This came up in another forum and I thought it worth sharing here. Edited slightly for context.
While they raise excellent points (referring to another source), the 2 or 3 worlds framework used is incomplete and not used in the correct context. That leads to some erroneous conclusions. It also causes mistakes in attribution, in understanding what a sage was talking about.
For example, there is often a stage where the world takes on a sense of being illusory. That can be quite distinct for some. This is the result of a dominance of rajas (fire) in the transition from tamas (inertia) to sattva (clarity) gunas. That often accompanies the initial Self Realization but may come earlier or later as it is a distinct but parallel process. It is not “ultimate reality” even if it seems like it at the time.
The old texts call this stage Dwaita or duality – inner reality, outer illusion. The world may seem illusory but it’s still there: an other = 2. The neo-advaitists often confuse this with non-duality and Vedanta because of the over-simplification. When sattva grows, the mechanism of the illusion becomes clear and Maya* shifts from illusion to Lila, the divine play. Non-duality comes after this.
World as illusion is NOT however the same thing as it’s an illusion the world was ever created in the first place. While it sounds quite similar, the experience is very different. In the first, we come to see the world as illusory, then the process of how the illusion was created. In the second, we realize that was an illusion as well. That comes out of a more advanced shift into Brahman, beyond consciousness, beyond Atman. And that tells us that the experience of awareness being the ultimate reality is another stage – perfectly real at the time but not the highest reality. Awareness has an origin as well.
An appropriate framework can help unmuddle the concepts and much better supports a journey. It avoids the idea of being “done” or the all-to-common idea that this is “The Truth” and I should teach it. Ironically, the concept that there are no stages is just as much a barrier as the concept that there are stages. The map is not the road whatever concept you choose to hold.
*Maya refers to creation, from the root to build. It does not, as is so often translated, mean illusion. That’s a reference to the rajas stage of perception of Maya.