Author Topic: Michael James about nature of reality based on teachings of Ramana Maharshi  (Read 1389 times)


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That which appears at one time will inevitably disappear at some other time. Since it is not real either before it appears or after it disappears, it is in truth not real even when it appears to be real. Its seeming reality is only a transitory appearance or apparition, and is therefore not absolutely true. That which appears at one time and disappears at another time merely appears to exist, but does not really exist. That which really exists, that which really is, must be at all times. Hence all temporal forms of existence are mere appearances, and are therefore not real.

We cannot attain such happiness from anything that is impermanent, imperfect, changeable, relative, conditional and dependent, and therefore we can never be truly satisfied with any such thing. Something that is relatively real can give only relative happiness, and only that which is absolutely real can give absolute happiness.

When we say that our mind, our body and this world, and the God who is believed to have created all these things, are all unreal, we do not mean to deny the fact that they are real in a relative sense. What we mean to say is that they are not absolutely real – permanently, immutably, unconditionally and independently real. They are all transitory appearances that are conceived or perceived by our own mind, and hence their apparent reality depends upon our mind,which is itself impermanent and ever changing.

Thus we have established the fact that our fundamental and essential consciousness ‘I am’ is the absolute reality, and that it is also the infinite fullness of being. However, it is not only absolute consciousness and absolute being, but is also absolute happiness.

We experience unhappiness only in the states of waking and dream, in which our mind has risen and is active, but in the state of deep sleep we experience no such thing. In sleep we only experience happiness, and while we experience that happiness it is not relative to any other thing. Though it appears to come to an end when we wake up, the happiness that we experience in sleep does not actually cease to exist but is merely obscured when our mind rises.

Many people feel confused and frightened when they are first told that their mind is not real, and that the world perceived by their mind and the God in whom their mind believes are both as unreal as their mind. Though this truth may at first appear to be very daunting and unpalatable, and for many people therefore quite unacceptable, it is not actually as terrible or as unpalatable as it may appear to be.

“If this world is unreal, like a dream, why should I not behave in any way I wish? In an unreal world, what need is there for ethics or morality? If all other people are just figments of my imagination,like the people I saw in a dream, why should I care for their feelings,and why should I feel compassion when I see them suffering? If this world is just a dream, why should I not just enjoy it to my heart’s content, unmindful of any suffering that I may thereby appear to cause to other people? Even if I cannot bring myself to behave in such a heartless and uncaring manner, if everyone is told that this world is just a dream, will not many of them begin to behave in such a manner?”.

Questions such as these arise in the minds of some people when they first come to know that sages such as Sri Ramana have taught that our life in this world is just a dream, and some people even remark that this is potentially a very dangerous philosophy, because it could induce people to act irresponsibly. However these questions are all based upon a basic misunderstanding of the truth taught by Sri Ramana and other sages. When they say that this world and everything else that we know, except our basic self-consciousness ‘I am’, is unreal, they mean only that none of these things are absolutely real, and they do not mean to deny the relative reality of anything.

The world we perceive, and the God we believe in, are both as real as our mind. So long as we feel ourself to be real as an individual, the world and God are also equally real, as are all our actions and their consequences. The other people and creatures that we see in this world are as real as our mind, which sees them, and hence their feelings – their happiness and their sufferings – are all as real as our own feelings.

As Sri Ramana says in verse 38 of Ulladu Narpadu:

If we are the doer of action, we will experience the resulting fruit [the consequences of our actions]. When [we] know ourself [by] having investigated ‘who is the doer of action?’, kartritva [our sense of doership, our feeling ‘I am doing action’] will depart and the three karmas will slip off [vanish or cease to exist]. [This state devoid of all actions or karmas is] the state of liberation, which is eternal.

Therefore we cannot attain liberation by ‘doing’ anything but only by just ‘being’. That is, liberation from the bondage of our present illusion that we are a finite individual, who does actions by mind, speech and body, cannot be achieved by our doing action of any sort whatsoever, but only by our being just the absolutely nondual self-conscious being that we always really are. Since the goal that we seek to achieve is just action-free self-conscious being, the only path or means by which we can achieve it is likewise just action-free self-conscious being.

