Brahman Alone is Real

Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda

"Brahman is real. His manifestation is unreal."

Self-realized sages behold with an equal eye a learned and humble Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and an outcaste.
—The Bhagavad Gita V:18

Undiscriminatingly engrossed in a motion-picture drama in which appear mountains, oceans, skies, priests, merchants, beggars, cows, dogs, elephants, a spectator accepts the illusion that all the objects are "different." Yet the differences are in appearance only; essentially all the images are composed of relativities of light and shadows.

Objects in the phenomenal world are called relative
because they exist only in relation to each other.

Man's ordinary consciousness is relativity consciousness—i.e., he apprehends one thing only by interpreting it relative to something else. He cannot perceive the One, the Absolute, through that relative consciousness; it was given to him in order to appreciate the nature of the many. Ordinary waking consciousness, subconsciousness, super-subconsciousness—all forms of ego consciousness—share this characteristic: they are relative. The pure superconsciousness of the soul can apprehend Spirit, the Life and Substance underlying and pervading everything in the universe.

The sage rejects a superficial acceptance of the seemingly objective reality of the world (a synchronized motion picture of sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch) and perceives all phenomena as manifestations of cosmic divine light and "technicolored" shadows.

To the man of Self-realization,
Spirit is perceived as reality and creation as
the shadow of the Infinite.

When the universe is called unreal—

Brahman satyam jagat mithya.
"Brahman is real. His manifestation is unreal"

Alternative translation:
Brahman satyam jagat mithya.
Brahman alone is real. The world is an appearance (illusion). Brahman is the world.

—it does not mean that the universe is nonexistent, but that God is the only reality and that the shadow of His manifestation in creation is not like Him. A shadow cannot be produced without an object; therefore the shadow is not nothing! The shadow appears to be like the object from which it is produced, yet it is not the object. (p.556)

Modern science has discovered that the various material elements are nothing more than differently vibrating atoms. The universe is a cosmic motion picture of dancing atoms, which in turn are energy-sparks—not matter at all but vibratory waves.

The vast steps by which a yogi becomes able to say, through Self-realization, that "this universe is a divine dream" are as follows:

In the initial state of ecstasy the yogi is flooded with a supercon-scious joy. He begins to perceive lights and glimpses of the astral world. As his samadhi waxes deeper, his vision embraces the entire astral world that contains the astral counterparts of all the island universes roaming in space. The yogi then dissolves his vision of the astral cosmos into sheer thought forms; he rests in the ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss, feeling It as all-pervading and infinite.

The yogi later comes down to the astral sphere again and then back to body consciousness. He opens his eyes and looks steadfastly at the world before him; he sees himself surrounded by his spiritual eye of astral light. When at will he can vastly expand the sphere of his astral eye, he at once sees within it all the floating island universes. (p.559)