Reality and delusion

Looking at the reflection of the sun in a jar of water, a man thinks that the reflection itself is the sun. He, in his delusion is unable to differentiate between the sun and its reflection.  Ordinarily, we would call such a man as a foolish person. In Vedantic parlance, as exemplified in Adi Shankaracharya’s ‘Vivekachudamani,’ such a man is called ‘deluded’.

Mistaking a thing for what it is not is termed delusion. Shankara explains that this delusion is born out of ignorance. There are three things here. The jar, the water in the jar and the reflection of the sun in the jar. Beyond these three is the real sun, effulgent, high up in the sky, there for all to see. That is the only reality. Similarly, says Shankara, there is an effulgent, life force, the inner consciousness in every living being, a throbbing, ever present reality. Man has only to make efforts to realise this for his own good. Because, as Shankara says, even making efforts to realise this leads to a heightened level of mental equipoise, which in turn aids in facing the myriad challenges of life. How is this achieved?

In the words of Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi, “When you embark on the path of trying to understand the origin of the ego or ‘I’ sense, the mind acquires the ability to separate the real from the transitory and irrelevant. All the unwanted baggage that the human mind is burdened with gradually falls off, leaving only the one truth, the presence of the divine in the human consciousness”.

So then, what is it that prevents men from understanding this? Or, in other words, why is it that man, with all his abilities, knowledge and education, still gets deluded into mistaking the various material attractions of the world as the givers of happiness and comfort?

Shankara gives an example here. Water that has mud and silt in it appears cloudy and dirty. Filter the impurities and you get clear and pure water. Similarly, the ego sense of man gives rise to his greed, arrogance, pride and vanity.

They are the impurities that mask the inner divinity inside him, rendering him incapable of differentiating between reality and delusion.  “Move towards the reality” exhorts Shankara.

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