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The Illusion Of Life

Quotes about the illusion of life related to Advaitism.

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.

-- Anais Nin

No person ever awakens,
for there is no one to awaken.

The self never actually "disappears",
for there isn't a self there in the first place.

Experiences of "awakening" and the self "disappearing"
are just that: "experiences" by the illusionary self;
maybe a peek into the true nondual nature of existence.

There is no separate self to awaken or to disappear.

The illusion of the self is built into our very nature.
Such an illusion is so hard wired into us that it can never be shed,
though our brain is capable of some understanding of this great illusion of the separate self.

This illusion of a separate self is the most defining characteristic
of the difference between that which we call alive and not alive.

-- Brian William Drisko, 03-Jul-2010 07:30

It is only those entities that we define as "alive"
that live in the illusion of duality.

That which is alive behaves as separate from the rest of existence.

That which is alive seeks to survive, seeks nourishment, seeks to reproduce.

That which is alive divides the world into two, into duality.
It behaves as if it is separate from the rest of existence.

That which is alive has an inside and an outside.
It sees the inside as "self" and the outside as "not self".

That which is alive seeks to preserve the "self",
nourish the "self", and reproduce copies of the "self".

Rocks do not seek to survive, to nourish themselves, or reproduce themselves.
Rocks exist outside the illusion of duality.
All that is not alive exists outside the illusion of duality.

The defining characteristic of that which is alive
is that it behaves as if it is separate from the rest of existence,
that it must preserve itself, nourish itself, and reproduce itself.

In reality, that which is alive is made of the same elements as that which is not alive.
The main difference is that which is alive lives in the illusory world of duality,
while that which is not alive suffers under no such illusion of duality.

-- Brian William Drisko, 03-Jul-2010 20:43

We don't see things as they are.
We see things as we are.

-- Anais Nin

If you close your eyes, all you actually find are sensations. One thing is happening at a time - the body sitting in a chair is happening; a breeze coming through the window is happening; the crackling of paper is happening; cars are happening ... There's no story. The story that we think is our story is simply a pretence, because always there is only this. The story you've listened to about your life is not going anywhere.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 5

Once a mirage is recognized as a mirage, the image remains, but the investment will drop away by itself. No need to create a new investment, by insisting that now that it is recognized as an illusion it should become invisible.

-- Leo Hartong in From Self to Self, pg 209

The suicide option you refer to does of course happen, and for various apparent reasons, but there is no independent 'you' to decide on it, nor is there anyone to escape from the illusion. Believing that there is such a character is itself the illusion; such an illusion can as much escape an illusion as a character in a movie can step off the screen.

-- Leo Hartong in From Self to Self, pg 214

Why go anywhere? Just realize that you are dreaming a dream you call the world, and stop looking for ways out. The dream is not your problem. Your problem is that you like one part of the dream and not another. When you have seen the dream as a dream, you have done all that needs be done.

-- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in I am That

Seeing through the ego/body/identity illusion, does not cancel death and taxes for the body/mind. There might be a relaxation, less investment in the story, but this does not imply that one now stops eating, drinking and sleeping. The mind/thinking process will still function in the pairs of opposites, and the ego, for what it is, might just keep its 'job' but is no longer considered as what you exclusively are.

-- Leo Hartong in From Self to Self, pg 232

For while we remain locked within the experience of being separate individuals having to negotiate with existence, we remain in a state of dreaming.

-- Tony Parsons in As It Is - The Open Secret of Spiritual Awakening, pg 48

All ideas of a personal "afterlife" or reincarnation are merely the mind wishing to preserve the illusion of its continuity.

-- Tony Parsons in As It Is - The Open Secret of Spiritual Awakening, pg 51

The novel in a way is illusory because it has no beginning, middle, or end, and it is really just energy happening timelessly. Consciousness chooses to have varying and different experiences for no other reason than simply to have them.

