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tasmad idam jagad asesam asat-svarupam
svapnabham asta-dhisanam puru-duhkha-duhkham
tvayy eva nitya-sukha-bodha-tanav anante
mayata udyad api yat sad ivavabhati
Therefore this entire universe, which like a dream is by nature unreal, nevertheless appears real, and thus it covers one’s consciousness and assails one with repeated miseries. This universe appears real because it is manifested by the potency of illusion emanating from You, whose unlimited transcendental forms are full of eternal happiness and knowledge.
As an object of enjoyment or a permanent residence for the conditioned souls, the material universe is certainly illusion, nothing more than a dream. One may give the analogy that the vision of abundant water in a desert is no more than a dream, although real water exists elsewhere. Similarly, the vision of home, happiness and reality within matter is certainly no better than a foolish dream in which repeated miseries appear.
In another sense, however, the universe is real. In his commentary on Vedanta-sutra, Srila Madhvacarya has confirmed this by quoting the following statement from the Vedic sruti-mantras: satyam hy evedam visvam asrjata. “This universe, created by the Lord, is real.” The perfect authority of the Vedas thus certifies this universe to be real; nevertheless, because our knowledge is stolen by illusion (as indicated here by the words asta-dhisanam), we cannot properly understand this universe or the Supreme Lord who has created it. As the expansion of Lord Krsna, the universe is real and is meant for being engaged in His service. One who accepts the kingdom of God as home, the Lord Himself as the object of love, and the material universe as paraphernalia for being engaged in the Lord’s service dwells within eternal reality wherever he may go within the material and spiritual worlds.