Question 201-03: How is it this universe appears as real?

Mt KailashIn the asrama of Sage Vasishtha, the young Rama continues to ask questions, seeking a clarified intellect. He asks about the kinds of ego, the inability of the jiva to see beyond maya to the nectarine form of Atma, and how is it that this universe appears as real?

tattva-gyan the knowledge of Reality; wisdom or knowledge of that thou art

tattva San. n. ‘thatness’ – real nature, essence, principle; truth, reality, the Absolute (brahman); one of the five elements; the chemical elements.

sattvic Hin. sattvika San. adj. endowed with the quality of sattva – pure, good, virtuous, serene and contented.

moksha: liberation, for salvation, and of liberation, liberation from material bondage

ahankār Hin. ahankāra (aham+kāra) San. m. ‘I-maker’ – egoism, the individuating principle which is the basis of this world of duality, the sense of personal self; pride. The ego is the identification with a name and form and in the case of the ‘bound’ entity, ‘enveloped by the consciousness of doership’. Only within the illusion of separateness can the question of bondage arise – without identification with the ego, there is no individual to take responsibility for actions, therefore no bondage and no liberation.

atmaswaroop: cf. atmaswarupa; Consciousness, the Self, original nature, our true essential nature. (embodiment, form of the Atma)


Question 201: Sir, what are the types of ego ?

Answer: Ramji, there are three types of ego. Two kinds of ego. resulting from tattva-gyan (knowledge of reality), are pure and sattvic. These are superior and bestow liberation (moksha). The ego of the third type is the cause of repeated rebirths.

According to the ego of the first type, a jiva cognises that I am everything and there is nothing outside me. In the second type he realises that I am the witness that is supremely subtle and am free from imaginations. Both these types of ego are conducive to liberation.

The cognition that I am a body, is the third type of ego. This type of ego (ahamkara) is the cause of the universe and is extremely harmful; neither happiness nor peace accrues from it. Abandon it and you will attain bliss. The variegated universe that is cognised is not independent of Atma but is an aspect of Atma (Atmaswaroop). This realisation is attained by a jiva after much practice. A jiva cognises Atma everywhere and in everything only when he attains subtlety with spiritual discipline.

The reflection of Atma is seen in subtlety and not in gross cognition.

Question 202: Sir, why are jivas oblivious of Atma that is beautiful, indivisible and immortal?

Answer: Ramji, a jiva cognises himself as a body due to ignorance, and because of this the Atma is forgotten, and the body itself is cognised as the Truth. The greater the forgetfulness of Atma, the stronger is the body-ego, resulting in suffering and misery. It is because of ignorance arising from forgetfulness of Atma that the entire universe with a vast diversity of forms is cognised. When a jiva regards the manifest universe as an illusion, and is thus engaged in spiritual discipline, then the entire universe merges and non-dual wisdom arises. Thereafter, nothing but Atma is experienced and the jiva himself becomes Atmaswaroop. Ramji, cultivate discrimination (vivek) and dispassion (vairagya) and be always engaged in spiritual discipline.

Question 203: Sir, how does this manifest universe appear as real?

Answer: Ramji, the entire universe is a reflection of Atma. Atma is sat (real) and by virtue of its support the reflection-like universe also appears as real, but it is unreal (asat). In fact, truth or existence (sat) is the nature of the indivisible Atma. A universe is cognised as real (sat) due to ignorance; it merges on the attainment of wisdom and then Atma only is sustained.


Bhaktha: Maya means?
Swami: The Ajnanasakthi of the above said Parabrahmam …

Bhaktha: Ajnanasakthi means?
Swami: I told you, did I not? The incapacity to understand Brahmam… though you are fundamentally Brahmam. That is Ajnana.

Bhaktha: Well, how does that Ajnana produce all this Jagath?
Swami: The Ajnanasakthi does not allow you to see the rope; instead it imposes the snake upon it; it makes you see the Jagath, where there is only Brahmam.

Bhaktha: Swami, when there is only the Adwaitha non-dual one, how did the creation of all these worlds happen?
Swami: You have come back again to where we started from! Even if I tell you now, it is very hard to grasp. Still, since you have asked, I shall tell you. Listen. The Ajnanasakthi exists in the latent form in the rope itself. That is to say, it is latent, unmanifested in the Brahmam. This is also called Avidya. It has as its base, Brahmam, which is Chith and Ananda. Of the two powers that Maya has, the Aavarana and the Vikshepa, the Aavarana veils the Brahmam and the Vikshepa makes it manifest as Manas. The Manas creates all this panorama of name and form through the exuberance of Vasanas.

Bhaktha: Wonderful, Swami. How wonderful is this Prakriti! What is the distinction between the waking stage and the dream stage?
Swami: Both are of the nature of illusion; in both, we have the Vasanas operating. The Jagath is the stable illusion; the dream is the unstable illusion. This is the distinction, there is no other.

Bhaktha: Swami, how can it be said that this Jagath is unreal, when it is concrete and capable of being experienced in a variety of ways?
Swami: It is a delusion that hides the reality from the understanding, the Jagath is as much a superimposition on Brahmam, as a series of pictures on the wall.

Bhaktha: Avidya is said to be Anaadi, isn’t it? Why then is it blamed so much?
Swami: The beginningless Avidya is ended when Vidya dawns. This is only logical. Darkness is destroyed by light. Every object has five parts: Origin, nature, function, period, result. But in the case of the Paramatma these cannot be enunciated, though everything that has evolved as if from Him, has them. Maya alone has no explicable origin. It is its own proof. It is there in Brahmam, with Brahmam: It is An-adi. No cause can be given to explain how it manifested itself, so luxuriously. As a bubble rises through force of its own nature, up from the water, a force which takes the form of Nama rupa emerges from the limitless, the full, the Paramatma. That is all. It is only the ignorant who will speak ill of Avidya: really there is no well or ill.

Bhaktha: How can it be said the Maya has no origin or cause? Just as the potter’s handiwork is the cause for the clay to take the form of the pot, the Sankalpa of Iswara is essential for the force latent in Brahmam to become patent.
Swami: In the final dissolution, or Mahapralaya, Iswara too will become nonexistent. Brahmam alone will exist, isn’t it? Then, how can the Sankalpa of Iswara be the cause? It cannot be. While considering this subject, you should not take Brahma, Vishnu and Iswara as three separate entities. These three are forms shaped by the three Gunas. All three are one Paramatma. But, since it is difficult to understand the working of the world, it is explained and grasped as three; three forms engaged in three types of actions, bearing three names. At the time of creation, dissolution is absent. Both can coexist only beyond time. Man who exists in time, action and cause can never hope to grasp it. When you transcend the three Gunas, you too can attain that, but, not till then. So, without spending time in such un-understandable problems, engage yourself in the things you urgently need, traversing the path, which will lead you to the goal.

Sandeha Nivarini Dialogue XVII


House on frozen lake
How is it that this universe appears real?


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.”

Pixabay/jing wang

Pixabay/Karl Egger

Image Credit: Pixabay/jing wang, Pixabay/Karl Egger