Jewel Garland of Enquiry
This is a compilation of the salient points extracted by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi from a large volume in Tamil known as Vichara Sagara (Ocean of Enquiry), which itself was a translation from the original in Hindi by Mahatma Nischaldas. On being requested by a devotee, Arunachala Mudaliar, who complained that the volume in Tamil was too difficult to read and understand, Sri Bhagavan graciously made the following extracts.
I am that Brahman [?] which is bliss, which is eternal, effulgent, all-pervasive, the substratum of names and forms, which is not cognized by the impure intellect, but is cognized by the pure intellect, stainless and boundless. That is to say, when one discards the jiva [?] (individual being) of the form of ahamkara (ego-sense), which is the apparent meaning of the word `I', what remains merely as the effulgent and conscious Atman (Self), which is the implied meaning of the word `I', is Brahman [?]. This can also be understood from the following words of Arunagiriar's experience: "After swallowing me who had the form of `I' (ego), that supreme Being remained as mere Self."
The noble aspirant for liberation whose mind has become pure and one-pointed by the cessation of evil thoughts, as a result of the motiveless acts and meditations performed by him in his former lives, and who is subject only to the defect of the concealing power (avarana shakti) in the form of ignorance of the Self, and who possesses the four qualifications of discrimination, dispassion, the six virtues like self-control and yearning for liberation, being unable to endure the miseries of samsara, approaches the Sadguru who is compassionate, who has realized the meaning of Vedanta [?]and who is established in Brahman, and, after prostrating before him with fear and reverence, questions him thus: Disciple: Swami, what are the means of putting an end to the miseries of samsara like birth and death and of attaining supreme bliss? Guru: Oh Disciple! What a delusion! You are always of the nature of bliss. There is not the least trace of the miseries of samsara in you. Therefore do not take upon yourself the miseries of birth, etc. You are the conscious Brahman [?] which is free from birth and death.
Disciple: Is not liberation the cessation of misery and the attainment of supreme bliss? If I am (already) of the nature of bliss how is it possible for me to attain the bliss which is always attained and similarly to get rid of the misery which never existed?
Guru: This is possible just as one can seek and find a bracelet which was on one's arm all the time but which one had forgotten about, and on finding it look upon it as a new acquisition. It is possible as in the case of the serpent which, at no time present in the rope, was mistaken for one, but which seemed to be there and seems to disappear when one discovers that it is only a piece of rope. Disciple: Will the nonexistence of misery and the existence of bliss coexist in one and the same state (lit. substance) of liberation? Guru: They will. Just as the nonexistence of the imagined serpent is the existence of the rope, the nonexistence of the imagined misery is the existence of bliss.
Disciple: As bliss arises only from contact with objects, how can I be said to be (of the nature of) bliss? Guru: The bliss of the Self will not be felt in the intellect which is distracted by desires for objects by one who does not know the Self. When the object of desire is obtained the intellect becomes steady for a moment and turns inward. Then the bliss of the Self is reflected in it and this gives rise to a delusion that there was bliss in the object. But when other objects are desired this bliss vanishes. It is similar to the bliss which one experiences on the arrival of one's son from a foreign country. It does not last as long as the object which seemed to be the cause of it. Further, bliss is experienced in the state of samadhi and deep sleep, even without objects. Therefore there is no bliss in objects. The Self alone is bliss. It is because the bliss of the Self alone is experienced by all, that all are proclaimed by the Vedas to be of the form of bliss.
Disciple: But does the sage (jnani) who knows the Self desire objects and experience bliss, or does he not? Guru: Although he may desire objects and experience bliss like the ignorant person, he does not imagine that bliss to be any different from the bliss of the Self.
Disciple: When the misery of birth, death, etc. is actually experienced how can it be said that it never exists in me? Guru: Know that the world of birth, death, etc. is an illusory appearance like the serpent in the rope and blueness in the sky, or like dreams, due to your ignorance of your Self which is Brahman. Disciple: What is the support (adhara) for this extensive world?
