Ignorance of the 10 fools

“Hence I say – know that you are really the infinite, pure Being, the Self Absolute. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. What keeps you from knowing is ignorance, like the ignorance of the ten fools.” – Sri Ramana Maharshi

This is a tale told by the great sage to illustrate the delusion of the ego-centric self. The I or self whose sight is perpetually occluded and veiled by Maya, not seeing the true Self that is already there. Filters, blinkers, ignorance….. How many times have we caught ourselves thinking just like these 10 fools?

Here is the story.

Once upon a time, ten men who were on a journey together came to a stream. They forded the stream and just to ensure that everyone got over safely, did a head count. Each time they counted, they found only nine. “Oh no, we have lost one!” And then the counting was repeated yet again. And again there were nine. They were very much grieved by their loss.

A passerby saw what was happening and decided to help them. He said, “I will knock each one of you on the head and as I do so, say your number out loud.” He gave the first of the ten men a gentle knock on the head, “One”, the first of the ten men said in a loud voice. “Two”, said the next; and so on and so forth till the last man said, “Ten”. 

“There you are. Ten of you, all here safe and sound.” The ten men rejoiced to find that no one was missing and thanked the passerby profusely for helping to remove their grief.

The moral of the story serves to illustrate Sri Ramana Mahashi’s basic teaching and that is self-realisation. All of his teachings revolve around one singular thing: Who Am I? This eternal question is also the foundation of the ancient teachings of Advaita Vedanta – the non-duality knowledge (literal translation), the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, etc, etc.

The tenth man was never missing; just that his presence was not ‘seen’ or ‘realised’. That just about sums up our own predicament when we are not aware or realise the truth of us. Who Am I? Who is suffering? If we understood the truth of the tenth man, there ends our misery and suffering. We would have to remove our blinkers, filters, and everything that goes under the label of Ignorance before we come close to realising this truth for ourselves. And this is the reason for our strife in this incarnation, every incarnation till the truth is known and we are free from the Wheel of Samsara.