414 There is not even one flawless proof on the side of those that assert the plurality of souls. [But] there is a twofold proof for the unity of the real Self, namely the experience of the sage and the argument that he has given.
415 Our Guru Sri Ramana says that because the Self shines in the same way as ‘I’, in all bodies he is one, and only one.
Now a warning is given for the benefit of immature aspirants against a misuse of the theoretical knowledge herein so far given. This is taken from Bhagavan Sri Sankaracharya’s Tattvopadesa, in which it is the last verse.
416 One should meditate upon the truth of non-duality with effort, but should not apply this truth in his [worldly] activities. [Also] one may think of non-duality in respect of all the three worlds, but should not imagine such [non-difference] with the Guru.
The reason is that theoretical knowledge of the truth of non-duality does not avail to destroy the primary ignorance, so as to raise one to the egoless state, wherein wrong action would be impossible. So, till that state is won, the ego would be in command of actions, and this warning is therefore necessary.
Next the question is raised and dealt with as to how the physical body and the world as a whole appear to the sage.
417 How can the world appear to the sage in the same way as it does to the ignorant? The Guru tells us in what way the world appears to the sage.
The next verse gives the answer briefly, but also clearly.
418 The world, which to the ignorant appears as comprising the trinity of God, the jivas and the insentient objects, appears as the Self to the sage due to the liquidation of the superimposed false appearance of the world.
This is explained in detail as follows.
419 The sage who has attained his natural state, which is the supreme state, remains in his natural freedom. He is free from delusion and sees nothing other than the Self. How then can he see anything unreal?
420 Therefore the sage, established as he is in his natural state, the supreme state, would say that the body, appearing as ‘his’ body to others, and the world are real.
But there is a world of difference in the meaning [of what he says] because the superimposition does not appear [as real] to the sage.
Now it may be questioned whether the sage also, like us, does not need the discrimination between the real and the unreal. The answer is given below.
421 The outlook of discrimination is enjoined [only] on the aspirant for deliverance, not on him who has won deliverance. A confused outlook is possible for the former, not for the latter.
The views that the two have of the body is next explained and distinguished.
422 The ignorant one, because of his confounding of the body with the Self, thinks of himself as ‘with form’ and co-extensive with that body. The sage is aware of the Self as infinite, formless being; this is the distinction in the meaning of what is said by these two.
423 What is seen as ‘the body’ by the ignorant appears to the sage only as the Self. He refers to it as ‘I’, ignoring the body-form through his right awareness.
Next it is explained that the outlook of the sage towards the world is different from that of the ignorant one.
424 Also, when the two say that the world is real, there is a difference in the meaning, though the words are the same. For the ignorant one, the reality is veiled by differences, while to the sage, it appears as it really is.
425 Unaware of the substratum of the world-appearance, seeing [only] the superimposed multitude of [inert] objects, and believing that this world of objects is real in its own right, the ignorant one says, ‘The world is real’.
426 [On the other hand] for the sage there shines only the substratum, which is the pure reality, nameless and formless. For him the superimposition does not appear as real. [That being the case], how can he say that the world is unreal?
The contrast here is between the substratum and the superimposed appearance. The ignorant one is unaware that there is a substratum. The sage is unaware of the superimposed appearance.
427 This world which, to the one whose eye is blinded by unawareness of his own real Self, conceals the Supreme Being, is, by [the power of] that same Supreme Being, concealed to the one whose eye is purified by the right awareness of that Self.
This is the meaning conveyed by the opening verse of the Isa Upanishad.
Supposing that the sage does see the world of names and form. It is explained that the sage’s view is unclouded by ignorance.
428 Just as one who has become wise to the truth of the mirage may again see the mirage without being deluded, so too the sage, seeing this world, does not think of it as real, as does the ignorant one.
Thus there is no comparison at all between the ignorant man and the sage. This is shown next.
429 This world is not real in the sense in which it is believed to be real by the ignorant man. Ignorant ones do not understand the sense in which the world is seen [as real] by the sage.
