Lord Krishn sings in Bhagavad Gita:
nā’sato vidyate bhāvo nā’bhāvo vidyate sataḥ,
ubhayor api dṛṣṭo’ntas tv anayos tattvadarśibhiḥ“
The unreal has no being and the real has no non-being;
and the truth about both has also been seen
men who know the reality.’’
The unreal has no existence; it has no being and so bringing it to an end is out of the question.
On the other hand, there is no absence of the real in all time-past, present or future.
Arjun then asks Sri Krishn whether he is saying this as an incarnation of God.
Lord Krishn’s reply to this is that the distinction
the real and the unreal has also been revealed to sages
who have realized the true nature of the human Soul
identical with the Supreme Spirit pervading the universe.
That is to say that Lord Krishn of the Geeta is a seer
who has gained an insight into reality.
What, after all, are true and false, real and unreal?
Lord Krishn adds:
avināśi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idam tatam,
vināśam avyayasyā’sya na kaścit kartum arhati
“Know that since the Spirit which pervades the universe is imperishable and immutable,
no one can effect his destruction.”
That which spreads through and is present in every atom of the universe is indestructible.
No one is capable of destroying the imperishable principle.
But what is the name of this deathless amrit? Who is he?
Lord Krishn sings:
antavanta ime dehā nityasyo’ktāḥ śarīriṇaḥ,
anāśino’prameyasya tasmād yudhyasva bhārata
“Fight, O Bharat (Arjun),
because while the bodies which clothe the Soul are said to come to an end,
the embodied Spirit itself is for ever,
Arjun is exhorted to get up and fight
because all these physical bodies that embody the indwelling, boundless,
eternal Spirit are said to be ephemeral.
This Spirit, the Self, is imperishable, and it cannot be destroyed at any time.
The Self is real, whereas the physical body is subject to death,
so unreal and nonexistent at all times.
“Asato ma sad gamaya: From the nonexistent, from the unreal, from the apparent, lead me to the other side of it, the Existent, the Real, the Noumenon.”
Here, the Upanishad tells, also, what the meaning is. What we call death is itself the unreal; and what is other than death, the immortal, is the Real. So, to be led from the unreal to the Real is the same as to move from death to immortality. These words have special meanings with highly philosophical connotations. The world in which we are living is the world of death. It is called Mrtyuloka, the realm of dying, and therefore it is equated with the world of unreality. It is a world of appearances, and the prayer is: “May we be led from this phenomenal world of appearances to the realm of Reality.” That which appears to be real, and yet, is not real – that is the Asat.
The conditioned form which is embodiment, the body, has one character; and the unconditioned reality has another one altogether. We bring the two together and create a personality, so that there is what is called a transient personality which ‘appears’ to be. The being of the personality is the reflection of reality in the personality, whereas the transiency is its real nature. We are conscious of a current, as it were, which flows, which never is steady, but the consciousness of continuity, even in the transitory process of the current of a river, is due to the consciousness being different from the process. We have two elements in us – sometimes, theologically, we say, the god and the demon principle – the Deva and the Asura.
We have both elements in us, the higher and the lower, the eternal and the temporal. The eternal speaks and infuses meaning into the values of life, to which we cling so ardently, and create in our life a hope for the future, of a better condition. We always expect something better. We never imagine that the world will be worse. It will be better than today, we think. This positivity present in our life, and the confidence we have that we shall live tomorrow, though there is no certainty about it, is the reflection of reality in us. Who tells you that you will live tomorrow? But you have a confidence that you will be alive. This is due to the presence of an eternity, masquerading in our own personalities, invisible, and yet present. But yet, there is insecurity. We have a suspicion that our apprehensions may not be true, and so we sleep restlessly and unhappily. We have in us happiness and unhappiness mixed up. That is due to the Sat and Asat elements combined in us, appearance and reality, both working together, side by side, swinging us on either side, in different forms, and under different occasions.
So, the prayer here is, “Let us rise above this turmoil of transiency of life, and move to the real which is indicated faintly in our own personal lives and in the manifestations that are in front of us.” The rise is the process of the ascent of the soul to the Absolute. Thus, the prayer is: – “Asato ma sad gamaya: – Lead me from the unreal to the real, from the apparent to the Absolute, so that we shall be steadfast in that which is free from entanglement in appearances – space, time, and causal relations.” And this is at once a prayer for further light in the process of this ascent. When we rise from the unreal to the real, we also become enlightened, much more than we are today. It is not merely ‘being’ that is transmuted, but also ‘consciousness’, side by side. The rise from inadequate ‘being’ to adequate ‘Being’, from the lower type of ‘being’ to the higher type of ‘Being’, is at the same time, simultaneously, a rise from lower understanding to higher understanding, where consciousness expands as ‘being’ expands.
~The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda~