The Upanishads, the Brahmasutra and the Bhagavad Gita form the core texts (dharsanas) of Vedanta and are known as the Prastanatraya. The study of Vedanta has given rise to many schools of thought where the primary aim is realisation of the Supreme Brahman.
Adi Sankara established the Advaita system of philosophy, which believes in the non-dualistic aspect of Vedic teachings. Remarkable insight, clarity of thought and extraordinary wisdom characterise this preceptor’s philosophical teachings, pointed out Sri Krishnamurthy Sastrigal in a discourse.
Central to the Advaita tradition is the belief that this world of thought and matter is not real — not in the sense that it is non-existent. This gives rise to a paradox: that the apparent world is and is not. It is neither real nor non-real.
On the one hand, the existence of the world in its variety of names and forms and of its source in the Supreme Brahman is accepted; on the other, this same world has only an apparent existence, runs the argument. Adi Sankara resolves this paradox by superimposing the world on the Supreme Brahman and by viewing it as Maya.
The reality of this apparent world disappears when one is enlightened about the eternal aspect of its basis. When we see the essence of what we are made of — our eternal Self alone by delinking the body and its associations from it, we perceive the world and our relationship to it in a different light.
The effusive involvement with worldly matters takes a backseat and we gradually learn to live in the world in a detached manner. We realise that this body is the result of our past karma and of its tendency to bind us to the world.
The analogy of the serpent and the rope brings to light the kind of deception that arises from mistaken identity.
When a rope is thought to be a snake, the accompanying fear is a natural outcome, and this goes away when it is shown to us that in reality, it is not a snake but a mere rope. Similarly, to an enlightened person, the complexities of life’s experiences that we undergo — pleasure and pain, fear and anxiety, joy and sorrow — are alike to the fear of a non-existent serpent.