Q: How did the ego arise?
Ramana: Ego is not. Otherwise do you admit of two selves? How can there be avidya (ignorance of the Self) in the absence of the ego? If you begin to inquire, the avidya, which is already non-existent, will be found not to be, or you will say it has fled away.
Ignorance pertains to the ego. Why do you think of the ego and also suffer? What is ignorance again? It is that which is nonexistent. However the worldly life requires the hypothesis of avidya.
Avidya is only our ignorance and nothing more. It is ignorance or forgetfulness of the Self. Can there be darkness before the sun? Similarly, can there be ignorance before the self-evident and self- luminous Self? If you know the Self there will be no darkness, no ignorance and no misery.
It is the mind which feels the trouble and the misery. Darkness never comes nor goes. See the sun and there is no darkness. Similarly, see the Self and avidya will be found not to exist.
Q: How has the unreal come? Can the unreal spring from the real?
A: See if it has sprung. There is no such thing as the unreal, from another standpoint. The Self alone exists. When you try to trace the ego, which is the basis of the perception of the world and everything else, you find the ego does not exist at all and neither does all this creation that you see.
Q: It is cruel of God’s leela [play] to make the knowledge of the Self so hard.
A: Knowing the Self is being the Self, and being means existence, one’s own existence. No one denies one’s existence any more than one denies one’s eyes, although one cannot see them. The trouble lies with your desire to objectify the Self, in the same way as you objectify your eyes when you place a mirror before them. You have been so accustomed to objectivity that you have lost the knowledge of yourself, simply because the Self cannot be objectified. Who is to know the Self? Can the insentient body know it? All the time you speak and think of your ‘I’, yet when questioned you deny knowledge of it. You are the Self, yet you ask how to know the Self. Where then is God’s leela and where is
its cruelty? Because of this denial of the Self by people the sastras (scriptures) speak of maya (illusion), leela, etc.