Vedanta defines this world as illusion, or maya in Sanskrit. Ma means not, ya means that. Literal translation of the word maya is not that. The world we experience not that, it is an illusion. This world is as real as a dream.
When we are dreaming, our dream seems real to us. We experience the same emotions in a dream as we do in awake state. In a dream we can be happy, sad, angry, afraid. While dreaming we are creating our own reality. And in a dream the reality which we crated seems real to us. Sometimes when we wake up we might wonder if our dream actually happened, was it real? Some seconds later we become aware that it was just a dream. If we had a nightmare we are happy that it was just a dream. If it was particularly nice and pleasant dream we might be a bit sad that it was not real.
When we are awake we are also creating our own reality. The reason we are not aware that we are creating it is that somehow it seems more real, we can touch it, we can perceive with with our senses. But our senses are far from being perfect. We see the table, we touch the table and we “know” it is real. Actually, your table consists of 99% of empty space. Distance between the atomic nucleus and electrons circling around it are empty space. Distance between the atomic nucleus and electrons circling around it are much bigger than the size of electron or a nucleus, and there is nothing between them. But we still perceive it with our imperfect senses as solid matter.
Reality that we perceive in our aware state is not much more real than the reality we perceive in a dream.
Vedanta differentiate three states of awareness: awake state, dream state, and deep sleep state, a dreamless state in which we are not aware of any reality.
Thousands years after this awareness states were defined in Vedanta, in the beginning of XX century, researchers managed to record the oscillations of our brain activity which roughly corresponds with the awareness states defined in Vedanta. We can change our own brain waves at will. You might hear people sometimes saying “When you get angry, count to 10”. Well, it is simple advice, but it works. If you didn’t try it, try next time you are angry or upset. You will get much better results through mediation, which can markedly change the brain waves. Benefits of transcendental mediation is scientifically validated through many studies. Mantra meditation has the same or similar effects. Even walking 10 minutes a day through forest or a peaceful park might relax you and influence your brain waves, your mood, your ability to focus and handle the problems you encounter in daily life.
All this is not intended to be just a knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself. Any theory is only as valuable as it is useful. The date from Vedanta are intended to be used. There are many possible applications of those data to our lives.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember, it is maya, an illusion that you yourself created or contributed in its creation in some way. You are shaping your reality in the same way how you are creating your dream reality. After we wake up in the morning, we are aware that it wasn’t real, it was just a dream, an illusion. Wisdom of Vedanta can help us to wake up and start seeing our daily reality for what it really is – an illusion.
Being aware of the nature of reality might help in going through some unpleasant periods of life. The point is not to sit down and do nothing about bad situation you are in because it is an illusion anyway. This might be disastrous and I’m not advising you to try it. There is a funny story I once heard from a Vaishnava priest.
A guru was sitting in a village, teaching his disciples about illusory nature of reality. Atone moment a tiger entered the village and everybody ran for cover, including the guru and his disciples. After the danger was gone, one of the disciples asked the guru:
– Why did you ran away from the tiger when the tiger was just maya, an illusion?
– Well, my flight from the tiger was also an illusion – replied the guru.
In the same way how wise guru ran away from the tiger, you should also not sit and wait and do nothing if you find yourself in bad situation. But being aware of the illusory nature of reality and the fact that you somehow created it or contributed to its creation, might help you to be more composed about the whole thing and give you more space to figure out your solution and a way out of that situation.
Hope you found this data useful and I encourage you to research this further and bring your own conclusions.