what is birth and what is death?

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It took me several reads to be able to follow Ramana’s train of thought in this exchange with a visitor. I find that even to be able to grasp intellectually what he says here is illuminating. Much food for contemplation! Enjoy! 

Ramana:

With regard to the question concerning departed souls: so long as a man identifies himself with his gross body, the thought materialised as gross manifestations must be real to him. Because his body is imagined to have originated from another physical being, the other exists as truly as his own body.

Having existed here once it certainly survives death, because the offspring is still here and feels he has been born of the other. Under these circumstances the other world is true; and the departed souls are benefited by prayers offered for them.

On the other hand, considered in a different way, the One Reality is the Self, from whom has sprung the ego, which contains within itself the seeds of predispositions acquired in previous births. The Self illumines the ego, the predispositions and also the gross senses, whereupon the predispositions appear to the senses to have materialized as the universe, and become perceptible to the ego, the reflection of the Self.

The ego identifies itself with the body, and so loses sight of the Self and the result of this inadvertence is dark ignorance and the misery of the present life. The fact of the ego rising from the Self and forgetting it, is birth.

So, it may be said that the birth of the individual has killed the mother (the Self). The present desire to regain one’s mother is in reality the desire to regain the Self, which is the same as realizing one-self, or the death of the ego; this is surrender unto the mother, so she may live
eternally.

Maharshi then read out from the Tamil version of Yoga Vasishta the story of Deerga Tapasi who had two sons, Punya and Papa. After the death of the parents the younger one mourned the loss and the elder brother consoled him as follows: “Why do you mourn the loss of our parents? I shall tell you where they are; they are only within ourselves and are ourselves.

For the life-current has passed through innumerable incarnations, births and deaths, pleasures and pains, etc., just as the water current in a river flows over rocks, pits, sands, elevations and depressions on its way, but still the current is unaffected.

Again the pleasures and pains, births and deaths, are like undulations on the surface of seeming water in the mirage of the ego. The only reality is the Self from where the ego appears, and runs through thoughts which manifest themselves as the universe and in which the mothers and fathers, friends and relatives appear and disappear.

They are nothing but manifestations of the Self so that one’s parents are not outside the Self. So there is no reason to mourn. Learn it, realize it and be happy.”

source PDF file p. 19 – 20

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related article: The Audience on the Screen

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