THE WORLD — REAL OR ILLUSIOND.: Is Bhagavan’s teaching the same as Shankara’s?
B.: Bhagavan’s teaching is an expression of his own experience and realisation. Others find that it tallies with Sri Shankara’s.
D.: When the Upanishads say that all is Brahman, how can we agree with Shankara that this world is illusory?
B.: Shankara also said that this world is Brahman or the Self. What he objected to is one’s imagining that the Self is limited by the names and forms that constitute the world. He only said that the world has no reality apart from Brahman. Brahman or the Self is like a cinema screen and the world like
the pictures on it. You can see the picture only so long as there is a screen. But when the observer himself becomes the screen only the Self remains.
Shankara has been criticized for his philosophy of Maya (illusion) without understanding his meaning. He made three statements:
that Brahman is real,
that the universe is unreal, and that
Brahman is the Universe.
He did not stop with the second. The third statement explains the first two; it signifies that when the Universe is perceived apart from Brahman, that perception is false and illusory. What it amounts to is that phenomena are real when experienced as the Self and illusory when seen apart from the Self.
The Self alone exists and is real. The world, the individual and God are, like the illusory appearance of silver in the mother of- pearl, imaginary creations in the Self. They appear and disappear simultaneously. Actually, the Self alone is the world, the ‘I’ and God. All that exists is only a manifestation of the
The Vedantins do not say that the world is unreal. That is a misunderstanding. If they did, what would be the meaning of the Vedantic text: ‘All this is Brahman’? They only mean that the world is unreal as world but real as Self. If you regard the world as non-self, it is not real. Everything, whether you call it illusion (Maya) or Divine Play (Lila) or Energy (Shakti) must
be within the Self and not apart from it