This part is taken from “Conversations With Bhagavan” by Swami Madhava Thirtha. These conversations were originally printed in the author’s Gujarati book, Ramana Maharshi Introduction and Teaching.

Swami Madhava Thirtha: It is said by some that God has created various kinds of worlds and is still going to create a new world.

Sri Bhagavan: Our present world itself is not true. Each one sees a different imaginary world according to his imagination, and so where is the guarantee that the new world will be real? The jiva (individual soul), the world and God, all of these are dependent on the True State. As long as there is the individual sense of ‘I’, these are also there. From this individual sense of ‘I’, from the mind, these three have arisen. If you destroy the mind, the three will not remain, but Brahman alone will remain, as it remains and abides even now.

We see something incorrectly. This misperception will be rectified by enquiring into the real nature of this jiva. Even if the jiva enters super-mind, it will remain in mind; but after surrendering the mind, there will be nothing remaining but Brahman. Whether this world is real or unreal, chetana or jada, (conscious or inert), a place of happiness or a place of misery, all these states arise in the state of ignorance. They are not useful after Realisation. The state of Atma Nishta (being fixed in the Self ), devoid of the individual feeling of ‘I’, is the Supreme State. In this state, there is no room for objective thinking, nor for this feeling of individual being. There is no doubt of any kind in this natural state of Being-Consciousness-Bliss. So long as there is the perception of name and form in oneself, God will appear with form, but when the vision of the formless Reality (arupa drishti) is achieved there will be no modifications of seer, seeing and seen. That vision is the nature of consciousness itself, non-dual and undivided. It is limitless, infinite and perfect. When the individual sense of ‘I’ arises in the body, then the waking state appears. If this sense is absent, who then will see the world?

Q: It is believed by some that just as we can subdue the material nature residing in our body, the sage, in the same way, must have such power in himself that he can change other’s material nature, because the Self is common to all.

A: The jnani does not believe that there are others, and so there is no question of changing anyone’s material nature. When others are seen, that is ignorance.

Q: Though Janaka was a jnani, he was a ruling monarch, but his Guru, Yajnavalkya, who was also a jnani renounced the

world and went to the forest. Why was this so?

A: All happens according to the prarabdha (destiny) of each jnani. Krishna was an enjoyer of pleasures (bhogi), whereas Sukadeva was an ascetic (tyagi). Janaka and Rama were kings, but all of them were jnanis. Their inner experience was the same, and their external life was in accordance with their prarabdha.

Q: Some see a serpent in the rope, some a stick, some a garland, and some a flow of water, but the one who sees the rope as the rope has the true knowledge. The knowledge of the other seers is not true.

A: It is not necessary to think of the view of other seers. Those others are only in your imagination. Know the one seer, and all will be well.

Q: How?

A: In a dream, many are seen, but they are all in the imagination of the one seer. When you wake up from the dream, the dream and those seen in the dream will take care of their own prarabdha.

Q: Then there will be no others?

A: It is the same with the world. In Aparokshanubhuti, (an Advaitic work attributed to Sankara), the author says: “In the state where there is no existence of seer, seeing and seen, the sight should be fixed there (in that state) and not on the tip of the nose.”

Q: A question arises from this: How can daily life go on if the sight is fixed in this way?

A: Jnanis fix their sight in the substratum (adhishtana) even during vyavahara (wordly activities), because nothing else becomes the truth except adhishtana. To feel that there is earth in the pot is the proper attitude (i.e., see the essence and not the form).

Q: A pot can be filled with water, but one cannot achieve the same result by pouring water on earth.

A: I do not tell you to see earth after breaking the pot. Even when the pot is whole, you can see it in the form of earth. In the same way, the world can be seen as the form of Brahman. To have the knowledge of Brahman in the waking state is similar to having the knowledge of clay in the pot.

Q: Are the name and form real?

A: You won’t find them separate from adhishtana (the substratum). When you try to get at name and form, you will find Reality only. Therefore attain the knowledge of that which is real for all time.

Q: Is it a fact that dreams arise because of the impressions received during the waking state?

