Reality in Forty Verses
Once Bhagavan composed twenty Tamil stanzas containing his important teachings. They were not written in any particular order to form a poem. Sri Muruganar therefore suggested that Bhagavan should write twenty stanzas more to make it the conventional forty. Accordingly, Bhagavan composed twenty more stanzas. Out of these forty, Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni selected two as the invocatory stanzas. Then Bhagavan wrote two more to complete the forty. Some of the stanzas were translations fTom Sanskrit, but as devotees wanted all the forty verses to be original they were eliminated and new stanzas composed in their place. The verses were all arranged in a continuous order to form a poem. Later, a supplement consisting of a second forty verses was added. So indifferent to authorship was Bhagavan that he did not write all those supplementary verses himself. When he came upon a suitable one he used it – mostly translations from Sanskrit – and when not, he made one. The verses eliminated from the original forty verses were included in the supplement.1
1 The supplement verses he composed are italicized. Those verses which he took from other texts are the Invocation, verses 1-7, 9, the final sentence of verse 12, 18-30, 34, 37 and 39-40. The original sources of these verses have been quoted at the end of each verse. In a few cases, the exact origins have not been confirmed.
These eighty verses are the most comprehensive exposition of the Maharshi’s teaching. A number of translations have been made and commentaries written on them. They have been published as separate books by the ashram under the titles Ulladu Narpadu, Sad Vidya and Truth Revealed. Bhagavan translated these verses into Telugu prose under the name of Unnadi Nalubadi and into Malayalam verse under the name of Saddarsanam.
1. Unless Reality exists, can thought of it arise? Since, devoid of thought, Reality exists within as Heart, how to know the Reality we term the Heart? To know That is merely to be That in the Heart.2
2. When those who are in dread of death seek refuge at the feet of the deathless, birthless Lord Supreme, their ego and attachments die; and they, now deathless, think no more of death.
1. Since we know the world, we must concede for both a common Source, single but with the power of seeming many. The picture of names and forms, the onlooker, the screen, the light that illumines – all these are verily He.
2. On three entities – the individual, God and the world – every creed is based. That ‘the One becomes the three’ and that ‘always the three are three’, are said only while the ego lasts. To lose the ‘I’ and in the Self to stay is the State Supreme.
2 The first sentence may also be rendered thus: Can there be Knowledge of Reality other than existing as Reality?
3. ‘The World is true’; ‘No, it is a false appearance’; ‘The World is Mind’; ‘No, it is not’; ‘The World is pleasant’; ‘No, it is not’ – What avails such talk? To leave the world alone and know the Self, to go beyond all thought of ‘One’ and ‘Two’, this egoless condition is the common goal of all.
4. If Self has form, the world and God likewise have form. If Self is without form, by whom and how can form (of world and God) be seen? Without the eye, can there be sight or spectacle? The Self, the real Eye, is infinite.
5. The body is made up of the five sheaths;3 in the term body all the five are included. Without the body the world is not. Has one without the body ever seen the world?
6. The world is made up of the five kinds of sense perceptions and nothing else. And those perceptions are felt as objects by the five senses. Since through the senses the mind alone perceives the world, is the world other than the mind?
7. Though the world and mind rise and fade together, the world shines by the light of the mind. The ground whence the world and mind arise, and wherein they set, that Perfection rises not nor sets but ever shines. That is Reality.
8. Under whatever name or form we worship It, It leads us on to knowledge of the nameless, formless Absolute. Yet, to see one’s true Self in the Absolute, to subside into It and be one with It, this is the true Knowledge of the Truth.
9. ‘Twos’ and ‘threes’ depend upon one thing, the ego. If one asks in one’s Heart, ‘What is this ego?’ and finds it, they slip away. Only those who have found this know the Truth, and they will never be perplexed.4
3. The five sheaths include the mental.
4. “Twos” are pairs like pleasure-pain, knowledge-ignorance; “threes” are triads like the knower, knowledge and the known.
10. There is no knowledge without ignorance; and without knowledge ignorance cannot be. To ask, ‘Whose is this knowledge? Whose this ignorance?’ and thus to know the primal Self, this alone is Knowledge.
11. Without knowing the Self that knows, to know all objects is not knowledge; it is only ignorance. Self, the ground of knowledge and the non-Self, being known, both knowledge and ignorance fall away.
12. True Knowledge is being devoid of knowledge as well as ignorance of objects. Knowledge of objects is not true knowledge. Since the Self shines self-luminous, with nothing else for It to know, with nothing else to know It, the Self is Knowledge. Nescience It is not.
13. 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.
14. ‘You’ and ‘he’ – these appear only when ‘I’ does. But when the nature of the ‘I’ is sought and the ego is destroyed, ‘you’ and ‘he’ are at an end. What shines then as the One alone is the true Self.
15. Past and future are dependent on the present. The past was present in its time and the future will be present too. Ever-present is the present. To seek to know the future and the past, without knowing the truth of time today, is to try to count without the number ‘One’.
16. Without us there is no time nor space. If we are only bodies, we are caught up in time and space. But are we bodies? Now, then and always – here, now and everywhere – we are the same. We exist, timeless and spaceless we.
