Author Topic: Michael James about True and False knowledge based on teachings of Ramana Mahars  (Read 1078 times)


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Whether the body that it now imagines to be itself happens to be this body of the waking state or some other body in dream, our mind always feels that its current body is real. Since that current body is one among the many objects of the world that it is currently experiencing, our mind cannot but feel that all the other objects that it is currently experiencing are as real as the body that it now mistakes to be itself. In other words, since we mistake certain current products of our imagination to be ourself and therefore real, we cannot avoid mistaking all the other current products of our imagination to be equally real.

Just as the cinema projector could not project any picture if its indispensable light were not shining brightly within it, so our mind could not project the imaginary picture of this or any other world if its indispensable light were not shining brightly within it. This indispensable light that shines brightly within our mind enabling it to project this imaginary picture of thoughts and objects is our essential consciousness ‘I am’.

The states of waking and dream can be compared to the state in which a film reel is rolling in the projector, producing an ever changing picture on the screen, whereas sleep can be compared to the state in which one film reel is finished and another is about to be threaded into the projector. All the while, however, the bright light in the projector is shining, so in the gap between the removal of one reel and the fitting of the next all that is seen on the screen is a light.

However, though at that time we can see no pictures on the screen, but only a frame of light, the background darkness of the cinema still remains. Similarly in deep sleep, though we do not experience any of the effects of vikshepa sakti, but only the essential light of consciousness, ‘I am’, the veiling power of ‘selfforgetfulness’ or avarana sakti still remains, preventing us from knowing our consciousness ‘I am’ as it really is, free from any adjuncts such as a seeming lack of clarity.

Since no body or world existed in sleep, to say that we were unconscious of them is misleading. Saying that in sleep we were unconscious of our body and this world is like saying that in our present waking state we are unconscious of the body and world that appeared to exist in a dream. Since any body or world that we experience, whether in waking or in dream, is only an imagination – a collection of thoughts or mental images that appears only in our own mind – saying that we were unconscious of them in sleep is in effect saying that we were unconscious of our thoughts in sleep.

True knowledge is not merely a state in which we have given up knowing any external objects, but is the state in which we clearly know our own true self. In sleep we give up knowing external objects, but we do not thereby attain true knowledge. In order to attain true knowledge, it is not sufficient for us merely to remove all our other forms of false knowledge – that is, our knowledge of multiplicity, duality or otherness – because mere removal of such false knowledge will not destroy its root and foundation, which is our forgetfulness of our own real self.

Removing our other forms of false knowledge without putting an end to our self-forgetfulness, which is our primal form of false knowledge, will result only in a temporary subsidence or abeyance of our mind. From such a state of abeyance, our mind will rise again,and when it rises, all our false knowledge of duality will rise again with it.

Therefore, to attain true knowledge, it is necessary for us not merely to make our mind subside temporarily in a state of abeyance,but instead to destroy it forever by putting an end to its original cause and supporting base, which is our forgetfulness or ignorance of our real self.

By certain forms of meditation or yogic practices such as breathcontrol,it is possible for us to remove all our false knowledge of duality artificially and thereby to make our mind subside temporarily in a state of abeyance, sometimes even for a very prolonged period of time. But the only means by which we can destroy our mind is by knowing our real self, and we can know our real self only by scrutinising our essential consciousness ‘I am’.

Therefore in verse 14 of Upadesa Undiyar Sri Ramana says:

When [we] send [our] mind, which subsides [only temporarily] when [we] restrain [our] breath, on the one path of knowing [our real self], its form will die.

In a dream, if we cease to know any objects, but do so without actually knowing our waking self, we will slip either into deep sleep or into another dream. Similarly in this waking state, which is also a dream, if instead of trying to know our real self we merely try to give up knowing any of the objects or thoughts that we are experiencing, we will slip either into deep sleep or into another state of dream.

Therefore, in order to go beyond these three ordinary states of waking, dream and deep sleep, we must not only cease knowing other things, but must also remove our veil of self-forgetfulness by remembering our true self. That is, in order to awaken to our true self, we must turn our attention selfward to scrutinise and clearly know the true nature of ourself, our mere consciousness of being, ‘I am’

Since this state of true knowledge transcends our ordinary three states, it must be devoid of all the false knowledge – all the imaginary knowledge of differences or duality – that we only experience in two of them. Therefore, since it is a state in which we experience no duality, it is a thought-free state like sleep, but since it is at the same time a state in which we experience absolute clarity of self-knowledge, it is also a state of perfect wakefulness. Hence in advaita vedanta this fundamental state of true self-knowledge is sometimes described as the state of ‘wakeful sleep’ or ‘waking sleep’ – jagrat-sushupti in Sanskrit, or nanavu-tuyil in Tamil.

Since it is the absolute state that underlies yet transcends all relative states, true self-knowledge is in fact the only state that really exists. Therefore in verse 32 of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham Sri Ramana says:

For those who experience waking, dream and sleep, [the real state of] ‘wakeful sleep’, [which is] beyond [these three ordinary states], is named turiya [the ‘fourth’]. [However] since that turiya alone exists, [and] since the three [states] that appear [and disappear] are [in reality] non-existent, [the one real state that is thus named turiya is in fact] turiya-atita [that which transcends even the relative concept that it is the ‘fourth’]. Be clear [about this truth].

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