utterances of Ramana Maharshi

The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi
Edited by Arthur Osborne – 6th Revised Edition, 1996
Part One: Original Works

5. The Essence of Instruction (Upadesa Saram)
There is a legend that a group of rishis once lived in the Daruka forest together, practising rites by which they acquired supernatural powers. By the same means they hoped to attain final liberation. In this, however, they were mistaken, for action can only result in action, not in the cessation of action; rites can produce powers but not the peace of liberation which is beyond rites and powers and all forms of action. Siva determined to convince them of their error and therefore appeared before them as a wandering sadhu. Together with him came Vishnu in the form of a beautiful lady. All the rishis were smitten with love for this lady and thereby their equilibrium was disturbed and their rites and powers were adversely affected. Moreover their wives, who were also living with them in the forest, all fell in love with the strange sadhu.

Incensed at this, they conjured up an elephant and a tiger by magic rites and sent them against him. Siva, however, slew them easily and took the elephant’s skin for a robe and the tiger’s for a wrap. The rishis then realized that they were up against one more powerful than themselves and they bowed down to him and asked him for instruction. He then explained to them that it is not by action but by renunciation of action that one attains liberation.

The poet, Muruganar, wanted to write 100 verses on this theme but he could not readily proceed beyond 70 verses. It then occurred to him that Bhagavan was the proper person to write the verses relating to Siva’s instructions. He therefore begged Bhagavan to compose them and Bhagavan accordingly composed thirty Tamil verses. He himself later rendered them into Sanskrit. These thirty verses were subsequently translated by Bhagavan into Telugu under the name of Anubhuti Saram first, and Upadesa Saram afterwards. Bhagavan likewise rendered them into Malayalam. The Sanskrit version (Upadesa Saram), was chanted before him daily together with the Vedas and continues to be chanted before his shrine; that is to say, it is treated as a scripture. He refers to the various paths to liberation, grading them in order of efficiency and excellence, and showing that the best is Self-enquiry.

1. Action yields fruit,
For so the Lord ordains it.
How can action be the Lord?
It is insentient.

8. Better than viewing Him as Other,
Indeed the noblest attitude of all,
Is to hold Him as the ‘I’ within,
The very ‘I’.

10. Absorption in the heart of being,
Whence we sprang,
Is the path of action, of devotion,
Of union and of knowledge.

18. Thoughts alone make up the mind;
And of all thoughts the ‘I’ thought is the root.
What is called mind is but the notion ‘I’.

19. When one turns within and searches
Whence this ‘I’ thought arises,
The shamed ‘I’ vanishes –
And wisdom’s quest begins.

23. For knowing That which is
There is no other knower.
Hence Being is Awareness;
And we are all Awareness.

24. In the nature of their being creature and creator
Are in substance one.
They differ only
In adjuncts and awareness.

26. To know the Self is but to be the Self,
For it is non-dual.
In such knowledge
One abides as That.

6. Reality In Forty Verses (Ulladu Narpadu)

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 the conventional forty. Accordingly, Bhagavan composed twenty more stanzas. Out of these forty, Kavya Kanta Ganapati Muni selected two as the invocatory stanzas. Then Bhagavan wrote two more to complete the forty. some of the stanzas were translations from 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.

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 a separate booklet 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 Nalupadi and into Malayalam verse under the name of Saddarsanam.


1. Unless Reality exists, can thought of it arise? Since, void 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.

The Text

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 “I”. This is the knot of Matter and Awareness. This is bondage, jiva, subtle body, ego. This is samsara, this is the mind.

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.

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.

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.

Reality in Forty Verses: Supplement

6. Disciple: ‘Who is God?’
Master: ‘He who knows the mind.’
D: ‘My Self, the Spirit, knows my mind.’
M: ‘Therefore you are God: and also because the Sruti declares that there is only one God, the Knower.

7. M: ‘By what light do you see?’
D: ‘The sun by day, the lamp by night.’
M: ‘By what light do you see these lights!’
D: ‘The eye.’
M: ‘By what light do you see the eye?’
D: ‘The mind.’
M: ‘By what light do you know the mind?’
D:’My Self.’
M: ‘You then are the Light of Lights.’
D: ‘Yes, That I am.’

