3 min read

Reality doesn't exist.

The true nature of reality is beyond conception, description, or imagination.
Reality doesn't exist.

The world as we know it is like an illusion.

That may seem controversial. Let's clarify what is meant there.

Like an illusion doesn't mean that it does not exist. We experience illusions all the time. The illusion itself seems real until we understand its nature.

And that is the key.

Our senses deceive us. Our conscious experience is a small slice of reality as it truly is, and yet we think that what we experience is the real world. We are like the parable of the frog in a well thinking that we know the whole universe, when in fact the nature of reality and the mind is much, much more vast.

And the funny thing is science has already demonstrated this. We forget that we see only a tiny sliver of the spectrum of light, hear only a tiny range of sounds, feel only a fraction of sensations, and have a ridiculously poor sense of smell compared to most animals.

Our conscious experience is much like Aldous Huxley said, it is a reducing valve that experiences only a tiny sliver of the vast, indeterminate reality.

What happens if we could experience the full range of light, sound, sensations, and smell? I asked Claude AI what that would be like and it responded, "In essence, extending to the full potential range of senses would make the entire world come alive with staggering new informational flows and sensory inputs unlike anything we can currently conceive. It would drastically change our perception and experienced relationship to reality itself. The richness could also potentially be enormously overpowering for an unaugmented human mind to process."

It would be a reality beyond conception, description, or imagination.

Good. Check ✅

In order to understand the non-dual view on consciousness and the nature of reality we first need to grasp that everything within the realm of conscious experience, and even consciousness itself, is like an illusion. In Buddhism we use this term emptiness to refer to how things appear versus how they exist.

Things appear real, solid, and permanent, when in fact they are illusory, immaterial, and in a state of constant dynamic flux.

This computer, the chair you are on, your house, those mountains over there. Everything. The universe, basically.

Emptiness is a defining feature of the nature of reality. Things are empty of inherently existing in their own right, rather, they are dependently arisen phenomena that rely on a whole system of causes and conditions, just like an illusion.

Emptiness means no 'thing' truly exists to be found and identified, but it also means that phenomena are not non-existent. The duality of existence vs non-existence is threaded with the understanding of emptiness and dependent origination (emptiness mediates extreme of existence, dependent origination mediates extreme of non-existence).

This might seem dogmatic. Here's a Buddhist guy just talking about emptiness again. But even science supports this view based on quantum theory. Quantum physics tells us that the reality we experience is really an energetic field and that upon closer inspection there is no material substance at all. The nature of reality is open, undefined, indeterminate. It is a vast energetic field of potential that is beyond conception, description, or imagination.

I know it is really easy to forget this because it is so outside our realm of perception, but if we are going to have a conversation about the nature of reality and consciousness we always need to remember this.

This is a common ground to start our exploration for how consciousness and the nature of reality are not to separate things, to move from a dualistic view on mind and matter, to a more integrated perspective that appreciates the wholeness of the big picture.

As we set out on our exploration, we need to recall again and again that the true nature of mind and reality are utterly beyond description. We will use words and metaphors to describe the landscape of the mind, but the words are not the thing itself. When you find yourself thinking, "this is it", always make sure to check back in, knowing that we can approach the ultimate ground of being conceptually and intellectually, but that the experience of that primordial state is ineffable and beyond description.

With that, I think we are ready to commence. Until next time.

If you want to understand emptiness better, here is an old article I wrote:

Unborn and unceasing.
Understanding the unborn and unceasing nature of awareness leads to the realization of the perfection of wisdom, our primordial state, Dzogchen.

As always, feel free to reach out with questions and insights. Connecting the dots is fun, and even more fun with others.