Though the imaginary person we mistake to be ourself in waking and the imaginary person we mistake ourself to be in a dream are essentially the same person, in that it is our same mind that as each of them experiences a corresponding world, we speak of them as if they were two different persons for two closely related reasons. Firstly and most obviously, the body that we mistake to be ourself in a dream is not the same body that we mistake to be ourself in this waking state. Secondly, in a dream we not only identify ourself with another imaginary body, but we also consequently identify ourself with the experiences we undergo in that body, whereas when we wake up we cease to identify ourself either with that body or with those experiences.

As distinct mental images, not only the world and God but even our own individual self or mind exists only in our imagination. As soon as we imagine ourself to be a separate individual, the world and God also come into existence as separate entities. The reality of each one of these three basic entities is inseparable from the reality of the other two. Though all three of them are imaginary, so long as we experience the existence of ourself as an individual, we will also experience the existence of the world and God.

As Sri Ramana says in the seventh paragraph of Nan Yar?

That which actually exists is only atma-svarupa [our own essential self]. The world, soul and God are kalpanaigal [imaginations, mental creations or fabrications] in it [our essential self], like [the imaginary] silver [that we see] in a shell. These three [basic elements of relativity or duality] appear at the same time and disappear at the same time. [Our] svarupa [our ‘own form’ or essential self] alone is the world; [our] svarupa alone is ‘I’ [our mind or individual self]; [our] svarupa alone is God; everything is siva-svarupa [our essential self, which is siva, the absolute and only truly existing reality].

Though in the limited and distorted view of our mind God appears to perform certain functions, in reality he is just being, and hence he does not do anything. All the functions that he appears to perform happen due to his mere presence, without him actually doing anything. This fact is explained graphically by Sri Ramana in the fifteenth paragraph of Nan Yar?:

Just as in the mere presence of the sun, which rose without iccha [wish, desire or liking], samkalpa [volition or intention], [or] yatna [effort or exertion], a crystal stone [or magnifying lens] will emit fire, a lotus will blossom, water will evaporate, and people of the world will engage in [or begin] their respective activities, do [those activities] and subside [or cease being active], and [just as] in front of a magnet a needle will move, [so] jivas [living beings], who are caught in [the finite state governed by] muttozhil [the threefold function of God, namely the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the world] or panchakrityas [the five functions of God, namely creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and grace], which happen due to nothing but the special nature of the presence of God, move [busy themselves, perform activities, make effort or strive] and subside [cease being active, become still or sleep] in accordance with their respective karmas [that is, in accordance not only with their prarabdha karma or destiny, which impels them to do whatever actions are necessary in order for them to experience all the pleasant and unpleasant things that they are destined to experience, but also with their karma vasanas, their inclinations or impulsions to desire, think and act in particular ways, which impel them to make effort to experience certain pleasant things that they are not destined to experience, and to avoid certain unpleasant things that they are destined to experience]. Nevertheless, he [God] is not samkalpa sahitar [a person connected with or possessing volition or intention].Even one karma does not adhere to him [that is, he is not bound or affected by any karma or action whatsoever]. That is like world-actions [the actions happening here on earth] not adhering to [or affecting] the sun, and [like] the qualities and defects of the other four elements [earth, water, air and fire] not adhering to the all-pervading space.

The root of all the relative problems that we experience in our life is our mind. Our mind by its power of imagination creates all duality and relativity, and duality and relativity inevitably give rise to conflict and complexity. The problems of the relative world will persist in one form or other so long as we seek to solve them only by relative means.

No relative solution can solve a relative problem perfectly or absolutely. As soon as one relative problem is solved, or appears to be solved, another relative problem pops up. In a relative world,therefore, a problem-free life is inconceivable. Utopia can never be experienced in a world of duality and relativity, but only in a state beyond all duality and relativity – in a state of absolute non-duality.

Source: Happiness and The Art of Being Book
which is a layman’s introduction to the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana By Michael James