• The Self and Non-Self. Reality and the World


    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.

    The Self and the appearances therein, as the snake in the rope, can be well illustrated like this. There is a screen. On that screen first appears the figure of a king. He sits on a throne. Then before him on that same screen a play begins with various figures and objects, and the king on the screen watches the play on the same screen. The seer and the seen are mere shadows on the screen which is the only reality, supporting all the pictures. In the world also, the seer and the seen together constitute the mind, and the mind is supported by or based on the Self.

    The ajata school of Advaita says, ‘Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in, no sadhaka (aspirant), no mumukshu (one who desires to be liberated), no mukta (one who is liberated), no bondage, no liberation. The One Unity alone exists forever.’ To those who find it difficult to grasp this truth and ask, ‘How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?’ the dream experience is pointed out and they are told, ‘All that you see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer there is no seen.’ This is called drishti-srishti vada, or the argument that one first creates out of his mind and then sees what his mind itself has created.

    To those who cannot grasp even this and who further argue, ‘The dream experience is so short, while the world always exists. The dream experience was limited to me. But the world is felt and seen not only by me but by so many and we cannot call such a world nonexistent,’ the argument called srishti-drishti vada is addressed and they are told, ‘God first created such and such a thing out of such and such an element and then something else and so forth.’ That alone will satisfy them. Their minds are not otherwise satisfied and they ask themselves, ‘How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them, and all knowledge be totally untrue?’ To such it is best to say, ‘Yes. God created all this and so you see it.’ All these are only to suit the capacity of the hearers. The absolute can only be one.

    There is first the white light, so to call it, of the Self, which transcends both light and darkness. In it no object can be seen. There is neither seer nor seen. Then there is also total darkness (avidya) in which no obj ects are seen. But from the Self proceeds a reflected light, the light of pure mind (manas), and it is this light which gives room for the existence of all the film of the world, which is seen neither in total light nor in total darkness, but only in the subdued or reflected light.

    From the point of view of Jnana (Knowledge) or the Reality, the pain seen in the world is certainly a dream, as is the world, of which any particular pain like hunger is an infinitesimal part. In the dream also you yourself feel hunger. You see others suffering from hunger. You feed yourself, and moved by pity feed the others whom you find suffering from hunger. So long as the dream lasted, all those pains were as real as you now think the pain in the world to be. It was only when you woke up that you discovered that the pain in the dream was unreal. You might have eaten to the full and gone to sleep. You dream that you work hard and long in the hot sun all day, are tired and hungry and want to eat a lot. Then you wake up and find your stomach is full and you have not stirred out of your bed. But this does not mean that while you are in the dream you can act as if the pain you feel is not real. The hunger in the dream has to be assuaged by the food in the dream. The fellow beings you found so hungry in the dream had to be provided with food in that dream. You can never mix up the two states, the dream and the waking state. Till you reach the state of jnana and thus wake out of maya you must do social service by relieving suffering whenever you see it. But even then you must do it without ahankara, i.e., without the sense of ‘I am the doer’, but with the feeling ‘I am the Lord’s tool’. Similarly one must not be conceited by thinking, ‘I am helping a man below me. He needs help. I am in a position to help. I am superior and he inferior.’ But you must help the man as a means of worshipping God in that man. All such service is for the Self and not for anybody else. You are not helping anybody else, but only yourself.

    The book Kaivalya Navaneeta has asked and answered six questions on maya. They are instructive:

    1.    What is maya? The answer is: It is anirvachaniya or indescribable.

    2.    To whom does it come? The answer is: To the mind or ego who feels that he is a separate entity, who thinks ‘I do this’ or ‘This is mine’.

    3.    Where does it come from and how did it originate? The answer: Nobody can say.

    4.    How did it arise? The answer is: Through non-vichara, through failure to enquire ‘Who am I?’

    5.    If the Self and maya both exist, does this not invalidate the theory of Advaita? The answer is: It need not, since maya is dependent on the Self as the picture is on the screen. The picture is not real in the sense that the screen is real.

    6.    If the Self and maya are one, could it not be argued that the Self is of the nature of maya and that it is also illusory? The answer is: No, the Self can be capable of producing illusion without being illusory. A conjuror may create for our entertainment the illusion of people, animals and things, and we see all of them as clearly as we see him, but after the performance he alone remains and all the visions he created have disappeared. He is not a part of the vision but solid and real.

    The books use the following illustration to help explain creation: The Self is like the canvas for a painting. First a paste is smeared over it to close the small holes that are in the canvas. This paste can be compared to the Antaryamin (Indweller) in all creation. Then the artist makes an outline on the canvas. This can be compared to the sukshma sarira (subtle body) of all creatures; for instance, the light and sound (bindu and nada) out of which all things arise. Within this outline the artist paints his picture with colours, etc., and this can be compared to the gross forms that constitute the world.

    Vedanta says that the cosmos springs into view simultaneously with the seer. There is no creation by stages or steps. It is similar to the creation in dream where the experiencer and the objects of experience come into existence at the same time. To those who are not satisfied with this explanation, theories of gradual creation are offered in books.

    It is not at all correct to say that advaitins of the Sankara school deny the existence of the world, or that they call it unreal. On the other hand, it is more real to them than to others. Their world will always exist whereas the world of the other schools will have origin, growth and decay, and as such cannot be real. They only say that the world as ‘world’ is not real, but that the world as Brahman is real. All is Brahman, nothing exists but Brahman, and the world as Brahman is real.

    The Self is the one Reality that always exists, and it is by the light of the Self that all other things are seen. We forget it and concentrate on the appearance. The light in the hall burns both when persons are present and when they are absent, both when persons are enacting something, as in a theatre, and when nothing is being enacted. It is the light which enables us to see the hall, the persons and the acting. We are so engrossed with the objects or appearances revealed by the light, that we pay no attention to the light. In the waking or dream state in which things appear, and in the sleep state in which we see nothing, there is always the light of Consciousness or Self, like the hall lamp which is always burning. The thing to do is to concentrate on the seer and not on the seen, not on the objects, but on the Light which reveals them.

    Questions about the reality of the world, and about the existence of pain or evil in the world, will all cease when you enquire ‘Who am I?’ and find out the seer. Without a seer the world and the evils thereof alleged do not exist.

    The world is of the form of the five categories of sense objects, and nothing else. These five kinds of objects are sensed by the five senses. As all are perceived by the mind through these five senses, the world is nothing but the mind. Is there a world apart from the mind?

    Though the world and consciousness emerge and disappear together, the world shines or is perceived only through consciousness. That source wherein both these arise and disappear, and which itself neither appears nor disappears, is the perfect Reality.

    If the mind, the source of all knowledge and activity subsides, the vision of the world will cease. Just as knowledge of the real rope does not dawn till the fancied notion of the serpent disappears, vision (experience) of the Reality cannot be gained unless the superimposed vision of the universe is abandoned.

    That which really exists is only the Self. The world, jiva (individual self) and Iswara (God) are mental creations, like the appearance of silver in mother of pearl. All these appear at the same time and disappear similarly. The Self alone is the world, the ego and Iswara.

    To the jnani it is immaterial whether the world appears or not. Whether it appears or not, his attention is always on the Self. Take the letters and the paper on which they are printed. You are wholly engrossed with the letters and have no attention left for the paper. But the jnani thinks only of the paper as the real substratum, whether the letters appear or not.

    You make all kinds of sweets from various ingredients and in various shapes, and they all taste sweet because there is sugar in all of them, and sweetness is the nature of sugar. In the same way, all experiences and the absence of them contain the illumination, which is the nature of the Self. Without the Self they cannot be experienced, just as without sugar not one of the articles you make can taste sweet.

    The Immanent Being is called Iswara. Immanence can only be with maya. It (Iswara) is the Knowledge of Being along with maya. From the subtle conceit Hiranyagarbha rises; from Hiranyagarbha the gross, concrete Virat rises. Chit-Atma is pure Being only.

    As regards the existence of pain in the world, the wise one explains from his experience, that if one withdraws within the Self there is an end of all pain. The pain is felt so long as the object is different from oneself. But when the Self is found to be an undivided whole, who and what is there to feel?

    The Upanishadic text ‘I am Brahman’ only means Brahman exists as ‘I’.

    Gems from Bhagavan

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  • The Origin of Karthigai Deepam

     The festival of Karthigai Deepam which is approaching soon is the one of the oldest living festivals in India. It takes place in theArunachala_Deepam-58 Tamil month of Karthigai when the star Kirthiga is on the ascendant and usually occurs on a full moon day. In ancient tamil literature, the oldest available work Tolkappiyam which dates back to 2500 B.C. carries a marked reference to this festival. In another ancient Tamil classic, the Kalavazhi Naarpadu, dating back to the third Sangam period (around 1000 B.C.), the poet writes, “In the battle, the blood oozing out from the dead soldiers’ bodies is like the red coloured flame of the light lit on Karthigai Deepam”. Another song in Sambandar’s Thevaram says that the Lord is verily the Deepam (lit during the Karthigai festival)

