Monday, February 8, 2010

Bhagavan's Letter to Ganapati Muni

This morning I found the following query from 'Follow the Rabbit' among the comments I moderated:

Ganapathi Muni's letter to Bhagawaan.

3 June 1931, Anandasramam, Sirsi

Lord, Friend of the Lowly and Meek, Sundara has conveyed us in his letter the explanation vouchsafed by Bhagavan. All the doubts of all of us here are now dispelled. The word of Bhagavan that the experience of the absence of any sense of finiteness (limitation) is the same in the Lord of the Universe and the liberated has completely set at rest some other doubts of ours also. We have understood by this statement of Bhagavan that there is the Supreme Lord, the Ruler of the Universe, that the liberated do also exist as distinct entities and that their experience of the absence of finiteness alone is the same.

Pranavananda has written me a letter asking for chapter names in Sanskrit and Telugu of Sri Ramana Gita which is to be reprinted. I have replied saying that I shall write and send him not only the names of chapters but a comprehensive introduction also.

All well here. I am, The Bee, Happy at your Holy Feet,

1) What does Ganapati Muni mean by 'exist' here? Does he mean they exist after physical death?

2) Does Ganapati mean Lord of the Universe is separate from the Jnaani/Self??

3) Also confirms to UG's statement about the difference in Jnaanis (the difference being their background) which I posted earlier in this topic.

* * *

These are interesting questions, some of which were addressed in an article that was published in The Mountain Path, 1982, pp. 95-101. The author was given there as ‘Michael Spenser’, which are my two middle names. The article was originally submitted by Michael James at a time when I was editing the magazine. I decided that it needed drastic revisions to make it publishable, although at this distance in time I can no longer remember what the problem was. Michael was not happy with many of my rewrites, so he asked that his name be removed. However, he was willing to let me use the material myself. I rewrote the piece still further and eventually attributed it to ‘Michael Spenser’ since most of the ideas were Michael’s and a substantial portion of the writing was mine.

Bhagavan’s Letter to Ganapati Muni


Between March and August 1931 Ganapati Muni was living mostly in Anandashram on the outskirts of Sirsi, a town in the North Kannada District. During this period he wrote a series of more than twenty letters in Sanskrit to his Guru, Bhagavan Sri Ramana. All of these letters have been printed in the original Sanskrit together with English renderings by Viswanatha Swami in a booklet entitled Epistles of Light, which was published in 1978 by the Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni Trust, Madras.

Since Bhagavan never replied to letters, the replies that were sent to Ganapati Muni were all drafted by the ashram office. Although Bhagavan would have inspected them before they were posted, except on one occasion, he could not be held responsible for their contents. This one exception was the reply to Ganapati Muni’s letter dated 20th May, 1931. Ganapati Muni expressed a doubt in his letter about the ego, and he particularly requested a devotee named T. K. Sundaresa Iyer to convey to him in writing the answer of Sri Bhagavan. Bhagavan gave a verbal reply to the doubts raised in the letter, and this reply was then incorporated in a letter and sent to Ganapati Muni. This reply containing Bhagavan’s answer was published by Sri Ramanasramam in 1980 in a small Tamil booklet entitled Precious Words and Stray Verses of the Maharshi.

The Doubt of Ganapati Muni

Ganapati Muni begins his letter by saying:

A doubt. Except Bhagavan, whom else can we ask? Who else can reply? It is clearly known from the teachings of Bhagavan that the ego is of three kinds.
Ganapati Muni is here alluding to the three bodies, the gross, the subtle and the causal, and in his letter he expounds on their various characteristics. He was particularly interested in the subtle body that is said to contain the intellect, and his main question revolved around the use of the intellect as a means to attain realisation.

‘Is that abidance in the intellect a means for gradually attaining the perfect experience, or is it not? If it is not certainly a means for that, then for what purpose is it? Or is there any arrangement that, according to the particular outlook of the aspirant, it is sometimes a means and sometimes not? My dear child Sundara (T. K. Sundaresa Iyer) may kindly write to me the decision of Bhagavan regarding this matter.
Before proceeding to give Bhagavan’s reply, it should be pointed out that Ganapati Muni’s assumption that Bhagavan taught that there are three kinds of ego is incorrect. This is best illustrated by referring to Maharshi’s Gospel, (Book 2, Chapter 5), where, in answer to a question about the three kinds of egos mentioned in Yoga Vasishta, Bhagavan replied:

The ego is described as having three bodies, the gross, the subtle and the causal, but that is only for the purpose of analytical exposition. If the method of enquiry were to depend on the ego’s form you may take it that any enquiry would become altogether impossible, because the forms the ego may assume are legion. Therefore, for the purposes of self-enquiry, you have to proceed on the basis that the ego has but one form, namely that of the ‘I’-thought.
From this it is clear that Bhagavan regards all classifications such as the three bodies, the five sheaths and the three kinds of ego as being of secondary importance. For earnest aspirants who seek to know the ultimate truth of the ego (i.e. its non-existence) it is sufficient that they enquire into the one basic form of the ego, which is the ‘I’-thought.

