Friday, 23 May 2008

The world is a creation of our imagination

In continuation of my previous post, Introduction to The Truth of Otherness, the following brief extract from The Truth of Otherness is all that I have so far drafted for the first chapter, ‘The World’. Needless to say, if I ever happen to complete writing this book, I would include in this chapter a detailed discussion of many other important truths that Sri Ramana has revealed to us about the nature of this world, particularly about how we experience it only due our pramada or slackness in self-attentiveness — that is, our failure to abide firmly in our natural state of absolutely non-dual self-conscious being.

God is not some being outside ourself who one day decided to create this universe. He is our own real self, which in truth just is, and never does anything. Therefore, this universe is truly created not by God, but only by our own kalpana-sakti or power of imagination. However, if we wish for any reason to attribute the creation of this vast and wonderful universe to God rather than to our own imagination, we should at least understand that he has created it only through the channel of our own mind or power of imagination.

If we wish to maintain that God created this world, we are in effect maintaining that he is not real in the absolute sense of the term, because the absolute reality is mere being, which never does anything. All doing or action involves change, and is therefore transient and unreal. Since action is unreal, whoever performs action is equally unreal. Something that is real cannot do something that is unreal.

Since the reality is mere being, all doing or action is merely imaginary, and whatever is imaginary cannot be real. In fact, not only is anything that is imagined unreal, but even the very act of imagining anything is unreal, because the power of imagination itself is something that is entirely imaginary.

Can we reasonably say that our power of imagination exists anywhere outside of or independent of itself? It exists only in our own imagination, and therefore its existence is not real but only imaginary. Our mind or power of imagination is the power of maya, the power of delusion and self-deception, and its very nature is to delude itself into imagining that whatever it imagines is real.

Since the doing of any action is imaginary, the doer or agent of any action must also be imaginary. Therefore, since creation is an act of imagination, it is a mere delusion, a deceptive product of our own inexplicable power of maya. Since an imagination can be known or experienced only by the one who imagines it, the creation of this universe is something that is known only by our mind, which has imagined it.

When we wake up from a dream, we understand that that dream was created and experienced only by ourself and by no one else. Similarly, when we wake up from the dream of our present waking life, we will discover that it was merely a dream or imagination, which was created and experienced only by ourself and by no one else.

Since the entire world as we know it is only a series of images that we have formed in our own mind by our power of imagination, we have no valid reason to suppose that there is really any such thing as a world existing outside our mind or imagination. Therefore we have no valid reason to suppose that creation is anything more than an act of our own imagination.

However, so long as we mistake this body to be ourself, we cannot but mistake this world to be real. Since in our essential nature as the one fundamental consciousness of being, ‘I am’, we are absolutely real, if we feel something to be ourself, we thereby automatically feel it to be real. By the very act of mistaking something to be ourself, we are mistaking it to be real.

Therefore, because we imagine a body to be ourself, we mistake it to be real, and because our body is a part of this world, we cannot avoid mistaking this world to be real. If our body is real, then the world must also be real. And if our body is not real, it cannot really be ourself.

However, though we know by reasoning and analysis that our body is not ourself and that this world is not real, so long as we experience them we will continue to feel them to be real, just as we feel that our body and the world that we experience in a dream are real so long as we are experiencing them. The feeling that this body is ‘I’ and that this world is therefore real is so deeply rooted in us that it cannot be removed merely by any amount of reasoning, analysis or intellectual understanding.

Any world that we may experience is as just real as we — the individual who experiences it — are. That is, our finite self or individuality, any body that we as an individual inevitably feel to be ourself, and any world that we as an individual inevitably perceive through the five senses of that body, all exist relative to one another, and hence they all possess exactly the same degree of reality. If one of these is real, all of them are equally real, and if one of them is unreal, all of them are equally unreal.

