Question 118: The body is imaginary

The White HorseSri Vasishtha narrated the story of King Lavan to young Rama. This story illustrates the strength of the mind to create illusion and separation from Brahman. Everything in this world, including the body, is an illusion. The Atma passes from body to body. Lord Krishna taught that the mind accompanies the Atma to the new body. This is the point Vasishtha is making to young Rama. The mind causes the illusions.

chidakash: the akash or the space of Chit. the Absolute Consciousness; the all-pervading spirit.

chittakash: mental space

chitta: individual consciousness

prakriti: primordial nature, disposition; root-matter, the original or natural form or condition of anything, matter, form.

param – Hin. adj. parama– San. prefix (superlative of para) supreme, best, perfect, most glorious, in the highest degree, most excellent, ultimate, transcendental, mightiest, most remote, further than.

Paramatma: The Supreme Soul; the Supreme Being;

vichar Hin. vichara San. m. deliberation, thought, reflection, pondering; discrimination, examination, self-enquiry: ‘Who am I?’


Question 118: Sir, what are ideations and images (reflections) which, though unreal, are perceived as real?

Answer: Ramji, this body is imaginary. As is the imagination, so is the body created; it is like a reflection. There dwells in this body a ghost-like ego, because of which an individual undergoes numerous sufferings. But in reality it is one Paramatma that assumes itself to be a multiplicity of objects, of names and forms and manifests itself as duality, i.e., it permeates through everything. There is nothing except Paramatma. It shows that ego, too, is a non-entity. Just as sparkles radiating from a diamond are not independent of the diamond, but are an aspect of the diamond, so the universe, witnessed in Atma, exists in Atma or is an aspect of Atma, and is perceived as a multiplicity due to ignorance. Ramji, abandon ignorance and attachments and be absorbed in Atma; you become pure and non-attached and thus intact. Abandon the unreal and assimilate Atma which is of the nature of bliss. The multiplicity experienced is non-existent; only the Absolute (Brahman) exists in all respects. The objects, bodies, bondage, liberation – all are non existent in the Absolute. All that is experienced is ideational and illusory. Ideation being unreal, how can I explain what the ideation, illusion, mind and reflection are? It is only due to the illusion that the unreal is perceived as real. The universe with names and forms is a creation out of Paramatma. In the beginning, the ideation of ego arose in Paramatma, and then arose the mind out of which the vast expanse of the universe has arisen. The mind misconceives big as small, right as wrong, Atma as anatma (not-atma), near as distant, and vice versa. It creates the universe in a moment and then liquidates it in an instant. The entire universe – time, places, objects, actions etc., — is a creation of the mind, and it imparts feelings of reality. The senses function according to the convictions arising in the unsteady mind. Things happen as the mind functions; the body is incapable of any activity in the absence of mind.

(To explain the point further, Sri Vasishtha narrated the story of King Lavan, which is briefly presented here. Understanding this, the seeker will realise what the mind — an aspect of the ideation – is capable of and how, with the potency of the ideation, it creates and recreates instantly, and gives to the individual experiences of things that are illusory. Like a magician, it gives experiences of the non-existent.)

Once upon a time, there ruled in a country – called Uttrapad – a king named Lavan. He belonged to the dynasty of King Harishchandra. King Lavan was highly pious and enjoyed fame all over. One day, while he was in his court, a magician named Indrajali arrived there and proposed to show a magic to the king. He pulled out a peacock feather and waved it at the king. Instantly, the king started having very queer experiences under the magical spell. He visualised one of his subordinate kings presenting him with a beautiful horse. No sooner had he (Lavan) mounted the horse than it took him off to a distant place. Immediately, the expression on his body changed and this put the courtiers in great consternation and they became worried as to what had happened to the king.

But soon the king gained partial consciousness and showed signs of body movements. Looking at the courtiers he asked anxiously where he was and who was the ruler of the place. The amazed courtiers replied, “Your Majesty, what is troubling you? You are generous, gentle and non-attached. How have you undergone such a change? You are conscientious and discriminating and are a spiritual aspirant. Why, then, this anxiety and suffering to you?”

The king then gained more consciousness and collecting himself became alert. Looking at the magician he shouted, “You devil! What did you do to me? My mind that is constantly engaged in spiritual endeavour experienced, under your influence, so many illusions in just a few minutes.” Then he started narrating to his courtiers what he had experienced in the state of unconsciousness under the illusion. He said, “When Indrajali waved the peacock feather at me, it appeared to me like sun-rays changing into a rainbow. Then I saw that someone brought a horse to me, which I mounted. It took me at a great speed to a distant land that was barren and dreadful, and not a drop of water was available there. I found myself very miserable. I heard sounds of birds at a short distance and hoped to get water and food there. But I was disappointed and became still more miserable. I went forward and at a distance I saw a maid with pots of cooked rice and fruit juice. I requested her to give me something but she declined saying that I looked like a king and she was a person of low caste and could not permit me to partake of her food.

