This part is taken from “Scenes From Ramana’s Life” by B.V.Narasimha Swami
A day in 1929 (date not given)
Sri N. Natesier, advocate of Madura, arrived this morning at 7-30 a.m. with his family and paid his respects to the Maharshi. He quoted a verse from the Bhagavad Gita and then asked: “How are doubts removed?”
Maharshi: By granthichhedan (cutting the knot).
N. Natesier: “All karmas get destroyed on seeing it.” How are we to have that experience? How does this illusion arise and to whom? How is it removed?
M: Instead of pursuing these inquiries as to how illusion arises and how it is removed, it is sufficient if we solve first the question ‘To whom?’ it arises and then all questions are solved.
N. N: The doubts arise in my mind and to me. The books say that I must know myself and learn my own nature. But how is this to be done?
M: Seek your source. Find out whence the thought I springs.
N.N: How is that to be done? I don’t find that easy.
M: Do we not see things and know them clearly? But what
object can we be surer of and know more certainly than our Self? This is direct experience and cannot be further described.
N.N: If we cannot see the Self, what is to be done?
M: Strenuous endeavour to know the Self. Develop the antarmukham or introspective attitude. Constantly put before your mind the query “What am I?” and in time you will be able to see your Self. How can you see your Self? You can see that which you have not seen before. But as to what you are always experiencing, there is no drishti (vision), strictly speaking. By drishti, the removal of the hindrance, viz., the idea that you are not seeing the Self, is meant.
N.N: It is said there are trimurtis (three aspects of God) and that Vishnu is in Vaikunthalokam (a heavenly region). Is that a real world, real like this world, or is it only a fiction?
M: If you and others and this world are real, why are Mahavishnu and Vaikuntha unreal? So long as you consider this reality, that also is reality.
N.N: I am not referring to the Advaita state or truth that Brahman alone is real and all else is fiction (mithya). But I am trying to find out if, in vyavahara (empirical) stage, accepting the standards for truth that we have here, Vaikuntha is true. Trikalabadhyam satyam (true in all three states) is not the standard I take. In vyavahara, this body exists now and though it may not be found at other times, it is satyam or true in one sense. In that sense, is Vaikuntha true? Does it exist?
M: Why not?
N.N: Are Mahavishnu, Siva, etc., then included among jivakoties?
M: There are jivas and Iswara. Jivas are not the only beings known.
N.N: Is there pralaya (dissolution) for Mahavishnu, etc., and do these trimurtis also meet with their end? Or are they eternal? Do they exist with a body, like this panchabhutika (made of the five elements) body of ours? Have they a vyavaharika satyatwam (empirical reality)?
M: Instead of pursuing the inquiry in that direction, why don’t you turn attention on yourself? To whom does the notion of Vaikuntha and Vishnu arise?
N.N: Is Mahavishnu or Vaikuntha a mere notion or idea? M: Everything to you is a notion. Nothing appears to you
except through the mind and as its notions.
N.N: Then Vishnu and Vaikuntha are creatures of my imagination and pure fiction? They have no more reality than the snake fancied in the rope or sasa-vishanam, the hare’s horn?
M: No. When you consider your body and life and other things as real, how can you treat Mahavishnu or Iswara as unreal? if you are real, he is real, too.
N.N: It is not about reality in that sense that I am asking. Sasa-vishanam, for example, never exists. None has seen it. It is a case of atyantika abhavam (absolute nonexistence), whereas this body is felt and exists at least as an object of sense experienced for the present. There is a difference between the two sorts of abhavam. Can it be said that Vaikuntha is as unreal as sasa-vishanam, the hare’s horn?
M: No. Just as you experience this world and this body and say it is true, there are others who have experienced Vaikuntha, the Vishnulokam, and say that is true. Why call that alone unreal, while you talk of your sense experience as real?
N.N: Then Vaikuntha must exist somewhere. Where is it?
M: It is in you.
N.N: Then it is only my idea, what I can create and control? M: Everything is like that – your idea.
N.N: That is coming back to the Advaitic idea. But what I wish to know, is there a separate person like ourselves who is phaladata, the rewarder of virtue and the punisher of sins?
N.N: Has he an end? Does he get dissolved in pralaya?
M: Pralaya is for the soul held by maya. If you can, with all your defects and limitations, rise by jnana into realisation of the Self, and above all pralaya and samsara, is it not reasonable to expect that Iswara, who is infinitely more intelligent than you, is above and beyond pralaya?
N.N: I have my doubts yet.
M: He who has doubts will go on doubting up to the end of the world.
N.N: No. I am anxious to get rid of that doubt and request you to remove my doubts begotten of ignorance. Pray, enlighten me.
M: Enlighten yourself by realising your Self.
N.N: That I am unable to do. In spite of my desire to shake off all doubts, they cling to me. That is why I seek help. My present doubts about the reality of the existence of other worlds have been long with me. Are devas and pisachas true?