Ulladu Naarpadu (Reality in Forty Verses) :Verse #13

(Reality in Forty Verses)

The famous Vedantic poem in Tamil by Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi
(consisting of two preliminary verses called Mangalam,
40 verses which form the main text ,
and another 40 verses called the Appendix)
Detailed Commentary in Tamil by Lakshmana Sharma,
adapted into English by Profvk

(Continued from ULLADU NAARPADU – Verse No.12
See Post#48444 Of Harsha Satsangh

Lakshmana Sharma’s Introduction to Verse No.13

Now Bhagavan takes up the question of ‘What is Real?’ and ‘What is unreal?’. He answers the question about how the unreal appears to shine like real and establishes the advaita conclusions clearly. The Atman is the only Reality; taking that as its support (adhishhTAnam), the superposed universe appears as if it is real. – This is the advaita siddhAnta (Final Conclusive Verdict).

Verse No.13

jnAnam Am tAne mey; nAnA Am jnAnam ajnAnamAM;
poyyAm ajnanamume jnAnamAm tannai anRi inRu
aNikaL tAm palavum poy
meyyAm ponnai anRi uNDO ? puhal.

Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)

This Self, (here) declared to be Consciousness, is alone real, without a second; all knowledge which is manifold is only ignorance; this ignorance – which (being a negation) is non-existent – has no existence apart from the Self who is Consciousness. Say, do the unreal jewels exist apart from the gold which (alone) exists?

Translation (Prof. K. Swaminathan)

The Self that is Awareness, that alone is true. The knowledge which is various is ignorance. And even ignorance, which is false, cannot exist apart from the Self. False are the many jewels, for apart from gold, which alone is true, they cannot exist.

Translation (Osborne)

The Self, which is Knowledge, is the only Reality. Knowledge of multiplicity is false knowledge. This false knowledge, which is really ignorance, cannot exist apart from the Self, which is Knowledge-Reality. The variety of gold ornaments is unreal, since none of them can exist without the gold of which they are all made.

Word by Word

tAne : The Atman (the Self)
jnAnam Am : whose nature is Knowledge
mey: is the true Reality.
jnAnaM : the (worldly) knowledge
nAnA Am: which is multifold
ajnAnamAm: is only Ignorance.
ajnAnamume: And that Ignorance also,
poyyAm : which is non-existent
inRu : cannot be
tannai anRi :distinct from the Self
jnAnamAm: whose Nature is Consciousness.
aNikaDAm palavum : All the multi-formed ornaments
poy: are false
ponnai anRi: Apart from the gold
uNDO ? Is there anything?
puhal: Tell (me).

Commentary in Tamil by Lakshmana Sharma.

In the previous verse it was said “tAn aRivu Ahum” (The Self is Consciousness). This Self which is of the Nature of Consciousness is the only Reality – that was mentioned right in the beginning , namely, the Existent Reality (“uLLa poruL” – cf. Mangalam-1, 2nd line) , because it is One and remains unchanging. This is the meaning of “jnAnam Am tane mey”. In other words, the Self is Existence-Consciousness – sat-chit. therefore it is Brahman.

There is the question whether the multiple appearance of the world –the Individual, Ishvara and the universe – is true or not. The reply is given by the statement “nAnAvAM jnAnam ajnAnamAm”. The knowledge of multiplicity that is referred to here indicates only the manifoldness of the world’s appearance. For, other than knowledge – meaning, other than the thoughts created by the mind – there is no universe.

What is being said here is a definition of the discrimination between what is real and what is unreal. Being One is the characteristic of Reality. Appearing manifold is the characteristic of Unreality.

The purport of the statement that the world is Ignorance is to say that the world arose from Ignorance. And Ignorance is nothing but Ego. That is not something that is material; this is the truth that Bhagavan teaches as the fundamental truth in this work. Ignorance means the absence of Knowledge; and that again tells us that Ignorance is like Darkness. It is not a material substance. Darkness cannot be present in the presence of Light. So also Ignorance cannot persist in the face of the Light of the Self. How can such a destroyable Ignorance be the Existent Reality? This is what is meant by the words “poyyAm ajnAnamume”.