-- Tony Parsons in As It Is - The Open Secret of Spiritual Awakening, pg 96

We have a confidence about what the mind tells us and we listen to it and are guided by it because we think it's highly intelligent. The mind is often a highly intelligent conman, actually. We listen to it and it does comfort us and reassure us. What you're now doing is dropping that.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 60

For once we see the mind as it really is, a story in time, trying to drag us back into the world of time where it can run the show.

The mind wants enlightenment or what we've come to believe in as a picture of enlightenment, and the seeker fears that what he's going to find is going to be totally ordinary. And it is - it's no big deal. It's not what the mind would like to discover ... But subtly the seeker knows that what he's looking for is totally ordinary and immediate and natural.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 62

... the thing that's most attractive to the mind is the idea of doing something. ... That's why people like Eckhart Tolle have such a huge audience. His original message actually is very simple, but it's still teaching about something that you apparently do.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 73

It is all simply appearance. It's just another way of reinforcing the illusion of there being a journey. This apparent appearance is all to reinforce the idea that there's something happening. Karma and destiny and reincarnation are just part of that illusory idea that there's someone there who can act and have to pay for that. There isn't anyone there.

So looking at it completely round the other way, there is no one, so there can't be anything like karma. Except in the mind. Who's going to reincarnate? And there is no need to reincarnate.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 84

You said it's an invitation. What allows the acceptance of that invitation?

The dropping of the illusion of 'me'. Then it's discovered that there is no invitation. The invitation is only there as long as there's a sense that there's something separate, to need to pick up the card. Once the card's picked up it vanishes and there's nothing. And that is the dropping of the illusion that there's someone there who needs to pick the card up. But there's nothing you can do about that; you can't pick the card up. But you already know that.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 87

The world's evolution is a wonderful play to convince us that there is a journey. There isn't. It's a play. It's a film, a film called 'The World'. The film looks as though it's going somewhere. You're in the film and you're the main character and we're all the characters that support that film star. That's how it appears.

You are the light that allows the film to be. And if you see it all from another point of view, you begin to open up to the possibility of dropping the idea of a journey towards somewhere that you'll never get to. You'll never get there -- you already are there. And so in a way, the film is sacred.. It's telling you that you are that. I want to get you out of the idea -- or rather, I don't, but something wants to get you out of the idea that you're on a journey.

When there is simply presence, all meaning ends. Meaning is always attached to a story -- 'We are going somewhere'.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 97

... the one who is still tinking that they're living in the film will generally believe -- most times, not always -- that it's going to work out in the end.

After awakening, for the first time you participate; before that you're always trying to get somewhere. You're in business, you're in a deal. Seekers are always in a deal --- finders give up dealing. Finders give up the deal, give up everything for this. And everything if the journey of time, the idea that you can get it next week ...

Just give up -- this is it. Isn't it wonderful, to give up that agonizing bloody journey. Just forget it. You're there.

'It's more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven'. The richness has nothing to do with money -- it's got to do with concepts. All you give up is the idea of 'me'. And it can seem like everything.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 98

We are on a stage, in a play or a parable called 'Life', but we believe it is real and we believe that it matters.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 149

We think there is nothing else in the world but self-identity. We think we have a life and we are absolutely sure -- or the mind is absolutely sure -- that we can make that life work. That is the fascination -- 'I'm going to make my life work, by one means or another...'

When it is finally realised that we never will, that is the whole gift. Disappointment is the whole gift of life, ... When we realise that, then the last resort is to become enlightened. But the mind also gets hold of that and says, 'Oh well, this is the last thing that is going to make it finally work. This is an object that I can get hold of to make my life work. That is the fascination -- 'I'm going to make my life work, by one means or another ...'

When it is finally realised that we never will, that is the whole gift. Disappointment is the whole gift of life. ... When we realise that, then the last resort is to become enlightened. But the mind also gets hold of that and says, 'Oh well, this is the last thing that is going to make it finally work. This is an object that I can get hold of to make my lfe work'. It's the final mind-game. And still we are banging our head against the wall.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 151-152

Sexuality is so powerful, so to do with life; it represents the creation of life. The difficulty is that the mind keeps going back to me relating to you, and keeps on making you the object and me the subject.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 202

I'm not going to say, 'All there is is now'. There is no 'now', because 'now' implies 'then'. There is no moment -- this has nothing to do with living in the moment. There's no one to live and there's no moment. There's only this.

