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Reality Versus Illusion and Imagination

Reality Versus Illusion

Is the world an illusion? For most people, this might be a strange question. In this article we will speak about reality versus illusion.

What’s the difference between illusion and reality? Is what we call solid reality really solid? Let’s delve into some explanations.

Through the five senses, we are aware of the world around us and believe it is real.

When we see the solid objects around us and are aware of them, it is hard to deny their validity. Everything looks real, so we never stop questioning this reality.

Our mind receives information through the five senses and accepts it as real without questioning.

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When we bump into a table or a wall and feel pain, it is difficult to say that we are imagining the pain.

When we see the world around us, hear sounds, smell scents, or feel heat or coldness, we cannot deny that these are facts, and we, therefore, accept these sense impressions as real.

Eastern Philosophies and the World

Eastern philosophies say that the world is an illusion. This is called Maya in Eastern terminology. They also speak about the illusion of self, ego, or individuality.

  • Can we accept this idea when everything looks so real?
  • Is looking at the world as a product of the imagination right?
  • Can we say that what we call reality is just imagination and illusion?

This is very unlikely.

We use the five senses and the mind to be conscious of the world. This means that our awareness of the world depends on our five senses.

Have you thought about this idea before?

Without the five senses and the mind, the world does not exist for us.

This is what the philosophy of Nonduality says.

Is the World an Illusion or Reality?

The mind and the five senses create a world for us. Is this world an illusion or reality?

By changing our thoughts and attitudes, we can change the illusion created by the mind and experience a different kind of reality.

Something real always exists. It does not come and go. However, we cannot say that about the world. There are gaps when, for us, the external world does not exist, such as while we sleep or in deep meditation.

This also happens when we are so busy that we are unaware of what is happening around us. In such moments, nothing exists for us except for what we are doing.

After we wake up from sleep or when we get out of deep meditation and return to ordinary consciousness, we feel that there is a gap in our consciousness in which the outside world hardly exists. There was no world for us at that time.

I am not saying that the world ceased to exist at these moments; it ceased to exist for us, for our consciousness and awareness of it.

The world exists for us only when the five senses and mind are directed towards it and ceases to exist for us when we silence the senses and the mind.

We do not experience the world during deep sleep because our five senses are inactive.

Can you prove the reality of the world while you are deeply asleep? After you wake up, other people might tell you that the world existed while you slept, but can you prove that these people existed while you were asleep?

After waking up, we may believe in the realty of the world. However, the fact is that during sleep, the world was non-existent for us.

Dreams seem very real during sleep, but upon awakening, we realize they are just dreams. The same could be true of this world we call reality.

This leads to the question, is the world illusion or reality? What do you think?

Think about these ideas. Thinking about them will open and expand your mind, insight, and understanding of the world.

The Difference Between a Dream in Sleep and a Dream in Wakefulness

Indian philosophy might not be your cup of tea. Still, I just want to mention that Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian sage who lived during the 19th and 20th century, said that the difference between a dream while sleeping and the dream we call wakefulness is only of duration, one short and the other one long.

I would also like to say that every person interprets experiences, details, words, and other people’s behavior differently, according to the programming and education of his subconscious mind.

No one’s world is like another. Again, we see the illusion at work. We create our world based on our interpretation of what we see, hear, and perceive through the five senses.

Mind and Thoughts Create Our Reality

We create our reality to a great extent, which means that it is not solid and unchanged. It is affected by our thoughts and attitudes.

Thoughts arise in the mind, and we become aware of them.

The same thoughts often arise repeatedly. If we let this process continue, it will become a habit. Eventually, we act in accordance with these thoughts, and in this way, we create the life we live, our circumstances, and the situations that we go through.

Repeated thoughts make us expect, behave, talk, and act in a certain personalized way, and in this way, we determine how the people around us treat us.

We usually continue thinking the same thoughts and living the same kind of life each day, whether we like it or not. It is like watching the same movie repeatedly.

If you wish to watch a different movie, we have to change channels or replace the disc in the player. We do so by changing our thoughts. This is how creative visualization works, and there is nothing supernatural about this.

Again, as you can see, reality is an illusion because it can be changed. It is the product of our imagination.

The world we experience and the life we live are the reflections of our thoughts. The mind creates a world of illusion. By changing our thoughts, we change the illusion and experience a different reality. We do not create a world, only an illusion that looks real. No unusual power is involved here.

To use an Indian term, we are living in Maya and are changing the Maya.

The World is Like a Movie Show

When we are able to still the mind and the senses, our consciousness seems to shift into a new dimension. Actually, it is there all the time, only that the mind makes us think otherwise.

When thoughts are absent, the world we know and believe to be real loses its reality. We become conscious of the world beyond the mind and illusions.

We can wake up, understand, and become conscious of the illusion of Maya. This is the aim of certain Indian philosophies, like Nonduality, or as it is called in the East Advaita Vedanta.

Due to the illusion created by the mind, which most people accept as reality, it seems as if each person is a separate individuality, while the same One Spirit exists within everyone.

The world is like a movie. A person watching a movie often gets very involved with the characters and with what is happening on the screen. They become happy or sad with the heroes, depressed, shout, or laugh.

If you decide to stop watching the screen at a particular moment and manage to withdraw your attention away from the movie, you will be snapped out of the illusion that the movie creates.

The projection machine at the cinema will project images onto the screen, but you know that it is only light projected through the film onto the screen. What is viewed on the screen is unreal, yet it is there.

You may watch the movie or decide to close your eyes and ears and stop looking at the screen.

Have you ever watched a movie when, at some point, the reel became stuck or there was a power failure?

What happens to you when you watch an interesting, absorbing film on the television and suddenly there are commercials?

You get snapped out of the illusion of the world around you.

Waking up from Illusion and Imagination

When you are sleeping and dreaming, and someone wakes you up, you feel thrown out of one world to a different one. It is the same in the life we call reality. It is possible to wake up from the illusion.

One who has managed to still the mind and senses through proper training can continue living and acting in the world like a person sitting in a cinema hall, who knows he is watching a movie and that it has nothing to do with reality.

When a person learns how to get out of the illusion and wake up, he or she is no longer a slave to illusion and dreams; they become free.

In the East, metaphors are used to demonstrate what illusion is in relation to Reality. A jewel made of gold may be called an earring or a necklace, but it is actually only gold—before it becomes a jewel and after it is melted.

Here is another example.
Clay is shaped into vessels such as plates, cups, or vases, but they are only clay.

Due to the convenience of speech, we call these objects made of gold or clay by many names, but they are really only gold or clay.

You might say that it is too far-fetched, but we can say that everything in existence is made from One Primary stuff, and in this sense, it is not a “real” thing standing by itself, exactly as in the above examples.

A mirage is not real, but we see it. Events that take place while dreaming are not real, but we experience them as reality during the dream. A hologram looks like 3D while it is actually flat.

In the East, the rope and the snake are metaphors for explaining reality and illusion. In the dark, we may see a rope and mistake it for a snake. When there is enough light, we realize it is only a rope, and the snake disappears.

As you can see, this article is not about reality versus imagination or illusion since all three are interconnected. Each affects the other, and sometimes, you do not know where one ends and the other begins.

Calm Down the Chatter of Your Mind

Free your mind from endless thinking!
Discover How to Stop the Constant Chatter of the Mind