Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Swami Siddheswarananda's views on Bhagavan's Teachings on Creation

Several weeks ago Ravi asked me to comment on a portion of an article by Swami Siddheswarananda that appeared in the Golden Jubilee Souvenir, a book that was brought out in 1946 to commemorate Bhagavan’s fifty years in Tiruvannamalai. Swami Siddheswarananda was a monk in the Ramakrishna Order. His Guru in that organisation was Swami Brahmananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.

Swami Siddheswarananda visited Bhagavan in the 1930s and developed a deep and abiding respect for him. He went to Paris soon after meeting Bhagavan, taking charge of the Ramakrishna Order’s centre in Paris. He founded the Ramakrishna Ashram in Gretz, France, in 1947 and passed away in 1961.

Before I begin, here is an entertaining and little-known anecdote from one of his visits to Sri Ramanasramam. It was told to his secretary and recorded in an Arunachala Ashram newsletter of 2001:

A so-called ‘enlightened man,’ who took himself for Sri Krishna, came for the darshan of Ramana Maharshi, wearing clothes like Krishna. The Maharshi appeared to take him very seriously and treated this enlightened one as Krishna himself. He even arranged for one of his attendants to give special treatment to him, like one making puja to an idol of Krishna with all the worship items, etc. The ‘enlightened one’ was very pleased and went out. All the disciples who were there protested against the Maharshi’s treatment of this pseudo-Krishna, saying that it was not proper for him to treat that man in this manner. Sri Ramana silenced them all by saying: ‘All of you here are taking yourself for Mr X or Mr Y, so what's wrong for this one taking himself for Sri Krishna?’

This is what Swami Siddheswarananda wrote in the Golden Jubilee Souvenir:

The philosophical outlook of Maharshi tends very often to be confused with that of solipsism or its Indian equivalent, drishti-srishti-vada, which is a sort of degenerated idealism. That Maharshi never subscribes to that view can be known if we study his works in the light of orthodox Vedanta or observe his behaviour in life. When he says that it is the mind that has projected this universe, the term ‘mind’ should be understood in the Vedantic sense in which it is used. Unfortunately I have no books by Maharshi or works on him with me here for reference as all of them have disappeared when our library was looted during German occupation. What I write has necessarily to depend on my memory-impressions. The term ‘mind’ is also used by Sankara and Gaudapada in a wider sense than we are accustomed to use it in, as an antahkarana vritti. In certain places in the bhashyas of Sankara and the Karikas, the pure ‘mind’ is equated with Atman. For example, let us take verse 170 in Viveka Chudamani: ‘In dream when there is no actual contact with the external world the mind alone creates the whole universe consisting of the enjoyer, the objects etc. And similarly in the waking state also there is no difference. Therefore, all this phenomenal universe is the projection of mind.’ If the ‘mind’ used here is taken as identical with antahkarana vritti, Vedanta will necessarily be classed as solipsism! To understand the larger sense in which ‘mind’ is used in many such contexts we have to read the Mandukya Karika. For example, take verse 29 in Ch. III. ‘As in dream the mind acts through maya presenting the appearance of duality, so also in the waking state the mind acts through maya presenting the appearance of duality.’

There are several points of interest that can be commented on here. Let me start with the first sentence: 'The philosophical outlook of Maharshi tends very often to be confused with that of solipsism or its Indian equivalent, drishti-srishti-vada, which is a sort of degenerated idealism. '

Drishti-srishti-vada is the theory that the world is projected and created by the person who sees it. Bhagavan did teach this, and I am surprised that the swami was not aware of it. One should distinguish, though, between what Bhagavan taught (drishti-srishti-vada) as a working hypothesis for sadhaks and what he himself experienced as paramartha, ultimate truth. It was his own experience that creation had never really happened (ajata-vada). However, though Bhagavan was sometimes willing to state the truth of ajata-vada, when he spoke about creation, he mostly passed on versions of drishti-srishti-vada. Here are some extracts from the recent edition of Guru Vachaka Kovai (translated and edited by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and myself) which, I hope, will cover all the nuances of this distinction. I have put these pages (pp. 48-50 in the book) on at least one other post, but they deserve to reappear here since they address and refute the claim that Swami Siddheswarananda is making:

100 Though Guru Ramana, who appeared as God incarnate, expounded numerous doctrines, as befitted the different states and beliefs of the various devotees who sought refuge at his feet, you should know that what we have heard him affirm to intimate devotees in private, as an act of grace, as his own true experience, is only the doctrine of ajata [non-creation].

Question: In the Vedanta of Sri Sankaracharya, the principle of the creation of the world has been accepted for the sake of beginners, but for the advanced, the principle of non-creation is put forward. What is your view in this matter?

Na nirodho na chotpattir
Nabaddho na cha sadhakaha
Na mumukshur na vai mukta
Ityesha paramarthata.

This verse appears in the second chapter [v. 32, vaithathya prakarana] of Gaudapada’s Karika [a commentary on the Mandukyopanishad]. It means really that there is no creation and no dissolution. There is no bondage, no one doing spiritual practices, no one seeking spiritual liberation, and no one who is liberated. One who is established in the Self sees this by his knowledge of reality. (The Power of the Presence, part one, p. 240)

Editor’s note: The idea expressed in this verse was commented on in some detail in the note to verse 83. It was mentioned there that Bhagavan gave out different teachings on creation to suit the different temperaments and attitudes of the people who approached him with questions on the topic. This is how Bhagavan once explained the way he taught these different and apparently conflicting ideas:

The letter went on to say, ‘Ramana Maharshi is an exponent of ajata doctrine of advaita Vedanta. Of course, it is a bit difficult.’

Bhagavan remarked on this, ‘Somebody has told him so. I do not teach only the ajata doctrine. I approve of all schools. The same truth has to be expressed in different ways to suit the capacity of the hearer. The ajata doctrine says, “Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection [of the world] or drawing in [of it], no sadhaka, no mumukshu [seeker of liberation], no mukta [liberated one], no bondage, no liberation. The one unity alone exists ever.”

‘To such as find it difficult to grasp this truth and who 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 the drishti-srishti-vada, or the argument that one first creates out of his mind and then sees what his mind itself has created.

‘To such as 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 non-existent,” 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 this class. Their mind is otherwise not 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.”’

Dr. M. said, ‘But all these cannot be true; only one doctrine can be true.’

Bhagavan said, ‘All these are only to suit the capacity of the learner. The absolute can only be one.’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 15th March, 1946, afternoon)

Mention was made in the editorial notes that similar ideas were expressed in verse eighty-three. This is the verse and some of the supplementary comments that appear there (Guru Vachaka Kovai, pp. 41-2) :

83 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.

Editor’s note: The quotation at the beginning of the verse is taken from verse one of Ulladu Narpadu. It says:

Because we perceive the world, there is certainly absolute agreement that there exists a first cause, which is a creative energy capable of manifesting diversity. The picture consisting of names and forms, he who sees it, the screen on which it appears, and the light which illuminates it, all are He, who is the Self.

Editor’s note: Although Bhagavan knew that ajata is the supreme truth, he actually taught the doctrine of illusory appearance as an explanation for the world manifestation since he knew that this would provide the maximum practical benefit. When the devotee truly understands that the world is an illusory projection of the mind, his mind no longer moves towards it. When this happens, the mind goes back to its source and disappears, leaving the ajata experience in which one knows directly that the world never existed or was created except in the imagination. The doctrine of simultaneous creation is therefore a working hypothesis that enables seekers to find the ultimate truth.

Muruganar: The Self, consciousness, is the material and efficient cause for the appearance of the world. When the rope [the material and efficient cause] appears as an illusory snake, this is vivarta siddhanta [the doctrine of illusory appearance]. The meaning is, just like the snake in the rope, the world is an imaginary appearance [kalpita] in reality, consciousness. People who lose hold of the state of the Self mistake themselves for the seer [of the world] and regard the perceived world as real. Such people cannot get peace through [being taught] ajata siddhanta. To remove the idea that the world exists apart from them, [an idea] that confounds and distresses them, vivarta siddhanta is taught. So, there really is no contradiction between these two [ajata siddhanta and vivarta siddhanta].

Though Bhagavan was careful and even-handed when he spoke about creation theories in the reply I cited from Day by Day with Bhagavan (15th March, 1946, afternoon), it was more usual for him to say that the drishti-srishti position was not only an accurate explanation of the world we see in front of us, it is also the most useful perspective for a seeker to adopt:

Later, Sri Bhagavan continued: ‘The Vedanta says that the cosmos springs into view simultaneously with the seer. There is no detailed process of creation. This is said to be yugapat srishti [instantaneous creation]. It is quite similar to the creations in dream where the experiencer springs up simultaneously with the objects of experience. When this is told, some people are not satisfied for they are so rooted in objective knowledge. They seek to find out how there can be sudden creation. They argue that an effect must be preceded by a cause. In short, they desire an explanation for the existence of the world which they see around them. Then the Srutis try to satisfy their curiosity by such theories of creation. This method of dealing with the subject of creation is called krama srishti [gradual creation]. But the true seeker can be content with yugapat srishti - instantaneous creation.’ (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 651)

Most of these quotes and arguments will be familiar to readers of this blog. What may not be so familiar is how these ideas relate to the western notions of solipsism and idealism that Swami Siddheswarananda referred to in his opening sentence. Here is it again: 'The philosophical outlook of Maharshi tends very often to be confused with that of solipsism or its Indian equivalent, drishti-srishti-vada, which is a sort of degenerated idealism.'