17. To those who do not know the Self and to those who do, the body is the ‘I’. But to those who do not know the Self the ‘I’ is bounded by the body; while to those who within the body know the Self the ‘I’ shines boundless. Such is the difference between them.
18. To those who do not know and to those who do, the world is real. But to those who do not know, Reality is bounded by the world; while to those who know, Reality shines formless as the ground of the world. Such is the difference between them.
19. The debate, ‘Does free will prevail or fate?’ is only for those who do not know the root of both. Those who have known the Self, the common source of freewill and of fate, have passed beyond them both and will not return to them.
20. To see God and not the Self that sees is only to see a projection of the mind. It is said that God is seen by him alone who sees the Self; but one who has lost the ego and seen the Self is none other than God.
21. When scriptures speak of ‘seeing the Self’ and ‘seeing God’, what is the truth they mean? How to see the Self? As the Self is one without a second, it is impossible to see it. How to see God? To see Him is to be consumed by Him.
22. Without turning inwards and merging in the Lord – it is His light that shines within the mind and lends it all its light – how can we know the Light of lights with the borrowed light of the mind?
23. The body says not it is ‘I’. And no one says, “In sleep there is no ‘I’.” When ‘I’ arises all (other) things arise. Whence this ‘I’ arises, search with a keen mind.
24. The body which is matter says not ‘I’. Eternal Awareness rises not nor sets. Betwixt the two, bound by the body, rises the thought of ‘I’. This is the knot of matter and Awareness. This is bondage, jiva, subtle body, ego. This is samsara, this is the mind.
25. Holding a form it rises; holding a form it stays; holding and feeding on a form it thrives. Leaving one form, it takes hold of another. When sought, it takes to flight. Such is the ego-ghost with no form of its own.
26. When the ego rises all things rise with it. When the ego is not, there is nothing else. Since the ego thus is everything, to question ‘What is this thing?’ is the extinction of all things.
27. ‘That’ we are, when ‘I’ has not arisen. Without searching whence the ‘I’ arises, how to attain the self-extinction where no ‘I’ arises? Without attaining self-extinction, how to stay in one’s true state where the Self is ‘That’?
28. Controlling speech and breath, and diving deep within oneself – like one who, to find a thing that has fallen into water, dives deep down – one must seek out the source whence the aspiring ego springs.
29. Cease all talk of ‘I’ and search with inward diving mind whence the thought of ‘I’ springs up. This is the way of wisdom. To think, instead, ‘I am not this, but That I am,’ is helpful in the search, but it is not the search itself.
30. When the mind turns inward seeking ‘Who am I?’ and merges in the Heart, then the ‘I’ hangs down his head in shame and the One ‘I’ appears as Itself. Though it appears as ‘I-I’, it is not the ego. It is Reality, Perfection, the Substance of the Self.
31. For him who is the Bliss of Self arising from extinction of the ego, what is there to do? He knows nothing other than this Self. How to conceive the nature of his state?
32. When the Vedas have declared, ‘Thou art That’ – not to seek and find the nature of the Self and abide in It, but to think ‘I am That, not This’ is want of strength. Because, That abides for ever as the Self.
33. To say ‘I do not know myself’ or ‘I have known myself’ is cause for laughter. What? Are there two selves, one to be known by the other? There is but One, the Truth of the experience of all.
34. The natural and true Reality forever resides in the Heart of all. Not to realize It there and stay in It but to quarrel ‘It is’, ‘It is not’, ‘It has form’, ‘It has not form’, ‘It is one’, ‘It is two’, ‘It is neither’, this is the mischief of maya.
35. To discern and abide in the ever-present Reality is true attainment. All other attainments are like powers enjoyed in a dream. When the sleeper wakes, are they real? Those who stay in the state of Truth, having cast off the unreal – will they ever be deluded?
36. If we think we are the body, then to tell ourselves, ‘No, I am That’, is helpful to abide as That. Yet – since ever we abide as That – why should we always think, ‘I am That?’ Does one ever think, ‘I am a man’?
37. ‘During the search, duality; on attainment, unity’ – This doctrine too is false. When eagerly he sought himself and later when he found himself, the tenth man in the story was the tenth man and none else (ten men crossed a stream and wanted to make sure they were all safe. In counting, each one left himself out and found only nine. A passer-by gave each a blow and made them count the ten blows).
38. If we are the doers of deeds, we should reap the fruits they yield. But when we question, ‘Who am I, the doer of this deed?’ and realize the Self, the sense of agency is lost and the three karmas slip away. Eternal is this Liberation.
39. Thoughts of bondage and of freedom last only as long as one feels, ‘I am bound’. When one inquires of oneself, ‘Who am I, the bound one?’ the Self, Eternal, ever free, remains. The thought of bondage goes; and with it goes the thought of freedom too.
40. If asked, ‘Which of these three is final liberation: With form, without form, or with-and-without-form?’ I say, Liberation is the extinction of the ego which enquires ‘With form, without form, or with-and-without-form?’
(Translated by Prof. K. Swaminathan)