Reality in Forty Verses (Ulladu Narpadu)

Ramana Maharshi


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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 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.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.

Invocation

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.   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.

The Text

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

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

3The 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)



Sri Bhagavan's Feet
Sri Ramanarpanamastu