Lately I have been reading the Yoga Vasishta translated by Swami Venkatesananda. In the book Sage Vasishta gives the supreme teachings on the true nature of reality and the Self to Lord Rama. It is one of the greatest classic yogic texts on the meaning of Advaita Vedanta.
According to Advaita Vedanta the absolute essence of all things is One, the supreme reality called Brahman, or God. The world is relative in relation to this absolute and therefore, ultimately, unreal. And the absolute essence of each individual is the exact same as Brahman the absolute, as opposed to our relative nature in this relative world.
The yogic teachings tell us that the relative world that we create around us is a product of our mind. It is based on our latent tendencies, desires, thought patterns, etc. Each person necessarily sees the world through their own set of filters. What one person enjoys, another disdains – totally based on the way one’s own mind processes things and not at all on the nature of the objects around you.
Because only the absolute can be ultimately real and permanent, the relative world we create around us is unreal, and therefore, impermanent. It is to be thought of as one long dream, at the end of which we realize our true nature and become one with the absolute. The path of yoga is one way to speed up this process of realization.
Here is an excerpt from the book where Sage Vasishta is explaining the nature of the mind to Lord Rama:
O Rama, whatever one thinks within oneself in his own intelligence, that alone is experienced by him. Even nectar is experienced as poison by him who fancies it as poison. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends, depending on one’s inner attitude. The object is experienced by one strictly in accordance with one’s inner feeling. To a suffering person a night is an epoch; and a night of revelry passes like a moment. In dream a moment is non-different from an epoch…
The yogi knows that it is one’s own mentality that turns sweet things into bitter things and vice versa, and friends into enemies and vice versa. In the same way, by changing the angle of vision and by persistent practice one can develop a taste for the study of scriptures and for japa, etc., which were uninteresting earlier. For these qualities are not in the objects but only in one’s own thinking: just as a sea-sick man sees the world go round, the ignorant man thinks that these qualities abide in the objects…
This world is nothing but a mere vibration of consciousness in space. It seems to exist even as a goblin seems to exist in the eyes of the ignorant. All this is but Maya (iilusion): for there is no contradiction between the infinite consciousness and the apparent existence of the universe. It is like the marvellous dream of a person who is awake.
Swans Reflecting Elephants, Salvadore Dali, 1937