430 That which appears to the ignorant ones as diversified by a great many differences, as ‘forms’ and as ‘other than the Self’, is, to the sage, only the Self, undifferentiated and formless.
It is then explained that the teaching about the world is two-fold, as unreal from one viewpoint and real from another viewpoint.
431 It is not taught that the world is completely unreal. It is not [unreal] like the horn of man or a horse. If it were wholly unreal, it would not appear at all. But it does appear because of its confusion with its substratum, the reality.
The two kinds of unrealities are further explained, for the sake of distinction.
432 The unreality that has no substratum, such as the son of a barren woman and the like, does not appear at all. But the unreality which appears on a substratum, like the snake seen in a rope, appears as real.
The presence or absence of a substratum makes all the difference. No one is misled into thinking that a barren woman’s son has any existence, because he does not appear at all. On the other hand, the snake not only appears, but it is believed to be real because it has a substratum for its appearance. It appears and is for some time at least believed to be real. This distinction is very important for understanding the truth of the world, which is further elucidated in the succeeding verses, in which Bhagavan’s teaching is given.
433 Both reality and unreality have to be stated in respect of the world, and herein there is not the least contradiction. It is real because of the reality of the substratum, and it is unreal, because of the superimposition of names and forms.
All the same, it must not be said that the world exists, as explained below:
434 Reality [of a soul] is conceded for the world, but it would not be correct to say that it exists. ‘Reality’ and ‘existence’ are quite distinct. That alone is said to be real which is real in its own right.
Thus in the language of the Vedanta the term ‘reality’ applies strictly only to that which is real in its own right, not to what has a borrowed reality, as explained in the next two verses.
435 They say the world is pragmatically real, that what is seen in dream is apparently real, and that the one without a second, namely Brahman, is the supreme reality. These grades of reality are pointless.
These three degrees of reality are spoken of in order to enable weak minds to receive the teaching in stages. But ultimately there is only one reality.
436 Reality is always of one kind; there are no varieties or degrees of reality. Hence, what is seen in dreams and what is seen in waking are both equally unreal.
The necessity for accepting this teaching is explained next.
437 The truth of the unreality of the world has here been taught to one who earnestly wants to attain the supreme state by pursuing the quest of the real Self. How can one who believes the world to be real ever become rightly aware of the supreme reality, the Self?
438 When the sun of right awareness dawns, what happens is only the cessation of the unreal appearing as real.The real Self is the sun of pure, infinite consciousness. How can ignorance exist in its presence?
439 If it is thought that ignorance exists, then there is present for the aspirant the question, ‘To whom is the ignorance?’ If by that question the truth of the Self is sought, then the ignorant one and the ignorance both become extinct.
440 Ignorance is accepted in the teaching only as pertaining to the individual jiva, who is just a figment of the imagination. It is not accepted as affecting the real Self, because it is ever enlightened by its own nature, transcending all the three states of life in the world.
441 Just as the rope is never related in any way to the unreal snake seen in it, so the real Self is never related in space, time, or causality with the world of variety, which is unreal.
442 The saying that the Supreme Being is the cause of the world is incorrect from the standpoint of the truth. The true cause of the world is maya, the power of the Supreme Being.
443 In the sacred lore forms of the Brahman are mentioned, one the seedless, and the other with seed. The seedless one is the transcendental Supreme Being; the one with seed is God having the might of maya.
Which of these two is the real one? The answer is as follows:
444 The one Self, who is motionless by nature, appears to dance because of his own power. But when that power merges into the motionless essence, there will shine the one motionless Self as the sole reality.
So, the cause of variety is the power called maya. What about this maya?
445 Maya is stated to be the cause to those who ask what is the cause of the world, which really is unreal. From the standpoint of reality, both of these, maya and its effect, are equally unreal.
446 The following sorts of questions are pointlessly asked ‘What is maya? What is ignorance? By whom and how was the world originally created? How did the individual soul come into being?’
These questions have no basis and need no answer. The final answer to all such questions is the awareness of the real Self in the egoless state. In that state these and other questions will not arise, because the questioner, the ego-mind, will not survive in that state.