Shankara’s 3 laws:
1st law: Brahman is real
2nd law: the world is not real (the half truth)
3rd law: Brahman is the world
Thus, the world is real, but not the real we started out thinking it was. Not the real of separate objects but rather as an appearance of the one wholeness. A dance of the divine.
Ramana Maharishi put it this way:
1. self is real
2. the world is not real
3. self is the world
He emphasized that Shankara “did not stop at the second statement but went on to the third”.
In another forum, it was observed that precisely because the world isn’t real proves it is Self. 😉
Put another way, we could say the world in itself does not exist but it’s true nature as Brahman does. Or, it’s real, but only as Brahman, not as separate objects.
We might use the analogy of a movie theater. (stretching a bit) We can be completely drawn into a good show and it can seem very real when we are. Yet what seems like real life is the illusory movement of different tints on celluloid in a series of still sections. (or more recently a data stream) Yet the film and the tints exist. The projector and its light exists. The projector operator exists. And the screen exists. It’s all one thing, a movie theater. The theater is real, only the appearance of the movie in it is illusion. When we see what’s going on behind the images, we see whats real. But the movie continues. Sort of like that. Then we can still enjoy the movie but not be caught by it. 😉
Some will describe Brahman as pure Being or existence. Others will observe that more deeply, it neither exists nor doesn’t exist. It is beyond even being. This is where we get into confusing definitions of “real” and “exist”. We may even observe experiences where something is real but not existent or exists but is not real. They become subtly different values.
One cannot resolve these paradoxes with the mind alone. It must be experienced. That will make it real to us.
Some will describe Brahman as synonymous with emptiness but that is not fully valid. We could also use the word fullness as Brahman contains all bliss and the world. Thus it’s better to use terms like wholeness or totality as it is inclusive of both. And that’s another word – inclusive. As I discussed over on Neo-Advaita, non-duality means total inclusivity. Any statement of illusion means other, which is duality. It’s a step short of the third law.
On the subject of illusion, I’ll also remind about Shankaras take on the 3 values of Maya – as a covering, as an illusion, and as the play of God. The world is not always seen as a total illusion. We all know this from our own experience.
If we don’t recognize Maya as the Lila or play, we won’t yet come to recognize the 3rd law. It arises later in the Unity process. Without that, we don’t know totality. We don’t have the perspective of Vedanta. With that, we begin to see the truth of being.