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Vivekachudamani as translated by Sri Ramana Maharshi

For the advanced metaphysical aspirant


Now I shall tell you about discrimination between Self and non-Self. Listen and keep it firmly in mind. Of these two I shall speak first about the non-Self.

“The brain, bones, fat, flesh, blood, skin, and semen are the seven factors that constitute the gross body. So say those who know. The feet, thighs, chest, shoulders, back, head, etc., are its members. People regard it as “I” owing to the mind’s attachment to it. It is the primary attraction to all, and the most obvious. It is made up of ether, air, fire, water, and earth which, as the subtle essences, form sense objects, and the groups of five such as sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. The ego [jiva] being intent on pleasure, regards these as means of enjoyment. Foolish and ignorant persons are bound to sense objects by the rope of desire, attracted according to the power of their karma which leads them up and down and causes them to wander in distress. The serpent and deer die through attachment to sound, the elephant through attachment to touch, the fish through attachment to taste, and the bee through attachment to smell. If these die through attachment to a single sense, what must be the fate of man, who is attached to all five? The evil effects of sense objects are more harmful than the poison of the cobra, [in Sanskrit this is a play of words, as vishaya means sense objects and visha poison] because poison only kills him who takes it, whereas sense objects bring destruction to him who sees them or even thinks of them. He alone obtains liberation who, with the sharp sword of detachment, cuts the strong rope of love for sense objects and so frees himself from them. Otherwise, even though a man be well versed in all the six shastras, he will not obtain liberation. Desire, like a crocodile, instantly seizes the aspirant after liberation who tries to cross the ocean of samsara and reach the shore of liberation without firm detachment, and straightaway drags him down into the ocean. Only that aspirant who kills the crocodile with the keen sword of detachment can cross the ocean and safely reach the shore of liberation. He who, lacking good sense, enters upon one path after another of attachment to sense objects, experiences ever greater distress until he is finally destroyed. But he who exerts control over himself, walks on the path of discrimination laid down by the Guru and attains his goal. This indeed is the Truth. Therefore, if you really want liberation cast away the pleasure of sense objects as though they were poison. Hold firmly to the virtues of contentment, compassion, forgiveness, sincerity, tranquillity, and self-control. Give up all actions performed out of attachment to the body, and strive ceaselessly for liberation from the bondage caused by ignorance. This body is finally consumed, whether by earth, fire, beasts, or birds. He who, forgetting his real nature, mistakes this body for the Self, gets attached to it and cherishes it and by so doing becomes the murderer of the Self. He who still cares for the body while seeking the Self, is like one who catches hold of a crocodile to cross a river. Infatuation with the body is indeed fatal to the aspirant after liberation. Only he who overcomes this infatuation attains liberation. Therefore, you too must overcome infatuation for the body and for wife and children. Then you will attain liberation, i.e., the Supreme state of Vishnu which the great sages have attained. This gross body is very much to be deprecated, consisting as it does of skin, flesh, blood, arteries and veins, fat, marrow and bones, and is full of urine and excreta. It is produced by one’s own past actions out of the gross elements. The subtle elements unite together to produce these gross elements. Thus it becomes a habitation for the enjoyment of pleasures by the ego, like his home for a householder. It is in the waking state that the ego experiences the gross body. It is in this state alone that it can be experienced, when the Self, though really separate from it, is deluded into identifying Itself with it and, through the external organs, enjoys the various wonderful gross objects of pleasure such as garlands, sandal paste, woman, etc… Know that the whole of outward samsara comes upon the Spirit [Purusha] through the medium of the gross body. Birth, growth, old age, decay, and death are its characteristics. Childhood, boyhood, youth, and old age are its stages. Castes and orders of life are ordained for it. It is also subject to different modes of treatment, to honour and dishonour, and is the abode of various diseases.

“The ears, skin, eyes, nose, and tongue are organs of knowledge because they enable us to cognise objects. The vocal organs, hands, feet, etc., are organs of action because they perform their respective modes of action. The internal organ [mind] is single in itself but is variously named mind, intellect, ego, or desire [chitta]. Mind is the faculty of desire or repulsion. Intellect is the faculty of determining the Truth of things. The ego is the faculty which identifies itself with the body as self. Desire [chitta] is the faculty that seeks for pleasure. Just as gold and silver are shaped into various forms, so the single life breath becomes prana, apana, vyana, udana, samana. The group of five elements [ether, fire, water, air, earth], the group of five organs of knowledge [ears, eyes, skin, nose, tongue], the group of five organs of action [vocal organs, hands, feet, anus, genitals], the group of five vital airs [prana, apana, vyana, udana, samana], the group of four internal organs [chitta, manas, buddhi, ahankara], all these together compose the subtle body called the city of eight constituents. Being possessed of desires, it is produced out of the elements prior to their subdivision and mutual combination. The soul has brought this beginningless superimposition upon itself by its actions. This state of experience is the dream state. In this state the mind functions of its own accord, experiencing itself as the actor, due to its various tendencies and to the effect of experiences of the waking state. In this state the Self, shining with its own light, is superimposed upon the mind without being attached to its actions and remains a mere Witness. Just as the axe and other tools of the carpenter are only the means for his activities, so this subtle body is only the means for the activities of the Self which is ever aware. The internal organs perform all their actions owing to the mere proximity of the Self, whereas the Self remains unaffected and untouched by these actions. Good or bad eyesight is due to the state of the eyes, deafness to the ears, and so on; they do not affect the Self, the knower. Those who know say that inhalation, exhalation, yawning, sneezing, etc., are functions of the life-breath, as also are hunger and thirst. The inner organ [mind], with the light of reflected consciousness, has its seat in the outer organs, such as the eye, and identifies itself with them. This inner organ is the ego. The ego is the actor and enjoyer, identifying itself with the body as “I”. Under the influence of the three gunas it assumes the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. When sense objects are to its liking it becomes happy, when not, unhappy. Thus, pleasure and pain pertain to the ego and are not characteristics of the ever-blissful Self. Objects appear to be pleasant because of the Self and not because of any inherent bliss that is in them. The Self has no grief in it. Its bliss, which is independent of objects, is experienced by everyone in the state of deep sleep and therefore it is dear to everyone. This is borne out by the authority of the Upanishads and by direct perception, tradition, and inference.

“The Supreme [Brahman] has a wonderful shakti [power or energy] known as “the undifferentiated”, “ignorance”, “maya”, etc… She is of the form of the three gunas. Her existence is inferred by those of understanding from the effects produced by her. She is far superior to all objectivity and creates the entire universe. She is neither being nor non-being, neither does she partake of the nature of both. She is neither composed of parts nor indivisible nor both. She is neither form nor formless nor both. She is none of these. Such as she is, she is indescribable. She is also beginningless. Yet just as the deluded fear of a snake in a piece of rope is removed by recognising the rope as such, so too maya may be destroyed by integral knowledge of Brahman. She has her three gunas which are to be known from their effects. Rajas, whose colour is red, is of the nature of activity and is the power of projection. It is the original cause of all activity. From it arise the mental modifications that lead to desires and sorrows. Lust, anger, grasping, pride, hatred, egotism are all tendencies characteristic of rajas. This projecting power is the cause of bondage because it creates outward or worldly tendencies. Tamas, whose colour is black, is the veiling power. It makes things appear other than what they are. Through its alliance with the power of projection, it is the original cause of man’s constant rebirth. He who is enveloped by this veiling power, wise or learned though he may be, clever, expert in the meaning of the scriptures, capable of wonderful achievements, will not be able to grasp the Truth of the Self, even though the Guru and others clearly explain it in various ways. Being under the sway of that veiling power, he esteems things which bear the imprint of delusion and ignorance and achieves them. Even though he is taught, he who is enveloped by this veiling power still lacks the clear knowledge and understanding without which it cannot be removed; he always remains in doubt and comes to decisions contrary to the Truth. At the same time, the power of projection makes him restless. Ignorance, indolence, inertia, sleepiness, omission of the discharge of duties, and stupidity are the characteristics of tamas. One who has these qualities does not comprehend anything but is like a sleeping man or a stone. Now, coming to sattva, whose colour is white: although this is quite clear like pure water, yet it gets murky if mixed with rajas and tamas. The Self shines through sattva just as the sun illumines the entire world of matter. Even from mixed sattva virtuous qualities result, such as modesty, yama and niyama, faith, devotion and the desire for devotion, divine qualities and turning away from the unreal. From the clarity of pure sattva results Self-realisation, Supreme peace, never failing contentment, perfect happiness, abiding in the Self which is the fount of Eternal bliss. The undifferentiated power which is spoken of as a compound of the three gunas is the causal body of the Soul. Its state is that of deep sleep in which all the sense organs and functions of the mind are at rest. In this state all perceptions cease and the mind in its subtle seed-like form experiences Supreme bliss. This is borne out by the universal experience, “I slept soundly and knew nothing.”

“The above is a description of the non-Self. These things do not pertain to the Self: the body, the sense organs, the mind, the ego and its modes, happiness due to sense objects, the elements from ether downwards, and the whole world up to the undifferentiated maya. All this is non-Self. From mahat [cosmic intelligence] down to the gross body, everything is the effect of maya. Know these to be the non-Self. These are all unreal like a mirage in the desert.

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