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Waking State Too Is Unreal – Story

Once a woodcutter lay dreaming, when someone woke him up. Greatly annoyed, he said: ‘Why have you disturbed my sleep? I was dreaming that I was a king and the father of seven children. The princes were becoming well versed in letters and military arts. I was secure on my throne and ruled over my subjects. Why have you demolished my world of joy?’

‘But that was a mere dream,’ said the other man.

‘Why should that bother you?’ ‘Fool!’ said the woodcutter. ‘You don’t understand. My becoming a king in the dream was just as real as my being a woodcutter. If being a woodcutter is real, then being a king in a dream is real also.’

Sri Ramakrishna told this story to illustrate that according to Vedanta the waking state too is unreal.

The world is not absolutely unreal like the son of a barren woman or the horns of a hare. What is meant is, as it appears to us, the world is not real. The famous snake-rope illusion explains the point. During twilight, we mistake a rope for a snake and experience all the emotions like fear and shock associated with witnessing a live snake. The rope stands revealed for what it is when darkness is dispelled by light. Even so, says Vedanta, the world is nothing but Brahman, the only Reality, but it appears as world because of darkness – because of our ignorance of its true nature.