Guru: Just as the rope is the support and basis for the delusive serpent which appears when the rope is not recognized as such, so you are the support and basis for the world which appears when you do not know your Self. Disciple: Kindly explain distinctly the ideas of support (adhara) and basis (adhishtana). Guru: Even in the unreal serpent there is a concept `this' which is mixed up with the general concept `this' underlying the rope. Similarly in the unreal world there is a concept `It exists' which is mixed up with the general concept of existence underlying the Self. This existence is the support of the world. Again, just as there is the particular concept `rope' (besides the general concept of `this') there is also the particular concept of the Self, namely that it is unattached, immutable, ever-liberated, all-pervasive, etc. This is not cognized at the time of the delusion, but, when cognized, removes the delusion. This particular concept of Self is the basis of the world.
Disciple: Corresponding to the seer who is separate from the rope which is the support and basis of the serpent, who is the seer apart from me who is the support and basis of the world?
Guru: If the basis is insentient a separate seer is necessary. If the basis is sentient it will itself be the seer. Just as the witnessing consciousness which is the basis of the dream is itself the seer of the dream, you are yourself the seer of the world.
Disciple: If the world of the waking state comes into existence and falsely appears like dreams through nescience, why should we speak of any distinction between the waking state and the dream state and say that the waking state has relative (empirical: vyavaharika) reality while the dream state has only personal (pratibhasika) reality?
Guru: Since a dream appears without the help of the appropriate time, space and materials on account of nescience accompanied by the defect (dosham) of sleep, it is spoken of as a personal state. Since the waking state appears in the supreme Self which is free from time, space and materials, owing to nescience alone, it is spoken of as the relative state. They are thus described with reference to the three states of reality (personal, relative and absolute). When we think clearly there is no difference between them. Nor is there any difference between the waking and the dream state. Undifferentiated consciousness is the only true reality. Whatever is different from it is personal and has nescience as its material cause and consciousness as its basis.
Disciple: If that is so why is there a cessation of the dream state even in the absence of knowledge of Brahman while the state of waking does not cease without knowledge of Brahman?
Guru: Although there cannot be complete cessation of the dream state until there is knowledge of Brahman [?] in the waking state, the defect of sleep, which is the immediate cause of the dream, may disappear by the emergence of the waking state which is inimical to it.
Disciple: The objects of the waking state prior to the dream exist in the waking state succeeding the dream also. But the objects of one dream are not seen in the next dream. How then can the two states be regarded as similar?
Guru: All objects are the transformation by nescience of the underlying consciousness. When a concept arises they also arise and when a concept ceases they also cease. Therefore it cannot be said that the objects of the previous waking state exist in the subsequent waking state also. As in a dream they (the objects of the subsequent waking state) come into existence for the time being. Therefore both are similar.
Disciple: Since a man who wakes up from a dream believes the objects he sees to be the same as before his dream, it cannot be said that they come into existence only when there is knowledge of them. Objects exist permanently prior to and after the knowledge of them.
Guru: Just as the things which come into existence for the time being in a dream seem to have existed unchanged for a long time, so also do the objects which come into existence in the waking state on account of strong nescience. The ideas of cause and effect in respect of these objects are also similar.
Disciple: If the bondage of samsara came into existence on account of ignorance of the Self, when did that ignorance arise?
Guru: The ignorance, arising from the Self, which is Brahman, is mere imagination (kalpita) and has no beginning.
Disciple: Since darkness cannot exist in the sun, how can nescience exist in Brahman which is pure consciousness? Even if it exists, it cannot exist in what is clearly known or in what is not at all known. Superimposition of a false reality upon a true, is possible only when the general aspect of something is known and not its particular aspect. Brahman has no parts like general and particular; it is attributeless; so how can there be the superimposition of bondage?
Guru: Although Brahman [?] is consciousness, the general (indistinct) aspect of that all-pervasive consciousness which is of the nature of effulgence is not inimical to nescience, but helpful to it. In deep sleep nescience coexists with the consciousness of the Self. The general (possibility of) fire within the wood is not inimical to darkness, but helpful to it. But as the actualized (manifest) fire produced by rubbing the wood is inimical to darkness, so also the distinct consciousness produced in the mind as Brahman [?] is inimical to nescience. Although Brahman [?] is without attributes (and cannot therefore be cognized) its general existence is known even in the state of nescience in the form of `I am', while its particular aspects like consciousness, bliss, etc. are not then known, but are known only in the state of knowledge. As appearances are the result of nescience, there can be the bondage of superimposition in the attributeless Brahman, which is known as existence and unknown as consciousness and bliss.
Disciple: Although the world is unreal it is the cause of miseries like birth and death. An unreal nightmare will not occur if japa is done (before going to sleep). Analogous to this, what can be done to prevent the appearance of the world?
Guru: That which appears owing to ignorance of something will cease to appear only through knowledge of that something. The serpent and the silver which appear on account of the ignorance of the rope and the nacre will disappear only through knowledge of them. Similarly the world which appears on account of ignorance of the Self will disappear only through knowledge of the Self. Brahman [?] is infinite, homogeneous, unattached to anything, without birth, etc., invisible and without name and form. The nescience imagined in it and its effects, namely the individual, the Lord and the world, are unreal in all the three periods of time. Whatever is seen is the play of the intellect which is the effect of that nescience. Brahman, while remaining unmoved, illumines the intellect. This intellect projects its false imagination in the states of waking and dreaming and merges in the nescience in the state of deep sleep. `Just as the water of the mirage does not make the desert wet this unreal thing (world) will not do any harm to me who is its basis.' Such a conviction is real knowledge. This is the means of liberation. I have already said this. Darkness will not disappear through anything except light; it will not disappear through ritualistic acts, meditation (upasana)1 etc. The darkness of nescience departs along with its effects, from him in whose Heart the light of knowledge arises. He remains always as the unattached and homogeneous Self of the form of Brahman. Nothing came into existence in the past. Nor is there anything existing now. Nor will there be anything in the future. Since the objects that are known do not (really) exist, the terms `witness' and `seer' are not applicable. Since there is no bondage there is no liberation. Since there is no nescience there is no knowledge. He who has known this and cast away the sense of duty is a sage (jnani [?]). Whether his senses come into contact with their objects or not he is unattached and free from desires. Therefore, even though he may appear to act, he does nothing.
1Upasana is the uninterrupted meditation upon a deity or a form or a word like
Om until one becomes that deity or form or word. It is a technique which is not generally followed nowadays. Its modern equivalent is bhakti [?] (devotion).
Guru: Although Brahman [?] cannot be identical with the individuality (jiva [?]) which is limited to the inner organ (antahkarana [?]) and which is the apparent meaning of `I', it can be with the witness (sakshi [?]), which is the implied meaning of the word `I'. It is the reflected part (abhasa bhaga) of the jiva [?]which performs action. The reflected part in Ishvara (God), which is the apparent meaning of the word Tat (Brahman [?]), bestows the fruits of action. There is no difference in the consciousness which is the implied meaning of these words (I and Tat [?]). Nor do these two aspects (jiva [?]and Ishvara [?]) really exist.
Disciple: Who is the jiva? Who is the sakshi (witness)? Is not a witness other than the jiva a sheer impossibility like the son of a barren woman?
Guru: Just as the reflection of the sky in a pot becomes the sky in the water, consciousness established in the intellect (buddhi [?]) along with the reflected consciousness (abhasa) in the intellect, accompanied by desires and action, becomes the jiva [?]who is the doer, enjoyer and samsari. The consciousness which is the basis of the intellect and which is the attribute of the jiva [?]or the finite (vyasti) nescience, is the immutable witness (kutastha). He has no beginning and is unchanging. Features (dharmas) like good and evil, joy and sorrow, going to another world and coming back to this, belong to the reflected consciousness alone. Even in the reflected consciousness they exist only in the inner organ which is its attribute. They do not exist in the consciousness which is the substance part (of the jiva [?]). The substance part of the jiva is the witness. In one and the same consciousness the inner organ is the adjunct (upadhi) for the ideas of witness and attribute for the idea of jiva. That is to say, the single consciousness becomes the jiva [?]along with the inner organ and the witness when bereft of it. That is, one and the same inner organ is the adjunct of consciousness in the eyes of one who lacks discrimination. Therefore the single consciousness is the witness for a man of discrimination and jiva [?]for one who lacks discrimination.
Disciple: How is it possible for even the witness, who is manifold and limited on account of the multiplicity of jivas, to be identical with Brahman who is one?
Guru: Just as the space in a pot which is manifold and limited is not different from, and in fact is, the same as total space (mahakasa), the witness who is manifold and limited is not different from Brahman [?] but is Brahman. It is therefore possible for it to be identical with Brahman. Therefore know `I am Brahman'.
Disciple: For whom is this knowledge? For the jiva or for the witness?
Guru: Knowledge and ignorance are for the jiva [?]alone and not for the witness.
Disciple: Will not the knowledge `I am Brahman' which arises in the jiva, which is different from Brahman, be false?
Guru: As the immutable Self (kutastha) implied in the term `I' is always one with Brahman, like the pot-space and infinite space, it is completely identical with it. As for the jiva [?]implied in the term `I', it can have identity with Brahman [?]`by removal of obstruction' (badha samanadhikaranyam) through negating the idea of jiva, just as the man one imagines one sees in a post (in a dim light) becomes one with the post on the negation of the idea of its being a man.
Disciple: Do the reflected consciousness (abhasa) and the immutable (kutastha) which are implied in the term `I' exist at the same time? Or do they appear at different times?
Guru: They appear at the same time. The reflected consciousness is the object of the witness, but the witness is self-cognized. When there is actual knowledge, of pots and other external objects what happens is this: The concept part in the concept of the inner organ accompanied by the reflected consciousness goes out as far as the pots and other objects and assumes their forms and removes the obstruction (avaranam) which naturally covers them, on account of ignorance. Just as a non-luminous object covered by a pot will not be seen (in the dark) even if the pot is broken by a stick, but can be seen with the help of a lamp, even so the reflected part illumines the objects.
When there is direct realization of Brahman, which is the Self, what happens is this: The inner organ, with the help of the sound produced by the important scriptural saying (mahavakya [?])2 `That thou art' (Tat tvam asi) when connected with the ear, takes the form of Brahman [?] (Brahmakara) and loses contact with the senses. This is like the knowledge of the tenth man (dasama) which arises through the sound produced by the sentence `you are the tenth man', or like the ideas of joy and sorrow which arise without any (corresponding) external objects. This concept of the form of
2 Vedantic sayings are of two kinds, namely chief and secondary. The texts
which propound the nature of the jiva [?]and Brahman [?]are secondary texts. They produce indirect (intellectual) knowledge. The chief texts propound the identity of the jiva [?]and Brahman [?]. They produce direct knowledge.
Disciple: What are the chief (antaranga) and secondary (bahiranga) means of attaining this knowledge?
Guru: Ritualistic sacrifices and similar acts and meditation (upasana) performed without motive are the secondary means. The four (qualifications)3 like discrimination, the three (steps)4 and (the one) enquiry into the meaning of `That' and `Thou' -- these eight make up the chief means.
Disciple: If knowledge arises through the `saying' alone, where is the need for `hearing,' etc.?
Guru: Knowledge is of two kinds, namely steady (free from defects) and unsteady (defective). Although an inferior aspirant (mandadhikari) who has doubts and false notions may have direct knowledge through the teaching of the `saying' it will not produce the proper effect; it is defective.
3The four qualifications are (1) discrimination between what is eternal and
what is fleeting (nityanitya vastu viveka) (2) absence of desire for the enjoyment of the fruits of one's actions in this world and the next (ihamutrartha phala bhoga viraga) (3) the possession of the six virtues which are control of the mind (sama), control of the sense organs (dama), cessation of activity (uparati), fortitude (titiksha), faith in the scriptures and the guru (sraddha [?]) and concentration of mind (samadhana); and (4) yearning for liberation.
4The three steps are hearing (sravana [?]), reflection (manana [?]) and uninterrupted contemplation (nididhyasana [?]).
Disciple: What are the distinguishing marks of the sage and the ignorant person?
Guru: The ignorant person is distinguished by his attachment (raga), the sage by dispassion. Even if the ignorant person occasionally develops dispassion, it is likely to change since he has not got rid of the sense of reality in the objects of the senses. His dispassion is superficial. On the other hand, the dispassion of the sage, which has developed out of his sense of the unreality of objects of the senses, does not change at any time and is therefore intense.
Disciple: Why do some persons say that ritualistic acts (karma) accompanied by meditation (upasana) and knowledge (jnana) are the cause of steadiness?
Guru: The idea that the Self, which is separate from the body, is the doer and enjoyer and the idea that the doer, the act and its result are different from one another, are the cause of ritualistic acts; the result is impermanent samsara. The Self is of the nature of the unattached Brahman; the doer, the act and the result are not distinct from the Self; this is knowledge, and its fruit is eternal liberation. So how can these two coexist?
