About

One of the things that sets religions apart from many other belief systems is that they prompt us to perceive life as an illusion in one way or another. Some religions claim that we are perceiving an entirely illusory version of the world. Others claim that earthly life itself is a mere passing illusory detour taken by our grander spiritual self that exists independently of this current material state. However, that is not to say that earthly life is meaningless or without consequence. What we do within the bounds of our illusory state still matters.

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Quotations

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children -like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”

Baha’u’llah
Baha'i prophet
Baha'i

“Verily I say, the world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion. It may, moreover, be likened unto the lifeless image of the beloved whom the lover hath sought and found, in the end, after long search and to his utmost regret, to be such as cannot "fatten nor appease his hunger.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

"In the human plane and kingdom man is a captive of nature and ignorant of the divine world until born of the breaths of the Holy Spirit out of physical conditions of limitation and deprivation. Then he beholds the reality of the spiritual realm and Kingdom, realizes the narrow restrictions of the mere human world of existence and becomes conscious of the unlimited and infinite glories of the world of God."

Shoghi Effendi
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

"We know absence of light is darkness, but no one would assert darkness was not a fact. It exists even though it is only the absence of something else. So evil exists too, and we cannot close our eyes to it, even though it is a negative existence. We must seek to supplant it by good, and if we see an evil person is not influenceable by us, then we should shun his company for it is unhealthy."

Huston Smith
Scholar of religion
Hinduism

“The world appears the way we see it, but that is not the way it really is. Maya comes from the same root as magic. In saying the world is maya, non-dual Hinduism is saying that there is something tricky about it. The trick lies in the way the world’s materiality and multiplicity pass themselves off as being independently real—real apart from the stance from which we see them—whereas in fact reality is undifferentiated Bahman throughout, in the way a rope lying in the dust remains a rope while being mistaken for a snake."

Swami Vivekananda
Hindu monk
Hinduism

“Hold to the idea, ‘I am not the mind, I see that I am thinking, I am watching my mind act,’ and each day the identification of yourself with thoughts and feelings will grow less, until at last you can entirely separate yourself from the mind and actually know it to be apart from yourself.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Those who know this truth, whose consciousness is unified, think always, ‘I am not the doer.’ While seeing or hearing, touching or smelling; eating, moving about, or sleeping; breathing or speaking, letting go or holding on, even opening or closing the eyes, they understand that these are only the movements of the senses among sense objects.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“This multitude of beings is created and destroyed again and again in the succeeding days and nights of Brahma. But beyond this formless state there is another, unmanifested reality, which is eternal and is not dissolved when the cosmos is destroyed.”

Shunryu Suzuki
Zen master
Buddhism

“When you start to wander about in some delusion which is something apart from you yourself, then your surroundings are not real anymore, and your mind is not real anymore. If you yourself are deluded, then your surroundings are also a misty, foggy delusion. Once you are in the midst of delusion, there is no end to delusion. You will be involved in deluded ideas one after another. Most people live in delusion, involved in their problem, trying to solve their problem. But just to live is actually to live in problems. And to solve the problem is to be a part of it, to be one with it."

Shunryu Suzuki
Zen master
Buddhism

“The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transiency, or change. That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence. No one can deny this truth, and all the teaching of Buddhism is condensed within it. This is the teaching for all of us. Wherever we go this teaching is true. This teaching is also understood as the teaching of selflessness. Because each existence is inconstant change, there is no abiding self. In fact, the self-nature of each existence is nothing but change itself, the self-nature of all existence. There is no special, separate self-nature for each existence. This is also called the teaching of Nirvana.”

In the Buddha's Words
Collection of Buddhist texts
Buddhism

“And what, monks, is dependent origination? With ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name-and-form; with name-and-form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, monks, is called dependent origination.”

Robert Aitken
Zen Buddhist teacher and translator
Buddhism

"[Bodhidharma] faced the wall of his cave in zazen for the last nine years of his life, though he had long ago found that wall, that barrier to be altogether transparent."

Lieh Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“When my teacher Lao-tzu left for the western lands, he told me that the life and breath of heaven and earth and the shape of all things are really illusions."

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“The one who knows he is stupid is not that stupid; the one who knows he is confused is not that confused. The greatly deluded will never be rid of delusion; the monumentally foolish will never be very bright. If there are three men walking along together and one of them is confused, they will still reach their goal, because confusion is in the minority; but if two of them are confused, they will not arrive, because confusion is in the majority."

Gustav Meyrink
Austrian novelist
Art & Literature

“Although you can see it, green is not a real color, it arises from a mixture of blue and yellow; if you thoroughly combine blue and yellow, you will get green. Every painter knows that; but few people realize that the world we live in stands likewise under the sign of green and thus does not reveal its true nature, namely blue and yellow.”

Jeffrey J. Kripal
Historian of religions
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“We are like the ant colony beneath the oak tree that imagines, falsely of course, that the oak is eternal and does not change. In truth, what human beings are forever taking as ‘the way things really are’ is little more than a snapshot or single frame on the fast-running film of time and its elaborate social constructions. The oak tree can be cut down, it is constantly changing, and it will most certainly die. So too will all religions.”

Jeffrey J. Kripal
Historian of religions
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“If one can realize that visionary landscapes and paranormal realities, however convincing, are ultimately authored by oneself and one’s culture, then one can also realize that things like ‘society,’ ‘religion,’ ‘self,’ and ‘other,’ even physical reality itself, are equally authored, and so also illusory.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly
Psychologist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“One must painstakingly match one's preconceptions against actual, ongoing experience to begin separating truth from illusion[…]These distortions are ‘inside’ each one of us—no human being is immune to the illusions they foster."

Wendy Doniger
Indologist and historian of religions
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“We are always in danger of drawing our own eye, for we depict our own vision of the world when we think we are depicting the world; often when we think we are studying an other we are really studying ourselves through the narrative of the other. Our choice of lens level is arbitrary, but not entirely so, for it is circumscribed by certain boundaries that we ignore to our peril…One particular focus lets us ask just one set of questions, but does not stop other people from focusing in other ways.”

The Analects
Confucian Text
Confucianism

“To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge.” (2:17)

Paramhansa Yogananda
Hindu monk and guru
Hinduism

“You do not have to struggle to reach God, but you do have to struggle to tear away the self-created veil that hides him from you.”

Anaximander
Ancient Greek philosopher
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“All things originate from one another and vanish into one another, according to necessity.”

The Jewish Chronicle
weekly Jewish newspaper
Judaism

"Olam has a diverse set of meanings, including, world, existence, lifetime and eternity. As is often the case in Hebrew, the etymology of the word suggests the link between its different senses; olam comes from alam, a verb meaning to hide or conceal. The underlying theological idea is that whether in time or in space, the olam is that which conceals the presence of God in the world."