The superficially contradictory ‘descriptions’ of Brahman as ‘neti, neti’ and ‘sarvaM khalvidaM brahma’ [all this is verily Brahman] are brought out in adjacent verses of the Atma bodha, attributed to Shankara (Swami Chinmayananda translation):
- Brahman is other than this, the universe. There exists nothing that is not Brahman. If any object other than Brahman appears to exist, it is unreal like the mirage.
- All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else. Attaining the knowledge of the Reality, one sees the Universe as the non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.
Here, it is first stated that the universe is not Brahman. But it is also said that any other appearance will be unreal, like a mirage. The mirage is a powerful metaphor because the water that appears is in reality only the sand upon which the appearance takes place. I.e. sand is the substratum of the water appearance, just as Brahman is the substratum of the world appearance. It is then stated that all appearances are, in fact, nothing other than Brahman. But this is realized, of course only upon enlightenment. Until then, the world remains very real. Similarly, to the seeker after water in the desert, the mirage is very real. Continue reading