World an Illusion?
Devotee: I cannot say it is all clear to me. Is the world that is seen, felt and sensed by us in so many ways something like a dream, an illusion?
Maharshi: There is no alternative for you but to accept the world as unreal, if you are seeking the Truth and the Truth alone.
D: Why so?
M: For the simple reason that unless you give up the idea that the world is real, your mind will always be after it. If you take the appearance to be real you will never know the Real itself, although it is the Real alone that exists. This point is illustrated by the analogy of the ‘snake in the rope’. As long as you see the snake you cannot see the rope as such. The non-existent snake becomes real to you, while the real rope seems wholly non-existent as such.
D: It is easy to accept tentatively that the world is not ultimately real, but it is hard to have the conviction that it is really unreal.
M: Even so is your dream world real while you are dreaming. So long as the dream lasts, everything you see, feel, etc., therein is real.
D: Is then the world nothing better than a dream?
M: What is wrong with the sense of reality you have while you are dreaming? You may be dreaming of something quite impossible, for instance, of having a happy chat with a dead person. Just for a moment you may doubt in the dream saying to yourself, ‘Was he not dead?’, but somehow your mind reconciles itself to the dream vision, and the person is as good as alive for the purposes of the dream.
In other words, the dream as a dream does not permit you to doubt its reality. Even so, you are unable to doubt the reality of the world of your wakeful experience. How can the mind which has itself created the world accept it as unreal? That is the significance of the comparison made between the world of wakeful experience and the dream world. Both are but creations of the mind and so long as the mind is engrossed in either, it finds itself unable to deny the reality of the dream world while dreaming and of the waking world while awake.
If, on the contrary, you withdraw your mind completely from the world and turn it within and abide thus, that is, if you keep awake always to the Self, which is the substratum of all experience, you will find the world, of which alone you are now aware, just as unreal as the world in which you lived in your dream.
The Jnani and the World