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The Essence of Vedanta: The Real (Satya) and the Apparently Real (Mithya)
Once you are qualified to inquire, you are capable of gaining the understanding that is liberation.
Every visible, mortal, perishable individual has an inner core or essence which is immortal, imperishable and invisible. This core or essence is called the self. It is what is real. Everything else, the experiences and objects that present themselves to you, the inner core, is apparently real.
The real and the apparently real are connected in an interesting way. How they relate to each other is explained by the following example.
You directly experience a table. It is visible, solid, tangible and weighty. It seems quite obvious. But if you think about it for a minute you will realize that you are not experiencing a table at all.
Why? Because you are actually experiencing only wood. The wood is solid, tangible and weighty, not the table. The table has no physicality, no attributes. It is a misconception to think you are experiencing a table. The table exists in name only, not in actuality.
The word “table” exists to identify wood in a particular form. But the name does not belong to the wood. It belongs to the mind that sees the wood in the form of a table. The table is only a thought that depends on the experienced wood. Wood is one but the possible names and forms of wood are many. The apparent table borrows its existence from the wood, the real substance. It does not stand alone but depends on the wood for its existence.
You – limitless, non-dual, ever-present, ordinary awareness/consciousness – are the “wood” of everything that is experienced. You are existence itself. Every tangible and intangible object borrows its existence from you, limitless consciousness.
So when you see an object, gross or subtle, you should understand that you are only seeing existence/consciousness. Existence/consciousness is you, the essence of everything. So all objects are just you. And since you are existence/consciousness you are free of every object, including the objects nearest to you, your body and mind. This understanding is variously called liberation, enlightenment and freedom. It is not an experience. It is knowledge extracted from experience by inquiry.
If you think that existence and consciousness are two different things, try to separate one from the other. It is impossible; they are two words that refer to you. It is your direct experience that you are only one being. You always exist and you are always conscious. If this is true for everyone, then it is the essence of everyone, not an incidental attribute of some aspect of your being like your body. Therefore there is only one “person” here, not many. Names and forms are many but the consciousness on which they depend – you – is one.