    Everyone knows that Karthigam Deepam is the lighting of the flame on the summit of Arunachala on Karthigai day but not many people know about why this festival is celebrated. Readers may remember the legend of the Navaratri festival in earlier posts about how Goddess Parvathi having incurred the wrath of her husband, LordArunachala_Deepam-40 Shiva, came to the holy hill of Arunachala to do Tapas and regain the favour of her Lord. And so, after a long period of arduous Tapas which the Goddess Parvathi performed with great devotion and strength, Lord Shiva’s wrath was appeased and He came down to Arunachala to take her back. When He arrived, Lord Shiva was so moved by the strength and force which emanated from the Goddess as a result of her Tapas that he decided that She was his equal in every way. Therefore he granted her half his body so that the Two would become totally united in One form. This was the birth of Ardhanareeswara. Physically It signifies the Divine Union of Shiva and Parvathi. Spiritually it signifies the divine union of Advaita. Not two but One. Shiva and Parvathi are not two but One. Man and God are not different but united as One in the non-dual Self, the Absolute Consciousness!

    Arunachala_Deepam-60This momentous event is believed to have happened in the month of Karthigai on the day of Kirthiga Nakshatra and that is why till today the flame is lit on the summit of Arunachala in memory and honour of this wonderful Union which unite Man and God.

    When Sri Muruganar asked Bhagavan Ramana about the significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival, Bhagavan composed a stanza of four lines in which He says,The true significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival is to turn the intellect inwards and have it fixed in the Heart, thereby merging it with the indweller of the Heart

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  • Navaratri

    navaratri1The grand festival of Navarathri is in full swing in the Ashram of Ramana. Traditionally this is a time of worshipping the Goddess Parvathi in all her different forms notably Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

    As the name denotes, Navaratri is a festival of nine nights dedicated to the Goddess Shakthi (Parvathi or Amba) in her different manifestations. The legend of Navarathri starts with the penance of the Goddess on the slopes of Arunachala. Separated from her Lord (due to having playfully closed his eyes with her hands), the Goddess yearns to be reunited with Him. The great sage Guatama advises her to perform penance on the slopes of the holy Hill Arunachala and accordingly she comes here and sits in Tapas (penance). She follows the various scriptural injunctions and exhibits her devotion to the Lord in various ways. During the nine days of penance she manifests herself each day in one of her different forms. On the tenth day she assumes a terrifying form of Mahishasura Mardhini, slayer of demons and vanquishes the evil demon Mahisha on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus this festival is of particular significance in Tiruvannamalai since it was here, millions of years ago, that the first Navarathri actually happened.

    In Ramanashram, the Navaratri festival is celebrated elaborately. On the night of Mahavalya Amavasya, the goddess Yogambikanvt7 is brought out of her niche in the Mother’s shrine and taken on procession around the Samadhi of Ramana. After this, she is installed in a beautiful decorated pedestal behind the Nandi of the Mother’s shrine. Every night for nine days, the goddess is decorated splendidly in silk attire, gold jewels and flowers, depicting each day a different aspect. After the Alamkaram, arathi puja is performed by the priests in an elaborate manner. Hundreds of devotees from all over throng the new hall every evening to witness this spectacle.

    nvt9It will be interesting to see what Bhagavan Sri Ramana had to say about this celebration. In Letters from Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma recounts to her brother in a letter dated 27th January 1946. “You have seen the decorations made in the shrine of Mathrabhutheswara on the Ramana-classicfirst day of Navarathri festival last year. There was a different type of decoration every day in accordance with the puranic story that Amba went out to do Tapas as she could not bear the separation from the Shiva. So the idol of Amba was decorated suitably and was put in the shade of a tree. After the night meal was over that day, Bhagavan was taken to that place and was shown that idol. Next morning in the hall, while talking about the ornamentation in the temple and in this shrine, Bhagavan said, “Yesterday’s ornamentation was intended to show that Amba was doing Tapas. Unable to bear the separation, she goes out to do Tapas (penance) here. But Parvathi is depicted as sitting in a stylish pose under a tree to do Tapas, wearing a silk sari, gold jewels and flower garlands! What our people do is always like this. Tapas means meditation connected with the practice of self-denial or bodily mortification, does it not? Amba is reported to have closed the eyes of Shiva with both her hands for fun and to expiate that sin, Parameswara asked her to perform penance, and so she left her husband, went to a lonely place, and in self-mortification, forgot about her body, became weak and with great austerity, performed Tapas. But see the way Amba is now decorated to depict that story. She is dressed like a Maharani with diamonds and emeralds and gold ornaments and wearing a silk sari and flower garlands!”

