After attaining the knowledge of Brahman one never takes multiplicity to be real.

‘Mass of consciousness”: That is to say, free from the knowledge of multiplicity. In deep sleep no specific knowledge is present. As in a dark night all cows appear black and cannot be distinguished from one another, so in deep sleep all discriminative knowledge disappears.

“Full of bliss”: Deep sleep is a state of ease and repose. The friction caused by the subject-object relationship is absent. All effort disappears. Hence a person in deep sleep experiences bliss, in the sense that one who is free from effort is said to be happy. This bliss is quite different from that of Brahman.

“Door leading to the knowledge”: The unified consciousness of deep sleep, wherein all diversities disappear, is the antecedent of the waking and dream experiences. Hence it is regarded as the cause of, or the door to, the other two states.]

He is the Lord of all. He is the knower of all. He is the inner controller. He is the source of all; for from Him all beings originate and in Him they finally disappear.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 6)

[Note: Consciousness associated with deep sleep is known as Prajna. His nature is described in this verse 6.

“He”: Refers to Prajna, or Consciousness functioning in deep sleep. In this state, Consciousness, free from the diversities of waking and dreaming, manifests in a marked degree its natural purity.

‘The Lord of all”: That is to say, of the physical and the supra-physical universe. But this lordship does not refer to an extra-cosmic Creator, as some schools hold. (Compare Brahadaranyaka Upanishad, 4,4,22.).]

[The following comments refer to the next verse No.7. The three states superimposed on Brahman through avidya (ignorance) have already been explained. Within them the causal law operates. Now will be explained the fourth state, known as Turiya, which is free from causality, is of the very nature of Pure Consciousness, and is the Supreme Reality. This will be done through the negation of the three states.] :

Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self (in the three states), It (Turiya) is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss, and non-dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman (Self), and this has to be realised.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 7)

[The following comments refer to the next verse No.8. The highest truth, as explained above by the refutation of the erroneous superimpositions, can be grasped only by students endowed with sharp or moderate intelligence. But ordinary students, who cannot understand philosophical reflections, are advised to concentrate on AUM as the symbol of Ultimate Reality.]:

The same Atman [explained before as being endowed with four quarters] is now described from the standpoint of the syllable AUM. AUM, too, divided into parts, is viewed from the standpoint of letters. The quarters [of Atman] are the same as the letters of AUM, and the letters are the same as the quarters. The letters are A,U, and M.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 8)

[Note: “The same Atman is now described…”: The Mandukya Upanishad commences with the statement that AUM covers all things and also that which is beyond. Further, AUM is identical with Atman, which is endowed with four quarters. In the explanation of the word, emphasis has been given to Atman, which the word indicates. The present verse explains AUM from the standpoint of the world itself.

The first verse of the Upanishad states that AUM is everything- past, present, and future, and what is beyond time. The second verse states that AUM is the same as Brahman and Atman. Next follows the explanation of Atman with its four quarters. All these explanations of AUM have been given from the standpoint of Atman, emphasizing the name (i.e. Atman) indicated by AUM. Now the same AUM is being explained from the standpoint of the word itself.

AUM is pronounced OM.

“In Sanskrit language the vowel ‘O’ is constitutionally a diphthong, contracted from a + u. Om therefore may be analysed into the elements a + u + m.” (R.E.Hume, The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press.)

Vaisvanara Atman, whose sphere of activity is the waking state, is A, the first letter (of AUM), on account of his all-pervasiveness or on account of his being the first. He who knows this obtains all desires and becomes first (among the great). (Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 9)

[Note: “Vaisvanara Atman”: Atman functioning through the waking state. His other name is Visva; he is identical with Virat.

“His”: Here Atman is personalised.

“All-pervasiveness…”: The sound A pervades all sounds. It is present in all sounds. No sound can be produced without opening the mouth, and the sound that is thus produced is A. Likewise, the entire universe is pervaded by Vaisvanara Atman. It has already been stated that knowledge of the dream state and of deep sleep is possible only in the waking state. Since the three states constitute our entire experience of the universe, the waking state pervades the whole universe. Another point of resemblance between A and Vaisvanara is that just as A is the beginning, or first, of the three letters constituting AUM, so also, Vaisvanara, or the waking state, may be said to be the beginning, or first, of the three states. ]

Taijasa Atman, whose sphere of activity is the dream state, is U, the second letter (of AUM), on account of his superiority or intermediateness, He who knows this attains a superior knowledge, receives equal treatment from all, and finds in his family no one ignorant of Brahman.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 10)

[Note: In this verse the identity of the second quarter of Atman and the second letter of AUM is pointed out.

“Taijasa Atman”: Atman functioning through the dream state.

“Superiority”: As a matter of fact, A, being the first of all letters, is superior to them all. But U, coming after A, is stated here to be superior in a figurative sense. Taijasa, or Atman functioning through the dream state, is said to be superior to Vaisvanara because he perceives ideas, whereas the latter sees only gross objects. While investigating dreams the student realises physical phenomena to be states of the mind, which knowledge brings him nearer to truth.

“Intermediateness”: As the letter U is between A and M, so the dream state is between waking and deep sleep.]

Prajna Atman, whose sphere is deep sleep, is M, the third letter (of AUM), because both are measure and also because in them all become one. He who knows this is able to measure all and also comprehends all within himself.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 11)

[Note: The identity of the third quarter of Atman and the third letter of AUM is pointed out.

“”Measure”: Both the waking state and the dream state emerge from (during manifestation) and disappear into (during non-manifestation) the dreamless state. Therefore both Vaisvanara and Taijasa are said to be contained in Prajna, which may be compared to the container. The word ‘measure’ in the text is used in the sense of a container.

“All become one”: When the word AUM is repeated quickly several times, the sound actually heard is MAUM. That is why it is said that the letters A and U become one with M. Likewise, Visva and Taijasa become one with, or merge in, Prajna in deep sleep.

“Is able …all”: That is to say, he knows the real nature of the universe. He realises that the universe perceived in the waking and the dream states is essentially the same as the experience of deep sleep, inasmuch as all the three states are characterised by non-apprehension of Reality.

“Comprehend all within himself’: He attains the status of Isvara, who is the cause of the universe.]

The Fourth (Turiya) is without parts and without relationship; It is the cessation of phenomena; it is all good and non-dual. This AUM is verily Atman. He who knows this merges his self in Atman- yea, he who knows this.
(Mandukya Upanishad, Verse 12)

[Note: AUM, in its transcendental aspect, is Turiya.

“Without parts”: That is to say, without sound. This aspect of AUM cannot be expressed by any sound. Being non-dual, it cannot even be described as the substratum of the three other sounds. The AUM uttered through sounds points, by contrast, to the soundless AUM. All sounds must some time or other merge in silence or soundlessness. The soundless AUM is the same as Turiya.

“Without relationship”: That is to say, incomprehensible. Objects and their corresponding names or sounds both disappear in Turiya. The physical world is only an idea. Therefore all objects are but ideas expressed by names or sounds. The contemplation of Turiya destroys ignorance and also the mind created by ignorance. With the destruction of thoughts and sounds, there remains nothing by which Turiya can be comprehended.

“This AUM is verily Atman”: As already stated, the three letters or sounds of AUM are identical with three states of Atman.]

(The following is adapted from Sri Shankaracharya’s commentary) :

Those who have realised Brahman, the Highest Reality, merge the self in Turiya because they have transcended the notion of cause and effect, which inheres in the third quarter of Atman. They are not born again; for they have realised their identity with the causeless Turiya. The illusory snake which has merged in the rope as a result of discrimination between the snake and the rope, does not reappear. Students of dull or mediocre mind who have renounced the world and are endowed with spiritual virtues should meditate on the common features of the sounds of AUM and the quarters of Atman, as explained before. Thus, proceeding step by step, they ultimately realise Turiya, devoid of any state or sound, and attain the Highest Goal.