We could not feel ourself to be a limited individual — a finite, separate and distinct being — if we did not feel that there were things that are other than ourself, things such as the objects of this world. Therefore our seeming finitude necessarily depends upon the seeming existence of otherness — objects that we experience as being other than ourself. Hence we experience such otherness as being as real as we are — that is, as real as this finite body-bound mind, which we now imagine to be our real self.

We experience ourself as a finite individual only in our waking and dream states, in which we imagine a body to be ourself and a world to be other than ourself. In sleep, on the other hand, we experience ourself not as a limited individual, but only as the unlimited non-dual consciousness of being, ‘I am’, and hence we do not perceive anything other than ourself.

Therefore from our own experience we can clearly recognise the fact that a world — whether this world that we now experience in the waking state or some other world that we experience in dream — appears to come into existence only when we imagine ourself to be a body. Thus it is reasonable for us to suspect that this body, this world and our experience of ourself being this body and perceiving this world are all a creation of our imagination, which functions only in waking and dream but not in sleep.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The feeling that this body is ‘I’ and that this world is therefore real is so deeply rooted in us that it cannot be removed merely by any amount of reasoning, analysis or intellectual understanding." Attempting to turn one's attention to 'I am' when one is strongly identified with the body seems to be indistinguishable from 'neti-neti' unless body consciousness vanishes, am I correct?

Ram said...

Since the entire world as we know it is only a series of images that we have formed in our own mind by our power of imagination, we have no valid reason to suppose that there is really any such thing as a world existing outside our mind or imagination.

I am confused here - in my sleep state the world does continue to exist for other peope in their waking state. Are we actually saying that the world is the result of a collective imagination of all the living bodies? Would this world we imagine to exist cease to exist if everyone became enlightened? The realized man does continue to see the snake except that he internally realizes it is a rope - so the imagination does not cease even after enlightened.
dont know if this is making sense...

Michael James - www.happinessofbeing.com said...

In reply to the above comment by Anonymous:

The term neti neti (which literally means 'not thus, not thus') is a name given to the preliminary process of intellectual self-analysis, which is a necessary foundation for the practice of atma-vichara — self-investigation, self-scrutiny or self-attention. However, though such intellectual self-analysis should — if understood correctly — lead us automatically to the state of true self-attention or thought-free self-consciousness, we should not confuse it with self-attention.

The purpose of our doing intellectual self-analysis or neti neti is to discriminate and distinguish between what is 'I' and what is not 'I', so while doing so we necessarily have to think about things that are not 'I'. That is, we have to think about our body, mind and other adjuncts that we now mistake to be 'I' in order to understand why they cannot really be 'I'.

Having understood intellectually that these upadhis or extraneous adjuncts are not 'I', we should then ignore them and attend only to our essential thought-free self-conscious being, which alone is truly 'I'. In this way neti neti should prompt us to turn away from everything that is not 'I' in order to scrutinise and know that which is really 'I'.

That is, the intellectual process of distinguishing what is 'I' from what is not 'I' is neti neti, while atma-vichara is the thought-free state of exclusive self-attentiveness or non-dual self-consciousness, in which there is no room for any thought of neti — that is, of anything that is not 'I'.

However much we think neti neti — that is, however much we think that this body and other adjuncts are not 'I' — our body-consciousness will not vanish, because by thinking 'this body is not I' we are making our attention fluctuate between our body and 'I'. In order to go beyond body-consciousness, we must completely ignore our body and attend only to 'I'.

Such exclusive self-attention alone is the true state of atma-vichara, which is our natural state of thought-free non-dual self-conscious being.

Michael James - www.happinessofbeing.com said...

In reply to the above comment by Ram:

The 'other people in their waking state' for whom we believe that this world continues to exist in our sleep state are themselves a part of our present waking world, and hence for us they exist only during our waking state and not during our sleep or dream. Unless those other people can come and tell us while we are asleep that this world is still existing, their testimony does not actually prove anything to us, just as a thief's plea of innocence does not actually prove his innocence.

