What is real?

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What is real? It is this definition which distinguishes Science and Spirituality. For Science the world is real. In Spirituality there are different approaches.

Adi Shankara famously said the essence of Vedanta is "Brahma satyam jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah" Brahman is the only truth, the world is unreal, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and Atman, individual self. For Shankara anything that undergoes modification cannot be real. There are six Bhava-Vikaras or modifica­tions of the body: Asti (existence), Jayate (birth), Vardhate (growth), Viparinamate (change), Apa­kshiyate (decay), Vinasyati (death).

To establish the difference between sat(Real) and asat(unreal), Sankara has stated this criterion. The definition of sat and asat is presented in Sankara’s Bhagavadgitä-bhäshyam-II.16 - yad vishayä buddhih na vyabhicarati, tat sat | yad vishayä buddhih vyabhicarati tat asat | meaning – ‘that about which the cognition does not change is sat – real; and that about which cognition keeps changing, or is negated is asat - unreal’.

I will cover one another as given by Al Ghazzali which talks of degree or relativity.

"The Real Light is Allâh; and the name "light" is otherwise only predicated metaphorically and conveys no real meaning.

To explain this theme: you must know that the word light is employed with a threefold signification: the first by the Many, the second by the Few, the third by the Fewest of the Few. Then you must know the various grades of light that relate to the two latter classes, and the degrees of the reality appertaining to these grades, in order that it may be disclosed to you, as these grades become clear, that ALLAH is the highest and the ultimate Light: and further, as the reality appertaining to each grade is revealed, that Allâh alone is the Real, the True Light, and beside Him there is no light at all."