Solipsism is the philosophical position that nothing exists other than one’s own mind and its perceptions. The logical extension of this is that ‘other’ minds do not exist. Various strands or subdivisions of solipsism have been identified and pursued in western philosophy:

(a) Metaphysical solipsism

This maintains that the individual self constitutes the sole reality. The external world and the people in it are part of the perceiving individual self and have no independent existence apart from it.

(b) Epistemological solipsism

Epistemology is the study of knowledge and how it is validly or invalidly acquired. Epistemological solipsism states that only the accessible contents of the mind can be known. It does not, though, accept that this is the only possible knowledge. Though it concedes that there is a possibility that an external world exists, it states that such a thesis is impossible to prove or disprove.

(c) Methodological solipsism

This is a philosophical principle that the individual self and its states are the sole and proper starting point for philosophical speculation. Its basic premise is that all philosophical statements and conclusions must derive from the irrefutable and directly experienced fact of personal consciousness.

All of these positions can find parallels in things that Bhagavan periodically said, but the major reason why Bhagavan could not be considered to be a solipsist is that solipsism does not accept the reality of anything that is prior to or beyond the mind. It has no transcendental aspect.

In Ulladu Narpadu, verse 26, Bhagavan wrote:

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.

A western philosopher who read the first three sentences of this verse would undoubtedly classify Bhagavan as a solipsist. However, the final sentence, with its recommendation to enquire into the nature of the ego, takes Bhagavan’s teachings out of the realm of pure solipsism. What happens when this enquiry is done properly? Bhagavan gives the answer in verse seventeen of Upadesa Undiyar:

When one scrutinises the form of the mind, without being inattentive [it will be found that] there is no such thing as mind. This is the direct path for all.

Bhagavan teaches that the ego exists by repeatedly attaching itself to objects. He also tells us that we can break this chain by focusing intensively on the subjective essence of this ego. Intense attention to the primary form of the ego, the ‘I’-thought, quite literally causes it to run away and disappear:

The ghost ego, which has no form, comes into existence by grasping a form, and having grasped it, endures. Thus grasping and consuming forms, it waxes greater. Letting go of one form, it will grasp another. If you seek it out, it will take flight. (Ulladu Narpadu, verse 25)

Solipsism only accepts the reality of those things that can be ascertained by the mind. Bhagavan, on the other hand, does not claim that the mind is everything. He says that there is an underlying state that has nothing to do with the mind, a state that can be discovered and directly experienced by eliminating the individual ‘I’ that superimposes itself on this substratum.

Though Bhagavan did not accept the solipsist position that only mental data are valid, he did occasionally adopt solipsisitic arguments in an attempt to demonstrate there is no real external world, independent of the observer of it. Here is the best example I know, taken from Maharshi’s Gospel:

Devotee: As I said before, we see, feel and sense the world in so many ways. These sensations are the reactions to the objects seen, felt etc. and are not mental creations as in dreams, which differ not only from person to person but also with regard to the same person. Is that not enough to prove the objective reality of the world?

Bhagavan: All this talk about inconsistencies and their attribution to the dream-world arises only now, when you are awake. While you are dreaming, the dream was a perfectly integrated whole. That is to say, if you felt thirsty in a dream, the illusory drinking of illusory water did quench your illusory thirst. But all this was real and not illusory to you so long as you did not know that the dream itself was illusory. Similarly with the waking world; and the sensations you now have, get co-ordinated to give you the impression that the world is real.

If, on the contrary, the world is a self-existent reality (that is what you evidently mean by its objectivity) what prevents the world from revealing itself to you in sleep? You do not say you have not existed in your sleep.

Devotee: Neither do I deny the world’s existence while I am asleep. It has been existing all the while. If during my sleep I did not see it, others who are not sleeping saw it.

Bhagavan: To say you existed while asleep, was it necessary to call in the evidence of others so as to prove it to you? Why do you seek their evidence now? Those ‘others’ can tell you of having seen the world (during your sleep) only when you yourself are awake. With regard to your own existence it is different. On waking up you say you had a sound sleep, so that to that extent you are aware of yourself in the deepest sleep, whereas you have not the slightest notion of the world’s existence then. Even now, while you are awake, is it the world that says “I am real”, or is it you?

Devotee: Of course I say it, but I say it of the world.

Bhagavan: Well then, that world, which you say is real, is really mocking at you for seeking to prove its reality while of your own Reality you are ignorant.

You want somehow or other to maintain that the world is real. What is the standard of reality? That alone is real which exists by itself, which reveals itself by itself and which is eternal and unchanging.

Does the world exist by itself? Was it ever seen without the aid of the mind? In sleep there is neither mind nor world. When awake there is the mind and there is the world. What does this invariable concomitance mean? You are familiar with the principles of inductive logic, which are considered the very basis of scientific investigation. Why do you not decide this question of the reality of the world in the light of those accepted principles of logic?

Of yourself you can say ‘I exist’. That is, yours is not mere existence, it is Existence of which you are conscious. Really, it is existence identical with consciousness.

Devotee: The world may not be conscious of itself, yet it exists.

Bhagavan: Consciousness is always Self-consciousness. If you are conscious of anything you are essentially conscious of yourself. Unselfconscious existence is a contradiction in terms. It is no existence at all. It is merely attributed existence, whereas true existence, the sat, is not an attribute, it is the substance itself. It is the vastu. Reality is therefore known as sat-chit, being-consciousness, and never merely the one to the exclusion of the other. The world neither exists by itself, nor is it conscious of its existence. How can you say that such a world is real? And what is the nature of the world? It is perpetual change, a continuous, interminable flux. A dependent, unselfconscious, ever-changing world cannot be real. (Maharshi’s Gospel pp. 60-62)

Note how Bhagavan’s argument runs through familiar solipsistic territory before moving on to a transcendental position that the world cannot possibly be real because it is impermanent, changing, and does not reveal itself independently of the perceiver’s perception of it.

The solipsistic notion that there is only one individual self, and that all ‘other selves’ are created and imagined within it, has an advaitic parallel in the teaching of ‘eka jiva’, ‘one jiva’. This states that there are not many jivas, all of whom project a world and live in it; there is only one. Bhagavan laid out the premise of this position in this passage from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 534:

Bhagavan: Jiva is called so because he sees the world. A dreamer sees many jivas in a dream, but all of them are not real. The dreamer alone exists and he sees all. So it is with the individual and the world. There is the creed of only one Self, which is also called the creed of only one jiva. It says that the jiva is the only one who sees the whole world and the jivas therein.

Bhagavan did not commit himself to this philosophical position in this particular quotation, but he firmly accepted it in verse 534 of Guru Vachaka Kovai. In this verse Bhagavan stated that eka jiva, though true, is such a counter-intuitive position to adopt, even jnanis generally say that there is a multiplicity of jivas:

Let the heroic one who possesses a powerful intuition accept that the jiva is only one, and thus become firmly established in the Heart. In order to satisfy those persons in whom this intuition has not blossomed [jnanis appear to] agree with their view that jivas are many.

The following comments and the subsequent quotation come from the discussion on eka jiva that appears on pages 231 and 232 of Guru Vachaka Kovai:

It is a fundamental tenet of advaita that the world is projected by the individual mind that sees it. Some people think that this means that each individual jiva projects its own world, but Bhagavan taught that this is not the correct perspective. He maintained that the jiva which sees the world is the only jiva that exists, and that all the other people whom this jiva sees are merely imagined projections of the first jiva. Since all things and all beings are merely the externalised projection of the jiva who sees them, it follows that when this jiva is absent or destroyed, the other beings and things simply cease to exist.

Chadwick once questioned Bhagavan on this topic: ‘If the world exists only when my mind exists, when my mind subsides in meditation or sleep, does the outside world disappear also? I think not. If one considers the experiences of others who were aware of the world while I slept, one must conclude that the world existed then. Is it not more correct to say that the world got created and is ever existing in some huge collective mind? If this is true how can one say that there is no world and that it is only a dream?’

Bhagavan refused to modify his position. ‘The world does not say that it was created in the collective mind or that it was created in the individual mind. It only appears in your small mind. If your mind gets destroyed, there will be no world.’ (Living by the Words of Bhagavan, 2nd ed. p. 236)

Bhagavan himself addressed some of the arguments for and against the eka-jiva position in talk 571 of Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi:

Multiplicity of individuals is a moot point with most persons. A jiva is only the light reflected on the ego. The person identifies himself with the ego and argues that there must be more like him. He is not easily convinced of the absurdity of his position. Does a man who sees many individuals in his dream persist in believing them to be real and enquire after them when he wakes up?

