Ramana Maharshi: ‘Advaita should not be practised in ordinary activities. It is sufficient if there is no differentiation in the mind. If one keeps cartloads of discriminating thoughts within, one should not pretend that all is one on the outside.
‘Westerners practise mixed marriages and eat equally with everyone. What is the use of doing only this? Only wars and battlefields have resulted. Out of all these activities, who has obtained any happiness?
‘This world is a huge theatre. Each person has to act whatever role is assigned to him. It is the nature of the universe to be differentiated but within each person there should be no differentiation.’
I [Annamalai Swami] was so moved by this speech [of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi] that I asked Bhagavan [Ramana Maharshi] to summarise these ideas in a written Tamil verse. Bhagavan agreed, took a Sanskrit verse from Tattvopadesa [by Adi-Sankaracharya, verse 87] which expresses a similar idea, and translated it into a Tamil venba. When he was satisfied with his translation, I also managed to persuade him to write the first fair copy in my diary. This verse was eventually published as verse thirty-nine of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham.
Question: Sri Bhagavan has written [Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, verse 39] that one should not show advaita in one’s activities. Why so? All are one. Why differentiate?
Ramana Maharshi: Would you like to sit on the seat that I am sitting on?
Question: I don’t mind sitting there. But if I came and sat there the sarvadhikari [the ashram manager] and the other people here would hit me and chase me away.
Ramana Maharshi: Yes, nobody would allow you to sit here. If you saw someone molesting a woman, would you let him go, thinking, ‘All is one’? There is a scriptural story about this. Some people once gathered together to test whether it is true, as said in the Bhagavad Gita, that a jnani sees everything as one. They took a brahmin, an untouchable, a cow, an elephant, and a dog to the court of King Janaka, who was a jnani. When all had arrived King Janaka sent the brahmin to the place of brahmins, the cow to its shed, the elephant to the place allotted to elephants, the dog to its kennel and the untouchable person to the place where the other untouchables lived. He then ordered his servants to take care of his guests and feed them all appropriate food.
The people asked, ‘Why did you separate them individually? Is not everything one and the same for you?’
‘Yes, all are one,’ replied Janaka, ‘but self-satisfaction varies according to the nature of the individual. Will a man eat the straw eaten by the cow? Will the cow enjoy the food that a man eats? One should only give what satisfies each individual person or animal.’
Although the same man may play the role of all the characters in a play, his acts will be determined by the role that he is playing at each moment. In the role of a king he will sit on the throne and rule. If the same person takes on the role of a servant, he will carry the sandals of his master and follow him. His real Self is neither increased nor decreased while he plays these roles. The jnaninever forgets that he himself has played all these roles in the past.