The Status of the World

December 6, 2011

Question: Isn’t there a philosophical contradiction in being concerned for this world (others) whilst at the same time being aware it simply isn’t real, a mere projection from our minds which should evaporate once we are absorbed by the Real?


Shunyamurti’s Reply: This question displays a very common misunderstanding of the Advaita yoga philosophy.  The Advaita sages do not say, as the questioner assumes, that the world “simply isn’t real, but a mere projection from our minds.”


Rather, it is our ego minds that are not real, and the world is real, but not the way that the ego perceives it. The ego perceives the world as a collection of separate material entities. The physicist’s ego presumes the reality of cause and effect that can be traced back to a big bang, the singularity before which there is neither time nor space; the biologist assumes that a process of random natural selection has brought about evolution of life forms; most scientists assume that consciousness is a random byproduct of neural complexity.


It is not that the world is unreal. It is that all these theories are inadequate, and that by superimposing our grid of concepts over the real world, we have entered a matrix of maya, or illusion. And in addition to the conscious scientific theories of reality, every ego has personal unconscious ideas—phantasies—about the nature of reality that come from earlier periods of existence, including the infantile and even prenatal phases of life, as has been demonstrated by psychoanalysis. Other thinkers, like Carl Jung, add that there are even more layers of thought projected from archetypal realms of the collective unconscious, or what he later came to call the objective psyche.


The Advaita sages go further, and assert that that the power of consciousness can be traced to even more subtle levels of supramental, transpersonal consciousness. From these sublime levels of realization, the world is recognized as indescribable by any conceptual scheme. The close