Non-reality of the world

Greg Goode goode at DPW.COM
Tue Oct 14 15:01:56 CDT 1997

At 01:37 PM 10/14/97 -0400, sadananda wrote:

>Relating to the world - There is an objective world and then there is a
>subjective projection of the objective world.  One is, it is, therefore I
>see it - and second is I see it, therefore it is.   Error can creep in both
>of them.

A small point, and maybe even off the subject, but...


        "there is an objective world and therefore I see it"

is by no means to be taken for granted, even for non-Vedantins.
For instance, in my grad school incoming class in Philosophy (Western),
several of us became Berkeleyans.  In the Berkeley seminar, you couldn't
get an A unless you argued in favor of Berkeley.  So, wanting a good
grade, I looked into his philosophy very carefully.  Made sense to
me, and I stayed with it till I learned Vedanta, and even then it retains
a certain elegant appeal:

        (1) Nothing exists without being perceived.
        (2) That which perceives is the mind.
        (3) That which is perceived is an idea.
        (4) God is the source of all ideas.
One of the consequences of (1) - (4) is:
        (5) Unperceived (e.g., material) objects do not exist.

I'm not asking anyone to go along with this, I'm just saying it's a cogent,
credible metaphysic that entails no external world.  And it's just one
person's philosophy.  Any Western idealist (Bosanquet, Blanshard, Hegel,
probably not Kant because of his faith in the Ding-An-Sich) would agree.

In Vedanta, for example, the idea is more that the outside world is
imagined or created.  E.g., the Drig-Drishya Vivek (attributed to Adi
Shankaracharya) states:

        "The thought modifications of the inner equipment
        having attained an identity with the reflection
        of Consciousness, in the ream state project
        impressins, and in the waking state imagine
        objects outside with the sense organs."

                --Sloka 11


>From  Tue Oct 14 16:42:22 1997
Message-Id: <TUE.14.OCT.1997.164222.0400.>
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 16:42:22 -0400
Reply-To: chandran at
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: unreality of the world
Comments: To: Advaita List <advaita-l at>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

This posting is a continuation of the discussions by G. Murthy and
others. Though the confusion is real, but the reasons for the confusion
are unreal! Let me start my discussion with the following quotation:

" Brahman is REAL; World is UNREAL; But World is Brahman"

Our Logical mind while tuned to an intellectual framework is ready to
jump and will conclude that the above statement is nonsense! It can make
sense if and when we free us from the web knitted by our sensory
perceptions! One of the possible approach is to understand after
expanding the definitions.

(1)  What is REAL? According to the scriptures, REAL is PERMANENT. Also
REAL has no boundary of TIME and SPACE.  Permanency will imply that
REAL  does not change.

(2) What is the definition for Brahman?  Brahman is Eternal and
Permanent. This implies that Brahman satisfies the condition for REAL.
Hence, Brahman is REAL.

(3) What is UNREAL?  Any violation of definition (1) is UNREAL.
Everything that we know about the WORLD violates one of the two criteria
defined in (1).  HENCE the world is UNREAL.

(4) Why is the WORLD Brahman?  This is a tricky question.  To understand
this question, let us define the following TWO WORLDS:
(A) The WORLD of Brahman
(B) The WORLD of Human Perception

The WORLD of Brahman:
First, it is necessary for us to agree that the perceptions of Brahman
and human are different.  Only when the humans become the Brahman, the
perception of the Brahman can be experienced.  Human is a relative
concept and Brahman is the absolute concept. The WORLD with the absolute
perception is Brahman and hence it is REAL!  Not only the question is
tricky, but the answer is also tricky. First, we should proceed to
understand the WORLD of Human perception and then we should come back to
understand the absolute phenomenon.

The World of Human Perception:
        Human perception is an ever evolving concept.  There are different
stages of Human Perception at different stages of life.  The perception
and the perceiver changed from childhood to adulthood. Our body, mind
and intellect underwent extensive changes which changed our perception
of the REALITY of the UNREAL world before us.
        This is an opportune time for an illustrative story.  After completing
his studies, young Arjun applied and attended several job interviews.
He got three job offers and refused all of them for different reasons.
Just to get approval of his decision, he went to his father and
explained his decision.  Arjun's father asked him to meet Krishna, the
wise man for proper advice.   Arjun went to Krishna and enthusiatically
described the pitfalls of the three jobs and why he refused all of
them.   Krishna patiently listened to Arjun and suggested that Arjun can
select any one of those three jobs and work for at least five years.
After five years, if Arjun comes back, Krishna will be able to give the
solution.  Arjun asked Krishna, does it take that long to get the
solution.  Krishna said, "No, it doesn't take that long for the
solution.  But it may take five or more years for Arjun to get used to
the job and understand the REALITY of Jobs!"  It didn't take too long
for Arjun to understand the TRUTH that REALITY comes only by experience
and not by intellectual analysis.  We can accept any TRUTH only after
experiencing the TRUTH! Observations are illusions where as Experiences
are REAL. Experiences do not need explanations and experiences can never
be explained!
        Mahabharat contains an interesting episode to describe the attitudes of
Dhruyodhan and Yudhistra.  Just before the great war,  Lord Krishna
called  Dhruyodhan and Yudhistra and requested them to search and bring
back a good person and an evil person. After several weeks of search,
both Dhruyodhan and Yudhistra returned back alone without success.
Dhruyodhan explained to Lord Krishna that he couldn't find a single good
person. On the other hand, Yudhistra told Lord Krishna that he didn't
see any evil person at all!  People with an abundance of positive
attitude such as Yudhistra can see only goodness everywhere.  But those
with negative attitudes such as Dhruyodhan visualize evil everywhere.
Every episode in Mahabharat has the goal to illustrate one or more of
the philosophical aspect of the Hindu Religion.  The purpose of this
episode is to illustrate that the WORLD is REAL.  But perception of the
REAL WORLD is UNREAL!  Human perception varies by perceiver according to
his (her) beliefs and spiritual development. When the spiritual
development reaches the absolute stage, the perception is REAL! In this
state, the perceiver has no perception and he (her) accepts the world AS
IT IS! In Advaita, this is SELF-REALIZATION.
        Now let us ask the question: How does Brahman Perceive the WORLD? The
that we can understand  the TRUTH is to experience and get used to
REALITY!  How long does it take us to accept this TRUTH?  The wise-man
gave some clue about the time-framework in the case of a job situation.
In all probability, to accept the world as it is, will likely  take us
much longer.  How long does it take will always remain as an open
question?! Until then we can proceed our life as suggested in the slogan
from the Upanishads: "Life is a bridge; enjoy while crossing; but do not
build a castle on it!"

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list