Enlightened Being and the World
Devotee: Is the world perceived by the jnani?
Maharshi: From whom is the question? Is it from a jnani or ajnani?
D: From an ajnani, I admit.
M: Is it the world that seeks to decide the issue about its reality? The doubt arises in you. Know in the first instance who the doubter is, and then you may consider if the world is real or not.
D: The ajnani sees and knows the world and its objects, which affect his senses of touch, taste etc. Does the jnani experience the world in like manner?
M: You talk of seeing and knowing the world. But without knowing yourself, the knowing subject, (without whom there is no knowledge of the object), how can you know the true nature of the world, the known object? No doubt, the objects affect the body and the sense organs, but is it to your body that the question arises? Does the body say “I feel the object, it is real”? Or is it the world that says to you “I, the world, am real”?
D: I am only trying to understand the jnani’s point of view about the world. Is the world perceived after Self-realization?
M: Why worry yourself about the world and what happens to it after Self-realization? First realise the Self. What does it matter if the world is perceived or not. Do you gain anything to help you in your quest by the non-perception of the world during sleep? Conversely, what would you lose now by the perception of the world? It is quite immaterial to the jnani or ajnani if he perceives the world or not. It is seen by both, but their viewpoints differ.
D: If the jnani and the ajnani perceive the world in like manner, where is the difference between them?
M: Seeing the world, the jnani sees the Self which is the substratum of all that is seen; the ajnani, whether he sees the world or not, is ignorant of his true Being, the Self.
Take the instance of moving pictures on the screen in the cinema-show. What is there in front of you before the play begins? Merely the screen. On that screen you see the entire show, and for all appearances the pictures are real. But go and try to take hold of them. What do you take hold of? Merely the screen on which the pictures appeared so real. After the play, when the pictures disappear, what remains? The screen again!
So with the Self. That alone exists; the pictures come and go. If you hold on to the Self, you will not be deceived by the appearance of the pictures. Nor does it matter at all if the pictures appear or disappear.
Ignoring the Self the ajnani thinks the world is real, just as ignoring the screen he sees merely the pictures, as if they existed apart from it. If one knows that without the seer there is nothing to be seen, just as there are no pictures without the screen, one is not deluded. The jnani knows that the screen, the pictures and the sight thereof are but the Self. With the pictures the Self is in its manifest form; without the pictures It remains in the unmanifest form. To the jnani it is quite immaterial if the Self is in the one form or the other. He is always the Self. But the ajnani seeing the jnani active gets confounded.
The Jnani and the World