Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Illusion of physical world - by Sri Ramana Maharshi

The Illusion of  physical world
By Sri Ramana Maharshi

The next verse shows that the world does not exist apart from the mind, and is therefore mental.

125 The world is a totality of the five kinds of sensations, namely sounds and the rest, and nothing else. All these are only mental impressions. Hence, the world is nothing but the mind.

126 If the world were other than the mind, why does it not appear in deep sleep? Therein is the real Self, which is consciousness, and by whose consciousness-light the mind is mind!

The second half of the verse is an answer to the contention, which may be raised by the other side, that the non-seeing of the world in deep sleep is no argument, because it is due to the absence of the mind and the senses of perception in that state. The mind is not conscious by its own nature; its consciousness is derived from association with the real Self. Since that Self survives in deep sleep, the objection is invalid. This reason finds a place in Sri Sankaracharya’s Viveka Chudamani: ‘If the world is real, why then, let it be seen in deep sleep! Since it is not at all seen in it, it is therefore unreal, like a dream.’

127 Only when their minds are functioning does the world appear to men. Therefore, the world in the waking state is mental, as it is in dream.

This parallel between the waking and the dream states is elaborated in the next verse.

128 Just like the waking world, the dream world seems real during the dream. Also, just like the waking world, the dream world, in its own time, is serviceable [for the purposes of life].

The conclusion is stated in the following verse.

129 Just as the dream world is not other than the mind of the dreamer, so the world of things, seen in waking, is not other than the mind of the seer.

Objections to this conclusion are then noticed.

130 Fearing that if it is concluded that the world is mental, then its unreality will be an inescapable conclusion, ignorant [sectarians] seek to prove in a variety of ways that the world exists outside [as an independent reality].

That these disputants have no locus standi in this discussion is first shown.

131 The truth that the world is unreal is taught by the sages only to him who aspires to attain the highest state by the quest of the Self. It is not addressed to others, and hence the contentions of these objections are wholly in vain.

The uniqueness of Vedanta is that no one is coerced by threats of hell or otherwise to accept its highly elusive teachings. It is given out only to those whose minds are ripe and have become receptive to these metaphysical truths. Indeed, Vedanta advises ordinary people not to dabble in vedantic studies. Vedanta makes a distinction between those who are qualified to receive its advaitic teaching and those who are not qualified. This is called the adhikara vada.
The difficulty in accepting the vedantic standpoint is pointed out next.

132 No one is able to know the unreality of the dream world during the dream itself. In the same way, no one is able to know the unreality of the wakingworld while he is in the waking state.

The primary ignorance dominates the ego mind at all times, either while dreaming or in the waking state, and this is the cause of the inability of most men even to entertain the thought that the waking world may not be real. The disciple is in a better position because of his faith in the competence of his Guru. The Guru, who has the experience of the egoless state, can tell him the truth about the world and of the worldless, egoless state.

The flaw in the contentions of these disputants is next indicated.

133 There is no flawless evidence tending to prove that the world exists outside [apart from the mind of its seer]. But these partisans assume the truth of their contention, which is required to be proved, and then concoct arguments for their case.

The arguments put forward by these disputants, if carefully scrutinised, are found to be based on a subtle process of what logicians call ‘begging the question’.

One such argument is stated and discussed in the following verses.

134 If it is said that the sense impressions of sounds and the rest arise inside the mind, while their cause, the world, lies outside, how is this division of inside and outside to be accepted as unreal?

This argument is not a proof, but a mere assertion. Its inadequacy is seen in that it assumes the reality of the distinction between inside and outside, which is an outcome of the assumption that the body is the Self. In that assumption the body is assumed to be real, without offering any proof of its reality. We have seen that since the body is a part of the world, whose reality is in dispute, this assumption is improper.

135 All the divisions experienced in worldly life appear as real only in relation to the body. No separate proof is offered by them to prove the reality of the body!

Another argument is noticed next.

136 The argument, ‘The mind is small and the world is vast. How can it be within the mind?’ is also mistaken. It has been taught by the sage that it is the mind that is vast [not the world].

137 The mind is vaster than even the sky, and in it are the five elements of creation, the outer space [sky] and the rest. Consciousness in its motionless state is Brahman; the same when moving is mind. Thus it has been made clear [by Bhagavan] that the mind is of the nature of Brahman
Bhagavan and Vedanta recognise three skies2: the outer [physical] sky, the mind-sky and the sky of pure consciousness. This last is styled as a sky, because it contains the mind-sky, which in its turn contains the outer sky and all the worlds.
The fact that the world ceases to appear in deep sleep – wherein the exposition of the mental nature of the world is based – is sought to be countered by the following contention.

2 Lakshman Sarma sometimes uses the word ‘sky’ in this work to denote ‘akasa’, the fifth element that is the all-pervading space. As this verse explains, there are different levels of this ‘sky’.

138 ‘If you doubt whether or not the world existed during your sleep, then ask those who did not sleep [during the time you slept], and know from their words that the world existed continuously [without a break].’

This is considered by the dvaitins to be an unanswerable argument. But Bhagavan himself, when this argument was stated as a difficulty to be overcome, showed that this also is a case of ‘begging the question’, as will be shown next.

139 This argument, put forward by the ignorant, takes as proved the truth of their main contention. The men who are not asleep are part and parcel of the world under enquiry.

What Bhagavan said on this point is given next.

140 We see these men who did not sleep only after we wake, not in our sleep! No separate proof is offered to prove the reality of these men who did not sleep.