This argument does not convince the disputant.

Again, there is the moon. Let anyone look at her from any place at any time; she is the same moon. Everyone knows it. Now suppose that there are several receptacles of water reflecting the moon. The images are all different from one another and from the moon herself. If one of the receptacles falls to pieces, that reflection disappears. Its disappearance does not affect the real moon or the other reflections. It is similar with an individual attaining Liberation. He alone is liberated.

The sectarian of multiplicity makes this his argument against non-duality. ‘If the Self is single, if one man is liberated, that means that all souls are liberated. In practice it is not so. Therefore advaita is not correct.’

The weakness in the argument is that the reflected light of the Self is mistaken for the original light of the Self. The ego, the world and the individuals are all due to the person’s vasanas. When they perish, that person’s hallucinations disappear, that is to say one pitcher is broken and the relative reflection is at an end.

The fact is that the Self is never bound. There can therefore be no release for it. All the troubles are for the ego only.

I have wandered around a bit so far on this post, covering many aspects of Bhagavan’s teachings (drishti-srishti-vada, eka jiva, and so on) and explaining the difference between solipsism and Bhagavan’s advaitic teachings. I want, now, to go back to my starting point: Swami Siddheswarananda made two claims in his first sentence, that Bhagavan did not teach drishti-srishti-vada, and that solipsism is the same as drishti-srishti-vada. I hope I have presented enough evidence here to demonstrate that both assertions are unsustainable.

There is one further claim in his first sentence that I have not so far addressed: that drishti-srishti-vada is ‘a sort of degenerated idealism’.

Idealism is a strand of western philosophy that stands in opposition to materialism. The materialist position is that there is an external, real world comprising interacting energy and matter. This is the standard, almost universally accepted, srishti-drishti view of the world which says that a real world exists independently of a perceiver, that it was there before he was born, and that it will continue to exist after he dies. Idealism, on the other hand, insists that the mind and its thoughts are the only thing that exists.

Idealism is actually a theory in the philosophy of perception. It describes the relationship that exists between the experiencer and what he experiences.

There are two main divisions of idealism: subjective idealism and objective idealism. The subjective idealist is a solipsist. He would maintain that the thoughts which generate the world we see come from inside the perceiving subject. Everything that is seen is something that has been thought up by the seer. An objective idealist takes the line that objects in the world originate outside ourselves, which is why we all see the same things ‘out there’. However, they are not material objects; they are just ideas. All things are mental creations, which begs the question, ‘in whose mind, or created by whom?’

George Berkeley, probably the most famous of the objective idealists, proposed that all ‘things’ are just ideas in the mind of God. According to him, there really is a world ‘out there’, but it is one comprised wholly of God’s thoughts, not independently existing matter and energy.

This is his most famous statement about the nature of objects: ‘Their esse [to be] is percipi [to be perceived]; nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds of thinking things which perceive them…’. (Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge).

Taken in isolation this would indicate that if an object is not being perceived, it simply doesn’t exist. Seeing brings it into existence. However, the universe is sustained in its entirety, according to Berkeley, because God is simultaneously aware of all things, thus allowing an orderly world to appear and persist. This intriguing theory was delightfully summarised in two limericks, the first composed by Ronald Knox, and the second anonymously:

There was a young man who said ‘God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there’s no one about in the quad’.

‘Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd;
I am always about in the quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.’

Bhagavan also taught that the act of seeing brings objects that are seen into existence. In this he agrees with the idealists.

Every time it [the mind] sees, it is in the act of seeing that the many scenes appear as if real to the seeing consciousness. (Padamalai, p. 269, v.1)

Bhagavan: Creation is not other than seeing; seeing and creating are one and the same process. Annihilation is only the cessation of seeing and nothing else; for the world comes to an end by the right awareness of oneself. (Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad, v. 147)

Question: What is the relation between mind and object? Is the mind contacting something different from it, viz., the world?

Bhagavan: The world is ‘sensed’ in the waking and the dream states or is the object of perception and thought, both being mental activities. If there were no such activities as waking and dreaming thought, there would be no ‘perception’ or inference of a ‘world’. In sleep there is no such activity and ‘objects and world’ do not exist for us in sleep. Hence ‘reality of the world’ may be created by the ego by its act of emergence from sleep; and that reality may be swallowed up or disappear by the soul resuming its nature in sleep. The emergence and disappearance of the world are like the spider producing a gossamer web and then withdrawing it. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 25)

However, there are key differences between idealism and Bhagavan’s teachings. Bhagavan taught that when the seer and the seen (the individual self and the world) are absent, the Self remains, consciously known by the jnani, but unknown to those who mediate their knowledge and perceptions through a knower and a perceiver. It is this extra dimension of a permanent substratum, knowable through direct experience, rather than mediated by the senses, that distinguishes both idealism and solipsism from advaita. A solipsist and a subjective idealist will only accept as real those things that their senses and their mind consciously register. Bhagavan teaches that the mind, far from registering what is true and real, actually hides reality. There is a world of difference between these two positions.

Solipsism and subjective idealism give primacy to thought and perception. In these systems things exist not because they have inherent beingness, but because they are sensed or thought about by the mind. Descartes took this to its logical conclusion by asserting that thinking even proved that a person existed: ‘I think ,therefore I am.’ Bhagavan ridiculed this position in no uncertain terms:

The existence of their own Self is inferred by some from mental functioning, by the reasoning, ‘I think, therefore I am’. These men are like those dull-witted ones who ignore the elephant when it goes past, and become convinced afterwards by looking at the footprints! (Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad, v. 166)

For Bhagavan ‘being’ is self-evident and real; idealists and solipsists, on the other hand, only accept as real objects that the mind is capable of registering.

Swami Siddheswarananda claimed that drishti-srishti-vada was some form of ‘degenerate idealism’. He didn’t say in what way it might have degenerated, but in the forms I have presented it here, idealism is clearly distinguishable both from drishti-srishti-vada and from Bhagavan’s teachings in general.

I started out with the intention of critiquing the whole of Swami Siddheswarananda’s comments in a few pages. Looking at my computer I find I am now on page eleven, and looking at the clock I find that I have spent most of a day getting this far. I don’t have the time to post detailed critiques of all the other things he said. I will simply say that there are many other things in his comments that I disagree with. Before I end, though, I want to comment briefly on his second sentence which says:

That Maharshi never subscribes to that view [solipsism, idealism or drishti-srishti-vada] can be known if we study his works in the light of orthodox Vedanta or observe his behaviour in life.

The notion that we can discover Bhagavan’s teachings by observing his behaviour is an intriguing one. I think I wrote elsewhere on this blog that, during the Bhagavan Centenary Celebrations of 1980, I ended up having to mark some student essays whose set topic was: ‘Bhagavan’s teachings are best exemplified by the life he lead. Discuss.’

The answers were, unfortunately, uniformly bad. Nevertheless, I think all of us would agree that we could learn a lot about Bhagavan by observing his daily routine and by studying the way he lived his life and dealt with all the events and incidents that were going on around him. I don’t, though, believe that we could find out whether or not he was a proponent of drishti-srishti-vada from making such observations. For that, we would have to go to his writings and to the verbal replies he gave on this topic. I don’t agree that we can discover what views Bhagavan subscribes to by studying his teachings ‘in the light of orthodox Vedanta’. If we want to find out what Bhagavan intended by a particular comment or written sentence, the best place to look is in the publications where Bhagavan himself explains his teachings in more detail.

If there are no direct comments or writings from Bhagavan himself on a particular subject, we can look in the books of devotees who were given personal instructions by Bhagavan on the meaning of his writings. Muruganar and Lakshmana Sarma, for example, were both given extensive private tuition by Bhagavan on the meaning and interpretation of Bhagavan’s Ulladu Narpadu verses. If we want to find out what Bhagavan intended to communicate in a particular line of his writings, we should first look at any comments Bhagavan might have written or spoken on the topic under discussion. Then, if there is still some doubt, we should consult those texts which incorporate Bhagavan’s own explanations.

Bhagavan’s views on drishti-srishti-vada were expressed many times. The first few pages of this post have many direct quotes from Bhagavan on this topic. These quotations, not the texts of orthodox Vedanta, are the places to go for an understanding of what Bhagavan said and intended.

To be fair to Swami Siddheswarananda, he could not have been aware of most of these statements by Bhagavan since virtually none of them were in print in the era he visited Ramanasramam. I am guessing that he did not know Tamil. That would leave him an English body of work that included Maha Yoga, Maharshi's Gospel, and English translations of Who am I?, Spiritual Instruction and Ulladu Narpadu. I am assuming that he also went through Sat Darshana Bhashya in Sanskrit.

