By Hasmukh Adhia
October 31, 2018
The essence of Vedanta is described in four words: ‘Brahma Satya, Jagat Mithya’ – the only reality is pure consciousness and all that is manifest in the form of the universe is only Maya, illusion. For an ordinary person, this thought is not only counterintuitive but also unacceptable.
How can this world, with all its colours, beauty and variety, which is clearly being seen and felt by all of us, be an illusion? This is the immediate reaction of most people. There is so much sense of possibility in believing in the existence of this world.
The second question arises: why should i negate the existence of this world as illusion, when it is a field of so much of enjoyment? We eat good food, smell the roses, hear nature’s music and see her beauty, enjoy sensory touch – all these, only with the help of objects of the world. Why should i believe in all these not being real? Does it enhance my happiness?
These questions are addressed in Vedanta. It takes years for someone to understand this sentence and start living by this thought. But to begin with, one can dwell on this thought for a while and analyse it with a view to create a sense of primary possibility.
Consciousness which pervades all objects of the world, is described as limitless, formless, immortal bliss. But, we know that the objects of the world are ever-changing and, in that sense, mortal. Even the cells of living organisms keep changing every second. If we base our happiness on mortal objects, we are bound to feel sorrow someday. Object-dependent happiness is therefore limited and mixed with sorrow.
In a dream, we see a world full of so many people; we see the Sun and the stars, oceans and mountains. Everything in the dream appears so real. There is happiness and sorrow in the dream world. But on waking up, we just forget about it. Even if there was a fire in your dream house, you do not call a fire brigade after you wake up. Everything appeared real in the dream, but on waking up, it became an illusion. Similarly, as Vedanta says, what appears to be real world could be an illusion, like a dream, when we wake up to the knowledge of reality.
One can argue that a dream is different from the real world because we have different dreams every day but we wake up to the same real world. But isn’t it possible that we see a dream in which we see a dream and we wake up to the same dream world? We do dream about an entire lifetime in a single spell.
Let’s take the popular snake-and-rope example in the scriptures. In the darkness, we mistake a rope to be a snake and start fearing it. On switching on the light, the snake disappears and fear also goes. The world when taken as reality, gives us a feeling of being limited and mortal. No amount of power or wealth can remove one’s insecurity fully. And hence sorrow comes some day or other.
When we wake up to the Vedantic thought of the Self being limitless, immortal and pure bliss, and the world being Maya, we can surely be more blissful, and less insecure. Understanding this superior knowledge is the most ideal goal to pursue.