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The fundamentals of man's relationship with the world || Acharya Prashant, on Raman Maharishi (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
22 min
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“Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into himself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears (to be real), the self does not appear, and when the Self Shines, the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self as the residue.”

~Raman Maharishi

Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, Pranam. I don't understand how this mind is the cause of the world. As I look at objects, form, people, memories, likes and dislikes arise automatically in the mind. Experiences get shadowed by my personality inevitably.

Am I living in imaginations? What is attentiveness while I relate to the world? How can I see the world clearly as it is instead of seeing through my ego?

Acharya Prashant: You would do well to not to try to develop a framework out of the words of an Upanishadic seer or a Raman Maharishi. What is being said here is subtle. One needs understanding, not a paradigm. One needs realization, not a conceptual framework about the self, the mind, the world.

But that's what we would rather have. If we do that, it’s quite adolescent. Then it becomes a standard 8 thing. Some immature model that says, “Here is the self, and from this self arises the mind, and the mind projects the world and when the world is projected by the mind, the mind looks only towards the world, the mind does not look towards the self, the self is behind the mind, so the mind becomes totally oblivious to the presence of the self, and the mind gets preoccupied with the world, and therefore the self remains invisible and forgotten.”

And then, on the other hand, in other conditions, when the mind that arises out of the self is looking towards the self then the world is behind the back of the mind and then the mind can blissfully forget the world and wallow in the Anand of the Self.” Nice. But kiddish.

Just try to go deep into it, instead of trying to put it into coherent language. You say that the world exists. These are just titbits, a few statements. I will not conclude. I will leave them to you. So you say that the world exists. How is it so that the one who says that the world exists, his form and the form of the world are both three dimensional?

Why is it so that your body is three dimensional and the world too is three dimensional? How is it that the seer and the seen, both exist in the same material dimension? Is there any proof of the existence of the world except your bodily senses? Does there exist a proof? Remove the relationship between the body and the world, then ask yourself, “How do I prove that the world is existent?”

Remove your relationship with the world, are you existent? Remove the relationship between your senses and the world, does the world exist anymore? Does it? All right, close your eyes. Close your eyes. (Acharya Ji starts waving his hand.) Ok, open your eyes. A while back, did the waving hand exist for you? Next, when you are in deep sleep and all your senses are gone, then do you exist? Take these two together. Don't be in a hurry to conclude.

When your eyes are closed, the waving hand does not exist for you, does it? It does not. And when all your senses close, even you do not exist. Do you exist in your deep sleep? Are you there? Do you have a shape, a form, a name, an identity? Do you exist at all?

The material shape of the world appears to have something to do with the material shape of the human being. There seems to be a definite correlation between the things that perceive the world and the very appearance of the world itself.

Science does not go into this. Science says if it is to be seen, it is to be touched, if it has weight, then it exists. Science believes in the primacy of the senses. For science, senses are the truth. And senses include the mind, that's the sixth sense.

Even though science asks for the proof for everything, the proof has to be sensual. Experience has to come up with the proof so the proof has to be experiential, correct? Because the proof definitely comes from scientific experiments, therefore the proof is necessarily experiential. And who experiences? The senses. Correct?

So even when the scientist says that something exists in the universe or something exists within the atom, the ultimate faith that he has is on his own senses. Do you see this? The quark exists and the supernova exists because I validate them both. I feel their existence, I certify their existence, I see their existence.

There is something within my sensual domain that ratifies their existence. Science never goes into the certifying agency itself. There is no proof of the pillar (it’s existence) except your eyes and except the physical shock you get when you collide against the pillar. Correct? Both are physical. So what ratifies the physical world? Your own physicality. If you could just pass through the pillar, does the pillar exist at all?

Why do you say nothing exists in space? Because you pass through space without any collision, correct? And hence, you very happily and confidently claim, “Space is empty.” Empty to whom? Empty to you, the bodied one.

You have no proof of emptiness of space except your own body. What nonsense. (laughs). Something as basic as the emptiness of space, has no proof at all, except the human body. You could say, even the stone passes uninterrupted through space, so that is proof. But what is the proof of the stone? The fact that you can hold it in your hand. So ultimately, all your trust is upon your own body.

Advait Vedant takes these observations very seriously. Very seriously. And so far, we have talked of the material reality. Now, let us move to the other aspect of reality which is more subtle, which is more psychic; for we don't live merely in gross objects, rather we live more in our concepts, imaginations, ideas, right? That's where we spend most of our existence and time.

All right. When do you call something as existent? When it has something to do with you, correct? Otherwise does it exist? Tell me. Oh, technically you would say it does exist, but does it exist for you?

Why do you bother about the universe? When you say, I want to study about the universe. Let us say, as a physicist, you want to study the universe. Why do you want to study the universe? Because it is your universe.

You are a resident of this universe, aren't you? And therefore all your interrogation, and all your inquiry into the universe, begins from where you are. First of all you want to explore your native village, then your state, then the country, then the ocean, then the other continents, then your solar system, then your own galaxy, and so on and so forth.

So even the fact of existence of material reality has a psychic angle to it. Material just does not exist on its own, material exists because it is our material. Isn't it our universe? Isn't it our universe? You do not merely live in a house. You live in your house. And therefore your house lives in you. It's your house that matters to you. In the psychic sense, does the house of some commoner in Mongolia even exist for you? Does it? As you sit here, does the switchboard, at the back of the room, even exist for you? Does it? Don't conclude, let it sink.

Next, even if something does exist for you, is the thing the same for each of you? Did these words mean the same thing to each of you ? “Ah, Beloved!” Did each of you hear the same word and see the same face? Did you? Did that happen? If it happened, it is scary.

So tell me it didn't happen (laughs). Did that happen? Mukesh is saying “Nothing happened”. Use some other example. (smiles) First of all, the very material of the world seems to have material existence. And secondly, material existence is not material to us. What matters to us is not the materiality of the matter, what matters to us is our psychic relationship with the matter.

The Vedanti could not ignore this fact. Because this is the fact that runs through our life. What else is life? A sequence of things, events, people, we give importance to, right? A dead body does not give importance to anything. Nothing happens to it. Happening itself is an act of importance. Do you see this? If you don’t give something any importance, did it happen to you at all?

And that which we register, that which we give importance to, is something intimately linked to us. I am giving importance to this. (Picks up a cup) First of all, it’s shape, size, the very being, the very existence (the cup’s existence), is analogous to my own. And secondly, the fact that I prefer to hold this in my hand, rather than something else, tells less about this and more about myself.

So in a poetic way, the seer exclaimed, “Ahh! The world is me and I am the world!” It's a poetic expression. It does not mean you are the pillar. Don’t start feeding the pillar, or clothing the pillar or kissing the pillar.

Words are very incapable, when they try to communicate something tender, something subtle. It becomes a ridicule, it turns into a flat joke. The great utterances of the seers, that the world is your own projection has turned into some kind of a joke.

It always was, in the hands of people who couldn't understand. But the seers had no option, Raman Maharishi had no option. He had to operate within the limits of language. So he tried to model it, he tried to present you with some kind of framework. But the framework is not the real thing, it has to sink in.

He says, “The true self is like the spider who emits the web and the web is the world. And sometimes the spider just takes the whole thing back into itself and then the world disappears.” This is a pointer, meant to arouse something within you. Just meant to align your attention towards the right direction. And it is meant to cure the ego.

The ego survives on otherness. The ego thrives on feelings of victimization, or conquest, attainment, or loss, nearness or separation. This is what keeps the ego running.

The observations that we just went into, bring some humility to the ego. They tell it, “See, it all is related to you.” A conquest is meaningful only if somebody else has been conquered, right? That's what we want to gloat about, no? “I went and conquered another country!”

Similarly, there is pleasure in feeling a victim only if somebody else is to be blamed. Otherwise, it becomes another humiliation. First of all, you have been harmed, and secondly, it turns out to be a case of self harm. As they say, insult added to injury.