(The following quotations are from Gaudapada Karika):

As in dreams the mind acts through maya, presenting the appearance of duality, so also in the waking state the mind acts through maya, presenting the appearance of duality.

There is no doubt that the mind, which is in reality non-dual, appears to be dual in dreams; likewise, there is no doubt that what is non-dual (i.e. Atman) appears to be dual in the waking state. (61-61)

The mind should be concentrated on AUM. AUM is the fearless Brahman. He who is always absorbed in AUM knows no fear whatever. (25)

Aum is indeed the beginning, middle, and end of all things. He who has realised AUM as immutable immediately attains the Supreme Reality. (27)

Here ends the Mandukya Upanishad.

Aum Tat Sat 

Meditation

What is Meditation?
By Mouni Sadhu.

This is probably the best attempt by a European disciple of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi to describe without technicalities what Meditation is about, and why Indians worship their Gurus. For several years Mouni Sadhu steeped himself in the teachings of the foremost Hindu ascetic, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Straight from the heart, he describes movingly how he mastered the technique of jnana yoga (Vichara or the ” I ” thought ) and achieved the transcendent spiritual state (samadhi). He was so completely absorbed by his Guru (Sri Ramana Maharshi) that he succeeded in communing with him in silence. (Sri Ramana Maharshi gave his initiation (diksha) almost exclusively by silence.)

What is Meditation?

Meditation can be properly performed only when the mind is cleansed of all thoughts. Almost every student knows of this condition, but few can really achieve it.

Those who belong to different mystical societies often believe that meditation consists in the effort of directing the mind into certain channels according to pre-conceived ideas. The results of such exercises – they cannot be called meditation – are generally poor, even though they may be practised over a period of years, and they do not lead to the effective purification of the mind  from thought.

Usually, advanced members of such organisations are given methods and rules, which are often insufficient. There are two kinds which we can call artificial and natural means.

The first group is based on imagination or mental conceptions. Endless exercises are given, a few of the most important being:

(a) The imagining of the possession of a virtue lacking in the student. If he is of a sensual type, he must think of himself as chaste during the time appointed for the meditation.

(b) He can protect himself from invasion of thoughts from outside by the mental creation of an astral shell according to instruction.

(c) By the use of incantations or mantras he can reach the necessary concentration or acquiescence of mind, thus keeping to one idea for some considerable period of time.

In the second group (natural means) I would first mention prayer directed to what one believes to be the Supreme Being. If such prayer is utterly sincere, and if one is prepared to give enough time to regular practice, the result can be satisfactory and the mind cleared of everything but the object of meditation.

Then comes the ‘vacuum’ in the thinking process which is then filled with true light from its true source – the Self-God.

If one is blessed on his way through life by meeting a spiritual Master, then everything becomes simple and effective. Many disciples in those precious times of spiritual contact visualise him (spiritual Master) as seen, in the physical body. Such an image, living and powerful, is a deadly weapon against the strategy of the restless mind. Nothing is more effective than this when combined with the Vichara (the “I” thought ); but in order to use Self-inquiry properly, some steadiness of mind must first be attained.

Man’s emotions must also be cleansed; for this purpose the vision of a living Master has no substitute. In a mysterious way the power of such a vision is also inherent in his (the Master’s) pictures. Perhaps this is for the aid of those who were not able to see him in the physical body. Experience and practice show that almost as beneficial results can be brought about from the contemplation of such a picture.

When at last the vacuum or void in consciousness is reached and firmly established, true meditation can be approached, but not earlier. Then the consciousness of the true Self will itself fill the vacuum. No more instruction is needed, for the true Self takes over the guidance and the goal is reached. In such meditation there are no visions or feelings. Maharshi often warned against ecstatic visions, pointing out that our goal is pure awareness and nothing else.

If this awareness is attained it inevitably leads us to samadhi, and this is the true aim of meditation (the awakening from the dream-state called normal physical consciousness).

There are signs which indicate that our meditation is really leading us to samadhi, when we are free from all thought of the body and of the ‘ego’, and when thoughts and feelings are stilled. ‘Good and evil” cease to exist- we see nothing, for there is nothing to see.Yet we are not in darkness, but merged in light being ourselves this light. We cannot see It, for in this state there is no subject and no object. This can give but a veiled hint of the true state to one who has not experienced such meditation for himself, for this is the discovery of the true Self in man.

All that we recognise as objects – that is the outer world plus our visible body- is like a painting. The colours in it are the qualities of things. In these things are held all material forms, feelings, thoughts, good and evil, true and false, everything that we know as the universe.

They are like the separated colours of the white light or God-Self, broken up by the prism of the material universe, as the Maharshi told us. If you could imagine the same picture painted with only the basic white Light, unbroken by the bewitched prism – that would be Spirit, Self or God, the ultimate truth of being. That is why the Master said: “There is nothing but the Pure Being which alone exists and our sole purpose in life is to realise It for ourselves.”

Right meditation leads to the discovery of this great mystery. All other means mentioned in different Yogas such as breath control, mind control, body postures, special foods and attitudes of the mind, and so on , are only intermediary steps on the path to the goal, taken by our material nature when we step onto the Direct Path to the summit.This attainment makes these intermediary steps unnecessary. When the train reaches a certain station, one does not go back to count the milestones already passed. Thus attunement with the Self produces of its own accord the right postures, breathing, and imperviousness to influences from the outer world.


Techniques of Meditation

One of the initiations through which we pass while in the presence of the Maharshi , is true meditation, which years of study of occult literature had assured me was the key to the awakening of supra-physical consciousness. During my allegiance to Theosophy I practised different forms of meditation in accordance with their literature. From what I have since found out, the knowledge given was for beginners.

Their aim was to direct the mind into certain deliberately chosen channels of thought. There were meditations on different themes such as Beauty, Love, Purity, Wisdom, Devotion, God, The Creator of the universe and so on. The object was to keep these ideas in the mind as long as possible, and to imagine the working out of these virtues in the consciousness. Such ‘meditations’ can create certain currents of thought in the mind, conditioning it to a positive force which activates the thinking. Such exercises have a certain usefulness, for it is said:’a man is as he thinks’.

In other words, the manner of a man’s thinking creates his worthiness.
If he associates himself with good and positive thoughts his nature will be improved; if with negative and evil currents- he will retrograde and fall. All this is true in the relative field, but is founded on the assumption that man’s consciousness is derived from his thinking apparatus or mind.

Man can elevate his mind, as do the Yogis, and perform ‘miracles’ as have many of the saints of all religions. The mind is a power, and when controlled and directed, its force and subtlety are apparently unlimited. But only apparently, for the power of the mind is based on the false notion that there is one who thinks, and an object of thought. This is the old lie of duality, and its end cannot be brought about by the ennoblement of the instrument(mind).

The subject and object still exist. This conception hinders the realisation of the unreality of the outer world. And to count this as real is an insurmountable obstacle on the path of realisation of the true Self in man.

So long as man’s consciousness is unable to merge in the whole, there will always be the necessity for rebirths and incarnations in matter. The bewitched circle is closed.

Strangely, from the first days of my stay at the Ashram, my old mental meditations were forgotten and I could not practice them in the presence of the Master.So it still is, and for me there will be no return to those old currents of thought. Every day there is a more and more urgent inner inclination to be still, to remain without thought, to merge in the silence.
The inaudible inner voice tells me that there lies the truth.

Maharshi himself insisted on the necessity for meditation, but what did he mean by this term ‘meditation’? He calls true meditation ‘silence’, being still’, ‘stillness’. So it was the same power which drew me then and now.

While one is immersed in water one cannot see anything above the water’s surface. The world above is veiled from sight. To gain the wider horizon one has to rise out of the water, and only then will one realise how limited was one’s former vision. So long as man is merged in the world of thought – the realm of mind- his consciousness will be bounded by its limitations.