This reality that emanates, this manefestation, is only being. It's pure being and it seems to have motion. It's actually one image, but the mind puts one image together with the next one, with the next one, and thinks it's a story. It's simply being manifesting. And its only meaning is the invitation. It's like a hologram.

-- Tony Parsons in All There Is, pg 226

I have been fascinated and waylaid by abstraction, painting the picture I would rather have in preference to living the experience I would rather no have.

What I abstract never comes to be, or only sometimes flickers into life like a watered-down approximation.

My abstraction is a smoke-screen born from longing or frustration, and it offers me a holiday of dreams. It is always safe, predictable, and an indulgence in the known.

If I drop abstraction and move my awareness, for instaance, to my bodily sensations, I discover there is a symphony going on. Not necessarily in tune, but nevertheless constantly changing and moving, coming and going. Something is happening here or there ... it evaporates and something else takes its place.. There is very lettle that I can control or manipulate. It is immeasurable and unknown, being and then not being.

In the same way, if I let go and listen, touch, taste, smell, or see, there is no way of knowing beforehand the exact quality of those sensations. I could say that I can anticipate the sound of a bird singing, but it is only information based on memory.

It is not alive, vital and unknown. The sound I actually hear, the sound of what is, will not be the same as my abstraction of it. Will not be the same as my abstraction of it. When I first listen to the sound I will try to grasp it and label it in order to control it. When I let go of that control, there is simply the listerner of the sound. When the listener is dropped, there is only the sound. I am no longer there -- there is simply the naaked and vibrant energy of what is. Nothing is needed, all is fulfilled.

It is within the ver alchemy of this timeless presence that freedom resides.

-- Tony Parsons in The Open Secret, pg 35-36

You experience what your brain decides you will experience, not necessarily what is actually happening.

-- Gary Crowley in From Here To Here, Turning Toward Enlightenment, pg 18


Georg Feuerstein summarizes the advaita realization as follows: "The manifold universe is, in truth, a Single Reality. There is only one Great Being, which the sages call Brahman, in which all the countless forms of existence reside. That Great Being is utter Consciousness, and It is the very Essence, or Self (Atman) of all beings."

According to Adi Shankara, God, the Supreme Cosmic Spirit or Brahman is the One, the whole and the only reality. Other than Brahman, everything else, including the universe, material objects and individuals, are false. Brahman is at best described as that infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, incorporeal, impersonal, transcendent reality that is the divine ground of all Being. Brahman is often described as neti neti meaning "not this, not this" because it cannot be correctly described as this or that. It is the origin of this and that, the origin of forces, substances, all of existence, the undefined, the basis of all, unborn, the essential truth, unchanging, eternal, the absolute. How can it be properly described as something in the material world when itself is the basis of reality? Brahman is also beyond the senses, it would be akin a blind man trying to correctly describe color. It (grammatically neutral, but exceptionally treated as masculine), though not a substance, is the basis of the material world, which in turn is its illusionary transformation. Brahman is not the effect of the world. Brahman is said to be the purest knowledge itself, and is illuminant like a source of infinite light.

Due to ignorance (avidya), the Brahman is visible as the material world and its objects. The actual Brahman is attributeless and formless (see Nirguna Brahman). It is the Self-existent, the Absolute and the Imperishable (not generally the object of worship but rather of meditation). Brahman is actually indescribable. It is at best "Satchidananda" (merging "Sat" + "Chit" + "Ananda", ie, Infinite Truth, Infinite Consciousness and Infinite Bliss). Also, Brahman is free from any kind of differences. It does not have any sajatiya (homogeneous) differences because there is no second Brahman. It does not have any vijatiya (heterogeneous) differences because there is nobody in reality existing other than Brahman. It has neither svagata (internal) differences, because Brahman is itself homogeneous.

