Is Illusion True Or Just An Imagination?
by Bhante Debongshi
Ignorance is a force of mental-darkness. It distorts one’s perception of reality. So it is the natural fact of the ignorant to believe that which is not true. Within this fact, in the language of the Buddha (Pali), “saññavipallâsa” means illusion or a distorted perception of reality. The Buddha, also known as “Lokovidu” (knower of the worlds), knew well the true nature of existence. He pointed out that the illusory world is bound by ignorance and beings are traveling in it through the path of repeated birth and death cycles - satta gacchanti samsaram jatimaranagamino. In order to overcome this life-death cycle it is not enough to just reveal the truth; it is also essential to expose and denounce illusion.
Recently, we had a 2-days Vipassana retreat at Chan Buddhist Center in Toronto. In the last session one of the meditators asked, “What is illusion Bhante. Is illusion true or just an imagination?” At that moment I remembered a professor who joined a weekly evening meditation class at the DMC who asked me the same question. I said to him, “what do you think, is your question an idea or an imagination?” “It can be both, but I’m not sure”, he replied. I then commented, “You’re clearly saying that “illusion” is an idea or belief that’s not true. Once you see this the way it is, you’ll know only illusion is true. This is the beauty of the secret of existence.
To make it simple, please reflect on this; whatever you’ve gathered in all your life up to today, are those accumulations accompanying you right now? No! So you see that things outside of you are not in your experience. That means nothing is living through you. Yes? Anything that’s not in your experience is not a living reality for you. Right? The only idea you hold true out of which illusion is born is that “you” yourself are an illusion. This is not in your experience, you can either believe it as true or see the fact the way it is. These are the only choices you have. Whereas nothing that is living through you that cannot be true for sure, as is an “idea” which beholds itself in ignorant belief within your imagination. Now you can understand that “you” yourself are an illusion.
You have a bundle of memories from the past and a huge imagination for the future. When these memories and imaginations arise into the surface of the mind they bring impressions into the thought process and form ideas. You certainly know that an idea is an illusion that believes itself to be true which is not true, but you believe in your idea to be real in the place of ignorance which is good, because that’s the only way you can define the border of yourself. By perceiving the realization of illusion one can become a realized being, because illusion is the only real. The truth can only be experienced, seen, known and realized in every moment within the presence of awareness. It can neither be in the past, nor in the future. When you think about truth as defined in being what you believe, instead of truth having it’s base in ignorance you’ll see then that everything in existence is within illusion and holds your belief back in defining truth. That’s the secret of the grace of life, because that’s the only way you can define your existence. In the wake of ignorance one has to perceive the realization of illusion in order to find liberation, because illusion is the only real and consciousness is the central point for that.
Please consciously reflect on this, before us a countless number of people have lived on earth. They all died on earth and became piece of the earth. Everyday vast numbers of people are dying and becoming a piece of earth. One day you and I and whatever number of people living on earth will also leave and become a piece of earth. If you do not know it now, you’ll know someday for sure. In the reality of natural selection what would you call it? Is it true or is it illusion? If you perceive the realization of illusion right now and know “you’re a witness yourself, illusion becomes the only truth. Then you will see this is the straight path that leads to awakening.