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To an enlightened being it does not matter whether the world appears or not. Ramana Maharshi would say that it is like the letters and the paper on which they are printed.

We are so engrossed in the letters that we forget the paper. The enlightened sees the paper as the substratum whether the letters appear on it or not.

An exponent of the path of Self-enquiry or Atma-vichara , Ramana Maharshi was convinced that a spiritual seeker could attain Self-realisation by constantly reflecting on the question 'Who am I?' and tracing the `i-am-the-body' thought (ego) to its source through deep meditation.

In deep sleep there are no perceptions. Yet, the ego was present because otherwise, there cannot be the memory of having slept. He asked: "Who slept? You did not say in your sleep that you slept; you say it in your wakeful state. So the ego is the same in wakefulness, dream and sleep. Find out the underlying Reality behind these states. There is no you, nor I, nor he; nor present, nor past, nor future. It is beyond time and space, beyond expression."

The deep sleep state is devoid of body-consciousness but in the waking state the 'I-am-the-body' thought is predominant; hence the external world is perceived. Yet the fact remains that there is no change in the one who slept and the one who is now awake. The difference between waking and deep sleep lies in the emergence of body-consciousness and that no change occurs in pure consciousness that abides in eternity. And since the body is experienced in one state (waking) but not in the other (deep sleep), one can say that it arose at some particular moment and that it has both an origin and an end.

The Self, on the other hand, is the Eternal Consciousness which both pre-exists and survives the body. There is the continuity of the Being, the Eternal Self, in all the three states while the body and the worlds that appear in the waking and dream states are ephemeral.

By ANUP TANEJA
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