Thought must always have an object, however sublime it may be, thus there must always be two, not one.Therefore, thought and its process is a blind alley.

The Master’s power released me from all desire to follow this by-path. It was simply forgotten, as mentioned before. I am not a believer in miracles. So I cannot put the help and activity of the Master into this category. But the fact remains, and that is all that matters In this manner, I came at last to the secret of true meditation. This state when I am aware of being apart from the thinking process can be called true meditation. This Awareness is the source of all Life, of that which is my life. It is the source of everything. From It alone I draw all that makes possible what I say on these pages.

How can one enter this state of supra-mental meditation? Analysing the process in myself, I find that FIRST must come the stopping of all thoughts. The Vichara ripens in the mind so that interest in the thinking process vanishes, and the stilling of the mind, so difficult in the past, becomes easy.

SECONDLY, when the mind is still, there arises a strong urge to be united with the whole, but what this whole is, cannot yet be conceived and I feel that I could never attain it alone. The closest comparison is melting and dissolving in That which alone Is. It is different to leaving the body or ego for there is no movement. One remains where one is, but is not what one was before. Everything that could be seen or felt before is now apart from me. No more can be told.

THIRDLY, the state of unity with the whole brings an unshakable certainty that only this state is real and permanent. That it is that last refuge which one has always sought, and from which one can never more be lost.There is nothing beyond it, for – it is all.

The conception that we know as ‘death’ is obliterated, but this does not mean that we are in that state thought of as ‘life after death’. The only fact one knows is , that this life will always go on.

In this state of being there are no such false distinctions of time as past, present, and future.

It is possible to force language to convey to the mind something of that which one brings back from such a meditation, but it is likely to be of no avail, and more likely to be misunderstood. What I can express is tragically little.

There is a mysterious experience which proves the power of the Vichara. The Master insisted that we should not use it as a Mantra, that is, as words only, but soak each question with the desire to know ‘WHO AM I?’. By using the Vichara in this way, after stilling the mind, the answer comes of itself, but without words or thought- you know who you are.

What follows-is inexpressible

This is the great service which Maharshi performed for humanity-the welding of this infallible instrument of achievement, the inspired VICHARA.


“Pursue the enquiry “WHO AM I” relentlessly. Analyse your entire personality. Try to find out where the I-thought begins. Go on with your meditations. Keep turning your attention within. One day the wheel of thought will slow down and an intuition will mysteriously arise. Follow that intuition, let your thinking stop, and it will eventually lead you to the goal”.

-From Maharshi’s Teachings

Atma – Self

TheTeachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman

Question: What is Reality?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Reality must be always real. It is not with forms and names. That which underlies these is the Reality. It underlies limitations, being itself limitless. It is not bound. It underlies unrealities, itself being real. Reality is that which is. It is as it is. It transcends speech. It is beyond the expressions ‘existence, non-existence’, etc.

The reality which is the mere consciousness that remains when ignorance is destroyed along with knowledge of objects, alone is the Self (Atma). In that Brahma-swarupa (real form of Brahman), which is abundant Self-awareness, there is not the least ignorance.

The reality which shines fully, without misery and without a body, not only when the world is known but also when the world is not known, is your real form (nija-swarupa).

The radiance of consciousness-bliss, in the form of one awareness shining equally within and without, is the supreme and blissful primal reality. Its form is silence and it is declared by Jnanis (Self-realised) to be the final and unobstructable state of true knowledge (jnana).

Know that jnana alone is non-attachment; jnana alone is purity; jnana is the attainment of God; jnana which is devoid of forgetfulness of Self alone is immortality; jnana alone is everything.

Question: What is this awareness and how can one obtain and cultivate it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it. All that you have to do is to give up being aware of other things, that is of the not-self. If one gives up being aware of them then pure awareness alone remains, and that is the Self.

Question: If the Self is itself aware, why am I not aware of it even now?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no duality. Your present knowledge is due to the ego and is only relative. Relative knowledge requires a subject and an object, whereas the awareness of the Self is absolute and requires no object.

Remembrance also is similarly relative, requiring an object to be remembered and a subject to remember. When there is no duality, who is to remember whom?

The Self is ever present. Each one wants to know the Self. What kind of help does one require to know oneself? People want to see the Self as something new. But it is eternal and remains the same all along. They desire to see it as a blazing light etc. How can it be so? It is not light, not darkness. It is only as it is. It cannot be defined. The best definition is ‘I am that I am’. The Srutis (scriptures) speak of the Self as being the size of one’s thumb, the tip of the hair, an electric spark, vast, subtler than the subtlest, etc. These descriptions have no foundation in fact. It is only being, but different from the real and the unreal; it is knowledge, but different from knowledge and ignorance. How can it be defined at all? It is simply being.

Question: When a man realises the Self, what will he see?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no seeing. Seeing is only being. The state of Self-realisation, as we call it, is not attaining something new or reaching some goal which is far away, but simply being that which you always are and which you always have been. All that is needed is that you give up your realisation of the not-true as true. All of us are regarding as real that which is not real. We have only to give up this practice on our part. Then we shall realise the Self as the Self, in other words, ‘Be the Self.’ At one stage you will laugh at yourself for trying to discover the Self which is not self-evident. So, what can we say to this question?

That stage transcends the seer and the seen. There is no seer there to see anything. The seer who is seeing all this now ceases to exist and the Self alone remains.

Question: How to know this by direct experience?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If we talk of knowing the Self, there must be two selves, one a knowing self, another the self which is known, and the process of knowing. The state we call realisation is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realised, one is that which alone is and which alone has always been. One cannot describe that state. One can only be that. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realisation, for want of a better term. How to ‘real-ise’ or make the real that which alone is real?


Question: You some times say the Self is silence. Why is this?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: For those who live in Self as the beauty devoid of thought, there is nothing, which should be thought of. That which should be adhered to is only the experience of silence, because in that supreme state nothing exists to be attained other than oneself.

Question: What is Mouna (silence)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: That state which transcends speech and thought is mouna. That which is, is mouna. How can mouna be explained in words?

Sages say that the state in which the thought “I” (the ego) does not rise even in the least, alone is Self (swarupa) which is silence (mouna). That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the jiva (individual soul). Self alone is this ancient world.

All other kinds of knowledge are only petty and trivial knowledge; the experience of silence alone is the real and perfect knowledge. Know that the many objective differences are not real but are mere superimpositions on Self, which is the form of true knowledge.

Question: As the bodies and the selves animating them are everywhere actually observed to be innumerable how can it be said that the Self is only one?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the idea ‘I am the body’ is accepted, the selves are multiple. The state in which this idea vanishes is the Self since in that state there are no other objects. It is for this reason that the Self is regarded as one only.

Since the body itself does not exist in the natural outlook of the real Self, but only in the extroverted outlook of the mind which is deluded by the power of illusion, to call Self, the space of consciousness, Dehi (the possessor of the body) is wrong.

The world does not exist without the body, the body never exists without the mind, the mind never exists without consciousness, and consciousness never exists without the Reality.

For the wise one who has known Self by diving within himself, there is nothing other than Self to be known. Why? Because since the ego, which identifies the form of a body as “I” has perished, he (the wise one) is the formless existence– consciousness.

The jnani (one who has realised the Self) knows he is the Self and that nothing, neither his body nor anything else, exists but the Self. To such a one what difference could the presence or absence of a body make?

It is false to speak of realisation. What is there to realise? The Real is as it always is. We are not creating anything new, or achieving something, which we did not have before.

The illustration given in books is this. We dig a well and create a huge pit. The space in the pit or the well has not been created by us. We have just removed the earth, which was filling the space there. The space was there then and is also there now. Similarly we have simply to throw out all the age-long Samskaras (innate tendencies) which are inside us. When all of them have been given up, the Self will shine alone.

