Q. How has srishti (creation) about? Some say it is predestined, others say it is God's play (lila). What is the truth?

A. Various accounts are given in books. But is there creation (a real transformation within space of any substance)? Only if there is creation, do we have to explain how it came about. We may not know about all these theories, but, we certainly know that we exist (are aware of our existence). Why not know the 'I', and then see if there is a creation?

Q. Evolutionary creation is stated to suit the capacity of beginners, but for the advanced non-creation is revealed. What is your view?

A. There is no dissolution or creation, no one in bondage, nor anyone pursuing spiritual practices. There is no one desiring liberation, nor anyone liberated! This is absolute truth. One who is established in the Self (consciousness) sees by his knowledge of reality (consciousness).

Q. Is not the Self (consciousness, existence, being-ness) the cause of this world we see around us?

A. The Self itself appears as the world of diverse names and forms. However, the Self does not act as the efficient cause (nimitta karana) - creating, sustaining and destroying the world appearance.

Q. You seem to be an exponent of ajata doctrine (instantaneous imagined creation)?

A. I do not teach only the ajata doctrine. I approve of all schools. The same truth has to be expressed in different ways to suit the capacity of the hearer. The ajata doctrine (instant imagined creation) says 'Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth, no death, no projection, or drawing in, no seeker, no bondage, no liberation. The one unity alone exists.'

To such as find it difficult to grasp this truth, and who ask 'How can we ignore the solid world we see all around us?' - the dream experience (during sleep at night) is pointed out, and they are told 'All that see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer, there is no seeing.' This is called the drishti-srishti-vada - or the argument that one first creates (imagines) a world out of one's mind and sees what one's mind itself has created (imagined).

Some people cannot grasp even this, and they continue to argue in the following terms: 'The dream experience is so short, while the world always exists. The dream experience was limited to me. But the world is felt and seen not only by me, but so many others. We cannot call such a world non-existent.'

When people argue in this way, they can be given the srishti-drishti theory (evolutionary creation).

For example, 'God first created such and such a thing, out of such and such an element, and then something else was created, and so on.' That alone will satisfy this class. Their minds are otherwise not satisfied and they ask themselves 'How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them, and all knowledge be totally untrue?' To such it is best to say 'Yes, God created all of this, so you see it.'

The Vedanta says the cosmos brings the world into view simultaneously with the seer, and that there is no detailed process of creation. This is said to be yugapat-srishti (instantaneous imagined creation).

It is just like creations in dreams where the experiencer (seer) springs simultaneously into existence with the objects of experience (the seen).

When this is told, some people are not satisfied, for they are deeply rooted in objective knowledge (belief in the reality of the world appearance). They seek to find out how there can be sudden creation. They argue that an effect must be preceded by a cause. In short, they desire an explanation for the existence of the world which they see around them.

Then the srutis (scriptures) try to satisfy their curiosity by theories of evolutionary creation (based upon cause and effect theories, and the transformation of elements - all of which do not exist in consciousness). This method with dealing with the subject of creation is called krama-srishti (gradual evolutionary creation).

But the truth seeker can only be content by yugapat-srishti (instantaneous imagined world appearance).

Q. What is the purpose of creation?

A. It is to give rise to this question. Investigate the answer to this question, and finally abide in the supreme or rather the primal source of all (awareness, consciousness, existence, the Self), the investigation will resolve itself into a quest for the Self, and it will cease only after the non-self is sifted away, and the Self (consciousness) realized in its purity and glory. There may be numbers of theories of creation. All of them extend outwardly. There will be no limit to them, because time and space (being imagined) are (therefore) unlimited. They are however only (imagined) in the mind. If you see the mind (realize its source), time and space are transcended, and the Self (consciousness) is realized.

Creation is explained scientifically and logically to one's own satisfaction. But is there any finality about it? Such explanations are called krama-srishti (gradual evolutionary creation).

On the other hand, drishti-srishti (simultaneous imagined creation) is really yugapat srishti (instantaneous imagined world appearance) whereby the subject and objects appear at the same time.

