This part is written by Dr.M.Anantnarayana Rao

On a certain day in October 1948, along with a couple of devotees, I was with Bhagavan Sri Ramana. I was dressing a patch of eczema on one of his legs when one of the devotees in the course of conversation said that life is a dream.

I replied to him that if one looked at life as a succession of events between birth and death the past events appear as if they happened in a dream.

Sri Bhagavan who was listening to our conversation looked at me and asked, “You have studied biology, could you say what life is?” I replied, “Biologists understand life as something which can be recognised by its response to stimuli. What exactly it is, is not definitely known. Will Sri Bhagavan kindly enlighten us what it is?”

When Sri Bhagavan heard this he suddenly became still and serene, a posture which is difficult to describe yet so very familiar to his devotees. After some time I told him, “Bhagavan, I feel that your silence is an answer to my question. I interpret that silence to mean that ‘life’ can be experienced but cannot be described by words. It is something beyond the conditioned, mind of ours. Is that so?”

Sri Bhagavan replied, ” Yes, Life is Sat or Existence.”

He explained it further by saying that a ball of iron has shape or form and when it is heated it gets the property or quality of fire as well. If you beat that hot iron ball with a hammer on an anvil its form changes, but the quality of fire in it remains unchanged. Similarly, jiva with attributes (upadhis, such as mind and body) is yourself. But when jiva is bereft of its attributes, what remains is Siva or Self. Your very core is Siva which is Existence itself.”

From what Sri Bhagavan said it became clear to me that Life as we understand it is conditioned by our senses and mind. Our conversation ended there.

While writing the above episode the word ‘Light’ came to my mind. Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna while he was speaking to Dr. Sarkar said: “The nearer the devotee comes to his Deity, the fewer attributes he sees. At last when he comes to the presence of the Deity he sees only light without attributes.”

Like “life” what exactly ‘light’ is we do not know. The physicists say that light is a combination of different wave lengths, and the speed of a ray of light is the top limit in this universe we see. All this information is obtained by the mind aided by the senses. The interesting part of it is the speed of light. If one can travel by the speed of light, then to him time and space contract to zero, that is to say that time and space do not exist for him and it is all now and here for him. The top limit of the speed limits our senses to that limit, and anything going faster than that speed is beyond what the senses can comprehend. So, one travelling faster than light must be invisible to us. This can be extended to what our senses comprehend as sound. If we travel faster than sound in a plane and cross the sound-barrier we shall be travelling through silence.

Silence too has, to a limited extent, given us indications that when we cross the barrier of the speed of sound waves or light waves, our senses concerned with them become inoperative or they cannot comprehend what is beyond the barriers. Great men like Buddha, Christ, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramana and many others have voluntarily crossed the barrier of the senses and mind with the aid of wisdom and have given us indications of their experience. To describe that experience is difficult, and Sri Bhagavan usually sat still and silent when one asked him about it and Sri Ramakrishna said it was not possible to describe the same. To describe that experience he has to come back to the realm of the mind and senses, which means giving attributes to the Attributeless. In order to overcome that difficulty Sri Ramakrishna evidently said: “Light without attributes is God” and Sri Ramana said, “Jiva without attributes or upadhis is Siva.” Real life then is Siva or Pure Consciousness.