The contents of Sat Darshana Bhashya might have persuaded him that Bhagavan did not teach drishti-srishti-vada, but as an educated and discerning vedantic scholar, he should have found sufficient textual evidence in Bhagavan's other works to come to the conclusion that Bhagavan did teach drishti-srishti vada. In Who am I?, for example, he could have found the following very clear paragraph:

There no such thing as 'the world' independent of thoughts. There are no thoughts in deep sleep, and there is no world. In waking and dream there are thoughts, and there is also the world. Just as a spider emits the thread of a web from within itself and withdraws it again into itself, in the same way the mind projects the world from within itself and later reabsorbs it into itself. When the mind emanates from the Self, the world appears. When the world appears, the Self is not seen, and when the Self appears or shines, the world will not appear.

Since Bhagavan often used the terminology of Vedanta, it is understandable how some vedantic scholars might want to consult their texts to get a better understanding of what Bhagavan was teaching. In my opinion this is not a valid interpretive route since Bhagavan's teachings and comments are not derived from a study of vedantic texts but from his own experience. The fact that they mostly agree with these vedantic texts does not mean that one should give precedence to these writings when one is looking for a proper understanding of what Bhagavan taught.

As the following and concluding dialogue indicates, Bhagavan used his own language to express his own experience:

Mr M. Oliver Lacombe, a middle-aged Frenchman who was on a visit to India, being delegated by the Institute of Indian Civilisation of the University of Paris, came here from French India. Among others he had desired to meet Maharshi; he came and stayed here about three hours. He had read, in the Sanskrit original, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and the Sutras with commentaries by Sri Sankara and Ramanuja.

He asked: Is Maharshi’s teaching the same as Sankara’s?

Bhagavan: Maharshi’s teaching is only an expression of his own experience and realisation. Others find that it tallies with Sri Sankara’s.

Devotee: Quite so. Can it be put in other ways to express the same realisation?

Bhagavan: A realised person will use his own language.(Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 189)


Subramanian. R said...

Dear David, Another excellent piece
in quick succession. Bhagavan is
the column of fire that appeared
before Brahma and Vishnu. Nobody
can figure Him out through Vedantic
texts or various Vedantic terminology, since everything that
He taught was from His Experience.
When someone wanted to compare Him
with Sankara, (in the commission
enquiry later - Perumal Swami), He
said the same thing. "I am telling
of my experience. But people say
that mine and Sankara's are the same."

I am quoting two small paragraphs
from Ram Mohan's article in MP (
April-June issue) on Ulladu Narpadu, Verse 26:

There is an interesting anecdote
concerning the Buddha. Lord Buddha's directive to his disciples
was: "Be a light unto yourself."
King Prasenajit came to see the
Buddha. He saw a large number of bhikkus bowing to him, saying
Buddham saranam gacchami. Prasenajit found a contradiction to this. He asked the Buddh: "Master! You tell the people, "Be
a light unto yourself." But even
after this, when they surrender to you and touch your feet, you don't
prevent them. If you say, "Be a light unto yourself", there is no
need to surrender to anybody else,
so why should they fall at your feet?

The Buddha laughed and said: "These are not my feet. They are not surrendering to me becaue there
is nobody inside me as the ego who
can claim surrender. The disciples
are simply surrendering. It is not surrender to me. Since they are not fully evolved yet, they are not capable of simple surrender without
an excuse. I, as a person, do not


Ravi said...

Thanks very much for taking the time and putting Sri Bhagavan's teachings on these subtle aspects.I just skimmed over the article.I will read this over and over again.
I have always harboured one basic doubt-How do we know that the world is not there in sleep?How do we wake up when some one calls us,whereas we seem to be impervious to even thunder and loud noise(a jetliner passing overhead,etc)?Looks like there is some part of us that is awake and responds to the call of the ouside world.It is quite likely that our perception of the world is minimal-but the world very much seems to be there and we only respond to it in a highly selective manner.

More on this a little later.


Losing M. Mind said...

I haven't read the whole thing, but yeah, it is something I've thought about. The conclusions about solipsism, are pretty much what i've gathered from reading Maharshi. I could see it being dismissed as solipsism, if one didn't have the profound experience at all of where Maharshi's teachings lead.

Ravi said...

"Drishti-srishti-vada is the theory that the world is projected and created by the person who sees it."
Did Sri Bhagavan teach this-"created by the PERSON who sees it."?
or does this vada says that it is the 'I' that projects the world.

This is the very first distinction that the Swami is making between Antakharana Vritti and the larger sense in which the mind is used in the vedantic texts(Mind as Brahman-Akhandakara vritti in which the world is seen as Brahman).

I should add that the swami is a tremendous scholar and cannot be making a fundamental mistake.

coming to the essays of the students on Sri Bhagavan and why the swami has talked about the 'behaviour'(Life)of Sri Bhagavan-I will touch upon it someother time.


ArunachalaHeart said...

Ramana never ceases to amaze me with his wit and intelligence.

Amazing answer in the pseudo Krishna episode.

absolutely amazing!

David Godman said...


I would have gone into this in a lot more detail, if I had had the time. My original plan was to examine exactly how Bhagavan said that the world was projected and to compare those remarks and writings with what Swami Siddheswarananda had written. I was particularly keen to explore what Bhagavan meant by ‘mind’ and ‘antahkarana vritti’, and how they related to the process of creation.

Although it is a tricky verse to translate and interpret, Arunachala Ashtakam verse six probably gives Bhagavan’s teachings on drishti-srishti in their purest form. There, he is speaking from his own experience, and not replying to a question about the scriptures. In essence, the verse says that the light of the Self rises and passes through ‘anu’ a tiny atomic dot, which Bhagavan elsewhere equates with the vasanas. In this verse this process is compared to the light passing through the film in a projector. The resulting projection, says Bhagavan, is then cognised internally as the idea of the world and externally as the tangible world we see around us. The seer and the seen are simultaneously brought into existence by the diffraction of the light of the Self as it passes through the vasanas and the prarabdha that has been allocated for a particular life.

Bhagavan commented extensively on this process in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 323:

While explaining stanza 6 in Arunachala Ashtakam, Sri Bhagavan observed as follows:-

The final word in the previous stanza asks, “Is there one?” The initial words in the present stanza answer, “Yes, there is the One.....” It proceeds, “Though it is the only One, yet by its wonderful power it gets reflected on the tiny dot ‘I’ (the ego) otherwise known as ignorance or the aggregate of latent tendencies; this reflected light is relative knowledge. This, according to one’s prarabdha (past karma now fructifying), manifests the inner latent tendencies as the outer gross world and withdraws the gross external world as the subtle internal tendencies; such power is called mind in the subtle plane and brain in the physical plane. This mind or brain acts as the magnifier to that Eternal One Being and shows It forth as the expanded universe...

In the present stanza the tiny dot = the ego; the tiny dot made up of darkness = the ego consisting of latent tendencies, the seer or the subject or the ego rising, it expands itself as the seen, the object or the antahkaranas (the inner organs). The light must be dim in order to enable the ego to rise up. In broad daylight a rope does not look like a snake. The rope itself cannot be seen in thick darkness; so there is no chance of mistaking it for a snake. Only in dim light, in the dusk, in light darkened by shadows or in darkness lighted by dim light does the mistake occur of a rope seeming a snake. Similarly it is for the Pure Radiant Being to rise up as the Ego - it is possible only in Its Light diffused through darkness. This darkness is otherwise known as the Original Ignorance (Original Sin). The Light passing through it is called Reflected Light. The Reflected Light on its own merits is commonly known as the Pure Mind or Isvara or God. Isvara is well-known to be unified with Maya: in other words the Reflected Light is Isvara.

The other name - Pure Mind - implies impure mind also. It is the rajasic or active mind or the ego; this too can be projected from the former satvic mind through another reflection only; thus the ego is the product of the second darkness (avidya) Then comes the tamasic or the dull mind in the shape of antahkaranas (the inner organs); this appears as the world.

- - - - - -

This is dense, complicated stuff that needs thousands of words to explain properly. I might make it the subject of a whole new post, if I find the time.

David Godman said...

Ravi again

I find this whole passage by Swami Siddheswarananda quite perplexing. As you remark, he was an expert in this field. He was clearly appreciative of Gaudapada's Karika, so his own position could not have been that different from Bhagavan's. I went online and spent an hour reading some of his writings there but ended up none the wiser as to why he should take the position that Bhagavan did not teach drishti-srishti-vada.

I suspect it comes down to his understanding and interpretation of the word 'mind': what role it plays in the process of creation, and in what form, if any, it survives after Self-realisation.

However, for me, there is not enough information in this paragraph to come to a definitive conclusion on what his own preferred ideas on creation might have been.

Anonymous said...

People ordinarily think that forgiveness is for
those who are worthy of it, who deserve it. But if somebody
deserves, is worthy of forgiveness, it is not much of a
forgiveness. You are not doing anything on your part; he
deserves it. You are not really being love and compassion.
Your forgiveness will be authentic only when even those who
don't deserve it receive it. It is not a question of
whether a person is worthy or not. The question is whether
your heart is ready or not.

Ravi said...

