nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ ।
ubhayor-api dṛṣṭo'ntas-tvanayos-tattva-darśibhiḥ ।।
The verse has profound meaning and suggestion. Sri Krishna says, “Asat (the Unreal) has no expression, existence, at all. And the Sat (the Real) will never go out of expression. The difference between these two has been clearly ascertained by the Seers of Truth”.
Sat and asat are opposed to each other. Only by contrast each can be understood in relation to the other. Sat, the Real, by definition can never cease to be. It will also remain the same throughout. Such an unnegatable expression alone goes by the name ‘Real’ or ‘true existence’ So, when ever you think of Sat, understand that it can never cease to exist.
Opposed to this is Asat, the Unreal. The Unreal is defined as that which never comes into being any time. So we cannot perceive or experience anything like Asat, for the simple reason that it never exists. It can never come to be at any time, even by mistake or exception.
Compare the two propositions now and find out their clear difference, to arrive at the conclusion which the two inevitably drive the enquiring mind to.
If Sat is something that has always to be expressed, and Asat is something that can never come into expression, is it not clear that Sat alone can exist, is existing and Asat is never a matter of perception any time? That means whatever we see, hear, touch, smell and taste, can only be the Sat. Otherwise, how can we perceive them?
True. But apply the full test of Sat to the things we perceive with our senses. Should they reveal the true nature of Sat, if they are to be regarded as Sat? This will mean that whatever you see or perceive now, should continue to exist and remain ever the same. No destruction or change of any kind should be there in them. For any change will mean disappearance of what is. But is this the case with the world objects? On the other hand, changefulness is the sure note of the world as a whole. But for continuous changes, neither will our life be possible nor will the world’s course be there. To change means to leave whatever is and to become whatever is not.
The earth revolves, the plant and animal life constantly grow and change. Every particle of matter undergoes incessant internal changes. Anything big or small changes either visibly or otherwise. Such changefulness is contradictory to the nature of Sat, whereas the objects could not exist if they were Asat, the opposite. Because Asat has no possibility of ever being present at all.
On the ground of being perceived, the objects and the world seem to be Sat. But on the ground of their changefulness, the very same things disallow themselves to be regarded as Sat. In whatever we perceive around thus, there is a sure measure of Truth, Reality and equally there is a measure of UnReality too. But can there be a mixture of truth and untruth ever? In the matter of the world and our perception of it, such a paradox is strongly present. What is then this mystery?
To look like Sat first, but subsequently falsifying that status; again appearing as Asat, but refusing to be treated as such; thus to be defying both the Sat and Asat categories – what is the term to be used to denote such self-falsifying phenomenon? It is something indescribable, unintelligible. Such an indescribable feature is what the word Māyā denotes!
By Māyā we do not mean anything totally absent. If something were absent, where is the question of its expression in any form at all? We always mean by Māyā some expression, which defies assessment either as Sat or as Asat. Mayic revelations make us perceive them for what they are, and in that process, lead us to think the why and wherefor of it. Following such an enquiry, they will stand falsified, their appearance or existence would stand totally disproved.
The best, example for such an illusory manifestation is our dream state. Do not think you have, only one mental state in your life. Wakefulness or waking state, in which we perceive our own body, mind, the external objects and the world, is just one of the three states we have. Like wakefulness there is the diametrically opposite state called deep sleep (sushupti). Deep sleep state is quite opposed to waking state: In sleep we sense nothing whereas in waking we perceive ourselves and others around. The one who cognizes himself and the rest now, will sense neither himself nor the rest around after he goes to sleep. Nonetheless, he is and was alive in sleep state.
So, the widespread awareness of the waking state, in which one’s own and the others’ existences are strongly felt, seem to be only a part of the total awareness of man. As the waking state reveals this widespread world, so the deep sleep state of ours disproves it altogether. Is then the waking state or the sleep state the true basis of our perception, awareness?
Again, besides the no-awareness deep sleep state and all awareness waking state, there comes the dream state in which we sense many things similar to the waking world, all of which are suddenly disproved just when we wake up. In dream all those were fully valid. But in waking none of them seems to be there. Where, how and due to what did the dream objects come to be?
The dream seems to be fully valid during its currency. Dream hunger is appeased by the dream food, as waking hunger calls for food from the waking world. From where did the dream space emerge? And how did the manifold dream objects hover in it?
The whole dream world obviously prevails without interfering with the waking world and objects. The dreamers body (as seen by the others in the wakeful world) lies intact on the bed, while he (the dreamer) travels to distant places with the dream body, the creation and prevalence of which do not in any way intercept the waking body. How can such a situation be? You may argue that no ground or reasons can be adduced for the dream phenomenon. Nevertheless, the dream experience is as valid as the waking experience. Both are had by the same person. Who wakes now is the same person that sleeps later or slept earlier. And that sleeper and waker alone also dreamt or will dream. Though the waker, sleeper and dreamer are three distinct words referring to three distinct states, all the three are doubtlessly the same individual, identity.
So which state is true and fundamental? The wakeful or the sleep or the dream? Or something yet different from all these three?
