In the post immediately below, I offered an experiential/philosophical definition of the term “not real,” or, “does not exist,” from the point of view of Nisargadatta.
However, there is another explanation of these two terms that is used by the neoAdvaitins, and which comes from Ramana Maharishi. The best explication of Ramana’s thinking along the lines consciousness, the body, existence and nonexistence comes from reading The Path of Shri Ramana, Part 1, by Shri Sadhu Om, chapter 4, page 58.
I have got to tell you that in ways the thinking of Ramana Maharishi seems to me entirely juvenile not very powerful.
He defines that which is real as that which is always existence, and always aware for is always in awareness. By that definition alone, the external world and the body are not real, because they are not always in existence or in awareness. He says further that which is in existence and awareness only temporarily, is not really real, and it is really illusion or unreal. For him, only the Self was real.
Thus purely by definition, that which comes and goes in consciousness is not real, but Ramana asserts that consciousness is always aware of itself, and is aware of itself in our sleep because when we wake up in the morning, we know we slept. That is, when we sleep, we are not aware of the external world, we are not aware of mind, we are not aware of our bodies, and I can say most of us are not aware of ourselves while we sleep. But Ramana says when we wake up we know we have slept, therefore we have existed even during sleep.
To me this is a very crappy argument and makes no sense. We can just as easily say we knew that the world existed slept for our body existed when we slept.
This is purely a a definition of real, is that which is always aware are always in awareness, and only such exists. If it does not meet these two criteria, whatever falls outside, considered as unreal.
The neoAdvaitins just eat up this argument, and they buy his argument that the self is always self-aware, it is just that we, by wrong thinking and wrong understanding, such as believing that the world is existent when we are asleep, or the body exists when we are asleep, have deluded ourselves into false truths. For Ramana, no body and no world exists at all when we sleep, purely by definition, and the only “real” is the Self. That is, the neoAdvaitins just hold this understanding as enlightenment, and believe that they are enlightened and they can say that the world is not real the body is not real in the self is real without any experience this truth, or any corroboration of these concepts.
This is so very, very different, from Nisargadatta, who holds that the I am, consciousness does not exist in sleep, and both consciousness and the body, as well as the external world are not real as defined in my earlier post of a 17, based primarily on experiences gained over years through meditation on the nature of the self, from seeing the emptiness within, seeing a pulsating, scintillating nature, and changeable nature of consciousness itself, seeing emptiness penetrating through all objects in consciousness which robs objects within consciousness of its individuality, and understanding that our bodies are objects in consciousness also just like the objects we see in the world, and as such we are the creator of both, both having the reality of mentation, imagination, dream.
So when you run into neoAdvaitins on Facebook and the rantings about trying for the real and everything else is unreal, you know they have been convinced by following the bad logic of Ramana, had not had some sort of real self-realization experience.
However, I am fairly sure Ramana and Nisargadatta shared the same state, it is just that they gave two radically different sets of arguments and explanations of unreal, illusion, etc.
They shared the same method, namely abiding in the one’s self, just quietly being oneself, although Ramana also taught to look for the I-thought and where it arose. Following that method, one always finds emptiness or the Void as the source of the I-thought and of all thoughts.