Here are the verse 5 and 6 of the Ashtakam:
5.As the string in (a necklet of) gems, it is Thou in Thy Unity who penetratest all the diversity of beings and religions. If, like a gem when it is cut and polished, the (impure) mind is worked against the wheel of the (pure) mind to free it of its flaws, it will take on the light of Thy Grace (and shine) like a ruby, whose fire is unaffected by any outward object. When a sensitive plate has been exposed to the sun, can it receive impressions afterwards? O benign and dazzling Aruna Hill! Is there anything apart from thee?

6.Thou art Thyself the One Being, ever aware as the self-luminous Heart! In Thee there is a mysterious Power (Sakti). From it proceeds, the phantom of the mind emitting its latent subtle dark mists, which, illumined by Thy Light (of Consciousness) reflected on them, appear within as though whirling in the vortices of prarabdha, later developing into the psychic worlds and are projected without as the material world and transformed into concrete objects which are magnified by the outgoing senses and move about like pictures in a cinema show. Visible or invisible, O Hill of Grace, without Thee they are nothing!
It is very clear that the focus is 'Thee'-Brahman, on Brahman as Shakti.Brahman as Shakti has projected this manifest universe which is not apart from Brahman.

Sri Bhagavan's experience cannot be different than that of The Vedic Seers;it may have been expressed differently-but it is definitely vedantic.


Ravi said...

I understand that the swami is alluding to the 'interpretaton' of Sri Bhagavan's Srishti-Drishti vada exposition.If this is deemed that the world is created by the PERSON,it is a form of Solipsism;The logical conclusion to that would be that the suffering of 'others' can be ignored as a fanciful projection of the (one's)PERSON's mind.Nothing else needs to be done.

It is only when this is correctly understood as the mind in the VEDANTIC sense,that the life as lived by Sri Bhagavan(was there a better exemplar!)falls in line with that.
As Sri Ramakrishna ,the Divine Mother said to Sri Ramakrishna ,the Devotee-you are already eatng through so many mouths;why are you insisting that you want to eat through this particular mouth.(This was when the young boy disciples compelled the childlike master to ask the Divine mother for relief,when Sri Ramakrishna was suffering acutely from throat cancer).
This is also why Sri Bhagavan always insisted that others have an equal or greater share of whatever was offered to 'him'.

More on this later.


Anonymous said...

David, Why be surprised. Swami Siddheswarananda was a great scholar. What weight does scholarship have when it comes to Ramana Maharshi? Punditry is not to be confused with enlightenment. Ramana is a great mystery.

s. said...

this excerpt, which was sent to me by a very good friend alittle while ago, is from the text "jagatguru pathilaLikkirAr" (The Jagatguru answers). the 'jagadguru' in reference is sri The book is abhinava vidyAtIrtha mahAsvAmigaL, the erstwhile jagadguru of the srngEri matha.
(D for devotee and HH for the svamigaL)

D: Then what is creation?
HH: Perception alone is creation. There is no other creation other than the perception. The perception that a thing exists indeed is creation and nothing else.

D: Then is it not a waste to consider that other living beings also exist?
HH: Yes.

D: Then what about Ishvara?
HH: He too is a part of your "dream". In reality there is neither the cause nor the effect. One has bondage as long as one considers that one has bondage. One who feels that one is free is indeed free. That is why it has been said: 'muktAbhimAnI mukto hi baddho vaddhAbhimAnyapi' That is one who considers oneself as a mukta is a mukta. One who feels that he has bondage does have bondage. Therefore one should remove the wrong impression that one has bondage.

D: Is the removal of the wrong idea that one has bondage itself a quicker means of attaining moksha?
HH: Yes. So far I was speaking with dR^ishTi-sR^ishTi vAda in mind, but this will not be suitable for many people because their minds will not be pure enough to understand this philosophy. Everybody will accept that the dream state alone is unreal. If it is said that the waking state is also unreal, they will be frightened. For some people it may appear that the dream state is also real from the statement "The waking state is akin to the dream state". That is why the sAstra-s do not speak much of the dR^ishTi-sR^ishTi vAda. Seldom do they speak about it.

David Godman said...


That's an old translation of verse six of Arunachala Ashtakam that, for me, doesn't really convey the intricacies of the verse. This is Sadhu Om's more recent version:

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, that sakti] a series of subtle shadowy thoughts [rise and] by means of consciousness in the whirl of prarabdha are seen as shadowy world pictures, both inside on the mirror of the thought-light and outside through the senses such as the eyes, just like a cinema picture which exists [by being projected] through a lens. O Hill of Grace, whether they stop [appearing] or whether they continue, they do not appear apart from You.

If one subscribes to the principle of eka jiva, as Bhagavan evidently did, one would have to say that all the suffering jivas one perceives are a projection of the jiva who sees them. The elimination of the perceiving jiva ends the existence of the perceived suffering jivas in just the same way that waking up from a dream in the morning causes all the people one dreamt about to vanish.

The argument about whether one is obliged to help the suffering jivas one sees is something of a side issue. Bhagavan taught that our primary obligation is to wake up from the dream, not to ameliorate the suffering we perceive there. However, if people felt an urge to follow the amelioration route, he told them not to identify with the one performing the actions, and not to think afterwards, 'I have done this good deed'.

If a world is projected out of your vasanas, you are not responsible for the individual welfare of everyone in it.

Bhagavan taught that when you create a world out of your thoughts, you also create a god whose job it is to look after it. Bhagavan taught that one should leave the welfare of the world to this god and focus instead on eliminating the inner ignorance and wrong identifications that cause the perceived world to arise in the first place.

Ravi said...

"If one subscribes to the principle of eka jiva, as Bhagavan evidently did, one would have to say that all the suffering jivas one perceives are a projection of the jiva who sees them. The elimination of the perceiving jiva ends the existence of the perceived suffering jivas in just the same way that waking up from a dream in the morning causes all the people one dreamt about to vanish."
Sri Bhagavan never subscribed to one Jiva -The atman is not the same as Jiva.
Going by the above arguement,a Guru would never be able to recognize the difficulty of the other jivas-They do not exist!


David Godman said...


I agree Atman and jiva are different entities. Bhagavan (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 534) defines a jiva in the following way: ‘Jiva is called so because he sees the world.’

Elsewhere (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no 571) he says:

‘A jiva is only the light reflected on the ego. The person identifies himself with the ego and argues that there must be more like him. He is not easily convinced of the absurdity of his position. Does a man who sees many individuals in his dream persist in believing them to be real and enquire after them when he wakes up?’

The jiva is the one who sees the world; the Atman is the substratum of that appearance. The teachings of drishti-srishti say that the world is a mental creation of the one who sees it. That ‘one’ is the jiva, and there is only one jiva. All the others are a projection of that first jiva. An acceptance of this leads to a rejection of the unreal world and an ability to abide in the Heart, the source of the one jiva:

‘Let the heroic one who possesses a powerful intuition accept that the jiva is only one, and thus become firmly established in the Heart.’ (Guru Vachaka Kovai 534)

The jiva is the one who sees the world. When that jiva is extinguished in the Heart, the world and all the projected jivas within it are no more.

When the seer, the jiva, goes, the seen vanishes as well. That is liberation. Bhagavan described his own liberation in exactly this way:

‘Enquiring within “Who is the seer?” I saw the seer disappear and that alone which stands for ever. No thought arose to say “I saw. How then could the thought arise to say “I did not see”? (Arunachala Ashtakam, verse two)

Ravi said...

". Does a man who sees many individuals in his dream persist in believing them to be real and enquire after them when he wakes up?’"
As I understand,the waking,Dream and Sleep state are not mutually exclusive-In the waking state also there is a degree of Dream and Sleep state,In the Dream State also there is a degree of waking and sleep and even in deep sleep state there is a degree of Dream and waking.
From this standpoint,if we look at the above question,the answer cannot always be an emphatic No.It depends on the Dream -there have been instances of a Guru appearing in a dream that was coroborated in the waking state later on.
The mind is thus not something limited and confined to the jiva.The Mind itself is inseperable from Brahman and projects the jiva and the world.

" When the seer, the jiva, goes, the seen vanishes as well. That is liberation."
It is only the differentiation that vanishes.What was seen earlier continues to be seen-this is how the wise one continues to function as is said of Janaka-

They took a brahmin, an untouchable, a cow, an elephant, and a dog to the court of King Janaka, who was a jnani. When all had arrived King Janaka sent the brahmin to the place of brahmins, the cow to its shed, the elephant to the place allotted to elephants, the dog to its kennel and the untouchable person to the place where the other untouchables lived. He then ordered his servants to take care of his guests and feed them all appropriate food.
Here is the verse 2 of The Ashtakam:
“Who is the Seer?” When I sought within, I watched what survived the disappearance of the seer (viz. the Self). No thought arose to say, “I saw”, how then could the thought “I did not see” arise? Who has the power to convey this in words, when even Thou (appearing as Dakshinamurti) couldst do so in ancient days by silence only? Only to convey by silence Thy (Transcendent) State Thou standest as a Hill, shining from heaven to earth."