The reason for not accepting the reality of the world was that it is not seen during deep sleep. That same objection holds good in respect of these men who did not sleep when we slept. Hence, this argument of the dualists fails utterly. It would be a valid argument, suggests Bhagavan, if we saw them during our dreamless sleep, which of course is impossible.
These men too have no valid argument for believing the world to be real, as is shown next.

141 Even those who remained awake [while we slept] know the world only by the mind and never otherwise. Hence, for all alike the world is only mental, both in waking and in dream.

Another argument is stated and refuted next.

142 The objectivity of the world is also asserted on the grounds that it appears the same to diverse seers. But the Master refutes the argument by asserting that the diversity of observers is unreal.

This diversity of souls is part of the world illusion. It is therefore no more real than the rest of it. The truth of this point is expounded by Bhagavan in the next verse.

143 Both in dream and in waking this diversity [of souls] is only a mental creation, since in deep sleep, which is mind-free, this diversity does not appear.

144 The mind itself creates the world in the waking state, as it does in dream. But the mind does not know, either in waking or in dream, that this is its own creation.

145 The mind creates the world subject to a superior power [avidya-maya] and therefore is unable to create it to its own liking. The mind, believing the world to be real, is deluded and suffers the woes of samsara.

That the mind has this anomalous power, which is also a weakness, is shown next.

146 This is the very nature of the mind, that it takes as real all that it creates. This is seen in day-dreaming, witnessing dramas, or listening to stories.

These instances are taken from our waking experience itself. They demonstrate this self-torturing quality of the mind, which is even worse in dreams.
The conclusion is then stated.

147 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.

The next step is the demonstration that the mind also is unreal. The next verse begins this exposition.

148 As it is settled that the world is mental, the world would be real if the mind were real. However, if the mind is unreal, then the world would also be unreal. Hence, it becomes necessary to enquire whether the mind is real.

But there is a preliminary question to be taken up and answered: the test or tests of reality to be applied.

149 First, it is necessary to enquire by what tests one can distinguish the real from the unreal, because, in [this] enquiry as to what is real, the test of reality approved of by the worldly ones is not valid.

150 The parrot who wishes to eat the fruit of the silk-cotton tree [at last] goes away disappointed.3 How can the beliefs of one, who thus deludes himself, be accepted as reasonable?

3 The fruits of the silk cotton tree are always green. After a long period of ripening on the tree, they break open, revealing an inner fibrous mass, not an edible fruit. There is a belief that parrots wait near these fruits, hoping that they will ripen into something tasty. The proverb that encapsulates this belief is a metaphor for pointless, ill-informed activity.

This conduct of the parrot, whether true or not, is proverbial. Man is in the same situation. He expects to reap unalloyed happiness in worldly life and is always disappointed. This demonstrates his capacity for self-deception. Philosophers would not be philosophers if they accepted the credulous views of unthinking men.
Unless used under the guidance of a perfectly competent Guru, the worldly means of knowledge are certain to prove misleading. This truth is expressed in the next verse.

151 The intellect, the sense organs, and the mind are servants of the primary ignorance. Hence, the worldly methods of seeking knowledge do not at all favour success in this enquiry.

The worldly means of knowledge, called proofs, are direct perception, inference, analogy, tradition, and so on. These are understood and practised by logicians and philosophers. In vedantic reasoning these are not to be relied upon for the reason stated, namely that they are naturally the servants of ignorance, having been created in order to protect and confirm that ignorance.

152 The test of reality that is considered good by the worldly is unreliable because it is a child of ignorance. For the sadhakas the reliable test for distinguishing truth from falsehood is that which the sages have stated.

That test is next set forth.

153 That which shines by its own light [of consciousness], without change, and without setting and rising, is alone real. All that is not so is unreal. So say the sages.

This is the test approved of in vedantic metaphysics, and it is that which is used in the Upanishads.
The Bhagavad Gita is next referred to.

154 ‘There is never any [real] existence for the unreal, neither is there any non-existence for the real.’ Thus Bhagavan Sri Krishna himself stated the distinction between the real and the unreal.

Thus, things that appear at certain times and disappear at other times are excluded from the category of the real.

155 What had no existence in the beginning and will not exist after some time is non-existent even in the intervening period [during which it seems to exist]. The notion that anything which appears limited in space or time [is real] is ignorance.

156 The analogy for the real is gold and the analogy for the unreal is jewellery [made of gold]. Gold is real in comparison with jewellery; the latter is unreal because it is perishable.

157 The jewellery was gold before [being made] and it is gold even in the middle [when it appears as jewellery] and also at the end, [when it is melted down]. [Thus] the unrealities appear as real on a substratum of the real, just as unreal jewellery appears as real on a substratum of gold [which is comparatively real].

This is one of the analogies employed in the Chandogya Upanishad to illustrate the truth taught here, that the one supreme reality, which is the real Self, is the substratum of the world appearance.

158 If the two, the world and the mind, are scrutinised in this way, they are found to be unreal. The process of this demonstration, as taught by the most holy one [Bhagavan], is here set forth.

159 The world that is made to shine and the light, namely the mind, which caused the world to shine, arise and set together [as one]. Since this pair does not appear uninterruptedly, the pair should be known to be unreal.

160 Whatever shines intermittently is insentient and therefore shines by the light of another. That [reality], by which all things insentient shine, is self-shining, being consciousness by nature.

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