I don't know where the recent influx of philosophers has come from, but I want to emphasize the "ultimate" truths of Advaita do not flow out of a more accurate analysis of words, concepts and definitions. This only changes the area of argumentation and makes spirituality a subset of philosophy. But awakening has nothing to do with correct analysis of terms such as real or unreal, which is only using the intellect. We are talking about an entirely different way of perceiving reality and ourselves. As long as we think we are real, we are trapped in a real world and in concepts. I am saying you have to go beyond the mind altogether.
Below is a comment from a philosopher who wants to challenge my use of unreal. I then follow with my explanation of the defects of his argument from a spiritual point of view as opposed to a philosophical point of view.
I think false problems arise when a teacher uses the world "real" without explaining clearly what they mean by this word. In the Indian philosophy of advaita, the word "real" means that which is permanent, which does not change. In this sense, the world is not real.
But the common Western meaning of the word "real" is entirely different. It simply refers to objective experience, something perceivable and verifiable by the senses. In this sense the world is "real" -- we have an actual "real" experience of it, even if we haven't yet fully investigated the true nature of that experience.
Similarly with the notion of the dream. Upon awakening from an ordinary dream, we are aware that the objects that appeared in the dream have no existence independent of our own awareness of them. In this sense, the dream objects are not "real". But our experience of these objects, the experience of the dream itself, was real in the sense of being a "real experience", or a "real dream". We really did have an experience which we identify as a dream. In this sense, the dream is "real", while the dream objects clearly have no independent existence.
It is more useful to use clearer, less ambiguous terms, such as "independently existing" (which is not true of any apparent "object"), or "not having independent existence" which, upon deep investigation, is the case for all apparent objects of experience.
Thus the main problem with the whole "real"/"not real" dichotomy when it is discussed is that people mean different things by the world "real". If clearer terminology is used, the whole so-called problem disappears.
When the world "real" is used in the context of a discussion of advaita, the most essential thing, from the very outset, is to define clearly exactly what is meant by the world "real".
That which is real and unchanging is what? The subject? The totality of consciousness? What is this unchanging you are talking about? You have just changed the focus from the word real to defining that which does not change. What is it? Is there anything in the inner world that does not change? Is there anything in the outer world that does not change?
"Common western meaning" of real is different, meaning perceivable to the senses, perceivable and verifiable? What does that mean? Again, you have shifted real to a new set of concepts of perception and verification. A chair verified by a second perceiver? A tree falling in the forest with no witness at all? Was that a real experience? Is the tree real? Parental love I feel for a child, for whom no one else feels. Is that real because it is subjective and not verifiable to a second person except indirectly? Is an atom real? Are subatomic particles real? I can't verify them directly, but only indirectly through very complicated experiments and mathematics and analysis of vapor trails? What about string theory?
Neither of these two shifts help clarify anything.
Are you suggesting all percepts, experiences, concepts are real from a western viewpoint, and that is the framework a teacher should use when talking to Westerners? Shall we say the "common" western viewpoint that all objects are real if verifiable, but the advaitins don't take that as reality? How has that helped a deeper understanding except by explaining there are different ways to use the term real?
You say we wake up and say we had a dream, but the dream objects were not real? I think we are saying something different. We are saying the dream world is of a different quality of consciousness and existence than what we perceive in the waking world. We give a higher quality of reality of the appearance of the waking world. What about deep sleep? What is your experience during deep sleep? Are you saying the deep sleep state is unreal because we do not remember experiencing anything in that state?
Is it helpful to use a less ambiguous term such as "independent existence?" I think not, as that is certainly not unambiguous as a term; what does it mean for an object such as a chair? That is does not exist without a witness? This is naive idealism, and certainly most westerners would say the chair existed even if not perceived by anyone.
So constantly shifting explanations and clarifications to different sets of concepts you feel are less ambiguous, really hasn't helped anything. You are merely delving more deeply into philosophical explanation, which gets more and more subtle and further away from the root experiences of spiritual awakening which has no dependence on concepts whatsoever.
I do not see any "real" verses "not real" dichotomy disappearing, so much as shifting to different concepts using your "less ambiguous" terms.
To understand what Robert, Nisargadatta and I means by "the world is unreal," and "You don't exist" you have to have an awakening in the sense that your mind disappears, and YOU, then see that all of the objects in the world depended on the existence of concepts to make them so.
One "sees" that all forms are empty, and the emptiness or void is the primary percept within which objects no longer exist. The forms disappear. You shift identification form the world of appearances, to the Void nature of everything which is an "internal" or subjective state. The outer state is seen as false. The inner void is also seen as false because there is no longer a distinction between inner and out worlds. The is only one consciousness with no inner and outer, no me and no world.
THIS IS A TOTAL SHIFT IN HOW ONE EXPERIENCES EXISTENCE, AND NO PHILOSOPHICAL ARGUMENTATION HELPS TO ATTAIN OR EXPLAIN THIS STATE.
Later, one sees that the entirety of consciousness, the world and I, form and emptiness, are like the dream state that comes and goes to you without touching you, without having anything to do with you. You are entirely beyond and apart from the world of appearance, or deep sleep. You "see" (or better "apperceive") directly, without conceptual analysis of the real or unreal
Until you have experiences like this you are merely arguing Eastern or Western concepts of ontology or epistemology, and there are thousands of philosophers for every awakened being who does not discuss philosophy, but talks about his or her own reality and experience. You must be willing to leave all concepts and understanding behind to enter this world. You can otherwise argue philosophies of "realities" forever, and not be one wit closer to understanding the true nature of you.