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15 The pure swarupa, the unique word that abides as the heart of all things, is the excellent, grace-bestowing invocation to this Guru Vachaka Kovai, whose purport is the jnana that dispels the delusion of the ignorant.


The unique word that abides as the heart of all things is ‘I’. The phrase ‘the unique word that abides as the heart of all things’ is possibly a reference to the first line of one of Bhagavan’s stray verses: ‘One syllable shines forever in the Heart as the Self’. (The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, p. 137, stray verse 1.)


16 Atma-swarupa, the primal essence that is wholly consciousness, is experienced directly through the state that is entirely mauna. It flourishes and shines as the real nature of the reflected consciousness [chidabhasa] whose form is the false ‘I’, the ego. This pure transcendental swarupa, the fundamental substratum, is the ultimate reality.


Chit, pure consciousness, is distinguished from chidabhasa, the reflected consciousness. Through ignorance the ‘I’ projects a world onto the screen of pure consciousness and then perceives it as a separate and external entity. This illusory reflection is the chidabhasa. The term is usually taken to indicate the unreal appearance of the world that is projected and witnessed by the individual self. Since this projection is the mind itself, not just something that is witnessed by the mind, chidabhasa (as in the verse above) is sometimes equated with the mind or the ego.


17 Our Guru’s form is the reality that sleeps without sleeping in the Heart. He is the self-luminous effulgence that shines in the Heart like a beautiful lamp that needs no kindling. To those who have experienced merging in the Heart he is a luscious fruit full of the sweet clarity of the supreme bliss that, without a trace of aversion, causes an ever-increasing desire [for itself]. His grace indeed is the true wealth.


Heart, when capitalised, is usually a translation of the Sanskrit hridayam or the Tamil ullam. It is another synonym for the Self, and when it is used it often denotes the source from which all manifestation emerges and into which it disappears.


Bhagavan: The Heart is not physical; it is spiritual. Hridayam equals hrit plus ayam and means ‘this is the centre’. It is that from which thoughts arise, on which they subsist, and where they are resolved. The thoughts are the content of the mind and they shape the universe. The Heart is the centre of all. ‘Yatova imani bhutani jayante…’ [that from which these beings come into existence…] is said to be Brahman in the Upanishads. That is the Heart. Brahman is the Heart. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 97.)


18 He possesses a heart in which attachment and separation are not possible. He is the swarupa who has the beauty of renunciation that is jnana. Putting an end to the sorrow caused by forgetfulness of the Self, he ruled over me and brought me under his dominion. His feet are the perfect exemplar of all the distinguishing characteristics of truth.


Bhagavan: Renunciation and realisation are the same. They are different aspects of the same state. Giving up the non-Self is renunciation. Inhering in the Self is jnana or Self-realisation. One is the negative and the other the positive aspect of the same, single truth. (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 2nd January, 1946, afternoon.)


1 The Reality of the World


The teaching portion of Guru Vachaka Kovai begins here with a long section of verses that lays out Bhagavan’s views on the nature and reality of the world.


The question ‘Is the world real?’ is a recurring one in Indian philosophy, and Bhagavan was asked for his views on this topic on many occasions. To understand the context and background of his replies it will be helpful to have a proper understanding of what he meant by the words ‘real’ and ‘world’.


In everyday English the word ‘real’ generally denotes something that can be perceived by the senses. As such, it is a misleading translation of the Sanskrit word ‘sat’, which is often rendered in English as ‘being’ or ‘reality’. Bhagavan, along with many other Indian spiritual teachers, had a completely different definition of reality:


Bhagavan: What is the standard of reality? That alone is real which exists by itself, which reveals itself by itself and which is eternal and unchanging. (Maharshi’s Gospel, p. 61.)


In Indian philosophy reality is not determined by perceptibility but by permanence, unchangeability and self-luminosity. This important definition is elaborated on in the dialogue from which the above quotation has been taken. It appears in full as a note to verse 64.


As for the word ‘world’, Muruganar points out in his comments to verses 63 and 64 that the Sanskrit word for world, ‘loka’, literally means ‘that which is seen’. The Tamil word for the world, ulagu, is derived from loka and has the same meaning. If one combines this definition of the word ‘world’ with the standard of reality set by Bhagavan, the question, ‘Is the world real?’ becomes an enquiry about the abiding reality of what is perceived: ‘Do things that are perceived have permanence, unchangeability and self-luminosity?’ The answer to that question is clearly ‘no’. The names and forms perceived by a seer do not meet the standard of reality defined by Bhagavan, and as such they are dismissed as ‘unreal’.


According to Bhagavan these names and forms appear in Brahman, the underlying substratum. Brahman does meet the stringent test for reality outlined above since it, and it alone, is permanent, unchanging and self-luminous. If one accepts these definitions, it follows that Brahman is real, whereas the world (the collection of perceived names and forms) is unreal. This formulation, ‘Brahman is real; the world is unreal’ is a standard and recurring statement in vedantic philosophy.


The slide show comprises photos of Muruganar, the author of Guru Vachaka Kovai.

David Godman Books


Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings

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