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  • Girivalam shrines: Ashtalingams – Indra lingam (East)

    indraThe anthropomorphic god Indra is an important god in the Hindu religion. He is also known as Śakra in the Vedas and is revered as the leader of the Devas or gods and the King of paradise or Devaloka. For the Aryas, he was their national god and he was regarded as the protector of the military aristocracy and the Kshatriyas warriors. The formidable thunderbolt-wielding Indra strikes an imposing figure but as king of the gods he is generally benevolent, being generous to his worshippers, guaranteeing peace and prosperity and delivering beneficial rainstorms to end droughts. He can also be called upon in times of war to give support with his divine weapons and favourable intervention. In later tradition Indra is transformed from a worshipped god into a mythological figure involved in various,indra2 sometimes unflattering adventures, whilst gods such as Vishnu and Shiva replace him at the head of the Hindu pantheon. Nevertheless, Indra continued to be associated with storms, rain and he is notably the reigning deity of the cardinal direction East.

    God of Thunder & Storms: In the Hindu creation myth Indra was born (along with his brother Agni) from the mouth of the primordial god or giant Purusha whose various other body parts gave birth to the other members of the Hindu pantheon. These new gods then brought order to the cosmos and Indra, seated on his throne within the indra5storm clouds of the svarga or third heaven is ruler of the clouds and skies alongside his wife Indrāni. In Hindu mythology, the clouds are equated with divine cattle and the sound of thunder during storms is Indra fighting with the demons who are forever trying to steal these celestial cows. In addition, the rain is equated with Indra milking his divine herd and the god is seen as a protector of earthly cattle belonging to his worshippers. Indra encompasses and controls the universe,indra7 balancing the earth in the palm of his hand and manipulating it according to his whim. He also created the rivers and streams by shaping the mountains and valleys with his sacred axe.

    Indra has a favourite companion, his pet ape Vrishakapi, but his fondness for the creature did once incur the jealous wrath of Indrāni who then displayed amorous intentions towards Vrishakapi which were reciprocated and when the couple were discovered by Indra, the angry god drove the animal away. However, the tables were turned when, later, Indra himself was discovered in the arms of Vrishakapi’s wife by his once faithful pet. Thus being equal in their unfaithfulness, the pair’s great friendship was restored.

    Here on Arunachala Girivalam, the Indra lingam shrine is located at the centre of Tiruvannamalai town in the main market area. Esconced between two jewellery shops, it is hardly visible from the main road. A little passage leads to the antechamber of the shrine from where one descends a small flight of stairs to the inner sanctum built on an underground level. And thus one is rewarded at last with a darshan of the eastern Ashta lingam, the lingam of Indra!

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  • Viewing changes

    It seem that most people would prefer not to see the construction covering a portion of the bottom right view and would rather the camera were zoomed just enough to avoid it. We have now done that. The unsightly distraction is no longer visible. Many thanks for your responses.

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  • Change to the view of Arunachala

         Unfortunately our neighbor has decided to construct a tall building in the view of our camera over our objections to the excessive height. We had previously narrowed the view to avoid seeing it but now he has continued to raise the building height. We have no recourse but to accept this intrusion into the natural view of Arunachala as it is done on his property. However, we can zoom the camera closer to eliminate the view of this unsightly construction or leave it in the view in order to have a wider image. We would like to hear from devotees their opinion. For now, we will leave the full view of Arunachala including the building.
    The Arunachala-Live team

    muthu's new building

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  • The meaning of Pradakshina

    Talk 212.    Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

    Maharshi observed: Pradakshina (the Hindu rite of going round the object of  worship) is “All is within me.” The true significance of the act of going round  Arunachala is said to be as effective as circuit round the world. That means that  the whole world is condensed into this Hill. The circuit round the temple of  Arunachala is equally good; and self-circuit (i.e., turning round and round) is as  good as the last. So all are contained in the Self. Says the Ribhu Gita: “I remain  fixed, whereas innumerable universes becoming concepts within my mind, rotate  within me. This meditation is the highest circuit (pradakshina).'”

