What Happened? Nothing!

This is a complex topic to consider for sure. Why complex? Because it posits a paralyzingly simple possibility. The simplicity of this position is something that one is bound to come to, if contemplation and meditation is allowed to happen fearlessly.

Ajātavāda is a concept in Advaita Vedānta, and it posits nothing that we experience in our daily lives ever happens.

From our trusted wikipedia page on Ajātavāda page —

When the mind does not lie low, and is not again tossed about, then that being without movement, and not presenting any appearance, culminates into Brahman. Resting in itself, calm, with Nirvana, indescribable, highest happiness, unborn and one with the unborn knowable, omniscient they say. No creature whatever is born, no origination of it exists or takes place. This is that highest truth where nothing whatever is born.

— Gaudapada Karika, 3.46-48, Translated by RD Karmarkar[14]

In fact, the universe itself doesn’t exist. We were never born (ergo we will never die). How does such a crazy idea come about?

  • Going from being the being who lives and interacts in the world (jiva), to being the Witness of the process of living and interacting in the world (sākshi), a shift happens. In this shift, the waking state starts to take on a dream-like appearance.
  • Subsequently, the recognition of awareness underlying waking, dream and deep-sleep stays continuously. Waking, dreaming, deep-sleep continue to happen without much change.
  • A realization arises that “I was never not that awareness, I am never not that awareness and I am never going to stop being that awareness”. It has always been my reality, irrespective of what “state” it might be (as in waking/dreaming/deep sleep).
  • This awareness is also the awareness that shines within all the forms of experiential reality.
  • Attempts at trying to understand why and how the world arises or exists, simply fall away.
  • There is only awareness and the World, jīva, birth, death, creation, destruction, etc are simply appearances in it.
  • Since there never was a jīva, and a jagat (world) apart from the awareness, there is no one who gets liberated, as no one was ever in bondage. There is only that awareness and nothing else.
  • Awareness itself doesn’t have any beginning or end (in other words it is atemporal). Time appears in it.
  • Awareness itself doesn’t take up any space or even exist in space, rather space exists in it.

Nothing ever happens. All happenings are just like a dream that rises and dissipates in the consciousness of the dreamer.

In our dream state, we find ourselves observing a subject experiencing objects (and sometimes the subject shifts from one character to another within the same dream); and upon waking up,  neither the dream nor the experiences exist (memories of the dreams and the dream experiences might remain). Similarly, when we wake up to the greater reality of being pure awareness, the waking state too will be like a dream state.

It might be argued that after waking up from the dream state, the dream universe ceases to exist. By that logic, will the world disappear once one wakes up from their waking state? That doesn’t seem to happen, as we find awakened beings (such as Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Nisargadatta Maharaj et al) seemed to have continued living in the world as functional body-mind units, well after their awakening.

If anyone has had lucid dreams, they can confirm that the phenomenon of “waking up” within a dream is very amazing. Suddenly, in the middle of a dream, the subject realizes that it is a dream, and that opens up avenues for great freedom (from the contents of the dreams) and control over the dream itself, and ability to explore fearlessly.

Similarly, it is suggested that after the mind turns around and sinks back into its source Awareness, a great freedom arises, and with it, arises a complete cessation of fear (any situation). Just like in a lucid dream, when one is fully lucid, one may choose to end the dream in an instant, similarly, as lucidity in the “waking state” becomes complete, that “waking dream” too can be instantly ended.

From Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings in the book “I am That”, we find this quote —

Once you realize that the world is your own projection, you are free of it. You need not free yourself of a world that does not exist, except in your own imagination! However is the picture, beautiful or ugly, you are painting it and you are not bound by it. Realize that there is nobody to force it on you, that it is due to the habit of taking the imaginary to be real. See the imaginary as imaginary and be free of fear. (Part 1, Aphorism 200)

The pure mind sees things as they are – bubbles in consciousness. These bubbles are appearing, disappearing and reappearing – without having real being. Each bubble is a body and all these bodies are mine. (Part 1, Aphorism 138)

Ramana Maharshi’s disciple Papaji (HL Poonja) says about this very topic —

NO creation,
NO dissolution,
NO bondage,
NO liberation,
NO seeker after liberation,
None liberated:
This is the ultimate Truth.

Absolute non-manifestation
is the only Truth.

Creation indicates an unsatisfied desire on the part of the creator. If the ultimate reality is perfect in itself, then the act of creation can never be predicated on it. (Nothing Ever Happened vol. 3, pp. 217-8)

There’s a very good discussion on this topic here.

Watch Swami Sarvapriyananda’s wonderful talk on the topic —


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3 Replies to “What Happened? Nothing!”

  1. The old soul dwai, with mindset of grandpa, who thinks he meditates, thinks he practices Tai chi, thinks he play music, thinks he writes articles and blogs about all the topics, thinks he has various interests, does not exist.



  2. I think in this way. For eg. we talk of ‘our thoughts’..

    Does a ‘thought’ exist..?

    Let’s say, thought is neurons in brain conducting electrical signal. Does that thought exist..? If it exists, what is it..? The thought that I am writing now, I can point out a region of space where it manifests . For eg. within the brain or the entire body.

    But can you isolate/separate/identify a thought or set of thoughts and mark them as such..? It’s impossible to do that. It’s not a limitation of science that we can’t isolate/specify/identify a thought or set of thoughts in our brain. It is the nature of thought to be multi-dimensional, multi-faceted and all mixed up.

    We perceive ‘thoughts’ like in a dream. A dream happens. But it is not reality. Same way thoughts in our brain happens. But we can’t isolate them or mark them or take them out and show to anyone/ourselves as a reality.

    What is ‘we’..? We is a combination of physical body and mental thoughts. We just saw what mental thoughts are. But what is our body..? Our body is a just made of physical matter. Where does this physical matter arise from..? Ultimately it arises from the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum.

    Quantum fluctuations are also of the same nature of our thoughts. May be they arise over a range of space, but their nature is all mixed up and cannot be identified and cannot be isolated.

    Thus ultimately everything that arises has this nature of (colloquially put) un-identifiable, un-isolatable, un-specificable.

    Everything is born because they seem to be manifesting. They are unborn because they can’t be identified, isolated, specified.


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