Saturday, June 16, 2007


A question which has often puzzled me is: why, when the world is said to be unreal to the sage yet seems completely real to the unawakened person, does the sage appear to treat all beings in that "unreal world" with infinite love and compassion, while the unawakened person treats "others," at least some of the time, with callousness, indifference, or even violence? These passages from Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad helped with this puzzlement:

The ignorant one, because of his confounding of the body with the Self, thinks of himself as 'with form' and co-extensive with that body. The sage is aware of the Self as infinite, formless being; this is the distinction in the meaning of what is said by these two.

What is seen as 'the body' by the ignorant appears to the sage only as the Self. He refers to it as 'I', ignoring the body-form through his right awareness.

Also, when the two say that the world is real, there is a difference in the meaning, though the words are the same. For the ignorant one, the reality is veiled by differences, while to the sage, it appears as it really is.

Unaware of the substratum of the world-appearance, seeing [only] the superimposed multitude of [inert] objects, and believing that this world of objects is real in its own right, the ignorant one says, 'The world is real'.

[On the other hand] for the sage there shines only the substratum, which is pure reality, nameless and formless. For him the superimposition does not appear as real. [That being the case], how can he say that the world is unreal?

This world which, to the one whose eye is blinded by unawareness of his own real Self, conceals the Supreme Being, is by [the power of] that same Supreme Being, concealed to the one whose eye is purified by the right awareness of that Self.

Just as the one who has become wise to the truth of the mirage may again see the mirage without being deluded, so too the sage, seeing this world, does not think of it as real, as does the ignorant one.

The world is not real in the sense in which it is believed to be real by the ignorant man. Ignorant ones do not understand the sense in which the world is seen [as real] by the sage.

That which appears to the ignorant ones as diversified by a great many differences, as 'forms' and as 'other than the Self', is, to the sage, only the Self, undifferentiated and formless.

It is not taught that the world is completely unreal. It is not unreal like the horn of man or a horse. If it were completely unreal, it would not appear at all. But it does appear because of its confusion with its substratum, the reality.

The unreality that has no substratum, such as the son of a barren woman and the like, does not appear at all. But the unreality which appears on a substratum, like the snake seen in a rope, appears as real.

Both reality and unreality have to be stated in respect of the world, and herein there is not the least contradiction. It is real because of the reality of the substratum, and it is unreal, because of the superimposition of names and forms.

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