continued from Post Sri Ramana Maharshi on Suffering and Grief
Sometimes, however, the questions were impersonal, referring not to some private tragedy but to the evil and suffering in the world. In such cases they were usually by visitors who did not understand the doctrine of non-duality or follow the path of Self-enquiry.
Visitor : Widespread distress, such as famine and pestilence, spreads havoc through the world. What is the cause of this state of affairs?
B.: To whom does all this appear?
V.: That won’t do. I see misery all round.
B.: You were not conscious of the world and its sufferings while asleep, but you are now that you are awake. Continue in the state in which you are not affected by such things. When you are not aware of the world, that is to say when you remain as the Self in the state of sleep, its sufferings do not affect you. Therefore turn inwards and seek the Self and there will be an end both of the world and of its miseries.
V.: But that is selfishness.
B.: The world is not external to you. Because you wrongly identify yourself with the body, you see the world outside you and its suffering becomes apparent to you; but the world and its sufferings are not real. Seek the reality and get rid of this unreal feeling.
This the visitor was unwilling to do, but instead referred again to suffering and to those who strive vainly to remove it.
V.: There are great men and public workers who cannot solve the problem of suffering in the world.
B.: That is because they are based on the ego. If they remained in the Self it would be different. Still, presuming the absolute reality of the objective world,
the visitor now asked in an indirect way how it would be different, demanding that those who abide in the Self should accept the unreal as Real.
V.: Why don’t Mahatmas help?
For the moment, Bhagavan answers on the visitor’s own level.
B.: You are not told to shut your eyes to the world, but only to see yourself first and then see the whole world as the Self. If you consider yourself as the body, the world appears to be external; if you are the Self, the world appears as Brahman manifested.
Source: Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi in his own words by Arthur Osborne, Chapter Two, section Suffering