Bhagavan’s disinclination to subdivide the mind or ego is also shown in chapter four of Self Enquiry where he gives the following answer:

The mind is nothing other than the ‘I’. The mind and the ego are one and the same. The others, [i.e. the other two antahkaranas or inner organs] the intellect and chittam [the storehouse of tendencies] are only this. Mind [manas], intellect [buddhi], the storehouse of tendencies [chittam] and ego [ahankara]; all these are only the one mind itself. This is like different names [such as son, husband, father, clerk, Hindu, etc.] being given to a man according to his different functions. The individual soul is nothing but this mind or ego…
Whereas the tendency of the scriptures is to classify the non-Self into more and more different categories, the tendency of Sri Bhagavan is always to simplify things and reduce them back to fundamentals.

As Sri Bhagavan has said in Who am I?, it is futile to scrutinise and classify the garbage (i.e. the non-Self), all of which is to be cast aside. Therefore, though the intellect is given many names such as vijnanatma, vijnana (the terms used by Ganapati Muni in his letter), buddhi and so on, according to Sri Bhagavan, all these terms refer only to the one mind.

The reply of Sri Bhagavan

Contrary to his usual practice while replying to devotees, throughout this reply Sri Bhagavan uses many obscure scriptural terms and concepts partly because Ganapati Muni was a pandit well-versed in the scriptures and partly because his doubt was rooted in the concepts he had learned from them. Because of this, Bhagavan’s reply will be easier to understand if it is split up into several sections, with an explanatory note following each section. In order to make this reply intelligible to readers, who do not have a good grounding in Sanksrit terminology, it will occasionally be necessary to give a free, paraphrased rendering of Bhagavan’s words. Bhagavan’s answer is in bold; the author’s comments follow it in roman type.

Though it is a fact that scriptures like Vasishtam say, as you have mentioned, that the ego is of three kinds, you should take the ‘I-thought’ to be truly only one. When the mind which is the ‘I-thought’ rises, it can only do so by catching hold of something. Since this ego rises between the insentient body and the reality it is given such names a chit-jada granthi [the knot between consciousness and the insentient body], jiva [the individual self] and so on.
In this opening paragraph Bhagavan confirms that the ego should be taken to be a single entity and not three or more entities, and that the various names such as chit-jada granthi and jiva are merely different names for the same thing. However, in the next section Bhagavan abandons this stance and replies to Ganapati Muni in his own terms.

According to traditional Indian philosophy the mind is compounded of three characteristics: sattva (harmony or purity), rajas (activity or restlessness), and tamas (dullness or inertia). Since Ganapati Muni structured his letter around an assumption of the reality of these three gunas, Bhagavan adapts his answer to this assumption.

He says:

The ‘I-thought’ which rises in this manner appears in the form of the three gunas, and of these three, the rajas and tamas aspects cling to and identify with the body. The remaining one which is pure sattva is alone the natural characteristic of the mind, and this stands clinging to the reality. However, in this pure sattvic state, the ‘I-thought’ is no longer really a thought, it is the Heart itself.

'The wise understand the apparent meaning of prajnana [consciousness] to be the mind, and its true meaning to be the Heart. The Supreme is not other than the Heart. ' (Sri Ramana Gita, V. 18)
In this section Bhagavan begins to outline the nature of the mind and to show how it is possible for it to subside into the Heart. In doing so, he indirectly answers Ganapati Muni’s question concerning the role of the mind in sadhana.

Sri Bhagavan is saying that when the mind is active, that is, dominated by rajas and tamas, identification with the body takes place, but when the mind is quiet and still, that is, in its pure sattvic state, it subsides into the Heart until only the Heart remains. Sri Bhagavan has stated in the quotations from Maharshi’s Gospel and Self Enquiry that were given earlier in this article that the mind is nothing other than the ‘I’-thought. When this ‘I-thought identifies itself with objects, the rajasic and tamasic mind arises, but when the ‘I’-thought alone remains, it can be termed the sattvic mind. However, Sri Bhagavan states in this section that the term ‘sattvic mind’ is something of a misnomer, for when only the feeling of ‘I’ remains, the mind has ceased to exist. This is what Sri Bhagavan means in the last line of his own comments and in the quotation from Sri Ramana Gita when he states that the feeling ‘I’ is not really a modification of the mind but the Heart itself.

Sri Bhagavan often stated that the biggest obstacle to Self-realisation is the ‘I am the body’ idea. Since he states here that a mind dominated by rajas and tamas identifies with and clings to the body, a rajasic or a tamasic mind is obviously an unproductive vehicle for sadhana. According to Sri Bhagavan, realisation is only attained by abiding in the sattvic state. However, since the mind has ceased to exist in this state, one cannot say that abidance in this state is abidance in the mind; rather, it is abidance in the state where the mind is absent.

The solution to Ganapati Muni’s question lies in this distinction between the clinging and identifying characteristics of the rajasic and tamasic mind, and the absence of mind in the sattvic state. Ganapati Muni’s question was:
Is that abidance in the intellect a means for gradually attaining the perfect experience?’ He uses the word vijnana to describe the intellect, and in his letter, he defines this term still further by calling it the thinking faculty (vritti-jnana). Bhagavan is saying in this reply that one should not abide in this thinking faculty; instead one should abide in the sattvic state where thought has ceased and only the ‘I’-feeling remains.

Having answered the question in this somewhat oblique manner, Bhagavan goes on to give a description of the state in which the ‘I’-feeling clings to and identifies with the Self.

When the mind, the distinctive knowledge that rises from the non-distinctive state of ‘I’, clings to and identifies with the Self, it is called true knowledge. It may also be called ‘knowledge which is the movement of the mind in the form of the Self’ or ‘knowledge in an unbroken form’. The state in which this pure sattvic mind shines clinging to the Self is called ‘aham-sphurana’.
In this passage Sri Bhagavan is describing the state where the ‘I’ feeling alone remains and clings to the Self. This state is not the final state of realisation, for in this state there is still the dualistic feeling that there is an ‘I’ that is clinging to the Self. Bhagavan calls this state the ‘aham-sphurana’ and it may be described as the subjective experience of the feeling of ‘I’ that manifests when the mind is quiet and still.

In the next section of the letter Sri Bhagavan gives a detailed description of the sphurana and shows how it is related to the Self.

This sphurana cannot remain independently apart from the reality, but it is the correct sign that indicates the forthcoming direct experience of that reality. The source to which this sphurana clings alone is called the reality or pure consciousness. In Vedanta this is expressed by the saying ‘prajnanam Brahma’, or pure consciousness is the absolute reality. When the pure sattvic mind abides in that sphurana and attends to its source, it is called upasana or meditation; when one is firmly established in the state which is the source of that mind, this is called jnana.

'During the time of practice the natural state is called upasana [meditation], and when that state becomes firmly and permanently established it is called jnana.’ (Sri Ramana Gita, 1.13)
The term aham-sphurana denotes the new, clear, and fresh knowledge of one’s being that is experienced when the ‘I’-thought attends to and identifies with the Self. The nature of this aham-sphurana was explained by Sri Bhagavan in the answer to question thirty-two in Self Enquiry, and he described it in phrases which are almost identical to those used in the letter:

…The state in which this mind clings to the Self and shines as the form of the Self is called the aham sphurana. This sphurana cannot remain independently, leaving the reality. This sphurana is the correct sign of the forthcoming direct experience of the reality. However, this sphurana cannot itself be the state of reality. That source to which this sphurana clings, alone is called the reality…
Reality will be directly experienced only when this sphurana subsides or comes to an end. This process is described in the answer to question three in Self Enquiry as follows:

…Therefore, leaving the corpse-like body as an actual corpse, and remaining without even uttering the word ‘I’ by mouth, if one now keenly enquires ‘What is it that rises as I?’, then in the heart a certain soundless sphurana, ‘I-I’ [that is, an awareness which is single and undivided, the thoughts which are many and divided having disappeared], alone will shine forth of its own accord. If one remains still without leaving it, even the sphurana [having completely annihilated the sense of the individuality, the form of the ego ‘I am the body’], will itself in the end subside, just like the flame that catches the camphor. This alone is said to be liberation by great ones and scriptures.
In the same way that a piece of camphor, once it has caught fire, will not subside until the last trace of camphor is burnt, so when the aham sphurana is experienced it will not subside until the last trace of the ego is destroyed. That is, when the mind or ‘I’-thought turns 180 degrees away from the non-Self and turns towards the Self, it is caught in the grip of the Self. After this, it cannot turn towards the non-Self again. This is the state of sphurana, which is the correct sign indicating that the reality is about to be experienced directly. But since in this state there is still a feeling of attending to the Self, this sphurana is not actually the Self, the reality; the reality is the source to which this sphurana attends or clings. When even this feeling of attending to the Self subsides, the sphurana itself subsides, and only being remains. This state, in which even the slightest trace of the ego or individuality has been completely annihilated, is called liberation, the direct experience of the reality, or the natural state of the Self (sahajatma sthiti).

In the concluding portion of his letter Sri Bhagavan explains how unbroken awareness is a consequence of the subsidence of the sphurana, and he relates it to the heart-centre which he locates on the right side of the chest.

Concerning this unbroken awareness, in Vivekachudamani, verse 380, it is said: Self, which is self-effulgent and the witness of all, ever shines [as ‘I-I’] in the mind. Taking this Self, which is distinct from what is unreal, as the target [of your attention] experience it as ‘I’ through unbroken awareness.'

The non-existence of the sense of limitation is the fruit of meditation. This is indeed the unbroken experience. This is natural to God and liberated souls. When the mind, having pure sattva as its characteristic remains attending to the aham sphurana, which is the sign of the forthcoming direct experience of the Self, the downward-facing heart becomes upward-facing, blossoms and remains in the form of that [the Self]; [because of this] the aforesaid attention to the source of the aham sphurana alone is the path. When thus attended to, Self, the reality, alone will remain shining in the centre of the Heart as ‘I am I’.
In the middle of this explanation, after the phrase 'downward-facing heart', Bhagavan quotes in full verses 18 and 19 from the Supplement to the Forty Verses. Since this quotation makes the sentence extremely long and difficult to follow, the two verses are given below:

Between the two breasts, below the chest and above the stomach, there are six things of many colours. Among these the one thing which resembles a lily-bud and which is within, two digits to the right [of the centre of the chest] is the heart. Its face is inverted [turned downwards]. In the tiny hole within it there exists the dense darkness [of ignorance] together with desire and so on. All the major nerves are connected with it; it is the abode of breath, the mind and the light [of consciousness].
After describing the Heart as being a downward-facing lily-bud that exists two digits to the right from the centre of the chest, Sri Bhagavan says that by attending to the source of the aham-sphurana, this lily-bud will be made to face upwards and blossom. In this context it is worth noting that in Spiritual Instruction (Chapter 2, Question 9) Sri Bhagavan explains that although the Heart is described in this way in these two verses, the true import of the word Heart (hridayam) is only the Self in which there are no differences such as ‘in’ and ‘out’ or ‘up’ and ‘down’. In Maharshi’s Gospel (Book 2, Chapter 4) he states that people ‘cannot help thinking in terms of the physical body’ and ‘it is by coming down to this ordinary level of understanding that a place is assigned to the Heart in the physical body’. Therefore, the description of the Heart as a downward-facing lily-bud that must be made to face upwards and blossom, is only figurative and not literal, and it is given only for those whose minds are much inclined to raja yoga, which abounds with such figurative descriptions.

In Self Enquiry (Chapter 7) Sri Bhagavan says:

The mind alone is the kundalini. It is described otherwise as a serpent only for those having a gross outlook. The six yogic centres and so on are all only mental imaginations and are meant only for beginners in yoga.
The same comments apply equally well to the description of the Heart as a downward-facing lily-bud.

As Sri Bhagavan says in Sri Ramana Gita (V. 2),

That from which all thoughts of embodied beings issue forth is called the Heart. All descriptions of it are only mental conceptions.
As regards the true significance of this figurative description of the Heart, since Sri Bhagavan says that attention to the source (i.e. the Self) is the only way to make the downward-facing Heart turn upwards and blossom, it is reasonable to infer that the downward-facing Heart signifies our power of attention being turned towards the non-Self. The turning upwards of the Heart signifies that same power of attention turning towards the Self. By extension, the blossoming of the Heart signifies the dawn of Self-knowledge that results from such one-pointed Self-attention.

The Response of Ganapati Muni

The following is an extract from Ganapati Muni’s letter, dated 3rd June 1931, which is of interest in this context on account of the inferences that he draws from the reply of Sri Bhagavan.

Sundara has written in his letter the explanation given by Bhagavan. By that, all our doubts here are dispelled. The saying of Bhagavan that the experience of the non-existence of the sense of limitation is the same in God and liberated souls has removed some other doubts of ours also. From this saying we have understood that there does exist Iswara, the controller of the universe, that there does also exist individuality for liberated souls and that their experience is the same only in respect of the non-existence of this sense of limitation. By this, the party which says that Bhagavan’s Sat-Darshana gives room for the theory of simultaneous creation has also been replied to. A reply to that party is in Sat-Darshana also.
Two particularly interesting points are worthy of note in this letter of Ganapati Muni:

(1) His conclusion that Bhagavan taught that liberated souls have individuality.

(2) His statement that Bhagavan’s reply is an answer to those who say that Sat-Darshana supports the theory of simultaneous creation.

With regard to the first point, the question of whether a liberated soul retains his individuality even after the destruction of the ego, was for long a point of contention among the devotees of Sri Bhagavan. The question is discussed in Talks (No. 446), Sat-Darshana Bhasya and Maha Yoga. The verdict of Sri Bhagavan on this question is given in verse 119 of the Garland of Guru’s Sayings:

The jivanmukta has attained the state of reality that shines, transcending individuality and non-individuality. If one insists that, in this experience, he still has a distinct individuality, such an assertion arises only through the limited knowledge of pandits who are bound to the false. The form of jivanmuktas is the space of consciousness which is the clean mirror that reflects whatever is placed before it. The individuality that seems to exist for these [jivanmuktas] is only the reflection of the individuality of those who love individuality.
With regard to the second point about creation, in Sri Ramana Reminiscences (pp. 100-101) by G. V. Subbaramayya, Sri Bhagavan explains the difference between the theory of gradual creation that appears to have been espoused by Ganapati Muni and the theory of simultaneous creation that was held by other devotees.

Sri Bhagavan also explained the difference between srishti-drishti vadam espoused by Sri Kavyakantha [Ganapati Muni] and drishti-srishti vadam supported by Sri K. Lakshmana Sarma and others. According to the former, the Universe is created by God, and man merges into Godhead through Jnana-Siddhi (attainment of knowledge). According to the latter, both Universe and God are the illusion of man formed by the outgoing mind. To the question How can God be the outcome of man’s illusion? this school replies with the analogy of a dead parent or a king appearing in [a] dream and evoking at the time the sentiments of filial devotion or loyalty in the dreamer.

In conclusion Sri Bhagavan declared: Without the seer, the seen, be they worlds or gods, cannot exist. All those objects of sight depend upon the seer. The purpose of all objects of sight is only to point to the seer. The purpose of all creation is verily to get at the creator.
Sri Bhagavan clearly concluded his explanation in favour of simultaneous creation by saying: ‘Without the seer, the seen, be they worlds or gods, cannot exist. All those objects of sight depend upon the seer.’

[Editorial interpolation, February 2010. At the time that Bhagavan was making these remarks, there were two published commentaries available on Ulladu Narpadu: Lakshmana Sarma's Tamil explanation and Kapali Sastri's Sat-Darshana Bhashya. With regard to their explanations of Bhagavan's teachings on creation, Bhagavan is clearly siding with Lakshmana Sarma's interpretation in this quotation.

