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What Attitude Should A Spiritual Student Have Towards This Body And All The Sensory Information It Provides Me With?

By itself, this body is jada, inert and lifeless. Without the mind, the body cannot function. And how does the mind function? Through the five senses that the body provides.

Mind and body are like the tongue and teeth in the mouth. They have to work in harmony with each other. The teeth do not fight with the tongue and bite it. Mind and body should combine in the same harmonious way.

However, if we want to go beyond the body, beyond the mind, we have to understand and fully accept that all the information the senses provide is not real. Like the mirage that produces an illusory oasis in the desert, the senses create the impression that there is a real world in front of us that is being perceived by the mind. The apparent reality of the world is an illusion. It is merely a misperception. When the mind perceives a snake where in reality there is only a rope, this is clearly a case of the senses projecting an imaginary image onto a real substratum. This, on a large scale, is how the unreal appearance of the world is projected by the mind and the senses onto the underlying reality of the Self.

Once this happens, we see the superimposition, the unreal names and forms we have created, and we forget about the substratum, the reality that underlies them. Many examples are given by our teachers and by our spiritual books. If you see a carved wooden elephant, for example, at some point you forget that it is only wood. You see the form of the carving, and your mind gives that form the name ‘elephant’. While your mind is registering this name and this form, you are no longer registering the object as a block of wood. It is the same when you see jewelry made out of gold. You see a shape, call it a ring or a necklace, and while you are studying the form, you temporarily forget the substance it is made of.

Self-enquiry is the process by which attention is put on the substratum instead of on the names and forms that are habitually imposed on it. Self is the substratum out of which all things appear to manifest, and the jnani is the one who is continually aware of the real substratum. He is never deluded into believing that the names and forms that are perceived by the senses have any real existence.

Whatever we see in this room, for example that picture of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi over there, is unreal. It has no more reality than the objects we perceive in our dreams. We think we live in a real, materially substantia] world, and that our minds and bodies are real entities that move around in it. When the Self is seen and known, all these ideas fade away and one is left with the knowledge: Self alone exists.

Annamalai Swami