Existence or consciousness is the only reality.

Consciousness plus waking we call waking.

Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep.

Consciousness plus dream we call dream.

Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go.

The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.

The Self (consciousness) and appearances therein as the snake in the rope can be well illustrated like this.

There is a screen (of consciousness, awareness, Beingness, existence).

On that screen first appears the figure of a king. He sits on a throne. Then before him on that same screen a play begins with various figures and objects and the king on the screen watches the play on the same screen.

The seer (subject, drik) and the seen (objects perceived, drisya) are mere shadows (projected appearances) on the screen (consciousness) which is the only reality (substratum) supporting all the pictures.

In the world also, the seer and the seen together constitute the mind, and the mind is supported by or based upon the Self (consciousness).

The ajata school of Advaita (non-duality) says:

"Nothing exists except the one reality (awareness, Beingness, consciousness, existence). There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in, no sadhaka (practiser), no mimikshu (one who desires to be liberated), no mukta (one who is liberated), no bondage, no liberation. The One unity alone exists forever."

To such as find it difficult to grasp this truth and ask:

"How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?" the dream experience is pointed out and they are told: "All that you see depends on the seer (subject). Apart from the seer there is no seen (object to perceive)."

This is called drishti-srishti vada or the argument that one first creates out of his mind and then sees what his mind itself has created.

To such as cannot grasp even this and who further argue:

"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 by so many and we cannot call such a world non-existent."

To such srishti-drishti vada is addressed and they are told "God first created such and such an element and then something else and so forth." (This is the insight that all forms of creation are the result of a finer cause which in turn are the effects of a still finer cause, etc).

That alone will satisfy them. Their mind is not otherwise 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 this and so you see it." All these (explanations) are only to suit the capacity of the hearers.

The Absolute (consciousness) can only be One (since nothing else exists).

There is first the white light, so to call it of the Self (consciousness) which transcends both light and darkness. In it no object can be seen.

There is neither seer (subject) nor seen (object to perceive).

Then there is total darkness or avidya (lack of awareness of reality) in which also no objects are seen.

But from the Self (consciousness) proceeds a reflected light, the light of pure manas (mind), and it is this light which gives room for the existence of all the film of the world which is seen neither in total light nor in total darkness, but only in subdued or reflected light.

From the point of view of jnana (knowledge) or the reality, the pain seen in the world is certainly a dream as is the world of which any particular pain like hunger you refer to is infinitesimal part. In the dream also you yourself feel hunger. You see others suffering from hunger. You feed yourself and moved by pity feed the others whom you find suffering from hunger.

So long as the dream lasted all those pains were quite as real as you now think the pain in the world to be. It was only when you woke up that you discovered that the pain in the dream was unreal.

You might have eaten to the full and gone to sleep. You dream that you work hard and long in the hot sun all day, and are tired and hungry and want to eat a lot. Then you wake up and find your stomach is full and you have not stirred out of your bed.

But all this is not to say that while you in the dream you can act as if the pain you feel there is not real. The hunger in the dream has to assuaged by the food in that dream.

You can never mix up the two states, the dream and the waking state.

Till you reach the state of jnana (realize consciousness to be the sole reality) and thus wake out of maya (the world illusion) you must do social service by relieving suffering whenever you see it.

But even then you must do it without ahamkara - the sense of 'I am the doer' but with the feeling 'I am the Lord's tool.'

Similarly, one must not be conceited 'I am helping a man below me. He needs help. I am in a position to help. I am superior and he is inferior.' But you must help the man as a means of worshipping God (consciousness) in that man.

All such service too is for the Self (consciousness) and not for anybody else. You are not helping anybody else, but only yourself.

Giving to others is really giving to oneself (indivisible consciousness).

If one knows this truth, would one ever remain without giving?

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).