Monday, 7 November 2016

The Illusion of World

A typical realistic virtual real time game environment

Lets explore the world more and dig into some crazy ideas. And also see how a seeker experiences a world, and of what use a world is for seekers.

Virtual world 

The advent of virtual worlds generated via computers has rekindled an interest in theories that propose non-existence of a material world [1]. These days the simulated worlds look as real as the real world, especially when high end hardware is employed. Total sensory immersion into a simulated world is not a fiction, it is inevitable. As we know, these extensive, rich and life like worlds on our screens are nothing but numbers. What makes us suspect that our everyday world is also nothing but numbers? There are many reasons. Quantum description of the matter immediately suggests that there are no actual entities, only values. In other words, the matter is just numbers.  Strangely, the physical universe satisfies many requirements of a simulated world. A short list of such requirements is as follows [2]:

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  1. Things are quantized, finite and limited.
  2. Processes are algorithmic, logical and mathematical.
  3. A VR appears out of nowhere, however it can evolve via evolutionary algorithms and can go from simple to complex.
  4. There is a limit on the “frame rate". In other words, things take time to happen and the effects appear after a delay. In the case of our world the speed of light is the limit.
  5. There would be some constants, some global fixed values, that appear for no obvious reason. E.g. there are physical constants like c or G or h that appear in many equations.
  6. Some phenomena would appear non-local. A program can modify two values together without simulating the mediating behaviour. So we have things like entanglement.
  7. Loading of processors can happen when there is a huge amount of data to be crunched. We see such effects near very large bodies, such as stars, where time slows down near their surface because there are too many particles to compute.
  8. Statistical nature. Some outcomes are predicted instead of being calculated exactly. This is faster but less accurate. So we have laws of thermodynamics, gas laws or fluid dynamics, probability distributions and uncertainty principle.
  9. Instances of entities may appear. If there are trillions of entities, a program can simply use instances of one model or a class to create those trillions. This saves enormous amount of memory and computing but the result is that all those trillions of entities are exact clones. We have electrons, protons and all such entities here, that are identical in every way.
  10. Strange phenomena may appear. Such as apparitions can appear out of nowhere requiring no cause, no matter and can disappear leaving no traces. Its the special effect equivalent.
  11. Strange effects like healing via intention or placebo effects can happen, as it would be possible to steer a program in desired direction if one can manipulate the inputs.
  12. Non-virtual (real) entities can assume discard-able virtual forms. Avatars in gamespeak. In physical world we have bodies - the avatars for non-physical players. 

There are more similarities. There are experiments to prove the simulated nature of the universe, such as the famous double slit experiment and the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment. There are theories and proofs for the simulation hypotheses.  However, there are some ridiculous assumptions too. Once you say that the universe is simulated, there arises a need for a simulator, a computer and operators of that computer. So people imagine all sorts of things from aliens to future humans. It is perfectly possible but highly improbable. Plus there are big holes e.g. the presence of avatars, if the avatars are aliens or humans from future, they would know beyond any doubt that they are playing a game. The only possibility left is that we are just bots, dummy players, which is not anyone's experience as far as I know. Bots would mean no consciousness or subjective experiences. No amount of simulation would produce that.

So far only Thomas Campbell comes close to a satisfactory answer, which is - the consciousness itself is the computer, aka the simulator, of this universe. And since it is simulating the stuff out of itself, it is only natural that everyone experiences a consciousness behind oneself and everything else. This is my direct experience and also of many of you. This is the original claim of non-dual teachings, that are unchallenged since thousands of years. Although these statements do not provide solid evidence for simulation argument, these introduce enough uncertainty into the minds of believers and makes them question the assumed reality and primacy of the world.


I was avoiding this can of worms but here it is. These are what I prefer to call Irreducibles. The world appears to the consciousness in the format of qualia and that is the whole description of the whole world. One cannot reduce it further. We face enormous difficulty when we try to describe the colour red in terms of something else. We can provide an instance of red but no other words would explain it better, that is because it is irreducible. The Mind faces a wall here that it cannot surmount.

One can enumerate them as there are a few kinds corresponding to kind of sense they associate with. How many kinds are there? For example, if you take the sense of smell, there is one category of smell qualia but there are thousands of smells and a dog would say there are a million smells. If you take sight, there are two categories - shape and colour [3]. There are millions of colours and probably infinite varieties of shapes. So there are uncountable varieties and there are combinations, and combinations of combinations. As any artist knows, nature likes variety, a lot of it.

