unreality of the world

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Mon Oct 13 11:52:04 CDT 1997

We, the people who subscribe to the advaitic philosophy should accept that
the world is unreal, a mithya, an illusion. (Whether the words mithya,
illusion, unreal mean precisely the same or not, I am not sure, it is
for the intellectuals to spell the difference). But yet, at the crunch
time, we still say that the world is somehow real and are afraid to take
that extra step to emphatically convince our mind that the world is our
imagination only. During the weekend, in my study of Viveka chuDamaNi, the
following three verses (404, 405 and 406) stood out.

Na hy'asti vishvam paratattvabodhat
sadAtmani brahmaNi nirvikalpe
kAlatraye n'Apya'hirikshito guNe
na hy'ambubindurmr^gatr^shhNikAyAm

Even before the realization of the highest truth, the universe does not
exist in the Absolute Brahman, the essence of Existence. There cannot be
seen a snake in the rope or water in the mirage, either in the present,
past or future; so there is no world in that Atman even when it is seen.
It is only seen through ignorance.

mAyAmAtramidam dvaitamadvaitam paramArthatah
iti brUte srutih: sAkshAt sushhuptAvanubhUyate

It is all mAya - this world which is the substance of delusion. But
in reality, it is all One without a second. This is the direct
declaration of the scriptures, and one can realize it in the example
of sushhupti.

AnanyatvamadhisThAnAdAropashya nirIkshitam
panditai rajju-sarpAdau vekalpo bhranti-jeevanah

It is our delusion which superimposes the universe upon Brahman. But
the wise know that this universe has no separate entity. It is
identical with Brahman, its ground. The rope may appear to be a snake,
but the apparent difference between rope and snake lasts only as long
as delusion persists.

In these verses Shri Shankara says that the world is as unreal as water in
a mr^ga tr^shhnA (mirage in a desert) or as snake in a rope. He says
clearly that it (the world) does not exist in kaala traya (past, present
and future). The same view was expressed by GauDapAda in MandUkya kArikA

Adau ante ca yAn nAsti vartamAnepi tat tathA

That which did not exist at the beginning and which is not going to exist
at the end may just as well be considered as non-existent at the present.

Shri Shankara says somewhere else that the kAla traya, the past, the
present and the future themselves are our imagination only.

We have no difficulty in accepting the lack of water in the mirage of the
desert, or absence of snake in the rope. But somehow, we do not seem to
accept (convincingly to our mind and more particularly in our day-to-day
life) that the world and us are as unreal as that water in a mr^ga
tr^shhna. Why do we seem to hold on to this false concept much more than
the other false concepts ?

Gummuluru Murthy
Yadaa sarve pramucyante kaamaa ye'sya hr^di shritaah
atha martyo'mr^to bhavatyatra brahma samashnute   Katha Upanishhad II.3.14

When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and attains Brahman even here.

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