In Living by the Words of Bhagavan (2nd ed. p. 104) it is reported that Bhagavan went to the ashram office and encouraged Chinnaswami to publish Lakshmana Sarma's book by saying, 'Everyone is saying that Lakshmana Sarma's commentary on Ulladu Narpadu is the best. Nobody has studied Ulladu Narpadu the way Sarma has. Why don't you publish his book?']

Since this is one of the major differences between the philosophy of Ganapati Muni and that of Sri Bhagavan, it will be helpful to examine these theories in greater detail.

The debate revolves around two Sanskrit terms, srishti-drishti vada and drishti-srishti vada. Srishti-drishti vada means the theory of gradual creation, that is, the theory that God created the world and the soul. There are many different theories to explain how this took place, but the particular theory of gradual creation espoused by Ganapati Muni appears to have been the theory of transformation (parinama vada), since this is clearly supported in Sat-Darshana Bhashya, a commentary on a Sanskrit translation of Bhagavan’s forty-verse poem, Ulladu Narpadu. Though the commentary was penned by Kapali Sastri, a close disciple of Ganapati Muni, it was done under Ganapati Muni’s supervision and accurately reflects his views.

According to the theory of parinama vada, Brahman does not appear as the world and the soul, as a rope appears to be a snake, but undergoes a change and becomes them in the same way that clay becomes a pot. This theory maintains that Brahman has actually (and not merely apparently) undergone transformation and change. It also maintains that the effects, namely, the world and the soul, are as real as their cause, Brahman. Ganapati Muni believed that individuality was real and not imaginary, and that individuality survived even Self-realisation. It was for this reason that he was tempted to interpret Bhagavan’s words to mean that the soul retained its individuality after liberation. However, a close reading of this section of Bhagavan’s letter reveals that there is no mention of realised beings retaining individuality; all it says is that realised beings experience ‘the non-existence of the sense of liberation’ and that this is ‘natural to God and liberated souls’.

Drishti-srishti vada means the theory of simultaneous creation, and is also known as the theory of false appearance. According to this theory, Brahman is the sole reality that never undergoes any change, and the world, the soul and God are false appearances that rise into existence simultaneously with the seer. This theory maintains that all objects depend for their apparent existence upon the seer. Whereas in gradual creation, objects are seen because they have been created, in simultaneous creation, objects are created because they are seen.

Ganapati Muni also concludes from this letter that Sat-Darshana, which is his translation of Sri Bhagavan’s work Ulladu Narpadu, does not support the theory of simultaneous creation.

The question of which creation theory is taught in Ulladu Narpadu has been answered by Bhagavan himself in verse 83 of the Garland of Guru’s Sayings.

Through the venba verse that begins, ‘Because we perceive the world...,’ Guru Ramana – who teaches the one true beneficial attainment [jnana] that is needed by the people of the world – declared, out of his love for us, the doctrine of illusory appearance to be the truth that bestows the ultimate benefit, avoiding the consideration of other doctrines.
In this verse Bhagavan states that since he wrote Ulladu Narpadu, it is understood that he teaches only the doctrine of false appearance, or simultaneous creation, and that he has set aside all other theories. It should also be clear from reading the text of Ulladu Narpadu that Sri Bhagavan is teaching that the seer and the seen rise together.

In verse seven it states, ‘Although the world and the mind rise and set together, it is by the mind alone that the world shines’ and in verse twenty-six it states, ‘If the ego comes into existence, all else will come into existence. If the ego does not exist, all else will not exist.’

Although Bhagavan taught the theory of simultaneous creation, this theory should not be elevated to the status of an absolute truth. Sri Bhagavan’s actual experience is ajata, which is a denial of all creation theories, simultaneous or otherwise, since it is the experience that neither the world, the soul nor God has ever come into existence. Ajata is the final experience, not a theory that can be taught, for there is no room in this experience for such differences as a teacher and a person to be taught.

Bhagavan’s teachings assume that we are aware that the world rises and sets with the rising and setting of the seer. The first words of Ulladu Narpadu are ‘Because we see the world’, and this assumption that we see the world becomes the basis for this teaching on creation. If he was intending to attempt to teach ajata, he would not have admitted the existence of the world at all, and if he had intended to teach gradual creation he would have said, ‘Because the world is created’.

Although Sri Bhagavan sometimes used to speak from the standpoint of gradual creation while replying to questioners, in his main works (for example, in Who am I?, in verses 6, 7, 14, 23 and 26 of Ulladu Narpadu, and in verses 6 and 7 of Arunachala Ashtakam), he clearly teaches only the theory of simultaneous creation. As he has explained in Self Enquiry in the answer to question 10, the theory of gradual creation is taught only for immature aspirants, while the theory of simultaneous creation is taught to mature aspirants. The same idea is expressed by him in Day by Day (15th March 1946) and in Talks no. 651 where he concludes: ‘But the true seeker can be content with yugapat srishti, instantaneous creation.

Postscript, February 2010

Though this was written almost thirty years ago, I think it has stood the test of time well enough to deserve another public airing. Going through it this morning, I can recognise many ideas (such as the section on aham-sphurana) that Michael received from Sadhu Om which I merely edited and rewrote, without being entirely in agreement with them, but overall I think it is a good commentary on Bhagavan
s letter and Ganapati Munis response to it.

In addition to the extra paragraphs ('Editorial interpolation, February 2010') I have included more modern translations of the Guru Vachaka Kovai verses and a more complete version of the quote from Sri Ramana Reminiscences, but apart from these minor additions, the article appears here as it first appeared in The Mountain Path in 1982.

In the final paragraph Michael mentioned several verses from Ulladu Narpadu and Arunachala Ashtakam which, he said, supported his contention that Bhagavan taught drishti-srishti vada, and not srishti-drishti vada. Here are the verses. The Ulladu Narpadu selection has been translated by Robert Butler, while the two Arunachala Ashtakam verses have been taken from Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam, Sadhu Om and Michael James
translation of and commentary on Bhagavan's Arunachala poems:


The world is of the form of the five senses. It is nothing other. Those five senses are perceived through the five organs of sense. Since the mind alone perceives the world through the medium of the senses, can there be a world apart from the mind? Speak!


Although the world and the mind arise and subside together, it is through the mind that the world shines forth. That which is the perfection that shines without appearing or disappearing, as the place where both the world and the mind appear and disappear, is the Real.


If the first person [I] exists, the second and third persons [you, he, she, it and they] will also be in existence. But if, upon one
s investigation into the reality of its nature, the first person is destroyed, the second and third persons will also cease to be, and one's own nature, shining alone, will be verily the state of the Self.


This body does not say
I. And no one says When I am asleep I do not exist’. After the Iarises, all else arises. Investigate with a keen mind whence this I arises.


If the ego arises, all else will arise. If the ego is not, nothing else will exist. The ego, truly, is all. Know that simply to enquire what it is, is to renounce everything.

Arunachala Ashtakam 6

You, the Heart, the light of consciousness, the one reality, alone exist! A wonderful sakti exists in You as not other [than You]. From [it a] series of subtle shadowy thoughts [rise and] by means of [the reflected light of] consciousness in the whirl of prarabdha are [simultaneously] seen [as] shadowy world pictures, both inside [on] the mirror of the thought-light and outside through the [five] senses such as the eyes, just like a cinema picture which exists [by being projected] through a lens. O Hill of Grace, whether they [the world pictures] stop [appearing], or whether they continue [to appear], they do not exist apart from You.


If the thought ‘I’ does not exist, no other thing will exist. Until that [moment when the ‘I’-thought ceases], if other thoughts rise [one should enquire] ‘To whom do they rise?’ To me. [Then, by scrutinising] what is the rising place of ‘I’, merge [within]. Diving within [in this manner], if one reaches the Heart-throne [one will become] verily the Sovereign under the shade of one umbrella. [There] the dream known as ‘inside and outside’, the two karmas, death and birth, pleasure and pain, and darkness and light, will not exist, and the limitless ocean of the light of grace, called Aruna Hill, which dances motionlessly in the court of the Heart, alone [will exist].


kandhan said...

Just thinking aloud. Was Bhagwan's method of self enquiry(or continuous self awareness) just a ruse to eliminate the rajasic and tamasic minds so that only the sattvic mind remains which too will ultimately collapse into the Heart? So simple and yet so profound. I am so thrilled that I have been blessed to read this post. Sorry, I can not help being effusive.

Sankarraman said...

I understand that aham sphurana is soundless vibration of the pure I sundered of its adjuncts, when once one succeeds in attending to the pure I unbrokenly. In that state there can be no subject-object relationship, this happening only when mind is used by the jnani for interacting with people, explaining the texts, when he is in the same breath anchored to the self. Such being the case, how can there be a question of sphurana being a sort of clinging to the heart which is still a thought. Or it might be that once the sphurana takes place, there is no time intervel between it and the realization of the Heart. I request Godman to be kind enough to clarify this subtle aspect.

David Godman said...

A friend has emailed me with his opinion on the translation of some of Ganapati Muni’s words in this post. The words in question are:

‘By this, the party which says that Bhagavan’s Sat-Darshana gives room for the theory of simultaneous creation has also been replied to. A reply to that party is in Sat-Darshana also.’

My friend then gave the following comments and said that I could post them anonymously, if I wished:

‘I don’t know who has done this translation, but it is slanted so as lead to the conclusion that Ganapati Muni is refuting that Sri Bhagavan espoused Dristi-Sristi-vada. He is not. The translation given in the 2006 edition of “Epistles of Light” is far more accurate (though still not perfect). It says:

‘“With this, the answer to the question is that Bhagavan’s instruction [there is a double-play on Sat-darsanam here which this translator has caught !!] gives scope to the Dristi-Sristi doctrine. Sat-Darsanam also contains the answer to this effect.”

‘“With this” in the statement probably does not refer to Ganapati Muni’s statement just preceding, giving his own take on Sri Bhagavan’s reply. But, probably, directly, to Sri Bhagavan’s exact words in the reply.

‘This is also supported by the Sat-Darsanam text itself wherein Ganapati Muni has done justice to Dristi-Sristi-vada in verse 28 (verse 26 of Ulladu Narpadu). Even the arguably biased translation of Sri Kapali Sastri of verse 28 goes as:

‘With the ego-self rising, all appear.
On its setting, they disappear.
Hence is all this but the ego’s form.
The quest for it is the way to conquest.

‘And this itself clearly brings out Dristi-Sristi and is a reasonable representation of verse 26 of Ulladu Narpadu.’