Question: But how to do this and attain liberation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Liberation is our very nature. We are that. The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is to get rid of the false notion that we are bound. When we achieve that, there will be no desire or thought of any sort. So long as one desires liberation, so long, you may take it, one is in bondage.

Question: For one who has realised his Self, it is said that he will not have the three states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. Is that a fact?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What makes you say that they do not have the three states? In saying, ‘I had a dream; I was in deep sleep; I am awake’, you must admit that you were there in all three states. That makes it clear that you were there all the time. If you remain as you are now, you are in the wakeful state; this becomes hidden in the dream state; and the dream state disappears when you are in deep sleep. You were there then, you are there now, and you are there at all times. The three states come and go, but you are always there.

It is like a cinema. The screen is always there but several types of pictures appear on the screen and then disappear. Nothing sticks to the screen, it remains a screen. Similarly, you remain your own Self in all the three states. If you know that, the three states will not trouble you, just as the pictures which appear on the screen do not stick to it. On the screen, you sometimes see a huge ocean with endless waves; that disappears. Another time, you see fire spreading all around; that too disappears. The screen is there on both occasions. Did the screen get wet with the water or was it burnt by fire? Nothing affected the screen. In the same way, the things that happen during the wakeful, dream and sleep states do not affect you at all; you remain your own Self.

Question: Brahman (the Supreme Reality) is said to be sat-chit-ananda. What does that mean?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. That is so. That which is, in only Sat. That is called Brahman. The lustre of Sat is Chit and its nature is Ananda. These are not different from Sat. All the three together are known as Sat-Chit-Ananda.

Question: As the Self is existence (Sat) and consciousness (Chit) what is the reason for describing it as different from the existent and the non-existent, the sentient and the insentient?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Although the Self is real, as it comprises everything, it does not give room for questions involving duality about its reality or unreality. Therefore it is said to be different from the real and the unreal. Similarly, even though it is consciousness, since there is nothing for it to know or to make itself known to, it is said to be different from the sentient and the insentient.

Sat-Chit-Ananda is said to indicate that the Supreme is not asat (different from being), not achit (different from consciousness) and not an ananda (different from bliss). Because we are in the phenomenal world we speak of the Self as Sat-Chit-Ananda.


Question: In what sense is happiness or bliss (ananda) our real nature?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Perfect bliss is Brahman. Perfect peace is the Self. That alone exists and is consciousness. That which is called happiness is only the nature of Self; Self is not other than perfect happiness. That which is called happiness alone exists. Knowing that fact and abiding in the state of Self, enjoy bliss eternally.

If a man thinks that his happiness is due to external cause and his possessions, it is reasonable to conclude that his happiness must increase with the increase of possessions and diminish in proportion to their diminution. Therefore if he is devoid of possessions, his happiness should be nil. What is the real experience of man? Does it conform to this view?

In deep sleep man is devoid of possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy he is quite happy. Everyone desires to sleep soundly. The conclusion is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realise the Self in order to open the store of unalloyed happiness.

Question: Sri Bhagavan speaks of the Heart as the seat of consciousness and as identical with the Self. What does the Heart exactly signify?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Call it by any name, God, Self, the Heart or the seat of consciousness, it is all the same. The point to be grasped is this that ‘Heart’ means the very core of one’s being, the centre, without which there is nothing whatever

The Heart is not physical, it is spiritual. Hridayam (the Sanskrit word) equals Hrit plus Ayam; it means ‘this is the centre’. It is that from which thoughts arise, on which they subsist and where they are resolved. The thoughts are the content of the mind and they shape the universe. The Heart is the centre of all. That from which beings come into existence is said to be Brahman in the Upanishads. That is the Heart. Brahman is the Heart.

Question: How to realise the Heart?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no one who even for a moment fails to experience the Self. For no one admits that he ever stands apart from the self. He is the Self. The Self is the Heart.

The Heart is the centre from which everything springs. Because you see the world, the body and so on, it is said that there is a centre for these, which is called the Heart. When you are in the Heart, the Heart is known to be neither the centre nor the circumference. There is nothing else apart from it.

The consciousness which is the real existence and which does not go out to know those things which are other than Self, alone is the Heart. Since the truth of Self is known only to that consciousness, which is devoid of activity, that consciousness which always remains attending to Self alone is the shining of clear knowledge.

Question: How can I attain Self-realisation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Realisation is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought ‘I have not realised’.

Stillness or peace is realisation. There is no moment when the Self is not. So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-realisation, the attempt should be made to rid oneself of these thoughts. They are due to the identification of the Self with the not-self. When the not-self disappears, the Self alone remains. To make room, it is enough that objects be removed. Room is not brought in from elsewhere.

Question: Since realisation is not possible without Vasana-kshaya (destruction of mental tendencies), how am I to realise that state in which the tendencies are effectively destroyed?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are in that state now.

Question: Does it mean that by holding on to the Self, the vasanas (mental tendencies) should be destroyed as and when they emerge?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They will themselves be destroyed if you remain as you are.

Question: How shall I reach the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If the Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now and that it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self, you are already that.

The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance supervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self, which is bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance, which is merely wrong knowledge. The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body and the mind. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains.

Therefore realisation is for everyone; realisation makes no difference between the aspirants. This very doubt whether you can realise, and the notion ‘I have not realised’ are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.

Question: How long does it take to reach Mukti (liberation)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti is not to be gained in the future. It is there forever, here and now.

Questioner: I agree, but I do not experience it.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The experience is here and now. One cannot deny one’s own Self.

Questioner: That means existence and not happiness.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Existence is the same as happiness and happiness is the same as being. The word Mukti is so provoking. Why should one seek it? One believes that there is bondage and therefore seeks liberation. But the fact is that there is no bondage but only liberation. Why call it by a name and seek it?

Questioner: True, but we are ignorant.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Only remove ignorance,. That is all there is to be done.

All questions relating to Mukti are inadmissible. Mukti means release from bondage, which implies the present existence of bondage. There is no bondage and therefore no Mukti either.


Question: Of what nature is the realisation of Westerners who relate that they have had flashes of cosmic consciousness?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It came as a flash and disappeared as such. That which has a beginning must also end. Only when the ever-present consciousness is realised will it be permanent. Consciousness is indeed always with us. Everybody knows ‘I am’. No one can deny his own being. The man in deep sleep is not aware; while awake he seems to be aware. But it is the same person. There is no change in the one who slept and the one who is now awake. In deep sleep he was not aware of his body and so there was no body-consciousness. In the wakeful state he is aware of his body and so there is body-consciousness. Therefore the difference lies in the emergence of body-consciousness and not in any change in the real consciousness.

The body and body-consciousness arise together and sink together. All this amounts to saying that there are no limitations in deep sleep, whereas there are limitations in the waking state. These limitations are the bondage. The feeling ‘the body is ‘I’ is the error. This false sense of ‘I’ must go. The real ‘I’ is always there. It is here and now. It never appears anew and disappears again. That which is must also persist forever. That which appears anew will also be lost. Compare deep sleep and waking. The body appears in one state but not in the other. Therefore the body will be lost The consciousness was pre-existent and will survive the body.

There is no one who does not say ‘I am’. The wrong knowledge of ‘I am the body’ is the cause of all the mischief. This wrong knowledge must go. That is realisation. Realisation is not acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.

The ultimate truth is so simple. It is nothing more than being in the pristine state. This is all that need be said.

Question: Is not the realisation of one’s absolute being, that is, Brahma-jnana, something quite unattainable for a layman like me?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Brahma-jnana is not knowledge to be acquired, so that acquiring it one may obtain happiness. It is one’s ignorant outlook that one should give up. The Self you seek to know is truly yourself. Your supposed ignorance causes you needless grief like that of the ten foolish men who grieved at the loss of the tenth man who was never lost.

