In The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharishi, a disciple asks, “Should I not try to help the suffering world?” Ramana Maharishi answers, “If God has created the world, it is his business to look after it, not yours.” Ramana Maharishi’s response presumes many things about the nature of God, Self, and the world. It shows that the conventional view of morality and therefore, the disciple’s question, is wrong.
A point that Ramana Maharishi makes many times in his teachings is that “. . . the Self itself is God” (Maharishi 8). If you see God in all, then you should see God in the Self. Since God is an expression of the Self, in order to see God in Self, you have to be God. Ramana Maharishi says that “if God is apart from the Self, He must be a selfless God, which is absurd” (Maharishi 64). Therefore, if union with God was something that had to be obtained, then it is not real and only an illusion.
Ramana Maharishi says that “the Self is the only sentient object. There is nothing apart from the Self” (Maharishi 22). The Self is the source of everything. Nothing occurs that is not related to the Self. The Self is the power and the ground for everything that we do. You never have to “find” the Self. The Self is already there. It is never separate from us. Ramana Maharishi says that “what is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already That” (Maharishi 61). To ask how one can “find” the Self is to presume that the Self needs to be found.
Ramana Maharishi also makes the point several times to the disciple that his problem is perspective. The question is frequently asked “How can I attain Self-realization?” (Maharishi 61). Ramana Maharishi explains to the disciple that “Realization is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought ‘I’ have not realized” (Maharishi 61). The disciple is asking the question from a state of non self – realization, a false knowledge about the world.
Ramana Maharishi explains to the disciple that the world as we know it is not real. The world has no permanent independent reality or substance. The world has a relative or conventional reality. The belief that the world exists separately and independently from us, is the illusion. The mind creates the world that we see through our senses. The Self alone is the only permanent independent reality or substance. In order to remove the world that is seen we have to quiet the mind. Maharishi asks the disciple, “and what does Stillness mean? It means ‘Destroy yourself'” (Maharishi 64) This is because from the thought of “I” the world arises. The world is always the same. What changes is ones knowledge of it.
Ramana Maharishi believes that the conventional view of morality is wrong. The view that everything is separate from each other is only a matter of perspective. Ramana Maharishi says that “there are no ‘others’ to mix with. The Self is the only Reality” (Maharishi 64). The disciple’s question is a dualistic view of morality. When we make people good and bad, this means that in turn we are not them. If we viewed everyone as ourselves that means that the individual would have to give something up. The ego is the source of this view. Individuality arises with the ego. However, the ego does not have to disappear. Instead, we must not identify ourselves with it. We must renounce our false idea about ourselves. It’s our thinking about our lives and jobs that needs to be changed. Ramana Maharishi says that “the feeling ‘I work’ is the hinderence” (Maharishi 43).Our actual lives and jobs stay the same.
Ramana Maharishi wants the disciple to realize that you can’t help others until you help yourself, and in turn, by helping yourself you help others. If you just take care of your Self and love your Self, you are helping the suffering world. Mystics help the world because they have acceptance of all. If you save yourself, you are also helping the world. This is because if all is one, then you would embrace everyone like you would embrace yourself, with love.
Ramana Maharishi believes that all suffering in the world has its origin in taking the ego for the absolute reality. He says that “the Realized One does not see the world as different from himself” (Maharishi 64). The disciple’s question is wrong because if you think there is a suffering world, then that means that the world is separate. If the world is separate, then it is not permanent and enduring. Something that is not permanent is not real. Therefore, suffering is only created by ignorance, a mind that sees separation.
Clearly, the disciples question in itself is wrong. The problem is his perspective. He is asking from an unenlightened and unself-realized state of consciousness. Like Ramana Maharishi, once he has realized that the Self, the world, and God are one, his view of the world and conventional morality will be changed.