On my persistent entreaty she agreed to give me some food, provided I agreed to marry her. I agreed and then she gave me some food. Thereafter she took me to her father and I married her. They consumed nothing but flesh. I had to take that and lived like them. In due course I had a daughter, a son after three years, and more children later. I became a person of low caste and had to suffer there for a long time. Once there was a severe drought and famine and I decided to go elsewhere with the family. I had forgotten my princely self and firmly conceived myself as a low-caste. During famine no food was available. My youngest son cried for food and asked for some meat. Though I explained the difficulties to him, he would not understand. Ultimately out of attachment I proposed to roast my body and offer it to him. This pleased him immensely. Collecting some firewood, I made a fire and then jumped into it. My body started burning and trembling, which you could see. Thereafter I regained consciousness. I have explained fully what I experienced under the spell of the magician and it was an illusion.” As soon as the king finished his narration, the magician disappeared.

Ramji, I have explained in this story the states and powers of mind. Due to ignorance, many attachments are experienced in the mind. One finds salvation when the mind attains quiescence. Therefore, abandon the ideational mind and be established in Atma.

Ramji, when consciousness (chitta) forgets Atma, numerous illusions arise and one keeps wandering on account of attachments. Primevally, consciousness is an aspect of Paramatma but when it forgets Brahman, and is directed outwards and is engaged in ideation, then the illusion of the universe is experienced as a reality. It shows that the unreal mind is the creator of the vast universe which in fact has not been created. One suffers because of baseless illusions. Just as a child gets frightened on perceiving a ghost in his shadow, so the mind ideates of the universe and suffers. When the mind becomes free from the mundane ideations, and is firmly stabilised in Atmic state, all sufferings cease instantly. This state of freedom from suffering is achieved after prolonged efforts. Therefore, be engaged in spiritual endeavour continuously so that you attain Atma.

As you progress in your spiritual endeavour, you will approach Atma gradually and, in due course, you will visualise nothing but Atma, and your illusions of the world will vanish. Fools are scared of the immortal and fearless state. This fear is imagined owing to ignorance which is a product of latent tendencies (vasana) in consciousness. Ramji, be free from these latent tendencies so that you may become fearless. This is the Atmic state. As is the conviction of the mind, so it is experienced as a reality. Latent tendencies are a strong barrier before Atma. Those who erase their tendencies, through contemplation and practice, see the Atma vividly. The actions of mind succeed.

Without mind, the body is inert and can do nothing. Mind, and not body, is the agent (doer) of all actions. Abandoning the ideas of body, you should free your mind of the ideations, and be fixed in Atma so that you may experience Atma in all states. It is the mind that gives the experiences of the big in the small, of the small in the big, of the real in the unreal, of the unreal in the real, of a friend in a foe and of a foe in a friend. As is the state of mind, so are the objects experienced. It is this mind that gave the experience of twelve years in one night to King Harishchandra, and that of numerous ages in a few minutes to King Lavan. As is the tendency in the mind, so are the objects presented in front. The senses function according to the tendencies in the mind, because the mind is the base for the senses. Senses are non-functional when the mind is not associated with them.

Ramji, therefore, disengage your mind somehow from all other things and concentrate on Atma constantly so that you are able to attain liberation. It is the mind that manifests Brahman as a multiplicity of objects, places, time and modalities and gives experiences of one thing in another.

Ramji, know for certain that just as ignorance is a product of the mind, so is knowledge. Therefore, direct your mind rightly in correct endeavour with the force of the mind so that you may attain to the Atmic state. The instability of mind is removed with detachment and thereafter the mind functions in the right direction. When the instability of mind is removed, the individual attains to the supreme peaceful state.

Ramji, I shall now tell you the easy ways to control mind, and if you follow them, you will attain to the supreme state:

  1. Always reflect and practise on Atma that is real and permeates the perishable bodies, objects, etc.
  2. Realise that all objects with names and forms that are experienced on account of Atma are perishable, and renounce all these.
  3. Just as one resolves and strives to attain the material objects, so fix your mind constantly on the attainment of Atma. This way your actions will gradually become pure and your latent tendencies will vanish.

What I have told you is the great mantra for controlling mind; it is not controlled in any other manner. When, after a great endeavour, the consciousness becomes quiescent or non-ideational, then all illusions of the world disappear. Family, wife, children and objects are not perceived; nothing except Atma remains. That is your true self which is always pure and free from all faults.


The White Horse
He visualised one of his subordinate kings presenting him with a beautiful horse. No sooner had he (Lavan) mounted the horse than it took him off to a distant place.


Hamsa Gayatri
Om Hamsaaya Vidmahe
Paramahamsaya Dheemahi
Tanno Hamsa Prachodayat

“May we realise Hamsa that is our own Self as the Swan. Let us meditate on that Paramahamsa, the Supreme Self. May Hamsa illumine us.”