The young Rama, seated before the sage, asks how to get rid of the illusion of the Universe. The answer, while long, is the foundation of self-knowledge and self-awareness: realise that all this the atma; it is two sides of the same coin, the reality and the illusion. It is a privilege to sit at the feet of a Loka guru such as Vasishtha; the story of Sage Vyasa illustrates same.
What is a god-realised person? What is their state, their awareness of life in the veil of the cosmic illusion? Do we have body-awareness when god-realisation comes? How is it achieved? Saga Vashishtha answers the questions of the youthful Lord Rama.
Much is made of knowing this world, and wending a path through the knots that lead to home and hearth, happiness and peace. Without awareness of the Divine Atma within, the journey through this illusion called human life is fruitless. The mind is the master instead of being the servant.
The stars are only visible in the night sky. Yet, in the daytime, we know the stars are there and will appear again once night descends. What then of our mind – which creates this world – unreal and real at the same time? To what effort do we put the mind to know the atma? Once it was said, bend the body, end the senses, mend the mind. Let us explore along with Sage Vasishtha and the enquiring Rama.
The journey through duality has many, many individual souls believing this life, this experiential universe is all that exists. Few if any, are masters of the mind, and fewer have encountered the light within, the self-effulgent Light that is one with all that is: Ayam Atma Brahma.
We are constantly challenged by our senses, our worldly experience. What is real, what is unreal? We chant asatoma, the mantra that prays that we are lead from the unreal to the Real. How do we reach that destination, that experience? Do prayers, pujas, yantras, pilgrimages, take us to that far shore of human experience? Does bhakta – devotion, or jnana – wisdom, take us there? The young Rama, astute student, asks.
The universe arises on account of the binding illusion we are born into. This world is real, yes, we are bound by thoughts, words, actions. Our forming and relating ideas strengthens the binding power of maya to the mind. Hence, we think ‘this is all there is’, erroneously.
What passes for observance of the real things in life might change as we move through the ages of life: childhood to young adulthood, to parent, on to retirement and finally, seclusion from the world-at-large. We might watch it all go past, and conclude as some do, “sic transit gloria mundi”, thus passes the glory of the world. And “so-called” glory it is; if we become attached, we return again and again until we learn that everything is Brahman.
“From the Unreal, lead us to the real” says the eternal prayer that rises nightly from the hearts of millions. The world is the unreal, and when the mind is turned towards the world, dissatisfaction arises. Suffering arises, and the cycle of death-birth-death-again is assured. We must arrive at the discovery that our minds are our instruments, not our master. Turn it towards the world, you have discontent and suffering; turn it towards the heart, the home of the inner resident, you have peace, contentment.
What is that one thing, which, when known, all other things are known? It is taught that religious principles must be experienced, and their validity tested. By what inquiry, which path do we take to arrive at the knowledge of that by which all is known in all universes?