“Illusions deceive, colors circumscribe, even divisibles are indivisible.”
This is a rare technique, one not much used, but one of the greatest teachers in India, Shankara, has used it, and Shankara has based his whole philosophy on this technique. You know his philosophy of MAYA — illusion. Shankara says everything is illusory. Whatsoever you are seeing, hearing, feeling, all is illusion.
It is not real because the real cannot be contacted by senses. You are hearing me and I am seeing you hearing me: it may be just a dream, and there is no way how to judge whether it is a dream or not. I may be just dreaming that you are here listening to me. How am I to know that this is real and not a dream? There is no way.
Chuang Tzu is reported to have said that one night he dreamt that he had become a butterfly. In the morning he was very sad — and he was not a man to have sadness, he was never known to be sad. His disciples gathered and said, “Chuang Tzu, Master, why are you so sad?”
Chuang Tzu said, “Because of a dream.”
The disciples laughed and said, “Because of a dream you are sad — you who have been always teaching us not to be sad even if the whole world causes you sadness? And just a dream has caused you sadness? What are you talking about?”
Chuang Tzu said, “It is such a dream that it causes me very, very deep confusion, sadness, misery. I dreamt in my dream that I had become a butterfly.”
The disciples said, “What is so puzzling in it?”
Chuang Tzu said, “Now this is the puzzle: if Chuang Tzu can dream that he can become a butterfly, why not the reverse? The butterfly may dream that it has become a Chuang Tzu. So now I am disturbed. What is right and what is wrong? What is real and what is unreal? Was it Chuang Tzu who was dreaming of becoming a butterfly or has the butterfly now gone to sleep and dreamt that it has become a Chuang Tzu? If one is possible, then the other is possible.” And it is said that Chuang Tzu never could get over this puzzle. This remained for his whole life.
How to decide that I am not in a dream talking to you? How to decide that you are not dreaming I am talking? With senses no decision is possible, because while dreaming, dreams look real — as real as anything. When you dream, you always feel it is real. When dreams can be felt as real, why can reality not be felt as dream?
Shankara says with senses there is no possibility to know whether the thing confronting you is real or unreal. And if there is no possibility to know whether it is real or unreal, Shankara calls it MAYA: it is illusion. Illusion doesn’t mean unreal. Illusion means an impossibility to decide whether it is real or unreal — remember this.
In Western languages MAYA has been translated very wrongly, and it gives the feeling in Western terms that “illusion” means “unreal.” It does not! “Illusion” means the inability to decide whether the thing is real or unreal. This confusion is MAYA.
This whole world is MAYA, a confusion. You cannot decide; you cannot be decisive about it. It is always escaping you, always changing, turning into something else. It is fantasy, a dreamlike thing. This technique is concerned with this philosophy. “ILLUSIONS DECEIVE:” or, that which deceives is illusion — “COLORS CIRCUMSCRIBE, EVEN DIVISIBLES ARE INDIVISIBLE:” In this world of illusion nothing is certain. This whole world is like rainbows. They appear to be, but they are not. If you are far away they are, but if you come nearer they dissolve. The nearer you come, the more they are not. If you reach to a point where you were seeing a rainbow, it is no more there.
The whole world is like rainbow colors, and it is so. When you are far away everything is hopeful; when you come nearer the hope disappears. And when you reach the goal, only ashes are there — just a dead rainbow. The colors have disappeared, and things as they appeared are not. As you feel them to be, they are not.
“EVEN DIVISIBLES ARE INDIVISIBLE:” Your whole mathematics, your whole calculating system, all your concepts, all your philosophy, just become futile. If you try to understand this illusion, your very effort confuses you more. Nothing is certain there; everything is uncertain — a flux, a flux of change, with no possibility for you to decide whether this or that is true or false. What will happen? If you take this attitude, what will happen? If you really go deep in this attitude that everything which cannot be decided is illusory, you will automatically, spontaneously turn to yourself. Then the only point where you can have a center is in your own being. That is certain.
Try to understand this: I may dream in the night that I have become a butterfly, and I cannot decide in that dream whether this is real or unreal. In the morning I may be puzzled like Chuang Tzu whether instead the butterfly may have been dreaming. These are two dreams, and there is no way to compare which is real and which is unreal.
But Chuang Tzu is missing one thing — the dreamer. He is thinking only of dreams, comparing dreams and missing the dreamer — the one who dreams that Chuang Tzu has become a butterfly, the one who is thinking that it may be quite the reverse: that the butterfly is dreaming that she has become Chuang Tzu. Who is this observer? Who was asleep and is now awake? You may be unreal, you may be a dream to me, but “I” cannot be a dream to myself, because even for a dream to exist a real dreamer is needed. Even for a false dream a real dreamer is needed. Even a dream cannot exist without a real dreamer. So forget dream. This technique says forget dream. The whole world is illusion, you are not. So don’t go after the world, there is no possibility to gain certainty there. And now this appears to be proven even by scientific research.
For the last three centuries science was certain, and Shankara looked to be just a philosophical mind, poetic. For three centuries science was certain, but now, during these two last decades, science has become uncertain. Now the greatest scientists say nothing is certain, and with matter we will never be certain. Everything has again become uncertain. Everything looks like a flux, changing. Only appearance looks certain. The deeper you go, the more everything becomes uncertain, indefinite. Shankara says, and tantra has always been saying, that the world is illusory. Even before Shankara was born, tantra was preaching one technique — that the whole world is illusory, so think of it as a dream. If you can think of it as a dream — and if you think at all, you will come to realize it as a dream — then your whole focus of consciousness will turn inwards, because there is a deep urge to find the truth, the real.
If the whole world is unreal, then there is no shelter in it. Then you are moving after, following shadows, and wasting time and life and energy. Then move inward.s One thing is certain: “I am.” Even if the whole world is illusory, one thing is certain: there is someone who knows this is illusory. The knowledge may be illusory, the known may be illusory, but the knower cannot be. This is the only certainty, the only rock on which you can stand.
This technique says look at the world: it is a dream, illusory, and nothing is as it appears. It is just a rainbow. Go deep in this feeling. You will be thrown to yourself. With that coming to one’s own self, you come to a certain truth, to something which is indubitable, which is absolute.
Science can never be absolute. It is going to be relative. Only religion can be absolute because it searches not the dream, it searches for the dreamer; not for the observed, but for the observer, the seer, the one who is aware.