Without the seer, there are no objects seen. Find the seer, and all of creation is comprised in him. Why look outward and go on explaining the phenomenon (objects in the imagined world appearance) which are endless.

Q. I form part of the creation, and so remain dependent (in bondage). I cannot solve the riddle of creation until I become independent (free). Yet I ask, should you not answer the question for me?

A. Again, where are you now, that you ask this question? Are you in the world, or is the world within you? You must admit that the world is not perceived in your sleep, although you cannot deny your existence then. The world appears when you wake up. So where is it? Clearly, the world is your thought, thoughts are your projections. The 'I' is first created, and then the world. The world is created by the 'I' which in turn rises from the Self (consciousness). The riddle of the creation of the world is thus solved if you solve the creation of 'I'. So I say, find your self (consciousness).

Again, does the world come and ask you 'Why do I exist, how was I created?' It is you who ask the question. The questioner must establish the relationship between the world and himself. He must admit that the world is his imagination. Who imagines it? Let him again find the 'I', and then the Self (consciousness). There is no creation in the state of realization (of consciousness).

When one sees the world (as an independent reality), one does not realizes one's Self (consciousness). When one realizes one's Self (consciousness), the world is not seen (as a reality independent of the Self - consciousness). So realize your real Self, and realize that there has been no creation (only an imagined appearance of a world, just as in dreams at night).

Q. 'Consciousness is real. The world (jagat) is illusion' is the stock phrase of Sankara, yet others say 'The world is real.' Which is true?

A. Both statements are true. They refer to different stages of development, and are spoken from different points of view. The aspirant (abhyasi) starts with the definition, what is real exists always (never changes). Then the world is eliminated as unreal because it is constantly changing.

The seeker ultimately reaches the Self, and realizes the underlying substratum (consciousness within which the world appears). Then that which was originally rejected as being unreal, is found to be part of (and an appearance in) the unity (consciousness). Being absorbed in the reality (consciousness), the world is also real. There is only being in Self-realization, and nothing but being (awareness of awareness).

Q. Sri Ramana always says that maya (world illusion) and reality are the same. How can that be?

A. Sankara was criticized for his views on maya (the world illusion) without being understood. He said that:

1. Consciousness alone is real

2. The universe is unreal

3. The universe is consciousness (since it has no existence independent of consciousness within which it appears).

He did not stop at the second, because the third explains the other two. It signifies that the universe is real if perceived as the Self (an appearance in consciousness), and unreal if perceived as apart from the Self. Hence, maya (the world appearance imagined within consciousness) and reality (consciousness) are one and the same (both being consciousness alone).

Q. So the world is not an illusion?

A. At the level of the spiritual seeker, you have got to say that the world is an illusion. There is no other way. When a man forgets that he is consciousness, which is real, permanent and omnipresent, and deludes himself into thinking that he is a body in the universe, which is filled with transitory bodies and labors under that delusion, you have go to remind him that the world is unreal, and a delusion.

Why? Because his vision, which has forgotten his own Self (consciousness) is dwelling in the external material universe (imagined world appearance). He will not turn inwards into introspection, unless you impress on him that all this external, material universe is unreal (only an imagined appearance in consciousness). Once he realizes his own Self, he will know that there is nothing other than his own Self, and he will come to look upon the whole universe as how own Self (consciousness). There is no universe without the Self.

So long as a man does not see the Self which is the origin of all, but looks only upon the external world as real and permanent, you have to tell him that all this external universe (world appearance) is unreal. You cannot help it.

Take a paper. We only see the script, and nobody notices the paper on which the script is written. The paper is there, whether the script on it is there or not. To those who look upon the script as real, you have to say that it is unreal, an illusion, since it rests upon the paper. The wise man looks upon both the paper and script as one. So also with consciousness and the universe.

