The notion that this world is some kind of illusory phenomenon is not a new idea. As far back as about 6000 years ago, the philosophers of India were talking about the theory of Maya, meaning illusion. And in modern times as more and more in the western world are awakening to ‘spirituality’ and self-development, the illusion theory is becoming more widespread.
Yet it is one of the most difficult areas of knowledge to delve into and understand. This is because all the knowledge in the world is based on the world. It is based on what we perceive through the senses and through scientific equipment which serves as an extension of the senses. Some knowledge is based on inference.
So what exactly does it mean to say that this world is an illusion? The world, meaning this entire realm of experience incorporates various levels of existence, and various dimensions including space and time. Certain things about this world are very real. The world is based on existence itself. One cannot deny existence. Existence is not an illusion. The supreme, all-compassing reality is one. The one homogenous undifferentiated reality that is the basis and the substratum of the entire universe is. It simply is. The ‘is-ness’ is. This is-ness cannot be denied. The is-ness, or existence is not an illusion.
This is-ness becomes differentiated; the unity becomes duality and diversity. Temperature becomes hot and cold. Space becomes high and low. Hot is only hot relative to that which is cold. Hot is a relative phenomenon. To see or understand hot as something that stands alone, as a thing unto itself is the beginning of illusion.
Similarly the whole world and everything in existence forms one complete whole. On a certain level it becomes differentiated into here and there (space); into then and now (time); into water and rock, into tree and fruit, into fish and bird, into man and mouse; into you and me.
Here and there are not separate entities. They exist in relation to each other and are both integral parts of one whole. Similarly with ‘then’ and ‘now’, ‘fish’ and ‘bird’, ‘you’ and ‘me’. To see them as separate is the illusion. Differentiated – yes. Divided – no.
Differentiation is not division. Differentiation is real. Division is an illusion. The concept of separation is an illusion. The ego is an aspect of mind. It is a conglomeration of thoughts. Among the primary concepts it holds is one of separation. Since separation is an illusion, the ego as a separate self is also an illusion. The ego then goes on to build on this illusion of separation, thinking I am incomplete. I am in need. I am inferior or superior to another. I do not know that all of these are illusions. Thus several illusions are piled one on top of the other. The illusion of SEPARATION; INCOMPLETION, LACK, NEED, SUPERIORITY and IGNORANCE.
The illusions have been created and introduced into existence for a very good purpose; they serve reality. Without illusions, reality cannot be experienced. Take separation for example. Before the illusion of separation, all is one. (and since separation is an illusion, in truth all is always one.) But this oneness cannot be experienced because there is nothing to contrast against.
An easier way to understand this is: if everything is existence was white, white would cease to be a thing, a phenomenon, or an experience. It is only when something other than white is introduced, that white can be known and experienced as white.
Similarly with oneness -it cannot be known or experienced as oneness, so created on some deep level of knowing the illusion of separation. Only, instead of using the illusion for the purpose it was created we somehow got caught up in the illusion. We think we are really separate, and then incomplete, needy, inferior and ignorant. When this all seems so incredibly real to us, we suffer.
So how can this insight help you create a better life? Each time you experience this in your life, recognize them to be illusions. The following 3-step process is enunciated in the series of books called ‘Conversations with God”
- See the illusion as an illusion.
- Decide what it means
- Recreate yourself anew.
With the continuous practice of these steps, and other such practices, you develop the skill to quickly move from the illusions we live with, to the reality of oneness, peace, love and joy.