Ignorance is not a material substance – this is the conclusion of Vedanta. If it were so, then the universe and the bondage that arise from it would have an element of truth in them. An immature disciple is told as if there were an Ignorance that caused the bondage. In reality there is no such thing – this is the bottom line teaching. Therefore the question: “Wherefrom did I get this Ignorance?” is an absurd question. The question presumes there is a relationship between the Existence-Knowledge Brahman and the transmigratory cycle of samsAra. There is no such relationship. The Vedanta teaching is: “asango-hyayam purushah”, that is, the Atman that is Brahman is associationless and relationless. This is technically known as “ajAta-siddhAntaM”. It means that from the Absolute point of view there is no universe arising from Ignorance, no JIva, no bondage, no seeker, no mokshha. What is Real is an ever-pure, ever-knowing, ever-free Atman only (*nityashuddha, nityabuddha, nitya-mukta AtmA*). This is the experientially-confirmed Truth of the JnAnis who live in that experience. Bhagavan says that Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, right in the beginning of the second chapter, declared this truth to Arjuna but the latter was struggling to absorb it and that is why Krishna gave him several other teachings.

Though the relationship does not exist in reality, for the purpose of teaching, an imagined relationship has to be talked about. But this does not in any way affect the Reality that exists.

This universe – that is, the individual, the Ishvara and the universe – which is an expansion of Ignorance, appears as if it is real. The reason for this is that their adhishhTAnam (substratum, base) is that Existent Reality namely, the Atman. They have been superposed on the sat-chit Nature (svarUpa) of the Atman. From this it is clear that the universe has no existential reality of its own. Such an existential reality is there for the Atman; for, it shines in purity without the appearance of the universe, in the turIya that is Knowledge-experience (jnAna-anubhava). Therefore it is said that the Atman is real and the universe is mithyA.

‘The universe is mithyA’ means the differences of names and forms superposed on the substratum of the Atman are mithyA. After throwing off the differences what remains as the adhishhTAnam (support) is the real truth of the universe – this prompts us also to say that the universe is real. Thus the two statements ‘the universe is mithyA’ and ‘the universe is real’ are not contradictory. If one understands it this way without the contradiction, both the statements are true.

The analogy for this comes from the case of gold and golden ornaments. The golden ornaments are at all (three) times only gold; before they are made into ornaments, after they are made and are handled as ornaments, and when they are destroyed back into gold. In all three states of time the truth of the gold is unchanged. Further, gold is one whereas the ornaments are many. Therefore, as per the definitions indicated earlier, gold is more real than the ornaments; ornaments are unreal. In the two statements in the verse: namely, “aNigal tAm palavum poy” and “meyyAm ponnai anRi uNDO”, notice that the two words ‘poy’ (false) and ‘mey’ (true) are used in juxtaposition. When you look at it as gold, the ornaments don’t appear; therefore they are false. When you look at it as ornaments, their false names and forms hide the truth of the gold. The gold that is hidden is the truth. Worldly people say that both are the truth. If that were so, the analogy would not match the situation; so Bhagavan deliberately uses the two words here. The purport of this is: “The ornaments are many and (therefore) false, have as their adhishhTAnam the one, and (therefore) real, gold; so also, the knowledge, which is only Ignorance, that imparts an inherent nature of multiplicity, and (therefore) falsity, to the world, has as its adhishhTAnam the Atman, which is the One Reality-Consciousness and consequently appears as if it is real”.

If Bhagavan had not added the words ‘poy’ (false) and ‘mey’ (true) here, a wrong interpretation may be attributed to Bhagavan that in addition to the ornaments being dense with gold, their differences of forms and names are absolutely true; and this may be followed up by the analogous inference that in the same manner in addition to the world being dense with Brahman their differences of names and forms are also true in the absolute sense. In order to prevent such a wrong interpretation these two words appear here as said.

The same thought appears in Tirumoolar’s Tirumandiram in the verse:

Marattai maRaittadu mAmada yAnai,
Marattil maRaindadu mAmada yAnai;
Parattai maRaittadu pArmudal bhUtam,
Parattil maRaindadu pArmudal bhUtame.


The gigantic elephant hides the wood,
The gigantic elephant is (also) subsumed in the wood.
The earth and the elements hide the Absolute,
The earth and the elements are (also) subsumed in the Absolute.

In more explanatory words, in the wake of Ignorance, the Absolute is hidden by the five elements and appears as those elements and their ramifications. In the wake of Enlightenment, the elements do not appear, only the Absolute shines in all Glory.

Thus, what has been said is nothing but what the analogy of the rope and the superposed snake would have implied.

Thus the appearance of the world is false. This implies that even during the time of its appearance, it is not there. This meaning would become explicit in Verse No.37.

(To be continued in Verse No.14)

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