8. In the centre of the Heart-Cave there shines alone the one Brahman as the “I,I”, the Atman. Reach the Heart by diving deep in quest of the Self, or by controlling the mind with the breath, and stay established in the Atman.

24. Therefore by the practice of merging the Ego in the pure Heart which is all Awareness, the tendencies of the mind as well as the breath will be subdued.

34. For unlearned folk there is only one family consisting of wife, children and dependents. But in the mind of those with much learning there are many families of books, theories and opinions as obstacles to yoga.

39. Keep advaita within the heart. Do not ever carry it into action. Even if you apply it to all the three worlds, O Son, it is not to be applied to the Guru.

Part Two

Adaptations and Translations

11. Translations from the Agamas

The Agamas are traditional Hindu scriptures regarded as no less authoritative and authentic than the Vedas. They are regarded as divinely revealed teachings and no human authorship is ascribed to them. Temple worship is mainly founded upon them.

There are twenty-eight Agamas that are accepted as authorities. From among them Sarva Jnanottara and Devikalottara are outstanding as expressing the standpoint of pure advaita or non-duality. Atma-Sakshatkhara is the most essential part of Sarva Jnanottara.

The Maharshi spontaneously translated both these Agamas into Tamil verse, Devikalottara in the very early days when he was living in Virupaksha Cave and the Atma-Sakshatkhara in 1933 when he was already in the Ashram at the foot of the hill. Both are instructions in the path of knowledge given by Lord Siva, the latter to his son Guha (another name for Lord Subrahmanya) and the former to his wife, Parvati.

Verses 70-72 in Devikalottara, forbidding the harming even of plant life, are not to be taken as applying to aspirants on the path. No extremes of discipline or behaviour are demanded of them. Indeed, as is generally indicated in these two Agamas, questions of discipline, ritual, and behaviour are far less important on this path than any other, since it is a path which works directly on the heart, awakening spiritual knowledge.


Introduction by Sri Bhagavan

This work is one of the upa-agamas and explains the supreme wisdom to be attained by mature souls and their mode of life, expounded by the Supreme Lord Siva to Devi Parvati. It is the essence of all Agama Sastras on matters of spiritual knowledge. This is verily the boat which can rescue the mortals struggling hard, sinking and rising, in the sorrowful ocean of samsara of endless cycles of births and deaths and take them by the direct path to the shore of liberation. Let all earnest seekers after Truth, instead of groping in the dark, bewildered, and losing their way, adopt the help of this straight path and reach the supreme state to bliss and peace.

The Text


1. O Lord of all celestial beings! I yearn to know that path of supreme wisdom and the code of conduct by adopting which one can get liberation, so that all humanity may attain salvation. I request you to enlighten me on them, out of your grace.


2. O Queen among women! So that everyone may attain knowledge, I shall clearly explain to you today the highest knowledge and the discipline to be followed by which discerning seekers will attain liberation, which is free from any blemish and is difficult to describe.

13. The consciousness (chaitanya) associated with the aspect ‘am’ is called Sakti. The universe shines by its light. The entire creation is Sakti’s sankalpa (thought). The state (of mind) which is completely devoid of all attachment is the pure (wisdom) to be attained.

14. The void which is the infinite and all-encompassing one whole without a second, which is just the effulgence of pure wisdom, which is completely devoid of visible phenomena and which consists of the aspect ‘I’, is the seed which fructifies as liberation, bestowing salvation by enabling one to unite with the Supreme.

34. When once the mind becomes steady, it should not be disturbed in any way. There is no need to think even in the least of anything else, entertaining any doubts. Fixing the mind firmly in that state (of self-awareness) keep it still.

39. If the mind falls into sleep, awaken it. Then if it starts wandering, make it quiet. If you reach the state where there is neither sleep nor movement of mind, stay still in that, that natural (real) state.

61. Having thus explained the nature of knowledge to enable everyone to attain liberation, which is always available, I shall now proceed to describe the conduct to be adopted by the seekers. Noble Lady, listen to them calmly.

65. Renounce completely all religious edicts and disciplines. Since all kinds of action result in bondage, give up all action-plans, mental conflicts, and attachment to one’s caste-duties.

69. Listen to me, Lady! Know that only the wise man who never does anything which leads to the destruction of any form of life, such as insects, works, birds or plants, is a person who is seeking true knowledge.

76. Being unaffected by either praise or slander, treating alike all creatures, he should always unfailingly maintain an equality of vision (sama drishti), considering all living beings in the world as himself.

83. My dearest, earnest seekers who see the enlightened one and worship him with all the three instruments (mind, speech and body) in unison, offering him with heart-melting love, sweet-smelling sandal paste, fruits, flowers, incense, good water to bathe, clothes and food, will thus attain liberation. Know that those who worship that jnani reap the fruit of his righteous deeds and those who slander him reap the result of his sins.

84. I have revealed the truth about knowledge and the conduct pertaining thereto, as you have asked. This entire path is indeed Kalottara Jnana (the knowledge to be revealed at the final stage of maturity). Tell me, O Lady, if you want to ask anything more.

12. Translations from Shankaracharya

This work by Shankaracharya together with the Drik Drishya Viveka, was translated into Tamil prose by Bhagavan while he was still living in Virupaksha Cave. It is a very free translation, even the order of the paragraphs being changed to some extent.

In order to be qualified for enquiry into the Self, a man must have a powerful intellect and ability to seize the essential and reject the inessential besides the various qualities enumerated in the scriptures. What are these? He must be able to discriminate between the real and the unreal. He must have an unattached mind. He must ardently desire liberation. And he must be tireless in practice. Only such a one is qualified to enquire into Brahman. The qualifications are enumerated as follows:

1. Discrimination between the real and the unreal.

2. Disinclination to enjoy the fruits of one’s actions either in this or in any further life.

3. The six virtues of tranquility, self-control, withdrawal, forbearance, faith and concentration of the Self.

4. Intense yearning for liberation.

The aspirant must indeed have these qualities in order to attain abidance in the Self; without them there can be no realisation of the Truth.

In a text such as “He is that Devadatta” we eliminate the contradictory aspects of Devadatta manifested at different places and times, and concentrate on the identity of Devadatta himself irrespective of place and time. Similarly, in the text in question, we eliminate the non-existent, objective, contradictory attributes of “that” and “thou” as “not this, not this” (am I). You can do this on the authority of the Vedas which reject the duality superimposed on Brahman, and also by your own intelligence. If attributes such as a shield for a royal person and a badge of ownership for a slave are removed, both alike belong to the genus man. Similarly the text (about “that” and “thou”) declares the natural identity between Isvara and the individual in their residuary aspect of Consciousness apart from the forms of Isvara and individual. There is no contradiction in this, since Consciousness is the unbroken, single essence of both. Through the touch of the mahatmas, know this blessed identity of Brahman and Self by rejecting as “not I” the non-existent body. Know by your own clear intellect that Brahman is your Self, self-existent, subtle as the ether, ever radiant, true, awareness, bliss, indivisible and whole.

In the cavity of the intellect is the single truth of Brahman, distinct from the being and non-being. He who remains eternally as that Truth itself is never drawn back again to birth in the body.

He who meditates becomes that aspect of his being to which the consciousness is drawn: if to the body, he becomes body, if to the senses he becomes senses, if to the life-breath, he becomes that, if to the mind or intellect, he becomes mind or intellect. Therefore, rejecting all these, the consciousness should subside and obtain peace in Brahman, which is eternal Bliss.

Knowledge leads to non-attachment; solitude and abandonment of home lead to knowledge; the bliss of Self experience and tranquility results from cessation of activity. If these results are not obtained step by step, the previous steps become invalid. The perfection of non-attachment is when previous tendencies to seek enjoyment no longer arise. The perfection of knowledge is when the “I” – sense no longer pertains to the body. The perfection of solitude is when thoughts subside through perpetual striving and, dissolving in Brahman, no longer turn outwards.

Do not differentiate Self and Brahman or between world and Brahman. On the authority of the Vedas realize “I am Brahman”. Attain the pure beatitude of oneness and establish the pure consciousness immovably in Brahman so that you become dissolved in Brahman.

The essence of the Vedantic scriptures may be condensed into the following points.

First: In me, the unmoving Brahman, all that seems different is utterly without reality. I alone am. This is called the standpoint of elimination (badha drishti)

Second: The dream and all else that appears in me as the result of magic is an illusion. I alone am the Truth. This is called the standpoint of illusion (mithya drishti).

