But if you were to look at it carefully, the hen and the egg are not two different things – and actually that’s why there is a vicious circle. The egg itself is a growing hen, and the hen itself is an egg in formation. They are not two separate things but two parts of the same process, the same phenomenon, the same wave. The vicious circle is born when you ask which came first. Neither of the two came first. They are simultaneous. The egg is the hen, and the hen is the egg.
This question about what is real and what is unreal is of almost the same kind. The basis of what we call “unreal” is also in the real – because even the unreal has to appear real in order to be perceived.
In the dark, a rope is mistaken for a snake. Now, this appearance is a totally false one. When you get closer, you find it is a rope and not a snake. The rope might have seemed like a snake, but beneath this appearance it remained a rope. The existence of the rope is real. The momentary appearance of the snake – to be followed by its disappearance – was unreal. But deep down, substantially, it was the real that formed the basis for this unreal. The unreal could appear only as a reflection of the real.
Behind the wave is the ocean, behind the mortal is the immortal, behind the body is the being, and behind matter is universal consciousness. So if matter has a form, it is caused by the reflection of the universal consciousness – otherwise it cannot have a form.
You stand on the bank of a river and your reflection forms in the water below. You are certainly not that reflection, but at the same time that reflection is not possible without you either. Certainly, that reflection is not real – it is simply an image appearing in the water – and yet the real is from where the reflection is arising.
The unreal is a glimpse of the real – though only momentary. If we hold tightly onto the form that the real temporarily takes on, we will be holding onto the unreal. But if we recognize the formless in that momentary form, the attribute-less that has shone through it, we will have caught hold of the real.
But from where we are now, it is a world of forms. From where we are now, only reflections can be seen. Our eyes are looking down in such a way that we can only see the reflection that has formed in the water and not the one who is standing on the bank and whose reflection it is. Hence we will have to start with the reflection, with the unreal. If we are in a dream, we will have to begin from the dream, and if we go on identifying the dream rightly, the dream will start disappearing.
This is very interesting and an experiment well worth trying sometime. Every night, go to sleep with one reminder, and stay with this reminder until the very last moment before you fall asleep: “If I dream during my sleep, I want to remain conscious that it is a dream.”
It will be very difficult, but it is possible. Allow sleep to keep on overtaking you and keep remembering that the moment there is a dream you want to be aware of it. In a few days it becomes possible: this remembrance penetrates your sleep. It descends into the unconscious, and when a dream comes, you are able to know that it is a dream.