Q (to Ramana Maharshi): How are we to treat others?
Ramana Maharshi: There are no others.
Rarely do we notice how often we think of and speak about “others.” In such times, it is as if we truly believe “other people” are separate and different from us. “Otherness” is a chief symptom of the egoic/delusional mind. It is not true that we are separate, but so goes our longstanding hypnosis:
“We are right; they are wrong.”
“Christians are closed; Buddhists are open.”
“We [insert specific branch of religion] are open; other kinds are not.”
“My spirituality is more evolved than his.”
We can also sub the spiritual part out for our political affiliations, family grudges, or any other nonsense we find ourselves feeling superior about.
I see these attitudes often, and they are untrue. In many cases, the ego-identity has merely put on a new sweater. Perhaps we have experienced a snapshot of peace and freedom and built a new identity out of it. Now we are the born-again Christian. Now we are the meditating yoga-guy. Now we are the misunderstood American Muslim. Now we are a monk.
Picking up new identities and building stories around our spiritual experiences is extremely common on the path. This is where many stop investigating, thinking “they’ve got it.” But if we are sincere in our thirst to know God and be happy, all of this will fall away. No new “person” is constructed from a space of true freedom.
The above statements energize this idea that we are not one, when we really are. And further, we are not even one (which implies, to me, a single unchanging thing by itself, surrounded by nothing). We are actually nothing.
To the conditioned mind, this is not a positive statement. To one who is on the path, it is a great truth and relief: At last, I’m nothing! A burden is lifted when this is realized. We actually do not have to constantly strive, heal, grow, or be fixing something. We can Be, and it is fantastic just as it is.
More than being “all one,” it feels more appropriate to me to say we are all zero. We are this great vastness together, and this vastness is sewn into all that we can see within the dualistic world. It is a substance that is not a substance, comparable to light, in and behind everything that appears to be real. It alone is the only thing that is Real.
You are it.
There is a blankness, an emptiness, a stillness that underlies all that can be perceived. It is unbound. Of course the egoic mind finds these words totally unappealing. Blank? Empty? How boring! What’s the point? What does it do? The mind is disinterested in this kind of peace, because it knows the end of its reign over the being is coming near. It will find any excuse to avoid practices that could point to this imagined “end.”
But about that question: What’s the use anyway? Well, it is your destiny to abide in this place, to return to the state of clarity and harmony that you never truly left. Additionally, coming back to this place does more to eliminate all atrocity in the world than a lifetime devoted to humanitarian aid and/or activism would. I know that is a lofty claim, and so I invite everyone to sit down and find this thing I am writing about. When you do, please tell me if it is a false claim.
We are the vast peace of God as well as the temporary projected figures of said God. We are all God made manifest, and when we realize this, a flood of joy washes over us and our minds undergo a transformation that is hardly worth writing about.
If we allow it to happen, we move away from the small, “me”-centered mind and come to reside in this state of great internal emptiness. This is the True mind. It is already present, and the glory of humanity is that we are able to recognize it if our thirst becomes strong enough.
As I stated above, the “otherness” hypnosis of the ego is the primary delusion of humanity. It is the fall of man. The fall from grace in the Garden of Eden is precisely when humanity slipped into this dream. It is this mind that believes sincerely in the world as “reality,” and that it is a distinct, individual entity. How quickly we forget the energy of our hurtful words, the impact of our consumptive habits and addictions. How immediately we ignore the way every signal we put out reverberates into the world.
When operating from the personal mind, we live unconsciously. When humans live unconsciously, the result is a culture mired in darkness: Confusion, addiction, avoidance, thoughtlessness, apathy, boredom, cruelty, war, inequality, greed, obsession with very trivial things. We trade around our old trauma energies and insist there is nothing we can do.
The solution, as always, is to turn around and see your true Self.
If you are reading these words, believing there is something special about your pain or constitution that makes it impossible to realize Truth and be in peace, pay attention to who is saying such things.
Is that really you? The ego often likes to offer up this idea that its pain is somehow very special. It feels so alone. Its suffering knows no bounds.
I will say that healing is often a necessary part of the path. To some extent, suffering is often a result of collected negative energy of suppressed emotions. Our culture does not teach us how to safely and healthily release these energies, only how to blot them out (drugs, alcohol, food, television) and/or let it explode when it cannot be suppressed any longer (yelling, vicariously watching violent movies and sports, impulsive acts of violence). However, healing is not the primary goal of the path, and should not be entertained longer than is necessary.
And in any case, do not make your pain so precious that it cannot be let it go. The ego-identity will surely hold onto pain, and make even pain into “something special.” This is exactly why I am not a fan of mental illness labels, for the mind can be quite happy to latch onto these labels and build them into the identity. It likes any explanation for “why it is the way it is,” but these are all lies. Once depression is taken to be a significant part of the identity, it is much harder to let go of.
A dismantling of who we believe we are must be done and faced courageously. Without courage, we back down and make up lots of excuses when we deviate: I don’t have time for this Truth business. If we press on, the ego can get quite dramatic: If I move toward ultimate freedom I will be impoverished; no one will love me; I will be alone; I do not want to be a vagabond beggar!
Come on now. Are these things really going to happen if you start deconstructing the lies of your life?
My mind has said all of these things—even recently! And yet they are not Me. They are clever tricks of a mind that cannot exist without my say so.
On the other side, we begin to see that people really aren’t so different from one another. Uniqueness is merely superficial, and delusion still runs the gamut.
In time, we even begin to feel silly for our attachments and unsolicited opinions. These things exist on the level of the mind, which is to say they are impermanent, which is to say why bother with them?
Until we discover that which is not impermanent—abiding consciousness, peace in God, same/same—we do ourselves a tremendous disservice, traipsing around in the mind. We are like toddlers with hand grenades at this state in our evolution.
And always, there is this thing that is undying and ever-complete. Find that and confirm it as your true identity, and live from this place. Only then will the humanity we often profess to love have a true chance at flourishing.