Ramana Maharshi and the Cinema Screen Analogy

This post is just a demonstration to point out how the awareness is unchanging but the contents of the awareness keep changing…

Ramana Maharshi often used the analogy of a cinema screen. The contents of the screen keep changing but the screen itself doesn’t change. The same way, You, the Self or the pure awareness doesn’t change while the contents of the consciousness keep changing…

Ramana Maharshi and cinema screen analogy

Ramana Maharshi and cinema screen analogy

Ramana Maharshi and cinema screen analogy

Ramana Maharshi and cinema screen analogy

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Ramana Maharshi and cinema screen analogy

The first step in the spiritual path is to understand this difference and understand this pure awareness as you. Abiding as the witness or pure awareness and not getting identified with each thought, emotion, and sensation that arises and passes away is the direct form of meditation which leads to a complete cessation of the sense of a separate and consistent self. This finally leads to a oneness, in which the observer and the observed merge together, with no distinctions. (Please note that this merger is different from the initial identification).

I have explained in detail about this practice in my recent book “The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta

(Indian readers click here)


Here are some quotes from Ramana Maharshi, using this analogy:

1. Or again, take the instance of the cinema. Scenes are projected on the screen in the cinema-show. But the moving pictures do not affect or alter the screen. The spectator pays attention to them, not to the screen. They cannot exist apart from the screen, yet the screen is ignored. So also, the Self is the screen where the pictures, activities etc. are seen going on. The man is aware of the latter but not aware of the essential former. All the same, the world of pictures is not apart from the Self. Whether he is aware of the screen or unaware, the actions will continue.

2. Devotee:  What is sphurana (a kind of indescribable but palpable sensation in the heart centre)?

Ramana Maharishi:  Sphurana is felt on several occasions, such as in fear, excitement, etc. Although it is always and all over, yet it is felt at a particular center and on particular occasions. It is also associated with antecedent causes and confounded with the body. Whereas, it is all alone and pure; it is the Self. If the mind be fixed on the sphurana and one senses it continuously and automatically it is realisation. Again sphurana is the foretaste of Realisation. It is pure. The subject and object proceed from it. If the man mistakes himself for the subject, objects must necessarily appear different from him. They are periodically withdrawn and projected, creating the world and the subject’s enjoyment of the same. If, on the other hand, the man feels himself to be the screen on which the subject and object are projected there can be no confusion, and he can remain watching their appearance and disappearance without any perturbation to the Self.

 3. “Wakefulness passes off, I am; the dream state passes off, I am; the sleep state passes off, I am. They repeat themselves, and yet I am. They are like pictures moving on the screen in a cinema show. They do not affect the screen. Similarly also, I remain unaffected although these states pass off.”

4. “The pictures in a cinema show are only shadows passing over the screen. They make their appearance; move forward and backward; change from one to another; are therefore unreal whereas the screen all along remains unchanged. Similarly with paintings: the images are unreal and the canvas real. So also with us: the world-phenomena, within or without, are only passing phenomena not independent of our Self. Only the habit of looking on them as being real and located outside ourselves is responsible for hiding our true being and showing forth the others. The ever-present only Reality, the Self, being found, all other unreal things will disappear, leaving behind the knowledge that they are no other than the Self.”

5. “There are scenes floating on the screen in a cinema show. Fire appears to burn buildings to ashes. Water seems to wreck vessels. But the screen on which the pictures are projected remains unscorched and dry. Why? Because the pictures are unreal and the screen is rear “

6. “You see pictures moving on the screen in a cinema show. When you are intent on the pictures you are not aware of the screen. But the pictures cannot be seen without the screen behind. The world stands for the pictures and Consciousness stands for the screen. The Consciousness is pure. It is the same as the Self which is eternal and unchanging. Get rid of the subject and object and Pure Consciousness will alone remain.”

 7. “Still another example: Scenes are projected on the screen in a cinema show. But the moving pictures do not affect or alter the screen. The seer pays attention to the pictures and ignores the screen. They cannot remain apart from the screen. Still its existence is ignored. So also the Self is the screen on which the pictures, namely activities, are going on. The man is aware of the latter, ignoring the former. All the same he is not apart from the Self. Whether aware or unaware the actions will continue.”

8. “So many pictures pass over the cinema screen: fire burns away everything; water drenches all; but the screen remains unaffected. The scenes are only phenomena which pass away leaving the screen as it was. Similarly the world phenomena simply pass on before the Jnani (one who knows the truth about himself), leaving him unaffected.”

9. “You do not leave one place for another. You are always stationary. The scenes go past you. Even from the ordinary point of view you sit in your cabin and the ship sails but you do not move. We see a picture of a man running several miles and rushing towards us but the screen does not move. It is the picture that moves on and away? 

 10. “Everyone sees only the Self. The divine forms are only like bubbles in the ocean of Reality, or like pictures moving on a screen.”

11. “Lying down on your bed in a closed room with eyes closed you dream of a City, the crowds there and you among them. A certain body is identified as yourself in the dream. The City and the rest could not have entered into the room and into your brain: however, such wide space and duration of time were all perceptible to you. They must have been projected from the brain. Although the world is so big and the brain so small, is it not a matter of wonder that such a big creation is contained in such small compass as one’s brain? Though the screen is limited, still all the pictures of the cinema pass on it and are visible there. You do not wonder how such a long procession of events could be manifest on such a small screen. Similarly with the objects and the brain? “

 12. “Who is this ‘I’? It cannot be the body nor the mind as we have seen before. This ‘I’ is the one who experiences the waking, dream and sleep states. The three states are changes which do not affect the individual. The experiences are like pictures passing on a screen in the cinema. The appearance and disappearance of the pictures do not affect the screen. So also, the three states alternate with one another leaving the Self unaffected. The waking and the dream states are creations of the mind. So the Self covers all. To know that the Self remains happy in its perfection is Self-Realisation. Its use lies in the realization of Perfection and thus of Happiness.”

 

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Author: Shanmugam

I am a blogger and a self-published author. My book "The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta" is a guide to the ultimate freedom, bliss and oneness. The book is based on my own experience.

7 thoughts on “Ramana Maharshi and the Cinema Screen Analogy”

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey as a seeker. It’s really inspiring to read that people can be liberated from the “self” in this life! I was wondering if you have read the book “Enlightenment:Behind the scenes” by Marc Leavitt. His description of enlightenment is, to some level, similar to those standards raised by those gurus, such as seeing void(which I think is complete thoughtless), and seeing the beginning and the process of creation. It so happened I was impressed by the cinema screen analogy in his book and then I read this post. Maybe he was influenced by Ramana Maharshi, but he also wrote many other analogies to explain awareness and duality. Anyway, if you ever come across this book, I’d really love to hear about your thought. Thanks!

    Like

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