The ten foolish men in the parable forded a stream and on reaching the other shore wanted to make sure that all of them had in fact safely crossed the stream. One of the ten began to count, but while counting the others left himself out. ‘I see only nine; sure enough, we have lost one. Who can it be?’ he said. ‘Did you count correctly?’ asked another, and did the counting himself. But he too counted only nine. One after the other each of the ten counted only nine, missing himself. ‘We are only nine’, they all agreed, ‘but who is the missing one?’ they asked themselves. Every effort they made to discover the ‘missing’ individual failed. ’Whoever he is that is drowned,’ said the most sentimental of the ten fools, ‘we have lost him.’ So saying he burst into tears, and the others followed suit.

Seeing them weeping on the riverbank, a sympathetic wayfarer enquired about the cause. They related what had happened and said that even after counting themselves several times they could find no more than nine. On hearing the story, but seeing all the ten before him, the wayfarer guessed what had happened. In order to make them know for themselves they were really ten, that all of them had survived the crossing, he told them, ‘Let each of you count for himself but one after the other serially, one, two, three and so on, while I shall give you each a blow so that all of you may be sure of having been included in the count, and included only once. The tenth missing man will then be found.’ Hearing this they rejoiced at the prospect of finding their ‘lost’ comrade and accepted the method suggested by the wayfarer.

While the kind wayfarer gave a blow to each of the ten in turn, he that got the blow counted himself aloud. ‘Ten,’ said the last man as he got the last blow in his turn. Bewildered, they looked at one another, ‘We are ten,’ they said with one voice and thanked the wayfarer for having removed their grief.

That is the parable. From where was the tenth man brought in? Was he ever lost? By knowing that he had been there all the while, did they learn anything new? The cause of their grief was not the real loss of anyone, it was their own ignorance, or rather, their mere supposition that one of them was lost.

Such is the case with you. Truly there is no cause for you to be miserable and unhappy. You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of infinite being, and then weep that you are but a finite creature. Then you take up this or that spiritual practice to transcend the non-existent limitations. But if your spiritual practice itself assumes the existence of the limitations, how can it help you to transcend them?

Hence I say know that you are really the infinite pure being, the Self. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. Therefore, you can never be really ignorant of the Self. Your ignorance is merely an imaginary ignorance, like the ignorance of the ten fools about the lost tenth man. It is this ignorance that caused them grief.

Know then that true knowledge does not create a new being for you, it only removes your ignorant ignorance. Bliss is not added to your nature, it is merely revealed as your true natural state, eternal and imperishable. The only way to be rid of your grief is to know and be the Self. How can this be unattainable?

Questioner: However often Bhagavan teaches us, we are not able to understand.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: People say that they are not able to know the Self that is all pervading. What can I do? Even the smallest child says, ‘I exist; I do; this is mine.’ So, everyone understands that the thing ‘I’ is always existent. It is only when that ‘I’ is there that there is the feeling that you are the body, he is Venkanna, this is Ramanna and so on. 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 (the real nature of the Self) which is not different but which is in one’s own Self is like saying, ‘I do not know myself.’

Question: But how is one to reach this state?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: There is no goal to be reached. There is nothing to be attained. You are the self. You exist always. Nothing more can be predicated of the Self than that it exists. Seeing God or the Self is only being the Self or yourself. Seeing is being. You, being the Self, want to know how to attain the Self. It is something like a man being at Ramanasramam asking how many ways there are to reach Ramanasramam and which is the best way for him. All that is required of you is to give up the thought that you are this body and to give up all thoughts of the external things or the not-self.


Question: What is the ego-self? How is it related to the real Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ego-self appears and disappears and is transitory, whereas the real Self is permanent. Though you are actually the true Self you wrongly identify the real Self with the ego-self.

Question: How does the mistake come about?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: See if it has come about.

Questioner: One has to sublimate the ego-self into the true-Self.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ego-self does not exist at all.

Question: Why does it give us trouble?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: To whom is the trouble? The trouble also is imagined. Trouble and pleasure are only for the ego.

Question: Why is the world so wrapped up in ignorance?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Take care of yourself. Let the world take care of itself. See your Self. If you are the body there is the gross world also. If you are spirit all is spirit alone.

Question: It will hold good for the individual, but of the rest?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do it first and then see if the question arises afterwards.

Question: Is there avidya (ignorance)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: For whom is it?

Questioner: For the ego-self.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, for the ego. Remove the ego and avidya is gone. Look for it, the ego vanishes and the real Self alone remains. The ego professing avidya is not to be seen. There is no avidya in reality. All Sastras (scriptures) are meant to disprove the existence of avidya.

Question: How did the ego arise?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Ego is not. Otherwise do you admit of two selves? How can there be avidya in the absence of the ego? If you begin to enquire, the avidya, which is already non-existent, will be found not to be, or you will say it has fled away.

Ignorance pertains to the ego. Why do you think of the ego and also suffer? What is ignorance again? It is that which is non-existent. However, the worldly life requires the hypothesis of avidya. Avidya is only our ignorance and nothing more. It is ignorance or forgetfulness of the Self. Can there be darkness before the sun? Similarly, can there be ignorance before the self-evident and self-luminous Self? If you know the Self there will be no darkness, no ignorance and no misery.

It is the mind, which feels the trouble and the misery. Darkness never comes nor goes. See the sun and there is no darkness. Similarly, see the Self and avidya will be found not to exist.

Question: How has the unreal come? Can the unreal spring from the Real?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: See if it has sprung. There is no such thing as the unreal, from another standpoint. The Self alone exists. When you try to trace the ego, which is the basis of the perception of the world and everything else, you find the ego does not exist at all and neither does all this creation that you see.

Questioner: It is cruel of God’s leela (play) to make the knowledge of the Self so hard.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Knowing the Self is being the Self, and being means existence, one’s own existence. No one denies one’s own existence any more than one denies one’s eyes, although one cannot see them. The trouble lies with your desire to objectify the Self, in the same way as you objectify your eyes when you place a mirror before them. You have been so accustomed to objectivity that you have lost the knowledge of yourself, simply because the Self cannot be objectified. Who is to know the Self? Can the insentient body know it? All the time you speak and think of your ‘I’, yet when questioned you deny knowledge of it. You are the Self, yet you ask how to know the Self. Where then is God’s leela and where is its cruelty? Because of this denial of the Self by people the Sastras (scriptures) speak of Maya, leela etc.

Question: Does my realisation help others?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, certainly. It is the best help possible. But there are no others to be helped. For the realised being sees only the Self, just like a goldsmith estimating the gold in various items of jewelry sees only gold. When you identify yourself with the body then only the forms and shapes are there. But when you transcend your body the others disappear along with your body-consciousness.

Question: Is it so with plants, trees, etc.?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Do they exist at all apart from the Self? Find it out. You think that you see them. The thought is projected out from the Self. Find out from where it rises. Thoughts will cease to rise and the Self alone will remain.

Questioner: I understand theoretically. But they are still there.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. It is like a cinema show. There is the light on the screen and the shadows fleeting across it impress the audience as the enactment of some piece. If in the same play an audience also is shown on the screen as part of the performance, the seer and the seen will then both be on the screen. Apply it to yourself. You are the screen, the Self has created the ego, the ego has its accretions of thoughts, which are displayed as the world, the trees and the plants of which you are asking. In reality, all these are nothing but the self. If you see the Self, the same will be found to be all, everywhere and always. Nothing but the Self exists.

Questioner: Yes, I still understand only theoretically. Yet the answers are simple, beautiful and convincing.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Even the thought ‘I do not realise’ is a hindrance. In fact, the Self alone is.

