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Lakshmana Sharma’s Introduction to Verse No.18


Bhagavan explains here how, though both the jnAni and the ajnani may say the same statement “The world is real”, each of them take its meaning differently. The ajnAni takes the superposed world as absolute truth, without knowing the truth of the substratum; whereas the jnAni ignores the superposed world and takes the substratum as the absolute truth.


Verse #18


ulagu uNmai Ahum, uNarvu illArkku, uLLArkku;

ulagaLavAm uNmai uNarArkku;

ulaginukku AdhAramAy uru aRRu Arum uNarnthAr uNmai;

Idu Ahum bEdam ivarkku; eN.


Sanskrit Version


satyaM hyeva jagadvayoH avidushho vijnAta-tatvasya ca

satyaM yAvad-idaM jagat tu manute sajnAna-hIno janaH /

jnasy-AkAra-vihInam-asya nikhilasy-AdhArabhUtaM hi sat

bhAtyevaM mahatI bhidAsti hi tayos-sajnasya cAjnasya ca //


Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)


The world is real both to the non-knower and to the knower of the Real. He that lacks knowledge of the Real believes the Real to be coextensive with the world. To the Knower the Real shines as the formless One, the basic substance of the world. Great indeed is the difference between the Knower of That and the non-knower.


Translation (Prof. K. Swaminathan)


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.


Translation (Osborne)


To those who have not realized (the Self) as well as to those who have, the world is real. But to those who have not realized, Truth is adapted to the measure of the world, whereas to those that have, Truth shines as the Formless Perfection, and as the Substratum of the world. This is all the difference between them.


Word by Word (of the Tamil Verse)


ulagu : The world

uNmai Ahum, will be real

uNarvu illArkku, to those who do not know (the Self)

uLLArkku; and to those who know.

uNarArkku  To those who have not realized

uNmai : Truth

ulagaLavAm : is up to the measure of the world.

uNarnthAr :  (For) those who know (the Self)

uNmai Truth

AdhAramAy as support  

ulaginukku for the world

uru aRRu   (is) without form

Arum  :  ?

Idu Ahum bEdam : This is the diffcerence

Ivarkku : between these two

eN. Know (it) thus.


Commentary in Tamil by Lakshmana Sharma


When the ajnAni says ‘The world is real’, for him the world is real as world, along with its names and forms and all the consequent multiple differences.


From what the Bhagavan has said so far, it is clear that, for the jnani, all these different names and forms are all a mithyA.


Because of the above, the truth of the ajnAni does not go beyond the world; for the true Brahman has been hidden for him by the world. Names and forms have become the truth for him, and so the Existence-Knowledge Atman, which is nameless and formless, and which is inaccessible by the mind and speech, has become a void for him. Thus he is a nAstika (atheist); the Upanishads fault him by saying that he has killed the Atman by making it consist of the world.


[Note by VK: Recall Ishopanishad (Mantra 3) here:

asurya nAma te lokAH andhena tamasAvRtAH;

tAnste pretyAbhigacchanti ye ke cAtma-hano janAH

meaning, Those worlds of devils are covered by blinding darkness;

those people that kill the Self go to them after giving up this body.

Each object in the world has a nature of its own.

 This is called its svabhAva.

 Our use of it has to be concordant with it.

Otherwise we are supposed to have killed it.

Having an attachment to things external to the Atman

 is equivalent to the killing of the Atman.

Those who have not understood the real nature of the Self

are classified as murderers of the soul, killers of the Self.

They are discordant with the svadharma of the Self

and so they involute after death, to dark blind worlds, having

lived their life in spiritual darkness and blindness, totally unillumined.]


Bhagavan used to emphasize this often.  This applies not only to ordinary laymen but to those Pandits who proclaim advaita Vedanta.  They are also only nAsthikas. They speak of Brahman as the only absolute Truth but behave in the world, like every one else, as if that statement is not true. Only the jnAni is the Asthika; he never behaves as if there is no Self.


