What is Real?



The question, what is real? – is one that haunts many seekers.

They read in some of the most revered sacred texts that life, as it is lived, is nothing but a dream, that upon examination nothing, whatsoever, is real.

These texts are invested with belief out of fear. Because they are old, they would appear to carry a weight that contemporary writing and experience would seem to lack. It is our fear of ‘getting’ it wrong that motivates us to assume that the antiquity of these texts, particularly if they are of Indian origin, lends them the air of authority.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. If anything, their age, should raise even deeper scrutiny. The modern achievements of science have made a mockery of any older narrative about the nature of matter, the origins of feelings/emotions, and thought. If we wanted to know more about gravity, would we be referring to anything published prior to the 17th century?

These sacred texts will often equate waking life with the dreams that we experience while asleep. When we awaken, we know, with certainty, that our dreams were just that; dreams and that waking life is no different.

They are wrong.

Let us start with the premise that everything happens in the elusive now (I will explain later why I’m using the term “elusive).

Now – in the midst of a dream, everything ‘appears’ real. Why is that so? Because while we are dreaming, that is our “now”. It is real in the midst of the dream, just as this computer is real as I type these words. We might even say that waking life seems to be utterly unreal, when in the midst of a dream!

That which now is the very manifestation of the universe expressing itself as life.

The perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that you are experiencing in this now are unique to you. The way you are experiencing them are unique to you. That are unlike the experience of everything else in the universe. They are real and they are your reality and only your reality. Those trees outside of my window are real. I know that they will be there tomorrow and the day after. They endure until they are no more. My thoughts are also real, but they endure for a relatively short time, but when they happen, they are real. Also, our more urgent thoughts inspire actions that, in turn, generate new and real thoughts and feelings.

This is reality. We can say, with complete confidence, that everything is real.

Most of all, you are real. You already know that, but can you live from that truth? “To be or not to be, that is the question.”

Now, let’s return to the adjective “elusive”. The real is elusive because it cannot be grasped. Why can it not be grasped (please read this part of the post with all of your heart)? Because as the Buddha noted many times, nothing has independent existence. Everything is part of the whole and the whole is the Everything! When this is realized then, it is true, nothing is real as an independent entity. Rather everything appears real within a moment that can never be grasped. The real is like water. When we attempt to hold it, it flows through our fingers.

The harder we attempt to grasp this reality, whether through its physicality, its essence (like poetry), or through some ‘ultimate and final’ understanding, the more it will elude us. This is the primary error of seeking.

Everything just is in the moment that it is. And because everything is in ceaseless change, no two isnesses are the same. Thus there is no you and no me that could ever be grasped. We are beautiful and elusive appearances within the whole. But the person who would so dearly desire to grasp it is also something that can never be contained or grasped. Such is the evanescent nature of all of life.

This is not to demean our uniqueness as fractional entities of the whole. Our uniqueness is the gift of the universe and is something we can celebrate (or demean) as circumstances in the vast flow of THIS. Everything – is part of this same essence.

What can I “get” from these words? Nothing really – or just that we can be a little bit wiser when all the energy we devote to “get this” and “hold that” are a complete waste of time. Of course, we can continue seeking to “get” and “hold” and if we are serious about it, we might welcome the misery that flows in that wake or we can do it in the spirit of play and just enjoy the show. When the desire to “get” arises in the flow, it’s just that – another of the numberless arisings of the one as “getting” within the vast field of This. Nothing more and nothing less.


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