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Real vs Unreal

What is Real and Unreal in this World?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ |
समदु:खसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते || 15||

O Arjun, noblest amongst men, that person who is not affected by happiness and distress, and remains steady in both, becomes eligible for liberation.

Bhagvad Gita 2.15

नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सत: |
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभि: || 16||

Of the transient there is no endurance, and of the eternal there is no cessation. This has verily been observed by the seers of the truth, after studying the nature of both.

Bhagvad Gita 2.16

अविनाशि तु तद्विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् |
विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित्कर्तुमर्हति || 17||

That which pervades the entire body, know it to be indestructible. No one can cause the destruction of the imperishable soul.

Bhagvad Gita 2.17

To answer this question, we first have to consider the definition of real. In Sanskrit, sat (real) means non-negatable in the three periods of time—past, present, and future. Conversely, unreal means negatable in any of the three periods. So, what is real is that which is unchanging and permanent, whereas what is unreal is that which constantly changes.

From this definition, it’s clear that the material world around us is unreal because it’s constantly changing. Our bodies are constantly growing and aging, the weather is always changing, and even the Earth itself is constantly moving. So, if we want to find something that’s real, we have to look beyond the material world.

For the unreal, there is no existence. Anything that is subject to change is considered less real. For example, the entire world has an apparent reality. The world was born some 13.7 billion years ago, and it continues to undergo change. This cycle of creation will eventually come to an end. Therefore, the universe is not absolutely real.

What is real?

The only thing that’s real in this world is consciousness. Consciousness doesn’t change; it’s always present and unchanging. And it’s not limited to one living being or any specific body. So, the consciousness in each of us is the same consciousness in everything else.

Consciousness is all-pervasive. It’s not stuck inside your head, it has no dimensions or boundaries—it is infinite. Therefore, the same consciousness that is manifest in me is also manifest in you. It’s the same consciousness that has been around for eternity and will be around forever.

You and God are the same

The Vedāntic philosophy reveals this knowledge: atman, or individual consciousness, is Brahman, or cosmic consciousness. The individual soul is not different from God because it’s made of divine qualities like knowledge, love, and bliss. We’re all the same because we’re all made of partless spirit.

The world around us is a projection of this divine consciousness. Scientists have proven that the whole universe is fine-tuned for life. The sun, moon, stars, earth—each plays a specific role in supporting life on this planet

What the Gita Teaches Us

What is real is permanent and unchanging, while what is unreal is temporary and changeable. Our consciousness , or atma, is real, while our body and mind are unreal. The Gita teaches us to focus on our atma, or inner self, and not be attached to the things of this world that are constantly changing.

Once somebody asked a question to Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev: “Is life real or a dream?” Sadhguru’s answer was very adequate—“It is a dream that is real”.