What Is Real? Unreal? An Exploration…

What Is Real? Unreal? An Exploration

What is real and unreal?

We usually confuse ‘real’ with what ‘exists’! If something exists we consider it real… after all it exists! The computer exists… surely I can’t refute that … so it must be real! I exist… so I must be real!

However Indian sacred texts have given us a glimpse into this secret – of what constitutes real – and thereby of all that isn’t real. And this helps us become aware, why, what exists – isn’t really ‘real’! The real a) Is an Absolute – without another source – the real needs nothing, no other, no reference point, no perceiver, nothing borrowed from outside itself / another source… because if one withdrew this secondary force, the real wouldn’t exist and thus can’t be real! (For example: If we can perceive something, and withdraw the perceiver then what we perceive doesn’t exist!) B) Is Eternal – Indestructible – it is at all times and everywhere in all conditions because if it exists sometimes and not at others, it can’t be the absolute real. (Doesn’t the layman say if he stops loving me it wasn’t real!!!!!!? Of course this is a light colloquial example) c) Is Unchanging – Unaffected because if it’s constantly changing it isn’t real (Doesn’t the layman say if one day my boss is kind and other days he is mean and angry his kindness isn’t real!!!!!); d) if anything/anyone can affect it then different things/people/situations will affect it differently – so how can it be the unchanging absolute real? (Don’t we say oh anything can change his love for me so it isn’t real!!!!!)

Therefore the corollary that existence (or all that seems to exist) exists, but is unreal! a) After all it is not an absolute by itself – it needs another to be/exist. It needs the perceiver! No me, no my world! No me, no my computer! Thus, indeed, the paradox, that whatever can be perceived can’t be real! So when we say “I can see/hear/smell/taste/feel it, so what do you mean it isn’t real” – precisely – anything we perceive/sense through any of our 5 senses involves a perceiver – its existence is borrowed and dependent on the perceiver – thus isn’t real. Only ones I Am presence simply is, without a perceiver-perceived b) What seems to exist and is temporary, changing, dies, improves, worsens cannot be real – that covers everything you usually call real – and thus paradoxically only the intangible I Am presence is real c) Whatever exists is relative to/dependent on/affected by the perceiver – different people view or experience the same differently and thus it cannot be real – whose reality?

Thus existence (or what exists) – our world and you me – exists but isn’t really real. Like a movie (or a dream) … which exist surely…we cannot deny their existence when we are in a theater… but we don’t consider them real. It is best described as an illusion/Maya. For it does exist… even if as an illusion. But – it is an illusion, not real! The etymology of the word ‘exists’ is: to step out, jut out, stand forth, emerge, appear! So, what exists, steps, juts out, emerges, appears – out of the screen of awareness.

Also all that exists is made up of the 4 elements (+ akasha/ether/consciousness) – and is dependent on these to exist- thus not an absolute. It is part of Maya/the illusion –apparently real but not so. Like the objects / people / scenes in a movie – they exist – but are an illusory play of light on the screen. Just like we see the sun set and rise – but we know that’s not real! (The unreal is something that doesn’t even exist… like the son of a barren woman, six legged dog etc)

Get not stuck in the details, allow the gist to get to you in your own words, for this note only brings to the table the idea that what exists, yes does exist, but not to confuse it with real! It helps us better ‘live’ the illusion for what it is – not denying it, but partaking of it , like enjoying a movie rather than going to a movie and fretting in every scene that oh it doesn’t exist! Neither giving it validity it doesn’t have.

Ultimately of course even Maya is a Maya, the illusion, illusory! But that’s another subject….!

*Note: Objects are not real, what they occur in, is; Objects don’t have existence, existence has objects – we can now further grasp why objects which do exist, are not real! They are not an absolute (as they need someone/something to see/use/ create them; they are not eternal – they have a lifespan, get destroyed etc; they are ever changing, get spoilt, need maintenance etc; also different people perceive/use them differently so they are ever-changing based on the other). Thus, every time you see an object, move from the tangible to intangible, from name and form to the absolute source; from the unreal to the real…. surrounded by objects, abide in the presence in which they exist, rather than in them.

*Note: (A central concept in most of the Upanishads: The Real is called Brahman. Brahman is defined as the omnipresent, eternal and spiritual source. Because it exists at all times and everywhere, in all conditions, is not dependent on another and is absolute. It is not perceptible because it is not an object but is the perceiver itself in us.Brahman connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In Hindu philosophy, it is the Indestructible and Supreme Spirit. It is present in every atom of creation, but remains there as the Viewer, not affected by creation. Bhraman is different from Bhrama (the creator) and Brahman (the priest community).


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Divyaa Kummar


I am a Spiritual & Meditation facilitator, Tarot reader, Bach practitioner reaching out to fellow travelers – i share as…

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