Just as one sees dreams in sleep, Brahman sees a kind of super-dream when he is waking. The world is compared to this conscious dream.


The soul or the self (Atman) is identical with Brahman. It is not a part of Brahman that ultimately dissolves into Brahman, but the whole Brahman itself. Now the arguers ask how the individual soul, which is limited and one in each body, can be the same as Brahman? Adi Shankara explains that the Self is not an individual concept. Atman is only one and unique. Indeed Atman alone is {Ekaatma Vaadam}. It is a false concept that there are several Atmans {Anekaatma Vaadam}. Adi Shankara says that just as the same moon appears as several moons on its reflections on the surface of water covered with bubbles, the one Atman appears as multiple atmans in our bodies because of Maya. Atman is self-proven, however, some proofs are discussed-eg., a person says "I am blind", "I am happy", "I am fat" etc. The common and constant factor, which permeates all these statements is the "I" which is but the Immutable Consciousness. When the blindness, happiness, fatness are inquired and negated, "I" the common factor which, indeed, alone exists in all three states of consciousness and in all three periods of time, shines forth. This proves the existence of Atman, and that Consciousness, Reality and Bliss are its characteristics. Atman, being the silent witness of all the modifications, is free and beyond sin and merit. It does not experience happiness or pain because it is beyond the triad of Experiencer, Experienced and Experiencing. It does not do any Karma because it is Aaptakaama. It is incorporeal and independent.

When the reflection of atman falls on Avidya (ignorance), atman becomes jiva - a living being with a body and senses. Each jiva feels as if he has his own, unique and distinct Atman, called jivatman. The concept of jiva is true only in the pragmatic level. In the transcendental level, only the one Atman, equal to Brahman, is true.

Adi Shankara exposed the relative and thus unreal nature of the objective world and propounded the truth of the Advaita {One without a second} by analysing the three states of experience of the atman - waking (vaishvanara), dreaming (taijasa), and deep sleep (prajna).

The swan is an important motif in Advaita. It symbolises two things: first, the swan is called hamsah in Sanskrit (which becomes hamso if the first letter in the next word is /h/). Upon repeating this hamso indefinitely, it becomes so-aham, meaning, "I am That". Second, just as a swan lives in water but its feathers are not soiled by water, similarly a liberated Advaitin lives in this world full of maya but is untouched by its illusion.

-- From: Advaita Vendata in

The entire film is in the can. It is being experienced in time and space, through the senses, through the instruments of duality, which are mind and its attendant senses. But the Understanding with a capital 'U,' underlies that; is both the source and the substance of that. And thus, it is not caused, because it is not within the realm of subject-object relationships. It is not in the realm of causality.

-- Wayne Liquorman in Acceptance of What Is -- A Book About Nothing, pg 43

Nothing can keep you trapped. Your true nature is oneness. Oneness is never trapped, but there are subtle ways in which thought and speech seem to promote immersion in the play, the mesmerisation.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 99

So to use the analogy of a cinema screen again, you can watch all the problems on the screen but they are not your problems.

That's right.

The only thing is, when you watch a film you can still identify and empathise.

You can become completely involved, so they do seem to be 'your' problems.

So it's sort of like, if you are in the cinema, you get lost in it, you get involved in it.


So you get completely taken up with it but sometimes you can sort of stand back and think, 'Hang on, I'm in a cinema.' Or someone unwraps a sweet or something and the crackling noise breaks the involvement.

That's right, exactly. That's all that's happening today. You have gone into the cinema and someone is constantly crackling sweet wrappers!

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 101-102

There is only ever presence, so there's nowhere to get to. The 'getting there' is the play.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 123

Well, when it's seen as a play, with no longer the same personal dilemmas around it all, it is interesting, yes, of course. It's a show, isn't it?