Why are there so many? For example, wouldn't a bird need just a few colours - one each for the fruit it eats, for a mate, predator and surroundings? I guess it would survive just fine with less than 10 colours. I found my 256 colour monitor amazing and sufficient for all my needs in my early days with computers. Who'd need millions of colours? As usual the theory of evolution fails to provide a satisfactory answer here. However, there is one explanation, which goes as follows. Perhaps in the early days of the Mind, it had only a few qualia to make sense of everything it needed to make sense of. For example white for food and black for all that is not food. And thus the organism survived without much problem. The problem appeared as soon as a predator appeared, now it needed another colour to differentiate the predator from the surroundings and so magically, say, red colour appeared in the Mind to "code" for a predator. Any organisms without this ability simply went extinct. As life evolved, things became more complex and more codes appeared, and very soon each sense produced millions of codes. The more differences in patterns of change a mind can resolve, more codes or qualia it can support. It seems that various life forms have more or less of qualia depending on their survival needs. For example, humans are capable of resolving millions of colours but are still restricted to a very narrow range of EM spectrum. So one can suspect that there are no fixed numbers or categories of qualia, they are generated on demand by the Mind.

One can explain the variety and availability of qualia using evolutionary reasoning, but what generates them? One can find specific areas in the brain that produce a specific neural activity in response to colours, but the neural activity does not lead to an experience of colour, it only produces more neural activity, as we discussed in the article on brain before. Light, which is change, leads to more change, not to a colour. How does Mind generate a subjective experience of colour out of change? Who perceives that colour ultimately? Is it the Self, the witness of everything? We are in the realm of direct experience now. As I said, it is not possible to reduce a direct experience into anything else, one can only experience it. So the qualia exist. Qualia are Self as seen by the Self, as there is nothing else but the Self. Why is the experience of colour or sounds like so? It is same as asking why is any experience the way it is. The Mind has no analytical answers to satisfy the intellect [4].

Still from the movie - The 13th Floor

Matter or Mind 

We have come round a full circle, back to the Mind. Is this world made up of matter or is it purely mental? To cut to the chase, it is made up of one thing. Mind and matter are merely descriptions. Choose whatever suits you and your situation. From the point of view of the Self, the experiences are made up of qualities, names and forms, change and events. When you dig deeper you encounter more structures, more forms and more change. In the end, you see nothing again, but the Self. You can go in reverse and start from nothing and again you arrive at the Self. You will find that you are trying to describe one thing from different angles. It is just semantics, call it Self or anything else if you like.

Seeker's world 

We are entering the domain of a seeker now and if you are not a seeker or have not experienced the below stuff yet, it all may read like a total hogwash. It doesn’t matter anyway, experiences are not important, especially specific kind of experiences.

From the point of view of a seeker, the world is illusory, an appearance based on something unknowable. The Mind can only organize experiences to produce knowledge, it cannot produce an experience. Whatever is organized into sensory structures becomes world. Whatever is organized into non-sensory structures becomes mind. The boundary between these two is arbitrary. The keyword here is "sensory". The world exists because of senses. In deep sleep the senses shut down and the world disappears too. It is not that the world is annihilated, it ceases to appear as it appears in the waking state when the senses are fully operational. Now you have a key to make the world appear and disappear.

This is a significant discovery because all one needs to do is shut down the senses to experience the absence of world. However one observes something strange. The Mind starts creating sensory data on its own, it creates a new set of senses, a new body to host those senses and a brand new world appears out of nowhere. All one needs to do is to withdraw his attention from the usual senses. It is simple but not very easy, as we are almost incapable of not attending to senses or the mental contents. But a bit of practice decouples the Mind from sensory inputs and one can learn to ignore them.

What does that tell a seeker? Well, first thing to notice is that this world is not the only world the Mind is capable of perceiving. So the physical world becomes a special case of countless worlds one can perceive. Secondly, the world is not something permanent and solid which always exists, it is more like a game that loads up from the data in a computer and shows up on demand. Thirdly, it loses its value, as there are countless worlds – many toys to play with. This causes a detachment from worldly stuff and the seeker is withdrawn more into the Self, gets a bigger picture. He withdraws from people too, because the other worlds also have other people, some very exotic kind of living entities, but all those are just appearances, an expression of my own Self. So the people lose value. This helps in renouncing the world. No amount of lectures or reading of texts will do it. Once you are detached, you are free from the world.

There are other things a seeker can get attached too, but since we are on the topic of the world, we will focus on only worldly things. Freedom from the world is not a small accomplishment. Do we really need some exotic state of the Mind to see that the world is illusory and only an instance of infinite possible worlds? In my opinion, such states are not needed. Just sit down and observe very carefully. All one needs to do is focus on the observer not on the observed, and the direct experience of world as an illusion happens. It is a realization, a - "oh, I get it now" moment. That’s all is needed to be free. A teacher who is already free can greatly help here.

Why does that work? Because it is the same Self that experiences every world you visit. No matter what senses, bodies or avatars you have, the Self is always the same old Self. It is the same Self behind all states of the Mind. There is nothing to prevent one from seeing the world as it is in this experience of it via this body.


But why are we bound to a world? If you see carefully, we are not bound at all. The Self is always free. What is bound is a person, and primarily the Egoic part of a person. So there is really no need to free oneself. One only needs to remove the ignorance that one is bound. Its as simple as that.

But why is the person bound? Well, lets keep it simple and stupid. Be free, do not worry about the mechanisms of bondage. This is what great masters say and I fully agree. The person, the Ego and the body may remain as it is, but now the burden of bondage disappears.

Things to do in a world 

The realization that the world is nothing but the Self will not make the world disappear into thin air. The world does not change, its you who changes (specifically you as a person, an identity). The world remains as it is with all its beauty and ugliness. So what do you do with it now?

The freedom from the world gives you an ability to enter and exit it at whim. It should get boring very soon. As long as there is a Mind, there will be worlds, and they are all same wine in different varieties of bottles. You taste one and you tasted them all. The detachment from the world makes you not take it very seriously and not care much about it, and the realization that it is nothing but the Self makes you fall in love with it. As you must have guessed, this is exactly the state of Unconditional Love. A seeker would not harm a world and will not meddle in it too much. He sees all people and entities as himself, but also not as himself. Note that Unconditional Love arises as a result of direct experience of liberation from the world, there is no other way to be in true Unconditional Love. Well, there is, which is the way of devotion, but very few are capable of true devotion. Devotion also results from one or other kind of experience, some trigger that turns someone into a devotee. The pitfall here is that such a person, lacking knowledge and mental tools, is prone to fall into belief traps. There is a middle way, pretend that you love everyone and everything unconditionally. Unconditional Love demands that you do mostly nothing for the world, which should be an easy job. Not doing anything also means not doing harmful things, being on the path of Nonviolence. If you are doing nothing, do it completely.

What will such pretention achieve? It will not liberate you, the illusion of the world will persist, but it will liberate you from the suffering the world causes. I cannot say with certainty but living a life with all the qualities of a liberated person will bring about the Grace, however I offer no guarantee. The Mind is a complex thing and an individual is a complex entity. Some things work for some people and are entirely useless for others.

An advanced seeker may gain extraordinary abilities to manipulate the world(s). But major manipulation seldom happens. Even a newbie seeker shies away from meddling with the world. What exactly is gained by changing an illusory world? Why fix it when its going to disappear anyway? Good question. But then some would ask - why not? Isn't it better to experience a happy dream instead of a nightmare? Especially those experiencing a nightmare would be more inclined to fix the mess. But remember that freedom from the world would mean a total dissolution of all qualities of the world, good or bad. And that's why we find that the masters stress on the need to be free rather than the need to live a perfect worldly life. The world is already perfect from all angles, it cannot be anything else. The imperfection is seen through the coloured glasses of ignorance. And thus, an ignorant person struggles to fix a world instead of throwing it away.

Wouldn't a detached life devoid of activity become boring and purposeless? Consider yourself fortunate if you can stay without any activity for more than a day. As we have discussed earlier regarding a body, life will throw stuff at you and you will find yourself dodging and throwing it back at the life. Worldly peace is an illusion too. So boredom is least of your concerns. Here we encounter the idea of a path again. Once free, you are free to choose a path. Make up your own purpose. Act without being an actor. Be an instrument for the higher Will. So on and so forth.

Freedom does not mean that you get rid of certain things in irrecoverable manner, it means an ability to do many more things. So freedom from the world does not take away your ability to be born in a world and act there, it only means that now you have a choice in this regard. A prisoner always has a choice to return to the prison, but why would a sane person do that when there are so many other options available. You may not find the old ways very appealing now, new ways open up and the action starts again. So the questions such as what will be left when the world is left arise out of ignorance, they are the questions of a person who is not yet free. There is no necessity to act anyway, and those who find themselves trapped in the desires of doing stuff, experiencing more, and what not, need to free themselves more. This is all I can say from my limited and wavering experience.


[1] See, for example: . In my opinion, authors like Thomas Campbell are pioneers in this regard and are far ahead of times.

[2] Some of these are taken from Campbell’s MBT ( ) and some from here:
Also see

[3] One can add a third category - the brightness or intensity, but I think it is just colour again. A red seen in bright light is a different colour compared to the same seen in low light. There are no colourless things, e.g. a grey-scale photo, it has grey coloured shapes.

[4] There are some theories and concepts. Very elaborate but difficult to witness. E.g.

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