Victim, playing the victim card, is good fun only if there is someone else who can be claimed to have harmed you. Otherwise, being a victim is no fun. Similarly, conquest is pleasurable, only if you have been able to occupy somebody else’s house.

What fun is there in claiming, “You know what? Today I was able to enter my own bedroom.” Why are you feeling so puffed up about it? It's your own bedroom. Otherness is necessary, if you want to have that pleasure.

In that sense, all pleasures are vicarious pleasures. Indirect. Second Handed. Requiring the presence of the other. Requiring the presence of a medium. That's incidentally, also a difference between spiritual joy and worldly pleasure. Spiritual joy does not require a medium, a cause, an other. And carnal pleasure is always mediated by the world firstly and then by your senses.

There is double mediation. First of all there has to be a material object, and secondly there has to be a psychic agency that interprets that object. Only then can you get some pleasure, right? What do you require to feel pleasured by great food?

First of all you require great food. Secondly you require to be awake. So you require two things, one the presence of good food, secondly the psychic availability to the food. If your nostrils cannot take in the food aroma, does food exist for you? If your eyes cannot look at the dishes, do they exist for you? So it is not much fun in the usual fun. It comes to you through two mediators. Not much fun. And joy? No mediator required. Self enjoying self.

It's a stinking example, but it's almost like a kid rolling about in its own potty. Sorry. Interpret that spiritual joy. I do not require anybody else. My own potty is enough. I will roll in it. And see how glad I am.

Now don't try that, I seriously didn't mean it. And adults will have other versions of it. Don't even try. But all this is besides the point. We were not even talking about joy. We were talking about whether the world is you and you are the world and whether the relationship between the self and the mind is that of the spider and its web.

We are designed to live in a feeling of otherness. We are designed to give utmost importance to the diverse objects we see in front of us. That's our physical constitution. That's how the whole game of Prakriti has evolved.

But that is also our psychic undoing. That's what keeps us so restless. This perpetual confidence that I am just this much and therefore insecure and therefore lonely. Am I not?

And this exists totally independent of me. If this exists totally independent of me, then this surely has the capacity to bring something new to my life. Opportunity. Is this not the fundamental belief to our carnal existence?

This exists (holding the microphone), totally independent of me and the senses do everything to validate this statement. You may faint right now, does this faint away too? It does not. You may walk out of the room. Does this walk out as well? It does not.

You have a fever. Does this too raise its temperature? It does not. So you have all the reasons to think that this exists totally independently of you. Remember where you think the thing is totally independent of you there the thing becomes some kind of a beacon of hope.

If it is independent, it will bring something new to you. Won't it ? Independent means totally separate. Independent means having nothing to do with you. If it has nothing to do with you, its existence will have unknown, unseen and therefore tempting possibilities.

And therefore I will live in constant appreciation of this (touching the microphone). I will keep giving it importance. This then, is my world, if I keep feeling that it is independent of me.

Advait Vedant, of which Raman Maharishi is one of the foremost proponents, does not allow you to feel that this is independent of you. Call it spirituality, call it philosophy, call it wisdom, call it common sense.

This is not independent of you (holding the microphone). This is an agreement with you. There is a hidden agreement between you and this. You know what the agreement is? “I will make myself available to you, as per your terms and conditions. You can perceive only in three dimensions? I will appear to you in three dimensions. Don't you see there is an agreement?

You can realize only the physical properties of weight, touch, smell, etc, etc. I will come to you only with those properties. There is an agreement here. If you can see that there is an agreement, then you are a Vedantin. If you cannot see the agreement, then the agreement becomes a conspiracy and the conspirator is called in Advait as Maya.

Therefore Advait-vad is also called Maya-vad. If you can see it, then you are a Vedantin. If you cannot see it, then you are prey to Maya. So Dwait-vad is also Maya-vad.

This is not independent of you. The ones who appear so important to you, are important to you because of you. There is nobody else who is according them their importance but you. Things do not carry any objective importance. This should not be too hard to see.