A: No, it is not true. In your dream you see many new things and many new people whom you have never seen before in your waking state. You may even see a second dream within the dream. After waking up from the second dream, you feel that you have woken up, but that is the waking state of the first dream. In the same way, man wakes up daily, but it is not to a real waking state.

Q: Why does the waking state look so real?

A: We see so much on the cinema screen, but it is not real; nothing is real there except the screen. In the same way, in the waking state, there is nothing but adhishtana. Jagrat-prama (knowledge of the world) is the prama of jagrat-pramata. (Knowledge of the knower of the world). Both go away in sleep.

Q: Why do we see such permanency and constancy in the world?

A: It is seen on account of wrong ideas. When someone says that he took a bath in the same river twice, he is wrong because when he bathed for the second time the river was not the same as it was when he bathed for the first time. On seeing the brightness of a flame, a man says that he sees the same flame, but this flame is changing every moment. The waking state is like this. The stationary appearance is an error of perception.

Q: Whose is the error?

A: Pramata (the knower).

Q: How did the knower come?

A: On account of the error of perception. In fact, the knower and his misperceptions appear simultaneously, and when knowledge of the Self is obtained, they disappear simultaneously.

Q: From where did the knower and his misperceptions come?

A: Who is asking this question?

Q: I.

A: Find out that ‘I’ and all your doubts will be solved. Just as in a dream, a false knower, knowledge and known rise up, in the waking state, the same process operates. In both states, on knowing this ‘I’, you know everything, and nothing remains to be known. In deep sleep, knower, knowledge and known are absent; in the same way, at the time of experiencing the true ‘I’, they will not exist. Whatever you see happening in the waking state happens only to the knower, and since the knower is unreal, nothing in fact ever happens.

Q: After waking from sleep, why does the world of the previous day appear the same?

A: The world seen on the previous day was not real. It was the knowledge of an unreal knower; similarly, the world of the next day is also the knowledge of an unreal knower. Truly, there is no real world. What appears separate from us is called by us “the world”. It appears separate to us due to ego-consciousness (ahamkara). When ahamkara goes there is nothing separate and then there is no world. Time also arises from pramata (the knower). Because pramata is not real, time is also not real. Prof. Einstein has also stated this in his theory of relativity.

Q: How then do the affairs of daily life go on?

A: At present the government has changed the time by putting it an hour in advance. Though the time is wrong, daily life still continues.

Q: In Panchadasi there is an example that if you wish to hear the music of your son who is singing along with all the boys attending the same school, you have to ask the other boys to be quiet. Similarly, to hear the voice of the Self, you have to stop all other activities.

A: In this particular example, even if your son is not present, you will hear the music of the other boys, so the analogy does not fit well. Truly speaking, if there is no Self, no other work can be done. According to another example, if we fix our attention on the main tune of the harmonium, then there will be no difficulty in listening to that tune, even if many other tunes were going on along with it.

Q: Just as a mirage, though believed to be unreal, appears again, similarly, though the world is believed to be unreal,it reappears.

A: Just as the knowledge of water in the mirage is not true, similarly, the knowledge of the world in Brahman is not true. All is one Brahma rupa (form of Brahman).That alone is true knowledge.

Q: According to the old system of Vedanta, it is seen that ignorance arises first, and then arises the idea of individual existence, but according to the new system, there seems to be nothing before or after. The idea of individual existence, ignorance and the world arise simultaneously, and on attaining knowledge, all these three disappear.

A: It is true. “See the world as consisting of Brahman, after making your vision jnanamaya” (consisting of knowledge) (vide., Yoga Vasishta).

Q: Such a state can only be obtained by sat sang (association with holy men).

A: Do not think that sat sang means only talks and conversations. It means abidance in being as the form of the Self.

Q: What is the meaning of ‘atma is swayam prakasa’ (The Self shines by its own light)?

A: Just as the sun has never seen darkness, similarly, the Self has never seen ignorance. The Self is unknowable, but it can be experienced by aparoksha anubhava (knowledge of the Self by direct perception). This is called swayam prakasatwa (Self-illumination).