As per scriptures, there are three fundamental worlds. One is a world of animate creatures that walk and talk. These are humans, animals, birds, insects, etc. Then there is a second world. It is the world of inanimate creations, like rivers, mountains, rocks, etc. When these two worlds interact with each other, then, a third world comes into being. This is the world of action, the world of karma. This world sees a plethora of subtle traits like emotions, feelings, desires, attractions, attachments, etc. All these three worlds together form world. World in sanskrit means tree. The Katha Upanishad defines the world as:-
The world is a banyan tree– a tree of eternity. It has its roots in heaven above and its branches reach down to earth. It is Brahman, pure Spirit, who in truth is called the Immortal. All the worlds rest on that Spirit and beyond Him no one can go.
The world is a tree, but an inverted one. The Almighty Lord is the root and the leaves, branches and stems constitute the world. The way the roots of a tree are the life source for its whole structure; likewise, the roots, i.e. the Almighty Lord, the Creator– who is on the top, sustains the world.
Everything in this world is mortal. Therefore, it is captive! It binds us, it restricts our immortal nature. There are four main attributes of world.
The first one, as the philosophers have termed, it is the crocodile clutch.
It's hard to get released once you are trapped in a crocodile's clutch. Such is the true nature of world. The great seer Bhartrihari said–
“We seek to enjoy the world; but in reality
we ourselves get enjoyed by the world!”
Such is the dense trap of the world. Stand under a banyan tree and look up into it. You will see only darkness. The dense leaves would clutch even your vision. You will get lost in the mesh of its branches. The wise ones have defined world as a cycle of birth, sorrow, death and rebirth. Here, every creature and creation takes a form, faces sorrows and miseries, leaves the form and, then, again comes into form. The leaves of a banyan tree grow, dry, shed and again appear. The growing of leaves represents the birth, their drying up is the sorrow, the shedding off symbolises death and budding up again denotes rebirth. This cycle goes on and on. Likewise, a human being falls in the trap of birth, sorrow, death and rebirth. Strange is the fact that this cycle of world talks about birth, sorrow, death and rebirth; but nowhere do we find any mention of happiness! Nowhere do we find any mention of satisfaction, any scope of liberation!
The second attribute of world relates to ignorance. The world clouds our vision. Like we don't see the roots of the tree, similarly, due to our own ignorance we don't see the immortal Lord who is the source of all creation. Rather, we remain engaged in revelling in His creation and are lost in it.
The third attribute of world is that it is deceptive. You look at a road from a distance in hot summer; you will see water on its surface. The moment you move closer to the spot, you realise there is no water. It's just a mirage. Something that appears to be, but is actually not there. Such is the promising nature of world. It shows you dreams of happiness, but gives you misery and sorrow.
And, the fourth attribute is that world is impermanence. Look at the sky in the morning; it appears white. The same sky appears yellow at noon, orange in the evening, and black at night. It's ever changing. Such is the nature of world. Nothing in this world is permanent. What happens when you go for a movie in a cinema hall? For those couple of hours, you are just lost in the life that you see on the screen. You start identifying yourself with the characters in the movie. You laugh with them, cry with them, sing with them, and enjoy with them. But the moment the movie is over, you realise that it was not real. It was just a temporary phase. That's how world is, impermanent! But you get trapped in it. These sorrows, joys, excitements, and tensions– all are temporary. So, why while away our time on something that does not have a real existence? The Upanishads sing aloud– O Lord! Lead us from the unreal to the real! Why did saints and seers who were learned call the world as unreal when they actually could see it? It is because they knew all that is apparent in this world, is not real.
Saint Brahmananda advised– “Don't give your body and mind to the world and its sensual enjoyments, as the world shall destroy them.”
However, just like the inhabitants of Plato's cave, we also believe our limited vision to be the expanse of life. We fail to realise that it is just a delusion, a self-deception! This deception prevails not only at the macro level, but also with respect to the microcosm that resides in us. The great saint of India, Goswami Tulsidas says in the revered text Ram Charit Manas–
“The soul is a particle of divinity, immortal, conscious, untainted by maya, and blissful in nature. Such a soul has allowed itself to be dominated by maya and has been caught in its trap like a parrot and a monkey.”
Plato denotes this world as a cave and inside this cave are small prisons, i.e. we the humans, who were supposed to be the kings on planet earth but have deliberately chosen a life of slavery for ourselves– slavery to the world… slavery to the dictates of the mind… slavery to the sensual enjoyments…
It's time to break the bars of mortal consciousness. It's time to unlock our true reality. It's time to get liberated. Remember, liberation is not a function of death; it is a function of life! But, the moot question is– 'How to get liberated?' In this context, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna–
“The divine science is the most profound knowledge embedded with the practical realisation of the immortal soul. Its enlightening tendency can liberate one from all sorts of delusions.”
The divine science or the Divine Knowledge, which Plato calls as Self-Knowledge is the key to our locked reality. The Upanishads call it Brahm Gyan, the knowledge of the Brahman, the knowledge of the divine, the knowledge of the immortal. They say that only through Brahm Gyan can we realise our true nature, which is Sat-Chit-Ananda! Once we learn to establish ourselves in the Soul, then no one can shackle us anymore. And, that is what is termed as true liberation. We become detached to the circumstances and move around like a free soul. It's just like a brown coconut which remains detached from inside. You try your best to hammer it from the outside, but nothing happens to the fruit inside the shell.
Another important aspect to be considered here is that whenever we want to learn something, we approach a person who is experienced in that particular art or knowledge. For instance, if we want to learn physics, we go to a physics teacher. To learn music, we look for a music teacher. In a similar manner, to acquire the knowledge of the Soul, the knowledge of the spirit, we need to reach out to a Spiritual Master. Through Brahm Gyan, he makes us realise that we are not this body, mind, or the intellect; instead, we are the Soul, the divine particle, sprouted from the bosom of the Lord Himself. That is the moment when we are integrated with the Self. It is then that we experience eternal bliss; we experience what is true liberation!