The world is one. The universe is one. All objects, beings and situations are made up of the same energy that is non-dual and unchanging. How does one explain that, to bring an experience of that reality at least at the level of thought if not a feeling or understanding? Sri Adi Sankaracharya in the Vivekachoodamani brings in a factor called illusion or Maya. That which seems so beautiful, appearing to be so real, yet nothing other than the reality itself in a modified form.
The teacher says: for the experience of the special knowledge of the pure and non-dual Brahman, it is possible to arrive at it through an example. It is the oft-quoted image in Vedanta. On the semi-lit garden path lies a harmless thick rope. The person walking through sees a gently moving snake instead. He’s afraid and shouts for help. All his friends come and shine a torch on it and point out that it is just a rope. All the fear ebbs away.
The rope seemed to be moving because the mind was moving. The movement generated a thought that it was a snake and that thought, in turn, generated feelings of fear. There was no need to beat the rope. It required a moment’s steadying of the mind and the right knowledge happened on its own. The discriminative right knowledge was Sattva Guna. The experience of movement was caused by the Rajo Guna and the wrong understanding of the sub-stratum—the rope as a snake—was caused by Tamo Guna.
The energy of movement is called Vikshepa or a special projection. Its quality is Rajas and its nature is action. Out of this force alone is produced this whole world. The two constant movements in this productive force are the energy of like and dislike. The constant motion of these two whirlpools produces sorrow. This is a special modification of the mind.
The qualities that cause sorrow are desire, anger, greed, show-off, arrogance, jealousy, ego and envy. They are powerful movements of Rajo Guna. Due to this, the individual coming under the sway of Rajas is bound by his own actions. The third power of life is called Tamo Guna. Its task is to cover everything. This covering is not something that we see like an object covered with a cloth.
It just hides our vision or diverts our attention. You may look up at the sky and say it is blue. While projecting a blue colour, that force hides the fact that there is no sky above our head. We do not think twice about it and we continue to see the sky and the clouds and the birds flying through it. This factor of the energy that hides reality is the actual cause for rebirth as it keeps the search for happiness through initiation and fulfilment of desires for objects, people and circumstances in the world outside.