"The very first step in understanding what this is all about is giving up the concept of an active, volitional 'I' as a separate entity and accepting the passive role of perceiving and functioning as a process." - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

You Have Neither Birth Nor Death

Sri Ramana Maharshi

D.: They say that we have the choice of enjoying merit or demerit after our death, that it depends on our choice which comes. Is that so? 

B.: Why raise questions of what happens after death? Why ask whether you were born, whether you are reaping the fruits of your past karma, and so on? You will not raise such questions in a little while when you fall asleep. Why? Are you a different person now from the one you are when asleep? No, you are not. Find out why such questions do not occur to you when you are asleep.

On occasion, however, Bhagavan did admit of a lower, contingent point of view for those who could not hold to the doctrine of pure non-dualism.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna first says to Arjuna in Chapter II, that no one was born and then in Chapter IV, ‘there have been numerous incarnations both of you and me. I know them but you do not.’ Which of these two statements is true? The teaching varies according to the understanding of the listener.2 When Arjuna said that he would not fight against his relatives and elders in order to kill them and gain the kingdom, Sri Krishna said: ‘Not that these, you or I, were not before, are not now, nor will be hereafter. None was born, none has died, nor will it be so hereafter’. He further developed this theme, saying that he had given instructions to the Sun and through him to Ikshvaku; and Arjuna queried how that could be, since he had been born only a few years back, while they lived ages ago. 

Then Sri Krishna saw his point of view and said: ‘Yes, there have been many incarnations of me and you. I know them all but you do not.’ Such statements appear contradictory, but they are true according to the viewpoint of the questioner. 

Christ also said “Before Abraham was, I am.”

Just as in dreams, you wake up after several new experiences, so after death another body is found.Just as rivers lose their individuality when they discharge their waters into the ocean, and yet the waters evaporate and return as rain on the hills and back again through the rivers to the ocean, so also individuals lose their individuality when they go to sleep but return again according to their previous innate tendencies. Similarly, in death also, being is not lost. 

D.: How can that be? 

B.: See how a tree grows again when its branches are cut off. So long as the life source is not destroyed, it will grow. Similarly, latent potentialities withdraw into the heart at death but do not perish. That is how beings are re-born.

Nevertheless, from the higher viewpoint he would say:
In truth there is neither seed nor tree, there is only Being.

He would occasionally explain in more detail, but still with the reservation that in reality there is only the changeless Self.

D.: How long is the interval between death and re-birth?

B.: It may be long or short, but a Realised Man undergoes no such change; he merges into the Infinite Being, as is said in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad. Some say that those who, after death, take the path of light are not re-born; whereas those who take the path of darkness are born after they have reaped their karma (self-made destiny) in their subtle bodies. If a man’s merits and demerits are equal, he is re-born immediately on earth; if the merits outweigh the demerits, his subtle body goes first to heaven, while if the demerits outweigh the merits it goes first to hell. But in either case he is later reborn on earth. All this is described in the scriptures, but in fact there is neither birth nor death; one simply remains what one really is. That only is the truth.

Again, he would explain in terms of God’s mercy.
B.: God in His mercy withholds this knowledge from people. If they knew that they had been virtuous they would grow proud, and in the other case they would be despondent. Both are bad. It is enough to know the Self.

He did, however, refer sometimes to a person’s preparedness or maturity as being due to the achievements of a previous incarnation.

A competent person who has already, perhaps in a previous incarnation, qualified himself realises the truth and abides in peace as soon as he hears it told to him just once, whereas one who is not so qualified has to pass through the various stages before attaining samadhi (direct, pure consciousness of being).

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सर्वभूताधिवासं यद्भूतेषु च वसत्यपि।
सर्वानुग्राहकत्वेन तद्स्म्यहं वासुदेवः॥

That in whom reside all beings and who resides in all beings,
who is the giver of grace to all, the Supreme Soul of the universe, the limitless being:
I AM THAT. -- Amritabindu Upanishad