Going over this part of it-"When I sought within, I watched what survived the disappearance of the seer"-Is it Possible to watch the disappearance of the Seer?-----
I need to check this translation-Ravi.
The Drift is that the Absolute cannot be described.

Ravi said...

What is 'Thought'? I ask this from the perspective of 'World as a creation of Thought'.

Ravi said...

"Bhagavan taught that when you create a world out of your thoughts, you also create a god whose job it is to look after it."

There is a danger in not understanding this properly.
This does not at all mean that 'Do Not do anything for 'others'.
All it means is that-do not think that you make a difference-it is God that takes care.

Somewhere Sri Bhagavan has said that it is the dog that wags the tail and not vice versa.In like manner,it may be said that the 'jiva' is a character in God's Dream and not vice versa.


Ravi said...

Thanks very much for that crisp and deep excerpt from the words of the mahaswami.
"D: Then is it not a waste to consider that other living beings also exist?
HH: Yes."
There is always a danger in the use of 'words' and framing of the sentence.In the above conversation,as I understand,it just means that it is a 'waste' to consider living beings as 'others'.They are 'oneself' only.
You are the may say that the world is real or unreal(Again the word 'real'!)as long as you are real or unreal.Further the real is related to the unreal!To go beyond the real and unreal is jnana.
Perhaps it is not out of place to mention this-just to take as an example-The Story of the Apple falling and the discovery of Gravitation.One may say that the apple is the one that attracts the Earth,or that the Earth is the one that attracts the apple,or that both of them attract each other-or to say -None of it-It is all in the perception in the mind of 'Attraction'. In no way is it going to alter the Apples from falling to the Ground or the Animals(including man) from eating it.
So,whatever be the vadas,whatever that happens will continue to happen and whatever that Rests will continue to Rest.This is what the wonderful Grandma of a Sage-Avvai says 'Nadappana Nadai,Kidappana Kidai'.The Great ones were content to simply realize the essence ,without bothering about the 'explanation'.


David Godman said...


In an earlier post you wrote:

'If this is deemed that the world is created by the PERSON,it is a form of Solipsism;The logical conclusion to that would be that the suffering of 'others' can be ignored as a fanciful projection of the (one's)PERSON's mind.Nothing else needs to be done.'

This is Bhagavan's advice, taken from Padamalai, on how to live in the world when one knows it to be unreal and when one's primary aspiration is Self-knowledge.

Performing actions

65 Padam decrees: ‘Whatever work you undertake, you should do it with your attention fixed one-pointedly upon it.’

66 If it is necessary to perform a particular task, then it is fitting to do it in a proper manner.

67 It is wisdom to abandon all activities other than those that are indispensable, being caused by nature.

68 Live your life without getting agitated, performing only those worldly activities that are unavoidable.

69 Surrender your mind to the Lord and play your part in the drama of worldly life with great skill, without getting caught up in the world.

70 If you are thinking of performing a good deed, do it well, and in appropriate measure.

71 However good an action may be, if performing it spoils and destroys your equanimity of mind, what is the benefit of it?

Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 574: Only those actions that are performed whole-heartedly, with tranquillity, and from a virtuousness that comes from purity of mind, are good actions. All actions performed with oppressive agitation and through the contaminating desires of the mind, fall under the category of sinful actions.

72 Not doing the things that should be done, and doing the things that should not be done – these are errors that arise simultaneously in the state of great delusion.

Reforming the world

73 The way to reform the world is to reform oneself in such a way that reality shines in the Heart.

74 Before attempting to enquire into and know the way to reform the world, subjugate and destroy your insurgent mind.

75 Without first filling your own heart [with Self-knowledge], what aid can you give, and to whom?

76 Those who do not have the power to redeem themselves cannot render genuine service to the beings of the world.

77 The non-existent maya can deceive the good sense [of a sadhaka] by showing itself as compassion to other beings.

Bhagavan: A seeker should recognise it as a future bondage when some action presents itself which makes him feel that he wishes to do it because the doing of it is an act of human kindness and sympathy; and so he is tempted into doing it. He does not realise that the act will be the cause of future bondage. He thinks that, by being a non-doer [akarta] and by being detached [asanga], the fulfilment of the desire will not affect him and he can therefore do the act. He will become bound all the same and will be freed from the bondages only after several more births. That future bondages result in rebirths is authoritatively stated in the scriptures. (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 26th September, 1947)

Ravi said...

"77 The non-existent maya can deceive the good sense [of a sadhaka] by showing itself as compassion to other beings."
All this is taken care of if one simply puts the trust in God first.
To be indifferent is a greater peril.I will come back to you a little later as to what Grandma Avvai has to say on this.
As the Tirukkural says-Man is accountable for what he does(that ought not to be done) and also for what he does not Do(that he must be doing).


David Godman said...


What is 'Thought'? I ask this from the perspective of 'World as a creation of Thought'.

The two words that Bhagavan most often used when he said that was the world was a creation of one's thoughts were 'sankalpa' and 'vasana'

The following two explanatory paragraphs are my own editorial comments in Guru Vachaka Kovai:

'Vasanas are mental habits or tendencies. They are the desires and aversions that impel one to behave in a particular way. In common with other advaita teachers, Bhagavan taught that one’s vasanas not merely determine one’s behaviour, they actually create and sustain the illusion of the world by taking one’s attention away from the Self and onto the external objects that one wants to enjoy or avoid.

'These buried or latent habits of the mind withdraw into the Heart at the moment of physical death, but they are not extinguished there. Their unexhausted momentum will cause them to take a new form, a new body, a new incarnation through which they can continue to thrive. Vasanas are therefore the fuel that drives samsara, the continuous cycle of birth and death.'

Vasanas do not merely keep one's attention off the Self. According to Bhagavan they actually create the world that the jiva lives in and enjoys. I will illustrate this with two of Bhagavan's own statements:

In the same way that the wonderful scene that manifests in a fireworks display is already present in the [unlit] fireworks, all the gross and subtle scenes that manifest through the brain were already present within the Heart in the form of the ancient tale of vasanas [mental habits and tendencies] that manifest in such a way that they can be seen externally. You should clearly understand this in your mind. (Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 84)

Bhagavan: Manifestation of previously accumulated vasanas is creation. Destruction of vasanas is the end of creation. (Padamalai, p. 263, v. 5)

The other word, 'sankalpa', can be variously translated as 'thought' or 'intention', depending on the context. Here are two more citations from Bhagavan that are more or less identical in meaning to the two I have just given, except that the word 'sankalpas' has been substituted for 'vasanas':

The world is seen fully and distinctly only in the waking and dream states in which sankalpas have arisen. Is it ever seen during sleep, where there is absolutely no arising of thoughts? Therefore, sankalpas alone are the material substance of the world. Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 29)

Bhagavan: Sankalpa creates the world. The peace attained on the destruction of sankalpas is the [permanent] destruction of the world. (Padamalai, p. 264, v. 6)

David Godman said...

This is a continuation of my earlier comments on the nature of the jiva and its relationship to the Self.

I think the following quotations, taken from the beginning of the Padamalai chapter on ‘Individual Identity’, establish Bhagavan’s views on this topic:

1 Jiva-nature – the ignorant ego that does not remain in the pure, true, jnana vichara – is a non-existent entity.

Editor’s note: Jiva, the individual self, is an unreal entity that appears to come into existence by wrong association. The following sequence of verses, in which Lakshman Sarma summarises Bhagavan’s teachings on this topic, makes this clear:

396 Since it is settled that the one named jiva does not exist, how can we think of its bondage or deliverance? There is neither bondage nor deliverance for the real Self, who remains unswervingly whole and solitary.

397 The soul [the jiva] comes to be taken as real by the failure to discriminate rightly. This occurs when there is false identification between the body, which is limited in space and time, and the Self, who is only consciousness, unlimited by space and time.

398 First one assumes that one particular body is ‘I’. Then one assumes that the body is real. Once this happens, the ignorant man sees other bodies as being real, and sees different jivas in them.

402 The man who has not experienced his own real Self, thinking ‘I am this body’, sees himself as ‘I’, the first person of grammar. He sees another person whom he calls ‘you’, and refers to third persons as ‘he’.

403 These three distinct persons are not real. They are seen on account of the false notion ‘I am the body’. When the ego-soul is lost as a result of the quest of the real Self, only that Self, consciousness alone, will shine.

404 To one who thinks himself to be a jiva or a body, a plurality of jivas will appear. But to the sage who is freed from this ignorance, no jiva will appear. (Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad)

2 If the delusion of the jiva, the false I-am-the-body idea, is destroyed, the nature of the jiva will be the form of true bliss, Sivam.

Bhagavan: With some magic powder you stupefied me, robbed me of my jiva-hood and revealed instead your Siva-hood. (Aksharamanamalai, verse 73)

Ravi said...

