What is Real?

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In spiritual works and teachings, especially eastern teachings, we have all come across the concept of “Illusion”. We each carry an intellectual understanding of what this “Illusion” is or may be about.

So, one practitioner might say that “Everything is an illusion. This world is not real.”; Another practitioner might say that “We never see the world for what it is because we are clouded with fears, anger, worries, judgments etc. This is the illusion.”;

And there’s probably many more variations of how we understand the idea of “Illusion”. Be that as it may. If there is “Illusion”, what is Real?

Here is what Ramana Maharshi says:

“What is the standard of reality? That alone is real which exists by itself, which reveals itself by itself and which is eternal and unchanging.”

This body-mind which we think we are and which, to us, appears very real to our conventional way of living, according to this criteria, cannot be Real. Why? Because it was created in an act of being born, and it will be destroyed in an act of dying. i.e. It is neither eternal nor unchanging.

This body-mind which we think we are and which, to us, appears very real, never did exist by itself. It was made out of others (the parents). It is sustained out of other things (the five elements, dependence on other people). So, this body-mind can’t be Real.

In other words, the “I” that we think we are, isn’t Real.

If the “I” that we think we are isn’t Real, how can the world that it perceives be Real?

Yet, there is an undeniable experience of something, that appears to be mind and body, which in turn, appears to experience a world. More than concepts, direct experience is more valuable, this is what the sages say

If the “I” and the world it perceives aren’t Real, then how does one explain the experience of such that seems to be there? This is a paradox of sorts, or so it appears to be.

The source of this apparent paradox is the assumption that the experiencer of experiences is the “I”, the separate one we think ourselves to be, separate from the One, the Tao, Brahman, Reiki, True Self.

The sages and scriptures provide a clear pointer for clarifying this: There are no two separate entities, the One / the Tao / Brahman and the world. There is only One. “The Tao is the world. The world is the Tao.” Only One. Not two. Only One indivisible whole.

The “I”, is no more than a reflection of the One, like the moon’s light is a reflection of the Sun’s light. The “I” is part of the one indivisible reality of the One, just like the moon would not exist without the Sun. In turn, the world of name and form, is also not separate from the One.

When there is a realization that reality is not the “I”, but the One, then the paradox disappears. The world is known to be Real, for the world too is the very same One.

Knowing who we really are is the key to break free from false understanding, i.e. non-real understanding.

There is a prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, an ancient Indian scripture, that is relevant to this quest:

Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya |

Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya |

Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya |

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||


1: Om, (O Lord) Keep me not in the Unreality (of the bondage of the World of Objects and Duality), but lead me towards the Reality (of the Eternal Self),

2: (O Lord) Keep me not in the Darkness (of Ignorance), but lead me towards the Light (of Spiritual Truth),

3: (O Lord) Keep me not in the (Fear of) Death (due to the bondage of the Mortal World), but lead me towards the Immortality (gained by the Knowledge of the Immortal Self beyond Death),

4: Om, (May there be) Peace, Peace, Peace.

(For those of you interested in listening to this chant, here is a good rendition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNF_Ds8fa2I)

This realization of that which is Real, is what Usui san talks of as “The Secret” in the Reiki precepts!

This Real-ization is what brings the continuous experience of happiness of True Self.

This Real-ization is also the spiritual medicine for all diseases (death, the fear of which, being the first and last disease), the first and last disease being life (there is a separate “I” with a separate “life” is the first and last disease).

This is why the precepts of Usui san start by saying: “The Secret of Inviting Happiness”, and the “Spiritual Medicine for All Illness”, because the system of Reiki is the way of realizing that which is Real.



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