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  • Bhagvan’s Aradhana

    Aradhana is the Samadhi day of  Sri Ramana Maharshi, the day on which he left the human body and attained Brahma Nirvana. Sri Bhagavan Himself considered both life and death in this body as mere thought forms. In this regard, an old devotee S.S. Cohen recalls this from the master’s teaching in his book Guru Ramana: “Life is miserable because it consists of nothing but thoughts. When death strikes down the body, the dreamless, thought-free state prevails for a brief period, but soon thinking starts again in the dream – ‘astral’ – world, and continues till a full ‘waking’ takes place in a new body, after another dreamless lull. This daily cycle of waking and sleeping is a miniature of the cycle of life and death in man and the universe, of alternation of activity and rest. The substance of the former is thoughts and sensations, and of the latter the peaceful being from which these arise. To transcend birth and death we have, therefore, to transcend the processes of thought and abide in the Eternal Being… But the Jnani, the Self-Realised man, whose mind has already ceased to act, remains unaffected by death; it has dropped never to rise again to cause births and deaths. The chain of illusion has snapped forever for him… It is now clear that there is neither real birth nor real death. It is the mind which creates and maintains the illusion of reality in this process, till it is destroyed by Self-Realisation.

    Sri Ramana attained Maha Nirvana on April 14th 1950 and some people may wonder why Aradhana was celebrated on the 18th of April this year. This is because, in India, religious and spiritual anniversaries are usually observed according to the astrological constellation and so the day of commemoration may vary from year to year in lieu of the appearance of the constellation.

    This year too, in the Ashram,  the usual Aradhana programme was observed. The morning began with special chanting of Ramana sthuthi panchagam and Aksharamanamalai after which the Brahmin priests commenced the Rudra japam in preparation for the grand Ekadasa Mahanyasa Rudra abhishekam in the shrine of Ramana’s samadhi, which was the main event of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served to one and all and devotees partook enthusiastically in all the meals.

    In the evening there was a music concert rendered by the troupe from Ramana Maharshi centre for learning in Bangalore. They sang songs in praise of Ramana in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, covering both ancient and contemporary compositions. May the truth of Ramana’s who am I shine in all our hearts on this Aradhana !

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  • A quote from Sri Ramana Maharshi

    Correcting oneself is correcting the whole world.
    The Sun is simply bright. It does not correct anyone.
    Because it shines, the whole world is full of light.
    Transforming yourself is a means of giving light to the whole world.

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  • Mahishasura Mardhini

    Long long ago there lived a demon (Asura) named Mahisha. He wanted to become invincible and so he prayed to Lord Brahma for the boon of invincibility. With this aim he performed severe penances and austerities.  All the three worlds trembled under the strength of his penance. This impressed Lord Brahma who then came down to grant him a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which the Lord said he could not have as every creature that was born had to die. Mahisha decided that he would cunningly ask for a boon that would make him as good as immortal. He asked that no man should be able to kill and if he had to die, it should only be at the hands of a woman. He was sure that no woman could ever fight against him however strong she would be.

    Now that Mahisha was invincible, he started doing evil deeds and terrorising the people on earth and boldly tried to conquer the gods in heaven. His attack was so powerful that even Indra’s mighty thunderbolt could not drive him away. Mahisha drove out the Gods and took over Indra’s throne and  started harassing all the pious people who continued praying to Vishnu or Shiva. Unable to tolerate his tyranny, the gods pleaded with Vishnu to put an end to the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) joined together to create an all powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’, the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power. The gods then bestowed upon this Supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess appeared on the back of a fierce lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the ‘Durgatinashini’ was able to slay the ‘Asura’ king with her trident. She thus earned the title of Mahishasura Mardhini – the destroyer of Mahishasura.  Heaven and earth rejoiced over her victory and everyone, gods and humans alike chanted loudly the  refrain of  supplication before this Supreme Power:

    Ya devi sarbabhuteshshu, sakti rupena sanksthita Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha.”

    Vijaya Dasami is the day on which this event happened. It is the tenth day after the nine nights of Navaratri and signifies the victory of the Goddess Durga over the powers of darkness. It is believed that the famous battle between Durga and Mahishasura took place right here on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus the brave Parvathi took the form of Durga, the fierce Shakthi and screamed at Mahishasura, “This is a sacred place where only sages and devotees of Arunachala can reside, therefore do not incur the wrath of my Lord and be burnt by Him. It is ordained that I should fight and kill you.” Hence She took him outside the borders of Tiruvannamalai. After a nine day battle She slayed him and returned to Tiruvannamalai truimphantly, where She continued her tapas on the slopes of the holy mountain. Thus the Navaratri festival although celebrated all over India, has the greatest significance in Tiruvannamalai.

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