When one investigates the nature of world and oneself, the remarkable similarity of dream-world with waking-world simply amazes. It is bewildering to observe that by no logic can one establish as to whether the world before us is of dream or of waking. One can never say definitively that he is dreaming or waking. However, the existence of oneself is never in doubt. This has led to theories which state that everything before us is illusory while I myself am the only reality for my existence can never be in denial. Further, the body-mind-intellect etc are also illusory and hence non-existent and only IS can be said about myself. I exist, I am etc are the only statements which can be made about myself independently. The world before us is thus theorized to be illusory and hence non-existent. So, even when one sees the world before, one gets into witnessing mode, sakshi-bhava which leads to complete detachment and helps in being with one’s own self alone without agitation of mind.
However, there is a phenomenal statement given in Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad Bhashya by Shri Sankaracharya. It reads as follows-
यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं जिघ्रति तदितर इतरं पश्यति तदितर इतरं शृणोति तदितर इतरमभिवदति तदितर इतरं मनुते मदितर इतरं विजानाति यत्र वा अस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत्तत्केन कं जिघ्रेत्तत्केन कं पश्येत्तत्केन कं शृणुयात्तत्केन कमभिवदेत्तत्केन कं मन्वीत तत्केन कं विजानीयात्.
The statement explains that transactions are possible only when there is as-if-duality i.e. द्वैतमिव. This is so because when this world before us becomes our own Self – यत्र वा अस्य सर्वम् आत्मा एव अभूत् – then transaction becomes impossible.
It is clear that sakshi-bhava does not transcend as-if-duality. This is so because there is constant and tacit averment in the transactions that I am permanent whereas the world before me is non-existent and illusory and hence I am a mere sakshi to this illusory world. The duality of existent-me and non-existent-world remains and hence it will not lead to absence of fear. It is a no brainer to state that absence of desire and hence resultant peace cannot be there unless there is absence of duality. Duality-as-if too needs to go if peace is to dawn. Ishavasya says it as follows:-
यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद्विजानतः । तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः
Thus it is noticed that sakshi-bhava cannot be the final thing for it will not lead to cessation of moha and shoka. It will lead to disenchantment and that with a rider of uncertainty of its longevity. For when there are two, nothing can be precluded.
Thus, it is obvious that unless everything else is not understood as one’s own Self, the object of peace will remain a mirage. But how can it be? I am existence whereas everything else is non-existence. How can non-existent be understood as existence?
Here comes an important concept of swaroop, one’s own essential nature. Swaroop of X is Y if and only if X can never exist without being Y. Now a pot can never exist without being clay. Hence, clay is the swaroop of pot. A little thinking would reveal that the material cause is the swaroop of an object. Chhandogya Upanishad then emphatically declares that my own Self is the material cause of this entire world and I alone am the swaroop of the world. It is mind-numbing as to how could I, the changless entity, be the material cause of the world. However, one takes solace from the fact that even the omniscient Rigveda doesn’t have an answer to this as it reveals in Nasadiya Sukta by stating:-
को अद्धा वेद क इह प्र वोचत्कुत आजाता कुत इयं विसृष्टिः |अर्वाग्देवा अस्य विसर्जनेनाथा को वेद यत आबभूव ॥६॥
इयं विसृष्टिर्यत आबभूव यदि वा दधे यदि वा न |यो अस्याध्यक्षः परमे व्योमन्त्सो अङ्ग वेद यदि वा न वेद ॥७॥
But, after all, who knows, and who can say, whence it all came, and how creation happened?
the gods themselves are later than creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen?
Whence all creation had its origin, he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows – or maybe even he does not know.
Now this phenomenal piece of knowledge gives several insights. I share according to my own limited understanding. It no longer remains the case of anyone that the creation is illusory for then there remains no mystery therein. It is as clear as sunlight. It is like a trick, a dream, hypnotism. That’s it. The mystery is gone and Nasadiya Sukta is rendered superfluous poetry. That is certainly avoidable considering the omniscience of Rigveda. Another insight is that the how of creation cannot be known. It is an unknowable. The only thing which can be known and then subsequently realized is that I am the swaroop of the world. That I am different from the world but the world is not different from me. This realization is what is famously known as sarvatma-bhav.
So, the idea is that the same world can be seen with two ways just as a jar can be seen with two views. One is the drishti of material cause while is the other is that of the effect. With cause-vision, there is no transaction and is similar to the states of deep sleep or Samadhi. With effect-vision, it is sarvatma-bhav, understanding that everything is I myself. And thus one goes beyond fear. Thus, a jnani too has jagrat-swapna-sushupti like us. It is the case of none that a sage doesn’t dream. But the difference is that he has sarvatma-bhav in jagrat and swapna while swaroop-bhav in sushupti. Needless to say, this understanding has obvious connotations of difference between waking-world and dream-world. While the dream-world has material cause of my mind, the waking-world has material cause of I myself.