Sunday, April 6, 2008

Q: Sri Bhagavan often says that maya [illusion] and reality are
the same. How can that be?

A: Sankara was criticised for his views on maya without being
understood. He said that

(1) Brahman is real,

(2) the universe is unreal, and

(3) The universe is Brahman.

He did not stop at the second, because the third explains the other
two. It signifies that the universe is real if perceived as the Self, and
unreal if perceived apart from the Self. Hence maya and reality are
one and the same.

Q: So the world is not really illusory?

A: At the level of the spiritual seeker you have got to say that the
world is an illusion. There is no other way. When a man forgets that
he is Brahman, who is real, permanent and omnipresent, and
deludes himself into thinking that he is a body in the universe which
is filled with bodies that are transitory, and labours under that
delusion, you have got to remind him that the world is unreal and a
delusion. Why? Because his vision which has forgotten its own
Self is dwelling in the external, material universe. It will not turn
inwards into introspection unless you impress on him that all this
external, material universe is unreal. When once he realizes his own
Self he will know that there is nothing other than his own Self and
he will come to look upon the whole universe as Brahman. There is
no universe without the Self. So long as a man does not see the Self
which is the origin of all, but looks only at the external world as
real and permanent, you have to tell him that all this external
universe is an illusion. You cannot help it. Take a paper. We see
only the script, and nobody notices the paper on which the script is
written. The paper is there whether the script on it is there or not.
To those who look upon the script as real, you have to say that it is
unreal, an illusion, since it rests upon the paper. The wise man
looks upon both the Paper and script as one. So also with Brahman
and the universe.

Q: So the world is real when it is experienced as the Self and
unreal when it is seen as separate names and forms?

A: Just as fire is obscured by smoke, the shining light of
consciousness is obscured by the assemblage of names and forms,
the world. When by compassionate divine grace the mind becomes
clear, the nature of the world will be known to be not the illusory
forms but only the reality.

Only those people whose minds are devoid of the evil power of
maya, having given up the knowledge of the world and being
unattached to it, and having thereby attained the knowledge of the
self-shining supreme reality, can correctly know the meaning of the
statement `The world is real.' If one's outlook has been transformed
to the nature of real knowledge, the world of the five elements
beginning with ether [akasa] will be real, being the supreme reality,
which is the nature of knowledge.

The original state of this empty world, which is bewildering and
crowded with many names and forms, is bliss, which is one, just as
the egg-yolk of a multi-coloured peacock is only one. Know this
truth by abiding in the state of Self.

~ from Creation theories and the reality of the world chapter, from Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, edited by David Godman

No comments: