Shankaracharya teaches, “A clear vision of the Reality may be obtained only though our own eyes, when they have been opened by spiritual insight—never through the eyes of some other seer. Through our own eyes we learn what the moon looks like: how could we learn this through the eyes of others?” He shows how the gross body is made of the elements and slave to the senses, desire, and the three conditions of Maya (projecting, veiling, revealing). He describes four mental functions: emotions, identity-making, deliberation, and discrimination. Swami Prabhavananda’s translation states: “In the waking state of consciousness, man finds his fullest activity in the body…. The dream-state belongs pre-eminently to the subtle body…. The mental organ identifies itself with the organs of perception and of action, as well as with the physical body.” This is a false identity. “Through ignorance, man identifies the Atman with the body, taking the perishable for real. Therefore he nourishes this body, and anoints it, and guards it carefully…. When a man becomes illumined by knowledge, there arises within him perfect discrimination which clearly distinguishes the true Being, the Atman, from the external appearances.”
Shankaracharya prescribes concentration and non-attachment. The first steps to see the Reality as-it-is are right thought, right speech, right action, refusal to accept unnecessary gifts, renunciation of worldly ambition, and continuous devotion. A Master’s perception of the universe is a continuous perception of God. Teachers and scriptures only point to the possibility of spiritual awareness. The absolute proof is direct experience of Truth and Freedom. The illumined man is liberated from ignorance and becomes calm and content.