Thanks for this clarification. I would say, in response, that I am certain that Ganapati Muni knew that Ulladu Narpadu taught drishti-srishti vada, and that Bhagavan espoused this teaching in his spoken teachings as well. He was far too intelligent and well educated in philosophy to believe otherwise. However, I think that it is also incontestable that Ganapati Muni personally subscribed to a srishti-drishti theory of creation. Bhagavan himself accepts this in the quotation I have given from ‘Sri Ramana Reminiscences’.

The point at issue in this discussion on how this Sanskrit sentence should be translated is whether (a) Ganapati Muni accepted that Ulladu Narpadu taught drishti-srishti or (b) whether he thought that it didn’t. Irrespective of what he personally thought and believed on this topic, it is clear that in Sat-Darshan Bhashya he made an attempt (via Kapali Sastri) to persuade his readers that Bhagavan’s Ulladu Narpadu verses could be interpreted to mean that Bhagavan taught a srishti-drishti version of creation. None of the other published commentators (such as Sadhu Om and Lakshmana Sarma) have accepted this. Nor, so far as I am aware, did Bhagavan ever give any encouragement to this srishri-drishti interpretation of his verses.

Subramanian. R said...

Dear David,

One more misunderstanding in Bhagavan's work is the mis- interpretation of Sri Arunachala
Pancharatnam, Verse 5. Readers
think that after realization, every
object/being is individually shining as Brahman, as a Brahman-cow and a Brahman-dog etc., etc.,
This is wrong. After the death of ego, there is no differential distribution of Brahmanhood but only Brahman, the One without a second. Bhagavan, has said this to one Guy Hay, if I remember correct. Lakshman Sarma has also said in Sri Ramana Paravidya Upanishad, that Awareness is one
and its unequal distribution is only an illusion. But, coming to my avatara theory, avatara can stay in different forms simulataneously, like Parasurama and Rama and Krishna and Balarama
and even as Tiru Jnana Sambandha and Kumarila Bhatta.

Thanks for your detailed blog post.

Prasanth Jalasutram said...

nice article.

yes i agree that bhagavan ramana always supported Simultaneous Creation(drishti-srishti vada).

The man who looks only at the pictures on the screen and not the screen itself, is troubled by the pains and pleasures that occur in the story. But the man who views the screen, realises that the images are all shadows and not something apart and distinct from the screen. So also with the world. It is all a shadow play,” said Bhagavan Ramana.

Suprisingly i think Guru Adi Shankara supported the otherway round.

Adi Shankara assumes that Creation is a sport of Ishvara. It is His nature, just as it is man's nature to breathe.

Subramanian. R said...

Sri Sankara, undoubtedly supports
only "simultaneous creation" theory. This is evident from Sri
Dakshinamurty Stotram. The creation theory, is only to keep the seekers develop interest in
Brahman. It is like a mother telling a story to the child to make it eat the food. The story
goes: There were three children,
born to a barren woman, and the
children took the rainbow as their vehicle to fly in space, they plucked the flowers from the clouds and drank water from a mirage..... This was told by Brahmasri Nochur Venkataraman. The
purpose is to make the child eat the food, for which it shows reluctance. Once the food is eaten, that the Self is realized,
all the stories are forgotten.

Arunachala Rama said...

Dear David,

This is truly mind blowing stuff. I am particularly very grateful to you for this posting. Nothing clarifies more than your synthesis/commentary. I have been thinking on this question for sometime. Sri Bhagavan has granted us a soul like you amongst us to guide us.

Please accept my sincere pranams to you.

Best regards

Anonymous said...


I have been keenly following David's blogs and all the other posts that follow. And I find the blogs and the discussions that follow very insightful and rewarding.

Some time back while I was reading one of the posts, I had some doubts. These are random thoughts and may well be called idle curiosity but I could not resist posting these. Any views on these would be most welcome. So here goes :

1. We hear about identical twins having the same genetic structure and there are cases where such twins show astonishing ability to be in tune with each other. I read of a case in Reader's Digest where one twin was shot in the chest and the other twin who was a 100 miles away experienced a sharp pain in his chest.

So, my question is if one of the twins becomes Self realized, would the other also follow suit ? Has there been any such instances ? Or even of siblings becoming Self realized ?

2. Nowadays we hear read about animals being cloned. Apparently the cloned animal has the same genetic structure as the original.

Not only that, it seems that the clone and the orginal would have the same personality traits.

I do not know if human beings can be cloned but assuming that such a thing becomes possible, what would happen when a Self realized person is cloned ? Would the clone also be Self realized ?

3. We read about people being in a coma and then miracoulsly waking up after a few years and resuming a normal life. While the person is in coma, he cannot be said to be in either of the three states - waking, sleep or dream sleep. And he obviously has not gone beyond these three states.

So,what happens to the "I" thought of the person while he was in coma ?

4. In my younger days, I used to read a lot of science fiction. Suppose there are sentient beings somewhere in some far off star. Will they have an "I" thought too ? Will they also have an Ego ? And do they also have to do spiritual practices ? In other words, just like the laws of physics (e.g E=MC squared), are spiritual laws/practices universal ? Is Self Enquiry universal ?

As I mentioned in the beginning, these are idle thoughts and may well be classified as useless speculation of not much use in spiritual growth. But then, till we achieve the thought free state, thought do arise in spite of our best efforts.

