There is evolution, there is sustenance afforded by the Paramatma, there is involution, the withdrawal of all things back to the Cosmic Egg, the Hiranyagarbha, which is verily the form of Brahman. The youthful Rama is beset with questions about what remains after the dissolution of the Universe.
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.
Akshara Brahma Yoga (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7) speaks of the imperishable Godhead. The atma (soul), too, is imperishable. What is not imperishable is the round of birth-death-and-birth again. One day we tire of these experiences and seek the return to our eternal source. How to do this? Most are afraid to speak of dying, and even, afraid to speak in the presence of the dying. Perhaps this selection from the Bhagavad Gita will explain why one or another guru tells those who surround the dying to chant the Om, the manifestation of Source and its creation.
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.