Our real nature is Mukti (liberation). But we are imagining we are bound and are making various, strenuous attempts to become free, while we are all the while free. This will be understood only when we reach that stage. We will be surprised that we were frantically trying to attain something, which we have always been and are. An illustration will make this clear. A man goes to sleep in this hall. He dreams he has gone on a world tour, is roaming over hill and dale, forest and country, desert and sea, across various continents and after many years of weary and strenuous travel, returns to this country, reaches Tiruvannamalai, enters the ashram and walks into the hall. Just at that moment he wakes up and finds he has not moved an inch but was sleeping where he lay down. He has not returned after great effort to this hall, but is and always has been in the hall. It is exactly like that. If it is asked, ‘Why being free do we imagine that we are bound?’ I answer, ‘Why being in the hall did you imagine you were on a world adventure, crossing hill and dale, desert and sea? It is all mind or Maya (illusion)’.

Question: How then does ignorance of this one and only reality unhappily arise in the case of the ajnani (one who has not realised the Self)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The ajnani sees only the mind, which is a mere reflection of the light of pure consciousness arising from the Heart. Of the Heart itself he is ignorant. Why? Because his mind is extroverted and he never sought its source.


Question: What prevents the infinite, undifferentiated light of consciousness arising from the Heart from revealing itself to the ajnani?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Just as water in a pot reflects the enormous sun within the narrow limits of the pot, even so the Vasanas or latent tendencies of the mind of the individual, acting as the reflecting medium, catch the all-pervading infinite light of consciousness arising from the Heart. The form of this reflection is the phenomenon called the mind. Seeing only this reflection, the ajnani is deluded into the belief that he is a finite being, the jiva, the individual self.

Question: What are the obstacles, which hinder realisation of the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They are habits of mind (vasanas).

Question: How to overcome the mental habits (vasanas)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: By realising the Self.

Questioner: This is a vicious circle.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is the ego, which raises such difficulties, creating obstacles and then suffering from the perplexity of apparent paradoxes. Find out who makes the enquiries and the Self will be found.

Question: Why is this mental bondage so persistent?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The nature of bondage is merely the rising, ruinous thought ‘I am different from the reality’. Since one surely cannot remain separate from the reality, reject that thought whenever it rises.

Question: Why do I never remember that I am the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: People speak of memory and oblivion of the fullness of the Self. Oblivion and memory are only thought-forms. They will alternate so long as there are thoughts. But reality lies beyond these. Memory and oblivion must be dependent on something. That something must be foreign to the Self as well, otherwise there would not be oblivion. That upon which memory and oblivion depend is the idea of the individual self. When one looks for it, this individual ‘I’ is not found because it is not real.

Hence this ‘I’‘ is synonymous with illusion or ignorance (Maya, Avidya or Ajnana). To know that there never was ignorance is the goal of all the spiritual teachings. Ignorance must be of one who is aware. Awareness is jnana (knowledge). Jnana is eternal and natural, ajnana is unnatural and unreal.

Question: having heard this truth, why does not one remain content?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Because Samskaras (innate mental tendencies) have not been destroyed. Unless the samskaras cease to exist, there will always be doubt and confusion. All efforts are directed to destroying doubt and confusion. To do so their roots must be cut. Their roots are the samskaras. These are rendered ineffective by practice as prescribed by the Guru. The Guru leaves it to the seeker to do this much so that he might himself find out that there is no ignorance. Hearing the truth (Sravana) is the first stage. If the understanding is not firm one has to practise reflection (Manana) and uninterrupted contemplation (Nididhyasana) on it. These two processes scorch the seeds of samskaras so that they are rendered ineffective.

Some extraordinary people get unshakable jnana after hearing the truth only once. These are the advanced seekers. Beginners take longer to gain it.

Question: How did ignorance (avidya) arise at all?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Ignorance never arose. It has no real being. That which is, is only vidya (knowledge).

Question: Why then do I not realise it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Because of the samskaras. However, find out who does not realise and what he does not realise. Then it will be clear that there is no avidya.

Question: So, it is wrong to begin with a goal, is it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If there is a goal to be reached it cannot be permanent. The goal must already be there. We seek to reach the goal with the ego, but the goal exists before the ego. What is in the goal is even prior to our birth, that is, to the birth of the ego. Because we exist the ego appears to exist too.

If we look on the Self as the ego then we become the ego, if as the mind we become the mind, if as the body we become the body.

It is thought which builds up sheaths in so many ways. The shadow on the water is found to be shaking. Can anyone stop the shaking of the shadow? If it would cease to shake you would not notice the water but only the light. Similarly, take no notice of the ego and its activities, but see only the light behind. The ego is the thought ‘I’. The true ‘I’ is the Self.

Questioner: If it is just a question of giving up ideas then it is only one step to realisation.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Realisation is already there. The state free from thoughts is the only real state. There is no such action as realisation. Is there anyone who is not realising the Self? Does anyone deny his own existence? Speaking of realisation, it implies two selves- the one to realise, the other to be realised. What is not already realised is sought to be realised. Once we admit our existence, how is it that we do not know our Self?

Questioner: Because of the thoughts, the mind.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Quite so. It is the mind that veils our happiness. How do we know that we exist? If you say because of the world around us, then how do you know that you existed in deep sleep?

Question: How to get rid of the mind?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is it the mind that wants to kill itself? The mind cannot kill itself. So your business is to find the real nature of the mind. Then you will know that there is no mind. When the Self is sought, the mind is nowhere. Abiding in the self, one need not worry about the mind.


Question: Is Mukti the same as realisation?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Mukti or liberation is our nature. It is another name for us. Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade, voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat there, making great efforts to get back into the shade and then rejoicing, ‘How sweet is the shade! I have reached the shade at last!’ We are all doing exactly the same. We are not different from the reality. We imagine we are different, that is we create the bheda bhava (the feeling of difference) and then undergo great sadhana (spiritual practices) to get rid of the bhed bhava and realise the oneness. Why imagine or create bheda bhava and then destroy it?

Questioner: This can be realised only by the grace of the master. I was reading Sri Bhagavata (Purana). It says that bliss can be had only by the dust of the master’s feet. I pray for grace.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: What is bliss but your own being? You are not apart from being which is the same as bliss. You are now thinking that you are the mind or the body which are both changing and trnsient. But you are unchanging and eternal. That is what you should know.

Questioner: It is darkness and I am ignorant.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: This ignorance must go. Again, who says, ‘I am ignorant’? he must be the witness of ignorance. That is what you are. Socrates said, ‘I know that I do not know.’ Can it be ignorance? It is wisdom.

Questioner: Why then do I feel unhappy when I am in Vallore and feel peace in your presence?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Can the feeling in this place be bliss? When you leave this place you say you are unhappy. Therefore, this peace is not permanent, it is mixed with unhappiness which is felt in another place. Therefore you cannot find bliss in places and in periods of time. It must be permanent in order that it may be useful. It is your own being which is permanent. Be the Self and that is bliss. You are always that.

The Self is always realised. It is not necessary to seek to realise what is already and always realised. For you cannot deny your own existence. That existence is consciousness, the Self.

Unless you exist, you cannot ask questions. So you must admit your own existence. That existence is the Self. It is already realised. Therefore the effort to realise results only in your realising your present mistake- that you have not realised your Self. There is no fresh realisation. The Self becomes revealed.

Questioner: That will take some years.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why years? The idea of time is only in your mind. It is not in the Self. There is no time for the Self. Time arises as an idea after the ego arises. But you are the Self beyond time and space. You exist even in the absence of time and space.

Were it true that you realise it later it means that you are not realised now. Absence of realisation in the present moment may be repeated at any moment in the future, for time is infinite. So too, such realisation is impermanent. It is the true eternal state, which cannot change.

Questioner: Yes, I shall understand it in course of time.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: You are already that. Time and space cannot affect the Self. They are in you. So also all that you see around you is in you. There is a story to illustrate this point.

A lady had a precious necklace around her neck. Once in her excitement she forgot it and thought that the necklace was lost. She became anxious and looked for it in her home but could not find it. She asked her friends and neighbours if they knew anything about the necklace. They did not. At last a kind friend told her to feel the necklace round her neck. She found that it had all along been round her neck and she was happy. When others asked her later if she had found the necklace which was lost, she said, ‘Yes, I have found it.’ She still felt that she had recovered a lost jewel.

Now did she lose it at all? It was all along round her neck. But judge her feelings. She was as happy as if she had recovered a lost jewel. Similarly with us, we imagine that we will realise that Self some time, whereas we are never anything but the Self.

Questioner: there must be something that I can do to reach this state.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The conception that there is a goal and a path to it is wrong. We are the goal or peace always. To get rid of the notion that we are not peace is all that is required.

Questioner: All books say that the guidance of a Guru is necessary.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Guru will say only what I am saying now. He will not give you anything you have not already got. It is impossible for anyone to get what he has not got already. Even if he gets any such thing, it will go as it came. What comes will also go. What always is will alone remain. The Guru cannot give you anything new, which you don’t have already. Removal of the notion that we have not realised the Self is all that is required. We are always the Self, only we don’t realise it.

We go round and round in search of Atma (Self) saying, ‘Where is Atma? Where is it?’ till at last the dawn of jnana drishti (vision of knowledge) is reached, and we say, ‘This is Atma, this is me.’ We should acquire that vision. When once that vision is reached, there will be no attachments even if one mixes with the world and moves about in it. When once you put on shoes your feet do not feel the pain of walking on any number of stones or thorns on the way. You walk about without fear or care, even if there are mountains on the way. In the same way, everything will be natural to those who have attained jnana drishti. What is there apart from one’s own Self?

Question: The natural state can be known only after all this worldly vision subsides. But how is it to subside?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the mind subsides, the whole world subsides. Mind is the cause of all this. If that subsides, the natural state presents itself. The self proclaims itself at all times as ‘I, I’. It is self-luminous. It is here. All this is that. We are in that only. Being in it, why search for it? The ancients say: ‘Making the vision absorbed in jnana one sees the world as Brahman.’

God

 At first sight Sri Ramana Maharshi’s statements on God appear to be riddled with contradictions: on one occasion he might say that God never does anything, on another that nothing happens except by God’s will. Sometimes he would say that God is just an idea in the mind, while at other times he would say that God is the only existing reality.

The contradictory statements are largely a reflection of the differing levels of understanding he encountered in his questioners. Those who worshipped personal Gods would often be given anthropomorphic explanations. They would be told that God created the world, that he sustains it by his divine power, that he looks after the needs of all its inhabitants and that nothing happens that is contrary to God’s will. On the other hand, those who were not attracted to such a theory would be told that all such ideas about God and his power were mental creations, which only obscured the real experience of God, which is inherent in everyone.

At the highest level of his teachings the term ‘God’ and ‘Self’ are synonyms for the immanent reality which is discovered by Self-realisation. Thus realisation of the Self is realisation of God; it is not an experience of God, rather it is an understanding that one is God. Speaking from this ultimate level, Sri Ramana’s statements on God can be summarised in the following way:

  1. God is immanent and formless; God is pure being and pure consciousness.

  2. Manifestation appears in God and through God’s power, but God is not its creator. God never acts, God just is. God has neither will nor desire.

  3. Individuality is the illusion that we are not identical with God; when the illusion is dispelled, what remains is God.

On a lower level Sri Ramana Maharshi spoke about Iswara, the Hindu name for the supreme personal God. He said that Iswara exists as a real entity only so long as one imagines that one is an individual person. When individuality persists there is a God who survives the activities of the universe; in the absence of individuality Iswara is non-existent.

Beside Iswara, Hinduism has many deities which resemble the gods and demons of Norse and Greek mythology. Such deities are a central feature of popular Hinduism and their reality is still widely accepted. Sri Ramana surprised many people by saying that such beings were as real as the people who believed in them. He admitted that after realisation they shared the same fate as Iswara, but prior to that, he seemed to regard them as senior officials in a cosmological hierarchy which looked after the affairs of the world.

Question: God is described as manifest and unmanifest. As the former he is said to include the world as a part of his being. If that is so, we as part of that world should have easily known him in the manifest form.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Know your self before you seek to decide about the nature of God and the world.

Question: Does knowing myself imply knowing God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, God is within you.

Question: Then, what stands in the way of my knowing myself or God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Your wandering mind and perverted ways.

Question: Is God personal?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, he is always the first person, the I, ever standing before you. Because you give precedence to worldly things, God appears to have receded to the background. If you give up all else and seek him alone, he alone will remain as the ‘I’, the Self.

Question: Is God apart from the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Self is God. ‘I am’ is God. This question arises because you are holding on to the ego self. It will not arise if you hold on to the true Self. For the real Self will not and cannot ask anything. If God be apart from the Self he must be a self-less God, which is absurd. God, who seems to be non-existent, alone truly exists. Whereas the individual, who seems to be existing, is ever non-existent. Sages say that the state in which one thus knows one’s own non-existence (sunya) alone is the glorious supreme knowledge.

You now think that you are an individual, that there is the universe and that God is beyond the cosmos. So there is the idea of separateness. This idea must go. For God is not separate from you or the cosmos. The Gita also says:

The Self am I, O Lord of sleep,
In every creature’s heart enshrined.
The rise and noon of every form,
I am its final doom as well.
-Bhagavad Gita, Ch.10, Verse 20.

Thus God is not only in the heart of all, he is the prop of all, he is the source of all, their abiding place and their end. All proceed from him, have their stay in him, and finally resolve into him. Therefore, he is not separate.

Question: How are we to understand this passage in the Gita: ‘This whole cosmos forms a particle of me’?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It does not mean that a small particle of God separates from him and forms the universe. His sakti (power) is acting. As a result of one phase of such activity the cosmos has become manifest. Similarly, the statement in Purusha Sukta, ‘All the beings form his one foot’, does not mean that Brahman is in several parts.

Questioner: I understand that. Brahman is certainly not divisible.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: So the fact is that Brahman is all and remains indivisible. It is ever realised but man is not aware of this. He must come to know this. Knowledge means the overcoming of obstacles, which obstruct the revelation of the eternal truth that the Self is the same as Brahman. The obstacles taken together form your idea of separateness as an individual.

Question: Is God the same as Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Self is known to everyone, but not clearly. You always exist. The be-ing is the Self. ‘I am’ is the name of God. Of all the definitions of God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement ‘I am that I am’ in Exodus 3. There are other statements, such as Brahmaivaham (Brahman am I), Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman) and Soham (I am he). But none is so direct as the name Jehovah which means ‘I am’. The absolute being is what is. It is the Self. It is God. Knowing the Self, God is known. In fact God is none other than the Self.

Question: God seems to be known by many different names. Are any of them justified?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Among the many thousands of names of God, no name suits God, who abides in the Heart, devoid of thought, so truly, aptly, and beautifully as the name ‘I’ or ‘I am’. Of all the known names of God, the name of God ‘I’ – ‘I’ alone will resound triumphantly when the ego is destroyed, rising as the silent supreme word (mouna-para-vak) in the Heart-space of those whose attention is Selfward-facing. Even if one unceasingly meditates upon that name ‘I-I’ with one’s attention on the feeling ‘I’, it will take one and plunge one into the source from which thought rises, destroying the ego, the embryo, which is joined to the body.

Question: What is the relationship between God and the world? Is he the creator or sustainer of it?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Sentient and insentient beings of all kinds are performing actions only by the mere presence of the sun, which rises in the sky without any volition. Similarly all actions are done by the Lord without any volition or desire on his part. In the mere presence of the sun, the magnifying lens emits fire, the lotus-bud blossoms, the water-lily closes and all the countless creatures perform actions and rest.