And if you can see this, that things do not carry any objective importance, Vedant spurs you on, that things do not carry any objective existence. Now that's harder, right? When you could see that yes, the importance that I give to this is a function of my condition, my situation, my likes, my dislikes, my conditioning. That much can be appreciated. That this does not have an objective importance, he may place a higher value upon it than she does.

Vedant takes a step ahead. It says, not only does it have no objective importance, it also does not have an objective existence. And that is what is being reflected in Maharishi's statement here, when he says the world is just like the web of a spider.

It comes from you, and if you are in the right mood, it retreats back into you. If you are in a bad mood, in an exploitative mood, the fly appears very delicious, then the web keeps on expanding. What else is the purpose of the web? Get the fly.

Whenever the fly will become very important to you, you will create a great universe of your own. You can call it the world wide web. Vedant knew about it. The world itself is a web. You have the world wide web only today. Don't conclude. It is a thing to be lived. It is not a formula in mathematics. Or a model in physics.

Don't be so crude towards it. It is a thing of constant remembrance. It is a thing of practice. You have to continuously see this as you move through life. Time means that one object after another will keep entering your sensual field.

That's what time is, right? The flux in your sensual field. That's why you have to constantly remember because the flux is without intermission. So the remembrance also has to be continuous. Nothing great has happened. The ceiling has not collapsed upon your head.

Nothing is so very important. Why are you so ecstatic? And why are you so depressed? The importance that you are giving to anything, to something, to whatever, is your own little mischief. Why are you becoming a victim to your own whims and mischiefs? First of all you decide to give importance to this. Importance that it didn't have on its own. You picked up importance and attached it to it. It didn't have it.

It's a ‘me’ thing. It's yours. (picks up a phone). It is called importance. You can put it anywhere. This (points to the microphone), is not important. This (points to the phone) is importance. You can put it anywhere.

And then when something happens to this as happens to everything in the universe, as happens to your body as well, then you start crying. As if something important has happened. The Maharishi's words liberate you from this psychotic roller coaster.

Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. Unnecessarily jubilant. Unnecessarily gloomy. Do you get this ? It's not merely a philosophy. When a philosophy becomes a thing to be lived, it is called religion. That's the difference between the west and the east, particularly India.

For the west, philosophy has largely been a mental thing. Let's think. Let's think. Let's think. Of Course if you think about something a lot, then sooner or later it will percolate into your life. But that was not the objective of thinking.

People would think, as if thinking were an independent pursuit. India did not have philosophers. Rather India did not have standalone philosophers. If you are a philosopher, you are also religious.

Philosophy had to attain its culmination, its peak, its purity, in religion. That only means that now you have to live it. You know it, how can you just know it? The knowing has to transform into being. Basic honesty. And that is what is also demanded, right now. Don't think about these things. Otherwise you will go mad.

Somebody asked me, “If that truck is my own projection, why did it run over on me? After all the truck is just my projection. I kept standing in front of it and smiling very wisely. I know who you are. You don't exist. I have just projected you. And the next thing I find is I am under the wheels. Not quite crushed, but being beaten up by the driver and the cleaner.”

It’s not so crude, it’s not so gross, it’s not so physical. You aren't really projecting that giant thing there, in a material way. Somebody asked me, “If I am projecting everything, and if I leave the towel in the washroom and totally forget it, then how is it that the towel is still there when I return the next day? If I had totally forgotten it, then how is it still there? If it is my own projection, then it should have disappeared.”

Jack and Jill, went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water? Are we talking nursery rhymes? Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But the wall was just a projection. So why did Humpty Dumpty break his legs?

Acharya Ji, Vedant is foolish. Humpty Dumpty is the proof. Vedant is not for the Humpties and Dumpties of the world. You go change your diaper. That's what suits you better.

But the mind constantly does Humptiness and Dumptiness about everything. I am constantly asking you to avoid that tendency. Do not try to turn this into some kind of a model.

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