Third: All that appears as form apart from the sea, that is the bubble and the wave, is the sea. All that is seen in a dream is seen in him who sees the dream. Similarly, in me as in the ocean or the man who dreams, all that seems separate from me is myself. This is called the standpoint of resolving (the effect into its cause) (pravikalpa drishti).

Reject the outer world by any of these three means and recognize him who sees it to be infinite, pure, homogeneous Brahman, who is the Self. He who has thus realized Brahman is liberated. Although all three of these viewpoints are aids to realization, the third, in which one conceives everything as one’s own Self, is the most powerful. Therefore, knowing the indivisible Self to be one’s own Self, by one’s own experience, one must abide in one’s own nature, beyond any mental form. What more is there to say? The whole world and all individuals are really Brahman, and abidance as that indivisible Brahman is itself deliverance. This is the essence and conclusion of all the Vedas. The scriptures are the authority for this.

The disciple realized the truth of the Self through these words of the Guru, through the authority of the scriptures and by his own understanding. He controlled his sense organs and, becoming one-pointed, remained for a short time absorbed in unswerving samadhi in that supreme Self. The he rose up and spoke thus to his Guru:

Oh Master of the supreme experience, incarnation of the supreme peace, of Brahman, of the eternal essence of non-duality, endless ocean of grace, I bow down to you.
Drik Drisya Viveka

The Text

All our perception pertains to the non-Self. The immutable Seer is indeed the Self. All the countless scriptures proclaim only discrimination between Self and non-Self.

The world we see, being seen by the eye, is drisya (object); the eye which sees it is drik (subject). But the eye, being perceived by the mind is drisya (object) and the mind which sees it is drik (subject). The mind, with its thoughts perceived by the Self, is drisya (object) and the Self is drik (subject). The Self cannot be drisya (object), not being perceived by anything else. The forms perceived are various, blue and yellow, gross and subtle, tall and short, and so on; but the eye that sees them remains one and the same. Similarly, the varying qualities of the eye, such as blindness, dullness and keenness and of the ears and other organs, are perceived by the mind singly. So, too, the various characteristics of the mind, such as desire, determination, doubt, faith, want of faith, courage, want of courage, fear, shyness, discrimination, good and bad, are all perceived by the Self singly. This Self neither rises nor sets, neither increases nor decays. It shines of its own luminosity. It illumines everything else without the need for aid from other sources.

Buddhis, as the sum total of the inner organs, in contact with the reflected consciousness has two aspects. One is called egoity and the other mind. This contact of the buddhi with the reflected consciousness is like the identity of a red-hot iron ball with fire. Hence the gross body passes for a conscious entity. The contact establishing identity between the ego and the reflected Consciousness, is of three kinds.

1. The identification of the ego with the reflected Consciousness is natural or innate.

2. The identification of the ego with the body is due to past karma.

3. The identification of the ego with the witness is due to ignorance.

Of the five characteristics, Being, Consciousness, Bliss, name and form, the first three pertain to Brahman and name and form to the world. The three aspects of Being, Consciousness and Bliss exist equally in the five elements of ether, air, water and earth and in devas (gods), animals, men, etc., whereas the names and forms are different. Therefore, be indifferent to names and forms, concentrate on Being-Consciousness-Bliss and constantly practise samadhi (identity with Brahman) within the heart or outside.

Of the three modes of individual being, the limited self (as in deep sleep), the empirical self (as in the waking state) and the dreaming self, only the individual limited by the deep sleep state is the true Self (paramarthika). Even he is but an idea. The Absolute alone is the true Self. In reality and by nature he is Brahman itself, only superimposition creates the limitations of individuality in the Absolute. It is to the paramarthika jiva that the identity of Tat Twam Asi (That thou art) and other great texts of the Upanishads applies, and not to any other.

The sweetness, liquidity, and coldness of water are characteristics present equally in waves and foam. So, too, the Being-Consciousness-Bliss character of the Self (the paramarthika) is present in the empirical self and through him in the dream self also, because of their being only illusory creations of the Self. The foam with its qualities, such as coldness, subsides in the waves, the waves with their characteristics, such as liquidity, subside in the water, and the ocean alone exists as at first. Similarly, the dream self and its objects are absorbed in the empirical self; then the empirical world with its characteristics is absorbed in the paramarthika and, as at first, Being-Consciousness-Bliss which is Brahman shines alone.

 Poems of Ramana Maharshi