373 One self-shining consciousness, independent of all else, which is the real Self, is alone real. There is no other consciousness. Therefore, this soul is not consciousness.
374 But the soul is taken as being conscious, due to the admixture of the consciousness of the real Self. Therefore Vedantins call this unreal soul ‘the illusory consciousness’.
375 Just as someone, coming in uninvited at a marriage, claiming to be a comrade of the bridegroom, obtains an honourable reception from the bride’s family, so this soul is accepted at its face value by the ignorant.
376 The pretend bridegroom’s comrade runs away of his own accord as soon as an enquiry is started by the bride’s party, questioning ‘Who is he? Whence did he come?’ In the same way, this soul flees of his own accord when an enquiry is made as to who he is, or whence he has come.
377 This soul has really no form of its own. It is like a ghost haunting a house, this body. Therefore, [our] Guru says that it [the soul] is just a ghost appointed to guard the body.
378 Bhagavan, our Guru, makes clear the unreality of this soul, saying that when the supreme state is won by the quest [of the Self], there is no form of this soul found surviving.
379 The first thought of the mind is this ego-sense. From it arise all other thoughts. Hence this soul is itself mind, the subtle body, the world, worldly life, and bondage – nothing else.
380 Both bondage and the bound one are only this soul. There is no other who can be said to be bound. The real Self is ever-free, and the sole reality. How can it be said that he became bound?
381 As soon as this one named ‘I’ is born, there is born also along with it the whole world. When it becomes latent, the world also vanishes. Hence the world is said to be its form.
382 Though this great being, the real Self, is dearest to all and of great splendour, it does not shine unmistakably, for its light appears to be stolen by this evil one who has the form of the ego.
383 Though unreal, this one named jiva [individual self] covers up the truth of the Self. So, the Self, being wrongly conceived through a variety of false imaginations, is as good as lost for the ignorant man.
384 The mass of clouds, generated by the light of the sun, conceals the form of the sun. In the same way, this jiva, born as it is by the light of consciousness of the Self, conceals the Self.
This explains why the real Self remains unknown.
385 Revelation accuses him, who by his ego-sense has stolen the real Self, and who suffers for that sin, saying: ‘What sin is there that has not been committed by that thief of the Self?’
386 The Master says ‘original sin’, affirmed to be the cause of death by the Christians, is not an act done by the first man, but only the sense ‘I am the body’.
387 This sin is said to pertain to man, but men are not men in deep sleep. The sense of being a man is due to the identification of oneself with the body. Consequently, the original sin is only this identification of oneself as the body.
388 All loss, all vice, and all suffering are only due to the sense of ‘I’. All gain, all virtue and all happiness come from the extinction of the ego.
389 To the ignorant one the Self is lost on account of his ego sense. Therefore, even if he gains all things, he is still poor. On the other hand the sage, who has gained his Self by the extinction of the ego, sees nothing else to be gained.
Now the question whether there are many selves is considered.
390 Those who think that the body is real and consequently come to believe that the soul itself is the real Self, affirm the plurality of selves, misconceiving the meaning of the texts of the Vedanta.
391 Deluded men who have not heard the truth of the supreme state argue in vain, saying that if there is only one Self, then there is a dilemma: either by the deliverance of one all will be delivered, or none will attain deliverance.
392 There is no objection to jivas being conceived as many, but the view of the plurality of the real Self is unacceptable. The jivas are many and unreal, but the Self is real, auspicious and only one.
Some of those that affirm the manyness of the Self also say that the selves (jivas) are fractions of the Supreme Being, the Self of all. This is next dealt with.
393 There are no real fragments of the one supreme consciousness. The fragments appear only because of ignorance. To the sage in the supreme state, that consciousness shines as one whole, not divided into parts.
The experience of the sage is conclusive on all points. Here is given an utterance of Bhagavan on this point.
394 Consciousness is one, omnipresent and equal. Its unequal distribution is only an illusion. And because space is unreal, its equal distribution is also unreal.
‘One consciousness, equally distributed everywhere; you through illusion give it unequal distribution; no distribution, no everywhere”. These were the words uttered by Bhagavan to an earnest American sadhaka, Mr Hague.