As the dream is purely illusory, so is the waking also purely illusory! Without our waking up; the waking world cannot come into expression. That the waking state world has grossness associated with it does not make any difference to the actual truth about it. Things can be gross and subtle. To be gross does not give anything any greater value than that of the subtle. Grossness is a creation of the waking state of man. Man wakes up all by himself, in himself, for himself. And as suddenly becomes aware of himself, so too he becomes aware of the others around. Awareness of oneself and that of the other things around are two allied aspects of the same wakefulness. As is one’s awareness, so is the awareness about others in the world. Do not split or separate the two to any degree whatever.
From dream we wake up naturally by dint of our own biological process. From waking we have to awaken by another process — the pursuit of enquiry, of reason and its finding. The processes may be different, but their emphasis and lessons cannot be unacceptable.
Are we to take our position on the three mental states together and be governed by what our sober reasoning tells us? Or shall we remain duped by what our senses see and hear and our mind unauthentically thinks in haste? Senses perceive the gross plurality of objects, no doubt. But we have not alone the senses in us to guide and determine matters. As senses do their task so intelligence does its task too. Where intelligence penetrates, the senses cannot reach.
So the, waking state world and objects are there, to be perceived by the waker. At the same time, the waking intelligence also is there to go into the meaning of the whole phenomenon and lead us to the sleep state negation and the dream state illusion, which too are equally perceived by every living individual. Before the enquiring and ascertaining intelligence, the valid perceptions of the senses stand disproved and the status of ‘Reality’ for them falls to the ground completely.
These perceptions are there, but on questioning you find that they have no right to be. This kind of self-duping perception, the subject or object of such perception, is what we call illusion or Māyā. Māyā is an amazing, bewildering, elusive phenomenon. And it will remain elusive ever!
This is about the objects and the world surrounding us. Think now about the inward constantly alternating sukha-duhkhas within us. As alternates or duals (dvandva) they constantly come and go. How can they be assigned then the status of Reality? To be true, Sukha, should ever be; .and duhkha must never be or vice versa. But instead, sukha comes only to subside soon, and so too duhkha, rises, only to set soon subsequently. Such emergence and subsidence, within seconds and minutes, can never give either of them any credence or credibility. At best they are like the dream emergence of the sleeper. In the sleeper, the whole dream is a causeless emergence. So too in the waker sukha and duhkha are supportless emergences. They cannot be regarded as the Sat. At the same time, they cannot be pushed aside as Asat, for in that case neither would be felt or referred to at all.
It is all thus the sheer illusoriness, displayed by the Sat alone. Sat has such illusory powers. Every existing thing has its inseparable property or quality. Sat, the only singular unparalleled existence, has got its unique quality, which will be dissimilar to all the others we see and interact with. Do not question it negatively. At best you may wonder at it supremely! And you do not have to go very far to do so. Dream is just within your body That which can cause the illusion of dream, can also cause the illusion of waking state, despite all its grossness and physicality.
The wonder-causer is no other than yourself, who for a time displays himself as the waker, then reveals himself as the sleeper and sometimes equally manifests himself as the dreamer. That entity, identity, is neither a bodily aggregate nor a mental or intellectual complex. It is far beyond, too inward, supremely great and transcendental.
It is the one unmistakable subject in all. The singular consciousness, which remaining unchanged brings about all the objects to be conscious of. The consciousness alone is Real; the objects brought about to be conscious of, are all verily illusory.
The Real one subject displays all the illusory variety. But this variety alone will make us search for the Real. The one, the Real, never changes. It always exists: Sometimes as the waker, then as the sleeper and also as the dreamer in between. The ‘as- this’ and ‘as-that’ expressions get disproved; but the one subject in all these survives eternally.
In waking, all the objects prove illusory but the unchanging perceiver of them proves its Reality. In the dream also the same subject alone stands out as the Real, leaving all the others as illusory. The same is the case with sleep also. The unconsciousness felt in sleep is illusory, but that which is conscious of this sleep—unconsciousness is the Real.
The sukha and duhkha of waking and dream states are the two constant mental alternates of all interactions between the senses and the world objects. These two, alternating as they are, are instantly illusory. But the subject of either remains the same, ever so. Sukha-duhkhas are themselves, objects for the subject ‘I’. Thai is why in sukha, one says, ‘I am happy’. And it is the same I that becomes later ‘unhappy’. In happiness and then in unhappiness, the I remains the same. Happiness and unhappiness themselves are illusory. And this illusoriness is caused by the ‘I’ which proves its multi-potence by causing such manifold display.
Thus Krishna’s focus on the Real-Unreal distinction, referring to the insight of the Seers, inevitably leads the seeker to a deeper examination of the entire visible and objective phenomena. It also compels him to examine the Constituents of his own personality and reach its very base. The illusoriness of whatever is ‘externally perceived’ and ‘internally experienced’ is bound to become clear in the process. With that the single changeless substratum of both will also shine forth distinctly.
Taking one’s attention away from the gross as well as subtle objects, however recurring and stupendous these be, and fixing it on one’s own consciousness, is the inevitable consequence of this finding.
One point should be constantly remembered: Krishna’s discourse, far from being theoretical or speculative, presents and emphasizes the actual enquiry and pursuit of the seeker. This sublime and austere note of Bhagavad Gita should be remembered well by all Gita students. The message is clearly to eschew the unreal at all costs, for the lack of any permanent worth in them, and to adhere earnestly to the Real by all means, inspired and led by the lofty lessons which the intelligence faithfully provides.
(Part of the Series Essential-Concepts-In-Bhagavad-Gita)