Q. So the world is real when it is experienced as the Self and unreal when it is seen as separate (names and forms)?

A. Just as fire is obscured by smoke, the shining light of consciousness is obscured by the world appearance. When by compassionate divine grace the mind becomes clear, the nature of the world will be known to be not the illusionary forms, but only the reality (the consciousness within which it appears).

Only those people whose minds are devoid of the power of maya (world illusion, seeing the unreal as real), having given up the knowledge of the world, and being unattached to it, and having thereby attained the knowledge of the Self-shining supreme reality (consciousness), can correctly know the meaning of the statement 'The world is real.' If one's outlook has been transformed to the nature of real knowledge, the world of the five elements, beginning with ether (akasa) will be real, being the supreme reality, which is the nature of knowledge. The original state of this empty world, which is bewildering and crowded with many names and forms, is bliss, which is one.

Q. I cannot say it is all clear to me. Is the world that is seen, felt and sensed by us in so many ways something like a dream, an illusion?

A. There is no alternative for you to accept the world as unreal if you are seeking the truth, and the absolute truth alone.

Q. Why so?

A. For the simple reason, unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it. If you take the appearance to be real, you will never know the real itself, although it is the real alone that exists. This point is illustrated by the analogy of the snake-in-the-rope. You may believe that a piece of rope is a snake, while you imagine the rope is a snake, you cannot see the rope as a rope (due to misperception). The non-existent snake becomes real to you, while the real rope seems wholly non-existent as such.

Q. It is easy to accept tentatively that the world is not real, but it is hard to have the conviction within the heart that it is unreal.

A. Even so is your dream world real while you are dreaming. So long as the dream lasts, everything you see and feel in it is real.

Q. Is the world then no better than a dream?

A. What is wrong with the sense of reality you have while you are dreaming? You may be dreaming of something quite impossible, for instance, having a happy chat with a dead person. Just for a moment, you may doubt in the dream, saying to yourself 'Was he not dead?', but somehow your mind reconciles itself to the dream vision, and the person is as alive for the purposes of the dream.

In other words, the dream as a dream, does not permit you to doubt its reality. It is the same in the waking state, where you are unable to doubt the reality of the world which you see while awake. How can the mind which has created the world accept it as unreal? That is the significance of the comparison made between the world of the waking state and the dream world. Both are creations of (imagined within) the mind, and so long as the mind is engrossed in either, it finds itself unable to deny their reality.

It cannot deny the reality of the dream world while it is dreaming, and it cannot deny the reality of the waking world while it is awake. If, on the other hand, you draw your hand completely from the world, and turn it within and abide there, that is, if you always keep awake to the Self (consciousness) which is the substratum (source) of all experiences, you will find the world of which you are now aware is just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream (during sleep at night).

Q. We see, feel and sense the world in so many ways. These sensations are the reactions to the objects seen and felt. They are not mental creations as in dreams, which differ not only from person to person, but also with regards to the same person. Is that not enough to prove the objective reality (physical substantiality) of the world?

A. All this talk of inconsistencies in the dream world arises only now when you are awake. While you are dreaming, the dream was a perfectly integrated whole. That is to say, if you felt thirsty in a dream, the dream water quenched your dream thirst. But all this was real and not illusory (a dream) to you as long as you did not know that the dream itself was an illusion (a dream). Similarly with the world perceived while awake. The sensations you now have get coordinated to give you the impression that the world is real. If, on the other hand, the world is a self-existent reality (that is what evidentially mean by its objectivity), what prevents the world from revealing itself to you in sleep? You do not say you did not exist in your dream.

Q. Neither do I deny the world's existence while I am asleep. It has been existing all the while. If during my sleep I did not see it, others who were not sleeping saw it.

A. To say that you existed while asleep, was it necessary to call in the evidence of the others so as to prove it to you? Why do you seek their evidence now? Those others can tell you of having seen the world during your sleep only when you yourself are awake. With regards to your own existence (consciousness), it is different. On waking up, you say you had a sound sleep, and to that extent you are aware of yourself in the deepest sleep, whereas you have not the slightest notion of the world's existence then. Even now, while you are awake, is it the world that says 'I am real', or is it you?

