“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो
मत्तः स्मृतिर् ज्ञानम् अपोहनं च
वेदैश् च सर्वैर् अहम् एव वेद्यो
वेदान्त-कृद् वेद-विद् एव चाहम्
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
Is the world real or is it false? Is this just a dream or is there substance to the experience? One school of thought says that only Brahman is real. Everything else is mithya, or false. Another side says that there is indeed a lasting reality, who is an individual. Brahman is one way to know Him, but there are also higher realizations.
During my childhood there were friends in the neighborhood with whom I played. I knew where they lived. I knew how to approach them. We shared wonderful moments together. There were birthday celebrations. There were trips to the park. There were learning experiences.
During my young adulthood, there were friends at school. We sat in the same classrooms for hours on end. We progressed through the grades together. We played on various sports teams. We contemplated the future. We consulted one another on the type of occupation to pursue.
During my working years, there were colleagues at the office. We spent years together, sitting close by. We witnessed the corruption within the corporate structure, both small and large, and laughed about the many memorable incidents.
During my years of retirement, there were moments shared with extended family. There were travels to various destinations. Friends and family were close by, but maybe not the exact same people from before. Whereas during childhood there were elderly grandparents, in this time period most of the family members were younger.
The memories fade so quickly that it sometimes feels as if the past never occurred. The association of those childhood friends is long gone. I have no idea what happened to those classmates from school. One day a colleague got let go or found a better opportunity. We went from talking everyday to not keeping in touch at all.
This sort of constant change validates the assumption of the Mayavadi, who considers everything to be false. The dream at night is a compressed experience of the same. Names, places, people, and things. There is no reality once the dream ends.
There is reality to the objects within the illusion, however. I saw a departed family member in my dream last night. The experience was not real, but that person certainly is. They may not be around anymore, but they were here at some point in time.
The constant throughout is Brahman. This is the spiritual energy. Everything else changes, but Brahman remains the same. It is unaffected by the changes. We are individual sparks of Brahman. That is why we are the same, no matter how much the environment around us shifts.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
The Vaishnava knows that there is another constant. This entity is the same as Brahman, but there is more to the understanding. This constant has been with us birth after birth. When the world has abandoned us, He will be around. When we have left everyone else behind, He stays close by.
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
He can remember the experiences, while forgetfulness is more likely for us. He is there, forever. He is without beginning, anadi, and without end, ananta. He is the superior spiritual energy, or Parabrahman. He is our well-wisher, whether we know it or not.
Though He is neutral in our dealings within the dreamlike experience, He always cares. He will never hold bitterness at our turning away from Him. There is no extended punishment for behaving as if we are the controllers of everything, that we can somehow turn the temporary into permanent.
वीतरागभयक्रोधा मन्मया मामुपाश्रिताः ।
बहवो ज्ञानतपसा पूता मद्भावमागताः ॥
man-mayā mām upāśritāḥ
pūtā mad-bhāvam āgatāḥ
“Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me – and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.10)
The wise take refuge in this constant friend. They become purified through knowledge of Him. They make the most out of this auspicious birth through the reawakening, from out of the darkness and into the light. They are able to see the all-attractiveness of Parabrahman and stay connected to Him.
Those friends long gone,
Also that incident to dwell upon.
With something new replaced,
As if by time erased.
Of single constant aware,
Who forever there.
Now as my friend to see,
Supreme Being is He.