Illusion & Reality [Verse 2 of Caturślokī Bhāgavatam]

Continuing from verse one, I will try to explain in English as clearly and simply as possible the second of the four verses that are the essential core of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

ṛte ‘rthaḿ yat pratīyeta
na pratīyeta cātmani
tad vidyād ātmano māyāḿ
yathābhāso yathā tamaḥ

Brahmā: I want to understand how your potencies create reality.

Hari: My magic can make the unreal seem real, and the real seem unreal. It hides reality from anyone whose heart dislikes it, granting unreal perceptions instead.

Brahmā: So, you create “reality” by generating illusions?

Hari: That is how my magic creates the unreal, “material” world.

Brahmā: How do you manifest the real world?

Hari: My same magic reveals the truth of real things and the falsity in unreal things, for those whose who are so inclined.

Brahmā: I see! By māyā you create an illusory reality for those who desire illusion, and by yoga-māyā you manifest factual reality to those who so desire.

Hari: Not only is this how I create the “worlds,” it is also how I create your sense of individuality. For those who require illusion, my magic hides their true identity and reveals the false self they desire. For those who embrace truth, my magic hides any false individuality and reveals their true identity.

Brahmā: Your magic seems to be like both light and darkness.

Hari: My magic is like light because it reveals things to the consciousness. When light shines directly on an object, you see it as it is. But when light glares nearby, the object is cast into shadow and cannot be perceived as it is. This darkness is made all the more impenetrable by the dazzling glare nearby, misdirecting the consciousness and contracting the pupil. Thus the light of my magic can both reveal and hide reality; it can both create and dispel illusions.

Large text, above, represents direct translation, smaller text represents useful explanatory comments or setup.


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