Thank you,

P.S - Am posting under Anonymous because I forgot my password. David -is there any way of retrieving my password ?

David Godman said...


If you have forgotten your password, you should approach Google for a new one. It's nothing to do with me.

Questions such as these should be asked in the most recent 'Open Thread'. The threads under the articles on Bhagavan's teachings are meant for replies on that specific post. If anyone wants to respond to the questions raised by Anonymous, please do so on the 'Open Thread'.

Anonymous said...

An article by G.N. Daley found in a 1967 copy of the Mountain Path.
" The following analogy may further explain the nature of his grace. Consider us all to be satellites in orbit around the centre, the heart; then suppose one of these, by Bhagavan's guidance slows down until a spiralling motion sets in. Then, by his grace, it stops dead in its tracks and plummets right into the centre. After having there absorbed his grace, it is free once more to return into orbit but in doing so no longer sees the heart as being exclusively in the centre but is itself also and in all the others who are orbiting the centre. In fact the heart is everywhere."

Anonymous said...

Though I can accept that some of the followers of Sri Ganapati Muni may have had vested interests in putting forward Sakta and non-Advaita views, the Muni himself was such a rare gem of shraddha, tapas and learning, that any “vested” interest in him is unthinkable.

David has quoted from “Sri Ramana Reminiscences” that, “Sri Bhagavan also explained the difference between srishti-drishti vadam espoused by Sri Kavyakantha [Ganapati Muni] and drishti-srishti vadam supported by Sri K. Lakshmana Sarma and others …..’.

With respect, this quote merely proves that Sri G.V. Subbaramayya, the author, held the view that Ganapati Muni supported sristi-dristi, and Sri Laksman Sarma, the other. Nowhere does G. V. Subbaramayya quote Sri Bhagavan Himself as saying so. (Though Sri Bhagavan is quoted later as saying that Ganapati Muni followed certain Yogic beliefs).

And really, the point is, not whether he supported one theory or the other. We all know that Ganapati Muni worshipped the Divine Mother and such worshipful-devotion would necessarily tend towards sristi-dristi. But, the point is, can we cast an allegation on a person of as towering a spiritual advancement as he, that he would feel the need to surreptitiously try to substitute his own beliefs into his Guru’s, Sri Bhagavan’s slokas and writings ? Or, surreptitiously get his followers to do that on his behalf ?

I think not.

I believe that Ganapati Muni also followed his Guru’s ideals in following a “hands-off” policy on what his disciples were doing or practicing. His personal, initiated, disciples included such a varied lot as Sri Kapali Sastri, a staunch Shakta, and also Sri Viswanatha Swami, a staunch Vedantist. And both followed their own chosen paths. It is much more likely and logical that Sri Kapali Sastri brought in a Sakta view into the Bhasya of Sat-Darsanam on his own.

Sri Bhagavan Himself related an interesting story about Ganapati Muni, which is recorded in “Day by Day” (Pg 202 in my edition). The story itself, on the face of it, concerns the Muni’s amazing memory and the writing of Sri Ramana Gita. But indirectly, Sri Bhagavan is also saying, in His own words, that Ganapati Muni at the very least, did not oppose and condemn Dristi-Srsti. And an inference can certainly be drawn from this story that if the Muni, actually, so strongly opposed Dristi-Sristi, (that he could even try and sneak in the opposing view into his Guru’s teachings), he would never have argued, even in an argument just for arguments sake, on the side of Dristi-Sristi as he did.


(From “Day-by-Day”, On 23-5-46)

Bhagavan replied, “Remembering such talks was child’s play to him. He could listen to a long and learned lecture on some intricate subject and then at the end reproduce the gist of it accurately in the form of sutras, not omitting anything of importance that had been said. Once he and Arunachala Sastri, who was also a learned man, had a discussion. Ganapati Sastri took up the position of drishti srishti, that we create and then see, that is to say that the world has no objective reality apart from our minds, while Arunachala Sastri took up the opposite view of srishti drishti, that creation exists objectively before we see it. Arunachala Sastri argued first and upheld his standpoint with a great display of logic and learning and many quotations. Then Ganapati Sastri wrote down in the form of sutras all that he had maintained and asked him whether the sutras gave a faithful summary of everything he had said. He agreed that they did, so Ganapati Sastri said: “Then now you will have my criticism and condemnation of it”. He then expounded very ably the advaitic point of view, that the world is an illusion as world but real as Brahman, that it does not exist as world but exists and is real as Brahman. In the same way he could record any discussion he heard; so remarkable was his power of memory, that he must have reproduced the Ramana Gita in that way. It would have been mere child’s play for him.”

Best wishes


Anonymous said...

Dear David, The articles and the comments were simply brilliant. Many believe Ganapati Muni was instrumental in breaking the silence of Bhagwan. and what followed later is something very special to all of us. Long live David for continuing this momentum,
dvv prasad

Arunachala Rama said...

Dear David,

This is truly mind blowing stuff. I am particularly very grateful to you for this posting. Nothing clarifies more than your synthesis/commentary. I have been thinking on this question for sometime. Sri Bhagavan has granted us a soul like you amongst us to guide us.

Please accept my sincere pranams to you.

Best regards

DD said...

Is there any original translation as it is of it...???
Be Happy and Keep smiling....