What is Meant by "The World Is An Illusion"?

Posted: June 30, 2013 in Illusory, Maya, Vedanta
Question: I have heard highly-enlightened beings saying that the “world is an illusion.” What does this mean? As I understand it, “illusion” means “something that SEEMS to exist but in fact does NOT, or SEEMS TO BE something that it is NOT.” So, how can the world be called an illusion—I  can see it; it is tangible; as real as I can see, feel, smell and sense it.

Answer: This world is a play of colours and sounds. This sense-universe is a play of nerves. It is a false show kept up by the jugglery of Maya, mind and nerves. You enjoy the sensual pleasures for a period of twenty years when the senses are strong. What is this short evanescent period of twenty years in eternity? What is this short despicable, jarring, monotonous sensual life, compared with the eternal and peaceful life in the immortal Self within? If the nerve of taste, the glosso-pharyngeal gets paralysed, you cannot enjoy different kinds of palatable dishes. If your retina or optic nerve is paralysed, you cannot enjoy diverse beautiful forms. If the auditory nerve is paralysed, you cannot hear melodious music. If the olfactory nerve is paralysed, you cannot enjoy various kinds of sweet fragrance. If your sensory nerve of the hands is paralysed, you cannot enjoy soft things. If the nerve origin is paralysed, you cannot enjoy conjugal bliss.

Do you not now clearly see that this world is mere play of nerves? Do you not understand that this universe of opposites is illusory?

You will have to depend upon these nerves and senses for your happiness. If these nerves go out of order, you become miserable, even though you possess enormous wealth. Can you call these little illusory sensual pleasures, which depend upon the play of nerves, as real lasting happiness?

It is mere itching of nerves only, which tickles those deluded souls who have lost their power of discrimination and understanding.

You are deluded or deceived by the senses. That which is changing and perishable cannot be real.

Source: pg. 218, Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta by Swami Sivananda maharaj of Rishikesh

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