It might seem like the TV appeared on the face of this earth only a few decades ago. Not quite. The TV has been here for as long as the “here” has been here. Clearly, I am not speaking about the tiny box (not so tiny these days) in most urban households the world over. I am referring to the huge box spanning our mind and the senses. It is so huge that not only can we not think outside the box, but we cannot even see beyond it.
It is helpful to look at the world as a giant TV screen. An HD TV, no less, with 3D capability. Like any TV watching, so long as we see it from a distance, it is possible to enjoy it, or hate it, or be horrified by it, or at times get bored by it. If we go too close to the screen, we can no longer see the unceasing dance of color and form and ideas. We only see pixels which convey no meaning, no color, no significance. When we switch off the TV, we see the screen. The only thing that remains unchanged while we sit before the TV is the screen. In fact, we really have been seeing only the screen but “covered” by the constantly changing colors and forms and sounds and ideas.
Isn’t the situation with our world similar? So long as we see it from a distance, so long as the world appears to be “out there,” we are watching the cosmic TV soap opera, which spans not years but lifetimes. We get so absorbed into it that we forget that we are only watching it. It’s a small leap from being an observer to being a participator. Why be a part of an audience when it is possible to go and act and be a star? In the process, we forget how to switch the TV off. We forget even where the switch is.
But those who try to take a close look at the giant TV screen of the world suddenly find the forms and names disappearing into pixels that convey no logical meaning or significance or purpose. They try spiritual disciplines, which is like searching for the switch to turn the TV off. When the cosmic TV is finally turned off in the state of samādhi, the unchanging reality behind it is revealed.
We were really seeing God all the time! But God was covered by “name and form” (nāma-rūpa), so we saw this covering and took it to be the real thing. Once the covering is off, God stands revealed.
When the Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad says that we must cover everything with God (īśāvāsyam idam sarvam), what it really means is that we must “uncover” God from everything else.