Ashtavakra Samhita, Chapter 1, Verse 10
yatra vishvamidam bhaathi kalpitam rajjasuparvatah
aananda-paramaanandah sa bodhasthvam sukham chara
This universe is an illusion like a rope that appears as a snake. When you realize that you are blissful supreme intelligence, you will live happily.
Know that the world is an illusion
The concept of Maya or illusion is very unique to Hinduism. Traces of its can be seen in the Vedas where seekers of liberation are advisied to renounce their minds and bodies and concentrate upon their spiritual selves. The same idea was extended later to include the whole material univese and the entire manifestation. With that, Nature (Prakriti) becamse synonymous with Maya. The idea that creation is a projection or reflection also agrees with the concept of Maya and the associated practices such as renunciation, detachment, and indifference.
Advaita Vedanta holds that the world is a temporary formation, or a product of God's imagination (kalpitam). The snake and the rope analogy is a very commonly used in Advaita (nondualism) to explain its central doctrine that the world is an illusion and Brahman is alone true. However, you cannot literally take that analogy to explain the phenomenon of creation.
In the rope and snake analogy, the snake never exists except in your imagination. In the world and Self analogy, the world exists as a projection or imagination only in Brahman's consciousness. Since, we are also part of that imagination, for us the world appears real. We cannot penetrate that veil of illusion because we are in it.
To know that it is imagination or illusion, we must become detached from the world, enter Brahman's consciousness, and experience oneness with it. Only then we will be able to grasp the truth that the all this that we know as the universe is just a temporary formation in divine consciousness whose essential nature is supreme bliss. When we enter that state, we enter the true state of Brahman. We become free from bondage and experience supreme happiness. "Sukham chara" means you will live happily or you will go by the path of happiness. The idea is when you realize that you are blissful, supreme intelligence, you attain the consciousness of Brahman and realize that the world is an illusion. Thereafter, you will remain happy forever.
People who question the idea that the world is an illusion, since they can touch it, feel it and experience it, must remember that they cannot see it otherwise because they live in the same illusion and are part of it. They are in God's dream. Hence, they cannot see the truth. Any dream that you experience is real for you, until the dream lasts. When you are inside the dream and part of it, you do not know that you are in the dream. You take it for real.
We are inside the dream of Brahman which appears so real. Hence, everything that has been happening in this dream is real for us. We will come to know the real truth, only when we step out of the dream and enter the original state of Brahman. It is what we call supreme Self-realization or liberation. Since only a few experience it, for the rest of us Maya or the idea of illusion remains a mere theoretical concept, which cannot be validated.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
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- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary Process
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- Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life
- prajnanam brahma - Brahman is Intelligence
- Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs From The Perspective Of Hinduism
- The Definition and Concept of Maya in Hinduism
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- Self-knowledge, Difficulties in Knowing Yourself
- Hinduism - Sex and Gurus
- The Construction of Hinduism
- The Meaning and Significance of Heart in Hinduism
- The Origin and Significance of the Epic Mahabharata
- The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism
- Three Myths about Hinduism
- What is Your Notion of God?
- Why Hinduism is a Preferred Choice for Educated Hindus
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