'These buried or latent habits of the mind withdraw into the Heart at the moment of physical death, but they are not extinguished there. Their unexhausted momentum will cause them to take a new form, a new body, a new incarnation through which they can continue to thrive. Vasanas are therefore the fuel that drives samsara, the continuous cycle of birth and death.'

What is the source for this 'explanation'?
The theory of Vasanas surviving after death 'intact' is partially true.A Major portion of The Imprints are transferred to the other surviving 'Life link' partners(Children,or anyone else with whom one has strong emotional bonds-Recall how Bharata was born as a deer!).Like a relay race,the ones who take over carry on the 'living out'(loosening of the imprints) over the next few generations-culminating in the birth of a Jnani.
The other dispensable part of the 'imprints' are dissipated in stages over a period of time.
Here I will quote from the Sage Of Kanchi -from 'voice from divinity':
"As per the Vedic aphorism, "atma vai putra namasi" one's son is equal to himself. Because, both he and the son born out of his potency are one, according to one Vedic rule."
The above is incidentally the reply that Yudhistra gives the Yaksha ,in Yaksha Prasna.

This is complex 'mechanics'.

Occasionally Master TGN by way of elaborating on some other Truth would let out some of this 'Occult knowledge'.He has also given a talk on -Life after Death.

This is the Reason that the Vedas talk about the importance of conducting the 'samskara' for the departed.This facilitates the transfer of the 'imprints' of the departed jiva(lightening the 'load',so to say).During this period,the sons and daughters of the departed are expected to live austerely(avoiding sexual acts)-as otherwise the adverse imprints of the departed may get transferred to their progeny DIRECTLY(such a possibility exists).
The Sage of Kanchi has emphasised the importance of these 'Samskaras'.This is not based on 'scriptural theory'-but on the strength of his 'occult knowledge' as well.

More on this later.


Arunachala Rama said...

Dear David,

Thanks once again. This is wonderfully written piece, comparing with Descartes and Western Philosophy.

I feel blessed reading your posts. I am tongue tied, whom to tell this wonderful note, who will appreciate this great nuanced explanation. The only way to kill this curiosity is with the weapon " Who am I?".

Particularly delightful were how Bhagavan explains the sustenance of I by grasping and waxing objects. Beautiful.. no words as words cannot reach and explain.

Pls. accept my pranams to you.


Fame said...

Follow the Rabbit...

'Dristhi-Srishti Vada' I guess, can be more understood if one 'chances' upon the experience of rising of the white ball of light(mind?)? from the Heart centre just before waking up.I read in Ramana literature (one example is in a chapter on G.V.Subbaramayya in the book 'Power of Presence' by David Godman) Ramana Bhagawan himself talking about the possibility of such an experience.
I was lucky to have such an experience about 6 months ago.Let me describe it for the benefit of other readers who did not have such an experience.Bear in mind that I am not even a 'Beginner Sadhaka' but have read some Ramana and such literature on other Saints by then. I have not practised any serious meditation nor any religious practise. But I have 'sparsely' read about different creation vadas by then and and tried to understand in vain a few times about the vadas. I say all this background because I wonder how I chanced upon this experience and I guess there is no practise to repeat it and I am sure it is not a lucid dream or anything like that. This experience I guess the Advanced Sadhakas can repeat consiously/at will.Unless you have this experience it is difficult to mentally imagine from the verbal description.
In the following I will describe what exactly happened.You make whatever out of it :
1)I woke up into nothingness;it was just dark yet I can't call it darkness; void may be a better term?there was just no nothing and a very slight tinge of pleasantness.I could only relate/understand/analyse this after I woke up and recall this experience from my memory.I could only relate the slight tinge of plesantness after I woke up and not during the experience of void.It was just void and nothing else at all; no cognition of anything at all; no memory of anthing all;no awareness of anything at all.As soon as I woke up I thought that was the experience of the 'Self' and wondered why people so many words to describe the Self.But reading the book 'No Mind I am the Self' Sri Sarada clearly declares that that is not the Self.This I now guess could be what people term as 'VOID'??.I don't know.

2)Then I saw a stationary ball of white silvery cloud of light about the size of a golf ball at the location described as 'Heart centre'.I also saw a silvery white tube coming from the left side of this silvery cloud ball and rising up.
3)Now again the scene switched to 'Void' described above.
4)Now the view of the the 'Silvery ball of light' reappeared.The ball of light slowly began to rise up.At the point I realised this could be the Mind rising up that Bhagawan talked about. I 'conscioulsy' willed for the ball to go back down.It slowly began to go down; may be an inch and lo a great fear descended from above; fear that everything I stand for will be lost.Now the ball of light quickly started to rise again and lo very quickly in a moment I woke up to the physical world.
4)Now awake I was very suprised how physical everything felt.It was like a movie where a subtle being says a magic word and and suddenly appears in a different very physical world with a new 'Gross' form.Then I wondered to myself may be this is what they say about light of the self reflecting on the vasanas producing the Gross world we see.
5)This ball of silvery light must be the mind? that they say will go and rest in the Heart Centre when we sleep and every morning when we get up; in a fraction of second rises and goes to the brain centre.
6)I thought about it a lot of times and decided to request my friend to do a painting. I thought about it a lot of times and a lot of questions arose in me:
a)If the 'Mind' goes down into the Heart centre every time we sleep who was it that witnessed all this?

c)How was the experience of the void recorded in my memory?

Follow the Rabbit...

Fame said...


Follow the Rabbit...

d)If the white ball of light is mind where did fear arise from?was ego/I already there in the brain centre to witness the ball of light/mind? Then why do they say mind and ego are the same?When I recognised the silvery ball of light what is it that fetched from my memory recognizing it to be the Heart centre that Bhagawan talked about?

h)who or what is it that commands the ball of light to rise?There is no memory of when we slip in and out of sleep.What is it that wakes up at a cetain time?If the mind slips into the Heart centre what is it that is keeping the clock and wakes us up at a certain time?

e)Unless I can clearly demarcate between mind, intellect, memory, Ego,physical senses and internal senses(antahkaranas??) and vasanas/tendencies I cannot understand what exclusively is in that ball of light.
f)Do Vasanas exist in the brain centre or in that ball of light??
g)Is the bundle of vasanas the 'Seed' that they talk about?

g)After this experience I started to relate more to Drishti-Srishti.

Other question related to Dristhi-Srishti:
a)How does 'Prarabdha' and Eeshwara allocating this Prarabdha fit into 'Drishti-Srishti'?
b)Same old questions:If it is 'Eka Jiva' why does the Jnaani bother to continue to live to help others.Who is there to help whom??If it is me visualising the Jnaani living and helping others I request all the living Jnaanis to physically drop die right now.If it is not the Jnaani but the Self acting through the physical body of a Jnaani how can the ONE Self act on itself?

If anybody had similar experience please share or discuss.I have posted many questions. Please consider each question.

Follow the Rabbit...

Anonymous said...

Hi David, could you please answer my doubts on the experience of rising of the I-thought every time we wake up described in page 120 , chapter-G.V.Subbaramayya of the book: Power of Presence-III.We would like it more descriptive and a step wise, chronolized dissection of the whole event.This probably will help us understand Drishti-Srishti more.

Thanks very much.


Anonymous said...

david do you know about any texts which propound the eka jiva doctrine in detail?kindly list the same if you can.

David Godman said...

I consulted a friend who is an expert on this and he sent me the following reply:

Well, the Who’s Who of recent scholars (i.e. 1920’s and later) from Hiriyanna, Suryanarayana Shastri, V. Iyer (Swami Siddheswarananda’s mentor) onwards to Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Warrier etc have certainly rubbished eka-jiva as solipsistic nonsense. Even T.M.P. Mahadevan seems to belong to this camp, though in his writings, perhaps due to Sri Bhagavan’s influence, he only expresses skepticism towards, rather than outright rejection of eka-jiva. In fact, the later Acharyas openly propounding eka-jiva have been somewhat derisively dubbed as ‘neo-Advaitins’ by this lot (now of course, the term has moved-on to new connotations). Personally, I have found it shocking that such learned men could close their minds so easily to a teaching obviously at the very core of Advaita. But to be fair to them, eka-jiva , undoubtedly, is the most difficult of concepts to really understand without considerable spiritual advancement as an accompaniment.

I believe some confusion may also have arisen because the technical term “eka-jiva” itself seems to have been formalized only in the 15th – 16th Century, tho’ the ideas it represents form the core of Advaita right from the beginning. And there is confusion also because doctrinal Advaita supports both eka-jiva & aneka-jiva at different levels; the former being the “higher” view, with aneka-jiva or multiple jivas being acceptable at the empirical level. And then there is some muddying of waters because of the term “eka-atma”, as used in the Mandukya.

But the indisputable, and largely unknown, fact is that virtually all the Great Acharyas of Advaita, ancient & medieval, staunchly support eka-jiva. I believe that the Upanisads (esp. Mandukya + Karika), the Brahma Sutras & Sri Sankara himself propound eka-jiva if studied properly. Sri Sarvajnatman in his great work Samsksepa-Sariraka, itself a seminal work of Advaita, says so in so many words. [And we know that the Yoga-Vasista propounds dristi-sristi (therefore implying eka-jiva) in many verses].

