Some tell us that the body is the self. Others say that the mind is the self. Both agree in asserting that the world is real, and that the self is an individual, one of a vast multitude of selves. Some there are who admit that the self is neither the body, nor the mind as we know it, but imagine that there is a superior kind of mind which is the real Self. All these views agree in making it out that the Self is finite. But finiteness is the cause of bondage. If, as these philosophers say, the Self is really finite - finite in its very nature - then we must bid good-bye to all hope of becoming free. Thus there is no vital difference among these views. These philosophies cannot at all help us in getting rid of our primary ignorance.
He that would philosophise aright must avoid the mistakes of these philosophers. He must choose his evidence aright. He must seek and find evidence of experience which is not the outcome of the ignorance.
Reliable evidence, therefore, is not the experience of ignorant men, but that of the Sages, who are wholly free from this ignorance. Only on the basis of their experience can we build up a philosophy that would relax the grip that this ignorance now has on us, and thus make it possible for us to start on the Quest and pursue it to the very end, so that we may win similar experience for ourselves.
That the truth cannot be reached without evidence other than the experience of common humanity was felt by Prof. James of America. He sought to supply that need to the best of his power in his book Varieties of Religious Experience. In that boook he made free use of the contents of another book, namely _Cosmic Cinsciousness_i by Dr. Bucke. The evidence gathered into these books is that of exceptional men. But all this evidence has been treated uncritically, because the authors had no clear notion of the primary ignorance. There are at least thress classes of exceptional men, and all of them are not of the same grade. That is to say, those who have given evidence of exceptional experiences belong to one of three classes, namely Yogis, Saints and Sages. We need to discriminate among them and find out which of these are the proper witnesses in our inquiry.
The evidence of the Yogis is unreliable, because they have not transcended the realm of ignorance. This is seen in the fact that they differ among themselves. The same is the case with the Saints. The Sages do not differ among themselves, because they have transcended the ignorance.
No Sage ever contradicts another Sage. Revelation tells us that all Sages are one; we shall be able to recognise the correctness of this traching later on.
As between the Yogis and the Saints the latter are far more worthy to be followed than the former, though we need to discriminate between Saint and Saint, because - as we shall see in the chapter on Devotion - their views differ according to the degree of their ripeness; the nearer they are to sagehood, the wiser are their utterances. And there are Saints whose utterances are of a mischievous tendency. We also find that the Saints have moods, or rather that moods have them, which is not the case with the Sages.
The experiences of the Yogis are highly complex and therefore their descriptions have an irresistable fascination for us. But the fact is, they are not even conscious of the empire that the ignorance has over them. Their goal is not the ending of the ignorance, but the attainment, within the realm of ignorance, of a glorious status that seems to them worthy of being striven for. They are persuaded that the mind itself is the Self. And this is the case even when they deny it. They believe in a blissful existence in which the mind shall survive, though infinitely glorified and endowed with wonderful powers. This they consider to be the highest possible gain. Some of them are more ambitious still. They hope to be able, after winning these powers, - which they wrongly call Dilverance - to obtain control over the world and then to change it beyond recognition - to erect a tangible heaven on earth. The Saints are free from these ambitions.
That neither Yogis nor Saints can have a right vision of the Truth was clearly pointed out by the Sage Sankara. In his Viveka Chudamani (verse 365) he tells us that the vision of Truth obtained by non-Sages is apt to be distorted by the interference of the mind, which is not the case with the Sages.
According to the Sages this glorified mind of the Yogis is but a body of a subtler kind. The notion that this is the Self is simply the primary ignorance in a more dangerous form. The common man is in fact in a much better state than the Yogis; for the latter has only gone deeper into the ignorance and postponed the day of Deliverence.
With all due respect, therefore, to the Yogis, we must reject their evidence. The Saints as a class are worthy of reverence. But for the present we must put on one side their evidence also, and build up our philosophy on the evidence of the Sages alone. But after we shall have done this, we may take up the evidence of the Saints and make a study of it in the light of the teachings of the Sages. This study has a great value for us, as we shall see in due course.
There have been Sages in every age down to the present. Their testimony has come down to us enshrined in certain books called Upanishads or Vedantas. There are many passages in the books which carry conviction straight to the heart. In fact it is the Heart of all life, the Real Self, that speaks to us in them. The student is thus simultaneously aware of two things - that the teaching is true, and that the Teacher is the Sage.
But there can be no doubt that the earnest disciple would prefer to these books the words of a living Sage, if he can find one…
- MAHA YOGA, Or The Upanishadic Lore In The Light Of The Teachings Of Bhagavan Sri Ramana by ‘WHO’ (K. Lakshmana Sarma)