The order of the great multitude of worlds is maintained by the mere presence of God in the same manner as the needle moves in front of a magnet, and as the moonstone emits water, the water-lily blossoms and the lotus closes in front of the moon.

In the mere presence of God, who does not have even the least volition, the living beings, who are engaged in innumerable activities, are embarking upon many paths to which they are drawn according to the course determined by their own Karmas, finally realise the futility of action, turn back to Self and attain liberation.

The actions of living beings certainly do not go and affect God, who transcends the mind, in the same manner as the activities of the world do not affect that sun and as the qualities of the conspicuous four elements (earth, water, fire and air) do not affect the limitless space.

Question: Why is samsara- creation and manifestation as finitised- so full of sorrow and evil?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: God’s will!

Question: Why does God will it so?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is inscrutable. No motive can be attributed to that power –no desire, no end to achieve can be asserted of that one infinite, all-wise and all-powerful being. God is untouched by activities, which take place in his presence. Compare the sun and the world activities. There is no meaning in attributing responsibility and motive to the one before it becomes many.

Question: Does everything happen by the will of God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is not possible for anyone to do anything opposed to the ordinance of God, who has the ability to do everything. Therefore to remain silent at the feet of God, having given up all the anxieties of the wicked, defective mind, is best.

Question: Is there a separate being Iswara (personal God) who is the rewarder of virtue and punisher of sins? Is there a God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes.

Question: What is he like?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Iswara has individuality in mind and body, which are perishable, but at the same time he has also the transcendental consciousness and liberation inwardly.

Iswara, the personal God, the supreme creator of the universe really does exist. But this is true only from the relative standpoint of those who have not realised the truth, those people who believe in the reality of individual souls. From the absolute standpoint the sage cannot accept any other existence than the impersonal Self, one and formless.

Iswara has a physical body, a form and a name, but it is not so gross as this material body. It can be seen in visions in the form created by the devotee. The forms and names of God are many and various and differ with each religion. His essence is the same as ours, the real Self being only one and without form. Hence forms he assumes are only creations or appearances.

Iswara is immanent in every person and every object throughout the universe. The totality of all things and beings constitutes God. There is a power out of which a small fraction has become all this universe, and the remainder is in reserve. Both this reserve power plus the manifested power as material world together constitute Iswara.

Question: So ultimately Iswara is not real?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Existence of Iswara follows from our conception of Iswara. Let us first know whose concept he is. The concept will be only according to the one who conceives. Find out who you are and the other problems will solve themselves.

Iswara, God, the creator, the personal God, is the last of the unreal forms to go. Only the absolute being is real. Hence, not only the world, not only the ego, but also the personal God are of unreality. We must find the absolute – nothing else.

Question: You say that even the highest God is still only an idea. Does that mean that there is no God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: No, there is an Iswara.

Question: Does he exist in any particular place or form?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the individual is a form, even Self, the source, who is the Lord, will also appear to be form. If one is not a form, since there then cannot be knowledge of other things, will that statement that God has a form be correct? God assumes any form imagined by the devotees through repeated thinking in prolonged meditation. Though he thus assumes endless names, the real formless consciousness alone is God.

With regard to his location, God does not reside in any place other than the Heart. It is due to illusion, caused by the ego, the ‘I am the body’ idea, that the kingdom of God is conceived to be elsewhere. Be sure that the Heart is the kingdom of God.

Know that you are perfect, shining light, which not only makes the existence of God’s kingdom possible, but also allows it to be seen as some wonderful heaven. To know this is alone jnana. Therefore, the kingdom of God is within you. The unlimited space of Turiyatita (beyond the four states, i.e. the Self), which shines suddenly, in all its fullness, within the Heart of a highly mature aspirant during the state of complete absorption of mind, as if a fresh and previously unknown experience, is the rarely attained and true Siva-loka (the kingdom of God), which shines by the light of Self.

Question: They say that the jiva (individual soul) is subject to the evil effects of illusion such as limited vision and knowledge, whereas Iswara has all-pervading vision and knowledge. It is also said that Jiva and Iswara become identical if the individual discards his limited vision and knowledge. Should not Iswara also discard his particular characteristics such as all-pervading vision and knowledge? They too are illusions, aren’t they?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Is that your doubt? First discard your own limited vision and then there will be time enough to think of Iswara’s all-pervading vision and knowledge. First get rid of your own limited knowledge. Why do you worry about Iswara? He will look after himself. Has he not got as much capacity as we have? Why should we worry about whether he possesses all-pervading vision and knowledge or not? It is indeed a great thing if we can take care of ourselves.

Question: But does God know everything?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: The Vedas declare God to be omniscient only to those who ignorantly think themselves to be people of little knowledge. But if one attains and knows him as he really is, it will be found that God does not know anything, because his nature is the ever-real whole, other than which nothing exists to be known.

Question: Why do religions speak of Gods, heaven, hell, etc.?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Only to make the people realise that they are on a par with this world and that the Self alone is real. The religions are according to the view-point of the seeker.

Question: Do Vishnu, Siva, etc., exist?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Individual human souls are not the only beings known.

Question: And their sacred regions Kailasa or Vaikuntha, are they real?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: As real as you are in this body.

Question: Do they possess a phenomenal existence, like my body? Or are they fictions like the horn of a hare?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: They do exist.

Question: If so, they must be somewhere. Where are they?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Persons who have seen them say that they exist somewhere. So we must accept their statement.

Question: Where do they exist?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: In you.

Question: Then it is only an idea, which I can create and control?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Everything is like that.

Question: But I can create pure fictions, for example, a hare’s horn, or only part truths, for example a mirage, while there are also facts irrespective of my imagination. Do the Gods Iswara or Vishnu exist like that?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes.

Question: Is God subject to Pralaya (cosmic dissolution)?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Why? Man becoming aware of the Self transcends cosmic dissolution and becomes liberated. Why not Iswara who is infinitely wiser and abler?

Question: Do devas (angels) and pisachas (devils) exist similarly?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes.

Question: These deities, what is their status relative to the Self?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Siva, Ganapati and other deities like Brahma, exist from a human standpoint; that is to say, if you consider your personal self as real, then they also exist. Just a government has its high executive officers to carry on the government, so has the creator. But from the standpoint of the Self all these gods are illusory and must themselves merge into the one reality.

Questioner: Whenever I worship God with name and form, I feel tempted to think whether I am not wrong in doing so, as that would be limiting the limitless, giving form to the formless. At the same time I feel I am not constant in my adherence to worship God without form.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: As long as you respond to a name, what objection could there be to your worshipping a God with name or form? Worship God with or without form till you know who you are.

Question: I find it difficult to believe in a personal God. In fact I find it impossible. But I can believe in an impersonal God, a divine force which rules and guides the world, and it would be a great help to me, even in my work of healing, if this faith were increased. May I know how to increase this faith?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Faith is in things unknown, but the Self is self-evident. Even the greatest egotist cannot deny his own existence, that is to say, cannot deny the Self. You can call the ultimate reality by whatever name you like and say that you have faith in it or love for it, but who is there who will not have faith in his own existence or love for himself? That is because faith and love are our real nature.

Question: Should I not have any idea about God?

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Only so long as there are other thoughts in the Heart can there be a thought of God conceived by one’s mind. The destruction of even that thought of God due to the destruction of all other thoughts alone is the unthought thought, which is the true thought of God.


The teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman

[Note: By David Godman: The original texts from which these
conversations are taken are characterised by a luxuriant
profusion of capital letters. I have eliminated most of them,
leaving only three terms, Guru, Self and Heart, consistently
capitalised.]

Preamble
By David Godman