It should be remembered that the supreme reality which is the Self has three unique names, namely sat, chit and ananda, and is referred to by one, or two, or all the three names together. These names, it is explained by Bhagavan, must be understood as denying their opposites, and not giving a positive description of the indescribable. Thus, sat means not asat (non-being); chit means not achit (unconsciousness); and ananda means not unhappiness.
395 It has been clearly taught by the Master that the supreme consciousness remains whole, not divided into parts. Let disciples of non-sages be deluded. How can there be delusion for us on this point?
396 Since it is settled that the one named jiva does not exist, how can we think of its bondage or deliverance? There is neither bondage nor deliverance for the real Self, who remains unswervingly whole and solitary.
This point will be dealt with later.
397 The soul comes to be taken as real by the failure to discriminate rightly. This occurs when there is false identification between the body, which is limited in space and time, and the Self, which is only consciousness, unlimited by space and time.
398 First one assumes that one particular body is ‘I’. Then one assumes that the body is real. Once this happens, the ignorant man sees other bodies as being real, and sees different jivas in them.
399 The one real Self, being really undivided, is taken as being divided into parts in many bodies, which are all unreal. The ignorant one looks upon that whole, formless Self as having form and therefore also as being many.
400 As a seer of a cinema-show, seeing a new picture every moment, thinks them all to be one, so the ignorant man seeing a new body every moment, thinks that all of them are one and the same.
In a cinema-show there is a long roll of small pictures that pass successively at a rapid rate between the light inside and the magnifying lens, about thirty-two pictures being thus projected on the screen successively each second. But the seer thinks he is seeing one single picture all the time, but one that is slowly changing. The world picture is also made up of a successive stream of separate pictures on the retina inside the eye; but people think it is all one continuous spectacle.
401 All the time, at every moment, his mind is imagining a new soul in a new body. Hence, the sages say that this soul is both momentary and unreal.
402 The man who has not experienced his own real Self, thinking ‘I am this body’, sees himself as ‘I’, the first person of grammar. He sees another person whom he calls ‘you’, and refers to third persons as ‘he’.
Thus the one real Self becomes ‘I’ in one body, ‘you’ in another body and ‘he’ in a third body. It follows that these distinctions arise from the primary ignorance.
403 These three distinct persons are not real. They are seen on account of the false notion ‘I am the body’. When the ego-soul is lost as a result of the quest of the real Self, only that Self, consciousness alone, will shine.
404 To one who thinks himself to be a jiva or a body, a plurality of jivas will appear. But to the sage who is freed from this ignorance, no jiva will appear.
This is next illustrated by the simile of the cinema show.
405 On the lighted screen there pass women and men in great number, who are only pictures. So too on the screen of consciousness, which is the real Self, there pass a great many souls, who are only mental projections.
406 The lighted screen is similar to the Self, and the pictures projected onto it are like the jivas. The appearance of a plurality of jivas does not affect the final truth of experience, the oneness of the Self.
407 A person believes in the plurality of jivas by believing that the jiva is the real Self. He does not know the experience of the real Self because he has been misled by his belief in multiplicity.
Another simile is next employed to clarify this truth, the plurality of reflections of a single object.
408 In the waters of separate vessels there appear many different images of the one moon. Similarly, in the minds that inhabit bodies there appear many jivas, which are only reflected images of the one real Self.
409 As the real moon is only one, so the real Self is only one. As there are many reflections of the moon, so there are seen a great many jivas.
Now the riddle of deliverance is solved.
410 When one reflected image of the moon is lost, the other images go on appearing as before. Similarly, when one pseudo-consciousness dies, the others continue to appear as before, even though they are unreal.
411 Whoever obtains awareness of the real Self, for him this worldly life comes to an end. The others continue to wander here as before, remaining without awareness of the real Self.
412 This illustration has been vouchsafed by sages to men of immature minds, who have false knowledge. But this discussion can have no meaning at all for those who realise the unreality of the individual soul.
413 In dreams a multitude of jivas created by mental delusion appear. In just the same way, a multitude of these jivas appear in the waking state.