Tag Archives: illusion

Is Reality an Illusion?

Is reality merely an illusion? The wise keep saying that. But it is difficult to wrap our heads around this notion. After all, we see, hear, smell, taste and feel things. How can all this be an illusion?

movie hall

Imagine you are in a movie hall engrossed in an exciting movie. As the movie captivates your attention, it begins to influence your emotions and state of mind. Depending on whether the movie is a thriller or a horror movie, you experience the ups and downs of emotions along with the characters in the movie.

So the question is – Is the movie real? Yes it is. It is playing in front of you. But it is not real. The characters are not real. It is an illusion created on the screen in front of you.

I am sure you would have experienced a movie which made you cry, laugh, and once in a while make you jump out of your chair. We think the movie is good, well made, well directed and the actors were superb. However, we forget one very important thing – the fact that we invest reality into the movie. Although it is not done by explicitly thinking “I am going to consider this movie as real” but the overall effect of lights out and loud volume immerses you into the movie and makes it appear as real. Without this serious participation in the movie on our part, we will not enjoy it.

Similarly it is with other things in life. Take for example sports. We have to invest seriousness into something which is fundamentally non-serious. Scoring a goal or taking a wicket is nothing in itself without us making a serious business of it.

Therefore, the wise say that life is merely the game of God – Lila.

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players… (Shakespeare)

So it takes a slight turning around of our view, although happening in an unaware state, to consider an illusory thing as real. Similarly, it takes a reversal of that turning around in our view, by doing it consciously, to come back to normal perspective on things.

As a child, I cried when Amitabh died in Sholay. My parents told me it is only a movie and that he did not die in reality. Many people are upset when their team loses a match. But it only takes a minor realization that it is only a game in order to get over the sadness.

Getting Stuck

The problem is not that we consider as serious business what is not serious but it is staying for long in that specific state. When we continuously invest seriousness into everything in life, we experience stress. Even a small one minute delay will raise our blood pressure. We become cranky, demanding and pushy if we take everything as real.

However, staying too much on the other extreme is also equally problematic. If we assume the position that nothing in life is serious, then we will not be able to act appropriately in life. We will become casual, non committal when we take everything as illusion.

Those are the two extremes. The true path is in the middle. Discard both views that life is real or illusion and take life as it is. Do not ask how!

Everything is real and is not real. Both real and not real. Neither real nor not real. This is Lord Buddha’s teaching. (Mulamadhyamakakarika – Root verses of the Middle Way by Nagarjuna)

Just notice and be aware and be conscious whenever you invest seriousness (when you act as if it was real and it mattered) or non-seriousness (when you act as it it did not matter at all) into any situation in life.

So life is not serious but let us not take it casually or life is serious but let us not take it seriously!


RIP Time


The responsibility of proving that time exists lies with those who say that time exists. The existence of clocks & watches does not prove that time exists just as existence of rulers do not prove the existence of inches or the existence of thermometers does not prove the existence of temperature.

Time is a concept that helps to standardize the measurement of change. How is it done? One change is kept as base & everything else is compared to that. For e.g. The movement of the shadow on a sundial or the movement of a pendulum or the oscillation of a quartz crystal is used to measure time.

Man has created the notion of time & applied it to everything.- the age of the universe, age of dinosaur fossils, history…

Time causes psychological stress. So you must understand this illusion of time


Right now, what time is it? In India, it is 5:30pm , in London it is 12 noon, in Japan midnight & USA morning. But on earth, what time is it?

Try this one

Visualize yourself at night going up like a balloon into the sky. Keep going up, go beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Keep going. You will see the sun at some point. Does it mean it is day now? Day & night is only a happening on earth. we count the alternate days & call it the calendar. Then we extend that infinitely in two directions & call it past & future.

The universe is a dark place. Just because we are near a star, we see light. In fact our existence is because of the sun.

Watch closely. When does “this” moment end & the “next” moment begin? You won’t find a boundary. If Taj Mahal was in the past, why do we see it today in the present?

Here is another one.

Monday, Tuesday,… January, February,… 1,2,3… are all concepts. If you do not have a calendar for several days & you wake up one day, how do you know what date, what year it is?

Past, Present & Future are only constructs of language & thought for the purpose of communication and mutual convenience. Nothing is moving from past to present or present to future. Things are only changing & we interpret them in terms of time. Whatever was, is and will be has always been, will be right NOW.

Sequence & Order is only a mental illusion. Imagine that I show you an apple & then an orange. What came first? You say – the apple. But fact is both apple & orange existed simultaneously. The order or sequence was created by mind.


Movement of thought is Time. No movement, no time. When you realize there is no time, you change totally.

Don’t TRY to live in the present moment. You have always been in the present moment. You ARE the present moment.

The World as Illusion


Mystics throughout the ages have termed the world as illusion – a dream landscape with people and things with no inherent substance. How do we reconcile this with what we sense in our everyday life – the people, the objects, the animals, the trees?

What is an illusion? When something appears to be what it is not, it is illusion. To be more precise – when something appears, it is already an illusion. Appearance itself is illusion.

A tree appears to have a trunk, leaves, fruits, and flowers. A dog appears to have legs, tail, eyes and ears. A human being appears to have hands, face, mouth, nose and hair. We have given names to appearances. But just giving names do not make those appearances real.

What appears to us appears the way it does only because of the various conditions in which it appears. To be more precise – appearances are nothing but conditions. The sky appears blue in the day and black in the night. A leaf appears green when young and yellow when old.

What we see is not an object but an appearance which we name. To understand what is real and what illusion, we must investigate deeper than the surface appearances.

Wood appears solid, but disappears into thin air when burnt. We see a rainbow with many colors but there is nothing but water. Conditions are such that from the point we are the light is reflected by water in the air to create the illusion of a rainbow. There are no colors in the air but we still see them. That is the illusion.

We see the sky but “sky” is a word which has no object. You cannot go up and touch the sky. But touching something does not mean it is not an illusion. When you touch a table, there is only the touch, no you and no table. And what is touch? It is nothing but an appearance or sensation of touch.

I hope you see… go ahead and investigate for yourself. Apply your brain power to this and find out for yourself. Do not try to understand words but find out what the words mean in your mind.

When you are thus able to see only appearances, the whole world dissolves, leaving only the pristine existence in its bareness.