I have been requested to talk about what is real and what is not. After some hesitations here are few thoughts.
When asked to define reality and non-reality the Buddha replied in many ways often contradicting himself. Maybe his contradictions had a purpose since he did not like metaphysical or philosophical stuff, preferring being down to earth. For example he would rather answer the following: What are the causes of suffering and how to prevent them? Regarding what is reality and not, he replied the following:
“If you think, nothing is real because our thoughts are immaterial”
Another day he would teach this: “Everything is real when I am using my 5 senses.”
Or in modern English he also said: “I don’t know the difference, what is the point of your question?”
So, this is a difficult topic to talk about and I am not sure about its practical value in making your life easier, better and more serene. However this is a good challenge for discussion.
When asked why he forgave the Chinese for taking Tibet and its temples and why he did not express any anger and resentment against them the Dalai Lame replied: “They took everything but I don’t want them to take my mind. By forgiving I am keeping my mind clear and serene”.
One of the common objections to forgiveness is the belief that the “culprit“ must first apologize. Naturally, it is much easier to forgive people who are totally repentant but apology should not be a requirement. Such a conditional attitude towards forgiveness completely misses the point. We must learn to forgive people as they are. Furthermore, maybe they have been acting out of ignorance or careless behavior and it is up to us to find out before accusing. Finally the act of forgiveness should not be aimed at someone but also at ourselves. When guilt is unbearable, learning to forgive self will ease the burden.
The key teaching of Zen Buddhism is the teaching of impermanence also called transiency or ongoing change.
Look at yourself and around you and you will see that everything changes continuously and forever. Around 300 millions cells died every minute in your body. Not 100% of them are replaced, this is aging. No living beings, no trees, no rocks, no clouds, no mountains, no oceans, absolutely nothing stays as it is. Evolution is an unstoppable change; with no beginning and no end just an endless circle. This is the fundamental and basic truth of life and the Universe itself is changing every second expanding then contacting.
Asked what was the most important message of his 50 years teaching, the Buddha, without hesitation, said:
“Everything is transient, work diligently to appreciate and experience your impermanence.”
Those were his last words few minutes before dying.
The way we define and delimit Self that is you, others and me living beings is very arbitrary and restrictive.
This “individual self” is a living biological organism made of around 30 Trillions of cells made of 7 x 10 power 27 molecules. This self is capable of moving, doing things, creating, having thoughts and emotions during its life span after which such biological organism will die. We will call it “biological self” for the purpose of the following discussion.
Self does exist but, is our perception of “this biological self “ right? That is, are we, each of us, somewhat a permanent, unique, independent and separate self-entity? Most of us would agree with this perception.