When the jnAni says that the world is real, he actually means ‘Whatever that appears as the world is all nothing but the Existence-Knowledge substratum; it is not distinct from It. This is what the third line of the verse says. The words ‘uruvaRRu Arum’  mean the jnAni does not see the forms or the differences.  When the forms are not seen, it also means the world is not seen. How can he say whether the unseen world is true or false? Therefore the words ‘The world is real’ mean something different for the jnAni. The meaning is: ‘The base-substratum of the world is the Truth’.


When the difference between a jnAni and ajnAni is so much, some people, who do not know and are unable to know this, try to measure the jnAni by their limited intellect and come to absurd conclusions. ‘The jnAni sees difference in non-difference, and non-difference in difference’ is a description of this kind. In truth, the jnAni neither sees difference nor non-difference. Non-difference is not something that is observed.  Then what does it mean to say that the jnAni has a sight of unity?  Bhagavan says that the very fact he has no awareness of difference is mentioned as the sight of unity.


That the jnAni does not see the world-forms was already mentioned in Verse #4. In third and fifth verses of his Arunachalaashtakam he mentions the same idea lucidly.


Further, by the logic that the substratum (‘adhishhTAnaM’) and the superpositions (Aropitam) hide each other, it is clear that they cannot be seen simultaneously – just as the rope and the snake cannot be seen together ever.


The ajnAni who has not known his Self sees the world; for him the Self is hidden. For the jnAni who has known his Self, obviously the Self shines for him, it actually means that the world-appearance is destroyed for him. Only the Self shines for him.


In the phenomenal world a Jivanmukta appears  to see the world and act accordingly.  This is only in the view of the rest of the world. For him they are not true. We shall enquire into this later. We shall say only this much here. In other’s view he has a body and mind; however, there is no doubt that the kAraNa-sharIra which is Ignorance – Anandamaya-kosha – is not there for him.

[Note by VK: For the explanation of the five koshas see Verse #5]

He (the JIvan-mukta) exists as the pure Self without any contact with the physical or the subtle body. Whatever he does in the world is like what God Himself as the resident of every one’s body keeps doing. Since there is no Ego there, the power of God works wonderfully without any obstacle. That this is the way of the goings-on of a JIvanmukta will be explained in the appendix to this work.


Tirumoolar’s Tirumandiram verse, ‘Marattai maRaittadu  mAmada yAnai’ quoted under the commentary on Verse #13, is of relevance here. The wooden elephant shines as a real elephant for a child. The child revels in the form of the elephant.  The child will not agree that it is all wood; in fact it will resent the comment. In the same manner an ajnAni takes pleasure in seeing the forms of the world. If you tell him that all this is only the nameless formless brahman, he does not like it.


The five elements earth, water, fire, air and space hide the Absolute.  In the state of jnAna the Absolute shines, all others vanish.


In the viewpoint of an  ajnAni  the existence aspect of the things of the world appears as a ‘quality’.  But in reality existence is not a quality of the thing. Existence is the thing. That thing itself is existence. For the existing reality, existence is not a quality. Existence itself is its svarUpa (nature). In that nature, by the mAyA of the mind the world forms appear. By right  knowledge they all vanish and it becomes pure.

Thus we have seen the meanings of the statements ‘The world is real’ and ‘The world is unreal’.  Of these, the meaning of ‘The world is real’ is not understood by the ajnAni.  In the way in which the ajnAni understands the world as real, in that way it is not real; it is only unreal. The true meaning of ‘The world is real’ cannot be easily understood by ajnAnis without the Grace of a JIvan-mukta Guru. Therefore, it is better to think of the world as unreal, turn the mind away from it and do one’s sAdhanA.


Here ends the analysis of the dualities and triads of jnAna and ajnAna. The sum and substance of what we have said so far is: “Knowledge or jnAna is ‘being’ the Atman, -- not ‘knowing’ the Atman --. Ignorance is seeing the same Atman as this false body and world”.

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