Q. Of course I say it, but I say it of the world.

A. Well then, that world, which you say is real, is really mocking at you for seeking to prove its reality, while you are ignorant of your own reality. You want somehow or other to maintain that the world is real.

What is the standard of reality? That alone is real which exists by itself, which reveals itself by itself, and which is eternal and unchanging. Does the world exist by itself? Was it ever seen without the aid of the mind? In sleep there is neither mind, nor the world. When awake, there is mind and there is the world. What does this invariable concomitance mean?

You are familiar with the principles of inductive logic, which are considered the very basis of scientific investigation. Why do you not decide this question of the reality of the world in light of those accepted principles of logic? Of yourself you say 'I exist.' That is, your existence is not near existence, it is existence of which you are conscious. Really, existence is identical with consciousness.

Q. The world may not be conscious of itself, yet it exists.

A. Consciousness is always Self-consciousness. If you are conscious of anything, you are essentially conscious of yourself. Unself-conscious existence is a contradiction in terms (an impossibility). It is not existence at all. It is merely attributed existence, whereas true existence, the sat, is not an attribute, it is substance itself. It is the vastu (reality).

Reality is therefore known as sat-chit (being-consciousness), and never merely one to the exclusion of the other. The world neither exists by itself, nor is it conscious of its existence. How can you say that such a world is real? And what is the nature of the world? It is perpetual change, a continuous, interminable flux. A dependent, unself-conscious ever-changing world cannot be real.

Q. Are the names and forms of the world real?

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

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. Knowledge of the world is knowledge of the knower of the world (jagrat-prama is the prama of jagrat-pramata). Both go away in sleep.

Q. Why do we so much 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 is not the same second time as it was when he bathed for the first time. On looking twice at 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 or perception.

Q. From where did the knower and his misperception come?

A. Find out that 'I' and all your doubts will be solved. Just as in a dream a false knowledge, knower 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. Indeed sleep, knower, knowledge and known are absent. In the same way, at the same time of experiencing the real 'I', they will not exist. Whatever you see happening in the waking state happens only to the knower, and since the knower (the subject being imagined) is unreal, nothing in fact ever happens.

Q. Is the light which gives the 'I' sense identity and knowledge of the world ignorance or chit (consciousness)?

A. It is only reflected light of chit (consciousness) that makes the 'I' believe itself different from others. This reflected light of chit also makes the 'I' created (imagine) objects, but for this reflection there must be a surface on which the reflection takes place.

Q. What is that surface?

A. On realization of the Self, you will find that the reflection and the surface on which it takes place do not actually exist, and that both of them are one and the same chit (consciousness). There is the world, which requires location (space) for its existence and light to make it perceptible. Both rise (are imagined) simultaneously. Therefore, physical existence and perception depend upon the light of the mind which is reflected from the Self (consciousness).

Just as the cinema picture can be made visible by a reflected light, and only in darkness, so also the world appearance is only perceptible by the light of the Self reflected in the darkness of avidya (ignorance).

The world cannot be seen in the utter darkness of ignorance (as in deep sleep), nor in the utter light of Self (consciousness), as in Self realization (samadhi).


The above insights of
Sri Ramana (1879 - 1950), are known among spiritual seekers the world over and prized for their great inspirational power, which transcends all religious differences.

Amongst scholarly circles in the spiritual community of India, Sri Ramana is considered the most important mystic on the world stage during the 20th century because of the unprecedented timeliness of his emphasis on self-inquiry for direct Self-realization (of one's true nature). At the age of 17 he attained a profound experience of the true infinite Self without the guidance of a Guru and thereafter remained conscious of his identity with the Infinite at all times.

After some years of silent seclusion he finally began to reply to questions put to him by spiritual seekers all over the world. He followed no particular path or traditional system of teaching, but rather spoke directly from his own experience of non-duality. Sri Ramana wrote virtually nothing; his teaching took the form of conversations with visitors seeking his guidance (as transcribed by followers).