In the history of world philosophy I would like you to understand something parallel, a gestalt. There have been philosophers like Shankara, in India, Bradley in England, Hegel in Germany, and many more all over the world. These three can be said to be the most representative of a certain gestalt. They all say that the world is illusory, it is only an appearance. It is not a reality, it is not more than a dream. The real is experienced only in your innermost being. Except for your inner being, everything that you see is just ephemeral. In India they call it maya. The word maya means: as if you are seeing a magic show in which nothing is real. Or it can also mean a mirage – what happens in a desert when you are too thirsty, tired. You suddenly see far away a beautiful small oasis, trees, a lake. You see not only the lake, you see the reflection of the trees in the lake.
It is impossible to deny the reality of an oasis. But as you come close the oasis goes – simply where, you cannot say. It simply disappears. There are no trees, and there is no lake and there is no reflection of the trees. The people, the travelers, the caravans that have been passing through deserts know very well where are the true oases and where are only ephemeral oases. But to the new traveler it is impossible to make any distinction. They look exactly the same.
The desert creates such an illusory reality, and because of your thirst you tend to believe in it. If you were not thirsty perhaps you may not have believed. You would have suspected, doubted, you would have questioned. But you are so thirsty that this is not the time to disbelieve in the oasis. To disbelieve in the oasis is simply to accept death because of thirst. You are so thirsty you start trusting, believing in that which is just created by the rays of the sun, reflected from the sand of the desert.
When the rays reflect back they shimmer, they move. And those shimmering rays going back to the sun create the illusion of water, just as the water shimmers. And in those shimmering rays a kind of mirror effect is created, and because of that mirror effect anything that is around it is reflected. This mirage is another meaning of maya.
The world by Shankara, by Hegel, by Bradley is rejected as only appearance, not authentically true. It is as true as a dream, but not more than that. And there is another school of philosophers in India. The greatest of that school is Brihaspati.
In Greece the greatest of the other school is Epicurus and in Europe, Karl Marx. These three are representative of materialism. They say matter is the only reality and consciousness is illusory. They say just the opposite: what you see as objects, material – that is the only true world. Your body is true, but you are not true. Your consciousness is only an ephemeral effect, a by-product, just like the mirage in the desert.
Strange that these two kinds of philosophies have existed always side by side. And strangely, neither a single materialist has ever crossed the line to become a spiritualist nor vice versa – they both go on parallel…Not a single person is being convinced by the arguments of the other.