Still appearing in the show as the character and yet without the same investment of trying to 'get' somewhere or to 'get' something.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 129-130

This sense of separation is a functional aspect of the play, that this body appears as separate from that body; it's necessary for the play to function.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 160

... awareness is always present, but if there is mesmerisation and exclusive focus in the play as the character, the awareness aspect of our true nature is overlooked. ... when there is recognition of our true nature, it is seen that our true nature (oneness) is no-thing -- awareness; and it is also every-thing -- the content of awareness.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 166

We get tied up in all the whys and the wherefores and how we've got to know this and we've got to understand that, and we watch TV and see all those horrible programmes about violence and nasty things ... We think, 'This ought not to be,' or 'Why don't they do so and so?' And we tie ourselves up into terrible knots. It's not very easy to simply stand back from that. How do you see that just as part of the play?

There's no need for standing back. At times in the play as the character there will be the remembering of our true nature, and at times there will be forgeting. The whole of this struggle to make it work, to do the right thing, all the involvement with the daily news on the television -- it's the story. The 'I' can't do anything about any of this; it cannot 'de-mesmerise' itself because it's part of the mesmerisation.

Maybe through this reminding of our true nature, or through the character in the play appearing to do some form of enquiry or whatever, the story, the play, is seen through. But this is not a prescription being made here -- it's simply a description of what is. All prescriptions require the idea of identification as a separate character, and the idea that this supposedly separate character must do something to become whole.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 174

It's the focus in the thought story, whereby presence is overlooked in focusing on the desire for this event to happen again in a projected future. There is the overlooking of presence through focus in the story.

... what is overlooked is that seeing is already happening. There is only already awakeness. There is no awakening to happen.

This simple recognition that there is awareness and the content of awareness is what is referred to as seeing or knowing. Knowing is not identification with content only, but abiding as awareness and content, without the subject-object sense. This is oneness or presence.

As part of the play there may be exclusive identification as awareness, whereby the content of awareness is viewed detachedly. And this tends to be the goal of traditional-type spirituality: get up and out the top of your head as quickly as possible! Escape the content into the awareness aspect.

Is this not about escaping from the content?

Our true nature is oneness: awareness and content. No escape is possible or needed.

But what is different?

When the mesmerisation with the story is seen through, the contraction of tension and seeking is released. There is ease -- no desire for escape.

So when we talk of an ease, we are not actually talking about emotions etc. disappearing? It's not that emotions don't still occur?

The ease may include the same pattern of appearances, but there is no longer the movement to escape from them. They are no longer 'my' emotions, 'my' thoughts etc.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 178-180

... understanding is no more valuable than not understanding.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 182

Agitation may still arise, but there's a tendency for it to subside fairly quickly. There is no longer the story of this 'I' that it can 'stick to'.

There is only already awakeness whether there is mesmerisation in the thought story or not, so no appearances need to change. There is simply ease in the absense of mesmerisation. There may seem to be no difference, because there has been the story of gradual understanding which finally dissolves in knowing. Understanding may be described as the reflection of knowing in thought form.

Understanding is in thought, and as such is merely the 'reflection' of knowing. Knowing is simply what is, with no need for understanding. As knowing permeates the play and understanding becomes obsolete, there's not necessarily a clearly defined differentiation between them.

What is sought as the extraordinary is actually here already, merely veiled by mesmerisation.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 183-184

... the recognition of oneness by oneness via the story in the play. There is no need, of course, for this story to appear. There is no need for oneness to recognise itself as oneness via the story in the play. It's simply the cosmic entertainment.

-- Nathan Gill in Already Awake, pg 188

Quotes About Advaitism:
The Aim Of Inquiry / The Inadequacy Of Words / Suffering
What Am I? / The Illusion / Purpose / Seeking / Awakening / Acceptance
Other Quotes

Alan Watts: / / Audio Collection
Science & Nonduality / Books, Video, Audio, Podcasts
A Skeptics Approach To Non-Duality / On Being Adopted

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