Here is a representative list of post-Sankara writers who propound eka-jiva (and dristi-sristi):

1. Samsksepa-Sariraka by Sri Sarvajnatman, disciple of Sri Suresvara, and said to have been initiated by Sri Sankara himself, and thus from Sri Sankara’s times. But scholars place him much later at around 1000 CE because he has commented on a particular doctrine said to be authored by Sri Vimuktatman below.

2. Ista-Siddhi by Sri Vimuktataman, (1000 CE by scholars).

3. Advaita-Siddhi by Sri Madhusudana Saraswati (1500’s CE). Sri Madhusudana Saraswati was an acknowledged genius the likes of whom have been rare even amongst the Great Acharyas. He proves that dristi-sristi necessarily has to imply eka-jiva also, and the 2 cannot be separated.

4. Siddhanta-Bindu by Sri Madhusudan Saraswati

5. Vedanta-Siddhanta-Muktavali by Sri Prakasananda (1500’s CE)

6. Vedanta-Tattva-Viveka by Sri Narasimhasrama (1500’s CE)

7. Siddhantalesasangraha by Sri Appaya Diksitar (late 1500’s CE)


8. Pancapadika with Vivarana by Sri Prakakastman, again said to be a disciple of Sri Sankara, but scholars place him at around 1000 CE.

9. Khandanakhandakhadya by Sriharsa (1100’s CE)

10. Citsukhi by Sri Citsukha (1200’s CE)

Can personally vouch that the first 6 propound eka-jiva & dristi-sristi; the 7th is sort of an encyclopedia of all the extant Advaita ideas. The last 3 also apparently support eka-jiva, but I haven’t studied them yet and thus cannot confirm the same from personal knowledge.

Soorya said...

Dear David and friends,

Thank you David for this excellent blog, thanks to all those sincere devotees of Bhagavan who post their comments here. I have been blessed to find so much guidance here.

When i read this post about Drishti-Srishti Vaada which Bhagawan supported as per his own experience, i knew instantly that this was the truth. There is only one jiva, the seer and that is me. This alone explains the theory of Prarabda with no loop holes.Everything arises with the "I".

I have a kind of personal question here, not entirely sure if i should be posting this...but anyway here it is. How do you reconcile the truth of this theory that everything you see is simply a dream projected out of you, in everyday life? Doesnt this get you wanting to be alone in the Self all the time, doesnt it make you feel disinterested in the world? How do you manage to keep working and behaving as if you believe in the reality of this world as before? Of course it is the ego that is confused, but then one has to live with the ego and the world till one realizes the Self, isnt it? Can anyone give some guidance on this? I would be much grateful for any advice offered, i know many of those who follow this blog have been on the Self Enquiry path for long.

Anonymous said...

Soorya and friends,
As I look out into this world and feel it unfolds out of me; I do not feel it's a dream but rather I have a feeling of calmness.
If through awareness I can sustain it, well and good.
I can't remember the exact quote but I'll paraphrase 'because of you everything else is.' This is spot on.
Awareness is not an obstacle for functioning in the world.
As Nisargadatta says everything just unfolds naturally.

s. said...

salutations to all:

what soorya is asking are highly technical questions with the DSV framework. (btw, within DSV & EkajIva, there is nothing like prArabdha!). unlike SDV, which is also the preferred approach adopted by many advaita vEdAntins, DSV is extremely hard to be accommodated within the confines of any kind of 'logic'.

soorya: if you are looking forward to scholarly satisfying answers, even most of the extant scholars wouldn't be of much help. the only reliable way out is to learn enough sanskrta and read directly the works of vimuktAtman, sarvajnAtman, vidyAraNya, madhusUdhana sarasvatI etc. (very few translations are available; most have never been translated).
on the other hand, if you are looking for "the" answers to such questions, what better than 'vichAra'? :-)

if you know tamizh, nothing better than reading and re-reading again & again bhagavAn's uLLadhu nArpadhu, say with lakshmaNa sarmA's commentary in tamizh written under the guidance of bhagavAn and that which bhagavAn himself asked the sarvAdhikArI to publish!. preferably, please don't read any translations.

Soorya said...

Dear hj,
Your post is positive and thanks for that :-).

My questions are not about technical details.I have a feeling of being trapped in a world which really amounts to nothing except being the projection of the thoughts that form my mind.Sometimes i keep gaping at the scores of people and things bustling by me and it gives me a shudder that all this is not real. Maybe getting a bit too over-reactive, but the fact is to me the world has lost it's charm. All that interests me in my waking state is reading Bhagawan's works or blogs like these, and hearing songs on the Lord and such. The day to day life activities are somehow being rejected by my mind, when i try to somehow pacify it, it revolts and i have to drag myself many a time through responsibilities at work and such.The thing is i am very much convinced about Drishti Srishti Vaada :-). Yes i am doing vichara.As i dont know Tamil, i am managing with English translations of Bhagawan's works.

Regarding Prarabda : This is what I meant to say, i always had this question on the theory of Prarabda(believing then that there are multiple jivas existing together), that is how is it that everyone's Prarabda(scores/desires of previous lives) comes to be worked out together unless everything is planned/pre-ordained.It simply was too complex , Drishti-Srishti Vaada is the solution, there is only one jiva and he projects the entire world to suit his vasanas(can loosely be called Prarabda).

Ramprax said...

> "How do you reconcile the truth of this theory that everything you see is simply a dream projected out of you, in everyday life?"
If one *knows* that the world is but a dream, then there is no need to reconcile. Truth is its own reconciliation. Why does Truth need any reconciliation?

On the other hand, if one doesn't yet know(i.e it is not yet a living experience) that it is all a dream, and it is only bookish knowledge that one intellectually holds to be true, then one must not try to apply it on the world. Doing so will only cause more confusion & give rise to this need to reconcile. No reconciliation is possible without knowing(by experience) the Truth.

To convert this intellectual knowledge into experience, sadhana is required.

s. said...

salutations to all:
soorya: sorry for not getting your question earlier. i imagined it to be much more complicated than what it is :-). guess 'ramprax' has answered your question beautifully. may be, you ought to examine the inconsistencies in your questions & confusions. if DSV is absolutely convincing, then by implication there shouldn't be any 'doubts' as well. one can't be 'convinced' about a truth and yet entertain a 'confusion' over the same, isn't it? 'vichAra' may bring about the best reconciliation of all - the very 'need' to reconcile at a 'personal' level will be extinguished. hahaha

Michael said...

"Since all things and all beings are merely the externalised projection of the jiva who sees them, it follows that when this jiva is absent or destroyed, the other beings and things simply cease to exist."

This is delightfully challenging: for, it means that all experience is self-created. Taking this to heart, the teaching, the teacher, the student are all created in this way!

What a wonder: the self 'living' in a world with its problems, its divine Bhagavan and its questions ... all self-created!

None of this is posted lightly; it's a serious statement from Sri Ramana that provides the foundation!

Self said...

Hi Rabbit,

Thanks for sharing your experience. Since 2009, even I have the same experience.

Once I wake up and till the point I get into deep sleep I am aware of an energy that is acting on my brain and when I try to maintain calm/start observing it it slowly and very slowly goes back near the depression in the chest and when this happens I can have a glimpse of a tiny white light for a fraction of a second.

But when I try to focus on it, then the mind comes back and the white light is lost into darkness. If this is the mind, and the tiny white light is the atomic ego through which the reflected light of Brahman passes through, I am happy to have found it.

But then, since the dawn of this awareness of my mind, I have lost the sense of doership and I am just am. It is through the mind that we associate but if we are observing the mind then our reference is somewhere else.

Only after going through all the material I was clear that I was not possessed by some demonic entity.

The mind is very mischievous. It spurts out from the heart center in a fraction of second and acts constantly on the brain - from the point I am awake to the point I sleep. I have also seen it to be very active during the full moon.

Thanks Rabbit for the information. It definitely correlates with mine.

Maharshi_Devotee said...

There is a confusion among seekers if Maharshi endorsed AjatiVada or Eka Jiva or Dhrishti Shrusti Vada or Shrishti Dhrishti Vada etc. The one that is looking for what Maharshi endorsed is the little self / ego that itself is fictitious and part of the dream. Maharshi's teaching clearly states that ego needs to be transcended to realize the Self.

Maharshi_Devotee said...

There is a confusion among seekers if Maharshi endorsed AjatiVada or Eka Jiva or Dhrishti Shrusti Vada or Shrishti Dhrishti Vada etc. The one that is looking for what Maharshi endorsed is the little self / ego that itself is fictitious and part of the dream. Maharshi's teaching clearly states that ego needs to be transcended to realize the Self.

Zee said...

Good movie by the famed French director Claude Chabrol on:Reality i.e how sometimes it can feel like you are creating your own Reality.