Friday, February 11, 2011

How did the ego arise?

Devotee (D).: How did the ego arise?

Here is a question that gives rise to endless philosophizing, but Bhagavan, holding rigorously to the truth of non-duality, refused to admit its existence.

Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi (B).: There is no ego. If there were, you would have to admit of two selves in you. Therefore there is no ignorance. If you enquire into the Self, ignorance, which is already non-existent, will be found not to exist and you will say that it has fled.

Sometimes it seemed to the listener that absence of thought must mean a mere blank, and therefore Bhagavan specifically guarded against this.

Absence of thought does not mean a blank. There must be someone to be aware of that blank. Knowledge and ignorance pertain only to the mind and are in duality, but the Self is beyond them both. It is pure Light. There is no need for one Self to see another. There are no two selves. What is not the Self is mere non-self and cannot see the Self. The Self has no sight or hearing; it lies beyond them, all alone, as pure Consciousness.

Bhagavan often cited man's continued existence during deep, dreamless sleep as a proof that he exists independent of the ego and the body-sense. He also referred to the state of deep sleep as a body-free and ego-free state.

D.: I don't know whether the Self is different from the ego.

B.: In what state were you in deep sleep?

D.: I don't know.

B.: Who doesn't know? The waking self? But you don't deny that you existed while in deep sleep?

D.: I was and am, but I don't know who was in deep sleep.

B.: Exactly. The waking man says that he did not know anything in the state of deep sleep. Now he sees objects and knows that he exists but in deep sleep there were no objects and no spectator. And yet the same person who is speaking now existed in deep sleep also. What is the difference between the two states? There are objects and the play of the senses now, while in deep sleep there were not. A new entity, the ego, has arisen. It acts through the senses, sees objects, confuses itself with the body and claims to be the Self. In reality, what was in deep sleep continues to be now also. The Self is changeless. It is the ego which has come between. That which rises and sets is the ego. That which remains changeless is the Self.

Such examples sometimes gave rise to the mistaken idea that the state of Realisation or abidance in the Self which Bhagavan prescribed was a state of nescience like physical sleep and therefore he guarded against this idea also.

B.: Waking, dream and sleep are mere phases of the mind, not of the Self. The Self is the witness of these three states. Your true nature exists in sleep.

D.: But we are advised not to fall asleep during meditation.

B.: It is stupor which you must guard against. That sleep which alternates with waking is not the true sleep. That waking which alternates with sleep is not the true waking. Are you awake now? No. What you have to do is to wake up to your true state. You should neither fall into false sleep nor remain falsely awake.

B.: Though present even in sleep, the Self is not then perceived. It cannot be known in sleep straightaway. It must first be realized in the waking state for it is our true nature underlying all the three states. Effort must be made in the waking state and the Self realized here and now. It will then be understood to be the continuous Self uninterrupted by the alteration of waking, dream and deep sleep.

In fact, one name for the true state of realised being is the 'Fourth State' existing eternally beyond the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. It is compared with the state of deep sleep since, like this, it is formless and non-dual; however, as the above quotation shows, it is far from being the same. In the Fourth State the ego merges in Consciousness, as in sleep it does in unconsciousness.

In nothing did Bhagavan show more clearly that theory has to be adapted to the understanding of the seeker than in the question of death and re-birth. For those who were capable of grasping pure, non-dual theory, he explained merely that the question does not arise, for if the ego has no real existence, now, it has none after death either.

Source: Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own words by Arthur Osborne, Chapter 3.

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