Disciple: So long as the inner organ exists its natural quality of unsteadiness will not leave even the sage. Therefore if it is not an obstacle to liberation after death (videhamukti) how can there be the experience of bliss of liberation while alive? Is it not necessary for even the sage to meditate (do upasana) in order to remove the unsteadiness of the mind?
Guru: Since samadhi and distraction are the same to a sage of steadfast wisdom, he does not enter into any action for the sake of steadiness of mind. For him there is no nescience as a cause of his activity, nor any delusion of difference as a result of nescience, nor attachment and hatred resulting from the delusion of difference. Only prarabdha (that part of one's karma [?]which has to be worked out in this life) remains; this is the cause of his activity. And that being different from person to person, there is no fixity (lit. order) in regard to the activity arising out of prarabdha. Hence the sage's activity and inactivity are governed by prarabdha. Therefore there can be desire for sense enjoyment and efforts to attain it, as in the case of Janaka and others, on account of the prarabdha responsible for enjoyment. Similarly, there can be the desire for liberation while alive, and disgust with sense-enjoyment as in the case of Suka, Vamadeva and others, on account of the prarabdha responsible for inactivity. The bliss of Brahman [?]will not become manifest owing to the mere immobility of the inner organ. It will become manifest only through the concept of the form of Brahman (Brahmakara vritti). Since this will arise only through reflection (chintana) on the meaning of the Vedanta [?](texts), and since unsteadiness will disappear even through this, one who desires to have the bliss of liberation while alive has to reflect on the meaning of Vedanta [?]texts only and need not meditate (do upasana).
Disciple: Can the sage have too much activity?
Guru: When activity is excessive, happiness will decrease;
when activity is less, the happiness will be more. But knowledge remains the same. Although activity is inimical to that (kind of) happiness which is distinct from liberation while alive, it is not inimical to liberation while alive, since there is not delusion of bondage by activity and inactivity so far as the Self is concerned.
Disciple: Since the sage cannot have attachment on account of his seeing all objects as non-Self, unreal and evil, what can motivate his activity?
Guru: Although he knows the body to be unreal, the sage may be active on account of his prarabdha; for instance, he may go begging, etc., to maintain the body on account of his prarabdha. It is like people watching a conjuring act even when they know how it is done, or like an invalid doing things that are bad for him even though he knows that they are.
Disciple: What is the meaning of saying that the sage has no desires?
Guru: It is not that his inner organ will not take the form of desires. As the inner organ is not the product of pure sattva alone, but of the less prominent rajas [?]and tamas, in combination with the prominent sattva, all the qualities will more or less exist in it. Therefore, so long as the inner organ remains there will not be entire absence of desires which are modifications of rajas. But the sage does not mistake the desires for characteristics of the Self. That is the difference. He is unattached. Though he acts he is a non-doer. That is why the scripture (sruti [?]) says that the good and bad acts done by the body and the merit and demerit (acquired thereby) after attaining knowledge do not affect him.
Disciple: Is it not necessary for the sage to enter into blissful and non-dual nirvikalpa samadhi in which concepts are all absorbed in nescience, as in deep sleep, and there is no experience of nescience-covered bliss and the concept of the inner organs in the form of Brahman (Brahmakara vritti) is absorbed in the effulgence of Brahman?
On hearing this the Guru laughed thinking, `Why does he talk like a fool?'
Disciple: Won't one who, while alive, gives up the bliss of liberation to enjoy sense pleasures, give up liberation after death for the desire to attain heavenly worlds?
Guru: The rejection of the bliss of liberation while alive and the desire for worldly enjoyments may happen in the case of a sage on account of his prarabdha, but they will not happen after his nescience is burnt up by his knowledge. Therefore his life force (prana [?]) will not go out and he cannot become embodied again either in this world or any other on account of prarabdha. Hence the rejection of liberation after death and desire for, or attainment of, other worlds is not possible for the sage.
Disciple: What is liberation while alive? And what is liberation after death?
Guru: The absence of the delusion of bondage even while one is embodied, is liberation while alive. The absorption of the gross and subtle nescience in consciousness after the experience of prarabdha is liberation after death.
This is the gist of the important scriptural texts.
On hearing this the disciple experienced the direct knowledge of his Self and, after first experiencing liberation while alive, attained liberation after death.