When we are dreaming, if any person in our dream were to ask us, 'How do you know that this world exists while you are asleep?' would we not answer just as we would answer this same question in our waking state? That is, would we not tell that dream person, 'I know that it exists because other people here tell me that it exists when I am asleep'?

While dreaming we are convinced that that dream world is real, and therefore we believe that it will continue to exist even when we fall asleep, but when we wake up we understand that it was only a figment of our imagination, and that it therefore appears to exist only when we are actually experiencing that dream. Likewise, though we are now convinced that this world is real and that it will continue to exist even when we are asleep, it is (according to those like Sri Ramana who have awakened from this dream of duality) in fact only a figment of our imagination, and it therefore appears to exist only when we are actually experiencing it.

Just as our dream world ceases to exist when we are not experiencing that dream, so this waking world ceases to exist whenever we are not actually experiencing this dream that we imagine to be a 'waking state' — that is, when we are asleep, in another dream or in the state of death. Therefore, for this world to cease to exist, there is no need for us to wait until all people become 'enlightened', or even until we become 'enlightened'.

However, until we become 'enlightened' — that is, until we experience the absolute clarity of true non-dual self-knowledge and thereby awaken from our long sleep of self-forgetfulness, in which we experience this so-called 'waking state' and all our other dreams — we will continue to imagine that whatever world we are currently experiencing, whether in a dream or in a so-called 'waking state', is real. Therefore in order to free ourself from our present state of self-delusion, in which such worlds appear, we must sink deep within ourself, surrendering our mind or false self by allowing it to be wholly consumed in the infinite clarity of absolutely non-dual self-consciousness.

You have written, "The realized man does continue to see the snake except that he internally realizes it is a rope - so the imagination does not cease even after enlightened". This is not actually correct. When we see the rope as a snake, we do not see it as the rope that it really is, and when we see it as it really is, we do not see it as a snake that it previously appeared to be.

This truth is clearly expressed by Sri Ramana in the third paragraph of Nan Yar? (Who am I?):

"If [our] mind, which is the cause of all [dualistic] knowledge and of all activity, subsides [or ceases to exist], [our] perception of the world will cease. Just as knowledge of the rope, which is the base [that underlies and supports the appearance of the snake], will not arise unless knowledge of the imaginary snake ceases, svarupa-darsana [true experiential knowledge of our own essential nature or real self], which is the base [that underlies and supports the appearance of the world], will not arise unless [our] perception of the world, which is an imagination, ceases."

It is only in the distorted perspective of our own self-deluded mind that the 'realised man' or atma-jnani appears to be experiencing this world as we are experiencing it. The person we see as an atma-jnani is actually our own real self, and the one reality that we experience as our mind, this world and God is experienced by our real self only as itself, which is what it all really is.

Ram said...

Thank you for taking the time to explain this - makes perfect sense.

Dr.PVSSN RAJU said...

In the present state of our understanding world has five qualities.
1)Asti=quality of existing.
2)Bhati=quality of effulgence.
3)Priyam=quality of attraction.
These three qualities happened to the world because it is not apart from the Pure conscious being.
4)Name
5)Form
The qualities of name and form are projected by the mind on the world.
So when mind subsides it is only the name and form of the world that
are not perceived but world exists as self without name and form.
Even Adi Shankara stated that world
in the present state with name and form is illusory but world as self is real.So in sleep we dont perceive name and form of the world
because in sleep mind subsides.For those with active minds world appears with name an form while we are in a state of sleep.Similarly for those in Samadhi state of mind
world is perceived as self but for others it appears with name and form because they looking the world through the mind.

Bob P said...

This blog is an absolute treasure !! I am finding so many answers to help my understanding here !!! The discussion / explanation on how the so called self realized person / sage experiences the world hit my mind like a sledge hammer !!

There are no self realized people there are no sages all there is the self and I am that.

The very thinking on how does/did Bhagavan see the world is an illusion ... the whole thing is just one big illusion I am creating all this to help me wake up. Everything has to go !!

Thank you thank you thank you !!

Bob