[Advaita-l] Commentary on Ramana's Forty Verses
ayyar at akilesh.com
Sun Jun 13 02:24:49 EDT 2021
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a commentary on Ramana Maharshi’s
seminal Forty Verses, verse by verse. This is the first.
Forty Verses is one of Ramana Maharshi’s most famous works. It is one of
his own chief and briefest summaries of his teachings, compiled at the
request of one of his devotees. It explains the philosophy and the essence
of that true knowledge which is beyond the changing things of the world,
knowledge of the real Self.
It goes by other names as well: *Ulladu Narpadu*, *Sad-Vidya*, and *Truth
Revealed*. The translation of the text is taken from The Collected Works of
Ramana Maharshi <https://amzn.to/3vkxJ9S>.
InvocationI. IF REALITY DID NOT EXIST, COULD THERE BE ANY KNOWLEDGE OF
EXISTENCE? FREE FROM ALL THOUGHTS, REALITY ABIDES IN THE HEART, THE SOURCE
OF ALL THOUGHTS. IT IS, THEREFORE, CALLED THE HEART. HOW THEN IS ONE TO
CONTEMPLATE IT? TO BE AS IT IS IN THE HEART, IS ITS CONTEMPLATION.
*Commentary:* This invocation, which has two parts, starts before the forty
verses themselves. Reality means that which is unchanging, whereas
knowledge of existence is always in thought (or feeling, or perception,
etc., which are all forms of thought). Reality is that which permits
thought, that which is aware of it. Thought always implies a background
which is itself not simply a thought. That which is beyond thought is
beyond change, since changes are themselves in thought — in order to say
something has changed, you have to think and make a comparison. In other
words, changes are always cognized. Without concepts, you cannot say that
something has changed. So the knowledge of existence — which is thought —
implies something which is beyond change, and which is that which is aware
of thought. That awareness which is beyond change we call Reality.
This background to thought — though phrasing it this way is of course
itself a thought, and that’s inevitable, since any language that talks
about Reality is going to have to use thought, and so be imprecise and
imperfect — shines in what Ramana calls the Heart. While Reality is an
abstract concept, the Heart is simply the ground of our own awareness. It
is the background of thoughts that each of us can access. It does not refer
to the physical heart. It refers to the background of thought that we can
seek by turning our attention towards whoever it is that is witnessing all
our experiences. That witness is “inside” all the other experience, which
is on the “outside.” That inmost point is called the Heart. When this
inmost “point” is reached, it turns out not to be a point at all, and to be
entirely beyond the distinctions of inside and outside.
What we call Reality, which is a grand word which seems to be “out there”
and “universal,” is equally in us. It is not merely in us, actually, but
rather we are it.
It is the grand concept of Vedanta and of Ramana that the unchanging
essence of the “out there” is also none other than the unchanging essence
that is “in here.” When stripped of the inessential & the changing, which
stuff is actually just a bunch of thoughts of those things, the out there
and the in here are not merely similar — they are exactly one and the same.
This Heart is what is behind thought, and it is that from which all thought
comes, and to which it all returns. So it is not itself a thought. But only
thought can be the object of contemplation. So how are we to turn our
attention towards the Heart? We simply have to just be the Heart. Which of
course we already are.
“To be as it is in the Heart” means that we are to be just and only as it
is in the Heart, meaning to be without thought. It means we have to abandon
our delusions of being in thought — of having things to do, goals, doings,
experiences. To turn away from thought, to stop pretending to be anything
other than the Heart, is the way to contemplate it.
At any time, see all the forty verses posts that I have published so far
Spiritual guidance - http://www.siftingtothetruth.com/
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