Talk 33. Is the World an Illusion or is it Reality
A visitor: “The Supreme Spirit (Brahman) is Real. The world (jagat) is illusion,” is the stock phrase of Sri Sankaracharya. Yet others say, “The world is reality”. Which is true?
Maharshi: Both statements are true. They refer to different stages of development and are spoken from different points of view.
The aspirant (abhyasi, practiser) starts with the definition, “that which is real exists always”. Then he eliminates the world as being unreal because it is changing. It cannot be real; ‘not this, not this!’
The seeker ultimately reaches the Self and there finds unity as the prevailing note. Then, that which was originally rejected as being unreal is found to be a part of the unity. Being absorbed in the Reality, the world also is Real. There is only being in Self-Realization, and nothing but being.
Again, Reality is used in a different sense and is applied loosely by some thinkers, to objects. They say that the reflected Reality (adhyasika) admits of degrees which are named as follows:
(1) Vyavaharika satya (everyday life) – Example : this chair is seen by me and is real.
(2) Pratibhasika satya (illusory) – Example : Illusion of a serpent in a coiled rope. The appearance is real to the man who thinks so. This phenomenon appears at a point of time and under certain circumstances.
(3) Paramartika satya (ultimate) – Example : Reality is that which remains the same always and without change.
If Reality be used in the wider sense, the world may be said to have the everyday life and illusory degrees (vyavaharika and pratibhasika satya).
Some, however, deny even the reality of practical life – vyavaharika satya, and consider it to be only a projection of the mind. According to them it is only pratibhasika satya, i.e., an illusion.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
4th February, 1935