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Difference between false and illusion!

by | Jan 7, 2024 | Advaita, Atma Nirvriti, Atmananda, Awareness, Body, Direct Path, Dreams, Ego, Illusion, Knowledge, Mind, Senses, Upanishad


One question has been daunting to me for some time. I understand that everything I can grasp with my senses is an illusion. So whatever I see with my eyes is an illusion created by the ego. I am looking at a book right now. Is this also part of the illusion? How can the ego create such deep knowledge in the form of a book?



As we use the Swapna Nidra Gnyana [Knowledge of dream and sleep] for self-inquiry, let’s look at dreams closely.

In your dreams, do you recognize that the event seems very real? As the dreamer, do you doubt the reality of the situation? NO! You never ever think twice about it. Only as the waker, you look back at the dream and dismiss the dream events.

Similarly, the events in the waking world seem very real. Just like you firmly believe in the depth of the knowledge in the book before you. As the waker, you do not doubt the current happenings. But when you take the stand of Awareness or Knowingness, you go beyond the body-mind, and then it becomes very simple to dismiss these waking dream events too. Recognize this similarity.

Secondly, when the waker awakens from the dream, he may dismiss the events of the dream but he cannot totally deny the occurrence of the dream. Similarly, in this waking-dream, you-the-awareness can dismiss the body-mind & objects of the world as illusory but you cannot deny the occurrence of this waking illusion. The dream occurred. The illusion of the world occurred.


So what can you say about this waking world?

1] It is not real because it appears and disappears. That which is real is permanent. It does not appear and disappear. Every morning the world appears, every night it disappears. It is not permanent. Therefore it is not real.

2] It is not false because false would imply that it does not exist at all. But it is. So it is not false.


So what do you call something that is not real and not false?

It is illusory. Illusory means that it does not stand independently by itself. In short, it is called unreal. So when the sages use the word ‘mithya’, it is correctly translated as illusion or unreal. It is not false.

This is the actual difference between real, unreal, and false. Real means something is. False means something is not. Illusion means something is not what it appears to be.

Thus in your scenario, the observer [you] is an illusion. The observed [book] is an illusion. Why? Because neither the observer nor the observed remain outside the waking state. That which appears and disappears is an illusion!

Jagat mithya!

Hope the difference between real, false, and illusion is clear. If it is, give a few examples. You can comment below.


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  1. SK

    Thank you Ektaji, for the clear explanation. This is what I understood.

    Illusion: Suppose a person dyes his grey hair black. The black hair is an illusion (mithya). It is not false because there is hair.

    False: Suppose a person is bald and uses a black wig. The black hair in the wig is false because there is actually no hair on the head at all.

    Real: If a person has black hair, the black hair is real.

    (This example is only for transactional understanding purposes. It does not consider the ultimate truth of the unreality of all forms)

    • Gnyana Sangha

      That’s a funny example! You have a spiritual sense of humor! 🙂

  2. Vinaya

    Thank you Ekta Di for again explaining everything so beautifully ❤️
    An example of the above would be a chanter chanting OM , he is the hearer and chanter ( is an illusion) and the object OM ( an illusion) since both arise and dissolve hereby are not permanent they appear and disappear but the occurrence of OM and the chanting , hearing is not false becoz it did happen. Thank you again Didi for explaining things so crystal clear 🕉️🙏♥️

  3. SK

    Thank you Ektaji, for the clear explanation🙏🏼 This is what I understood:

    Illusion: Child sees Santa Claus in the mall. That Santa is an illusion, but he is not false because there is a person who has dressed up as Santa.

    False: Child wakes up on Christmas night and sees Santa Claus in his sleigh flying through the sky. This Santa is false because there is no one flying on a sleigh.

    Real: There is no real Santa. Only the spirit of Santa (i.e., love, peace, caring and joy) is real.

  4. Avanti

    Real – I am witnessing awareness of the breath.
    Illusion – I am breathing in and out.
    False – Respiration doesn’t exist, or I don’t breathe.

  5. Sriram Kumar K

    Pranams Ektadi :

    It is very clear and my sincere thanks for your explanation.



  6. Prema


    Is this correct understanding..

    – in dream state, dream character apppeared and disappeared – its unreal
    – dream state definietly happened before waking up – so its not false
    – after waking up, dream character and the dream world as experienced in the dream does not exist at all – so dream state is an illusion

    – in waking state, waking dream characters and waking dream world appears real. but it disappears at the end of the day – its unreal
    – waking dream state did happen, cannot say it did not happen – so its not false
    – when lying down on the bed in dream state, waking dream character and world which appeared real does not exist anymore – waking dream state is an illusion

    – in deep sleep state , knowing the dream character and dream world which existed is not existing anymore – its unreal
    – state where no body/mind/world did happen – so it cannot be false
    – when sense of I appears (in the morning), character and world appears and the state of no body/world does not exist anymore – deep sleep state is an illusion

    Thank you

    • Gnyana Sangha

      Yes dear. This is the correct understanding. You can add one more line at the end to conclude – That which is unreal but not false is simply illusory! Waking, dreaming, deep sleep states are illusions. The only reality is the 4th – Turiya! 🙂

  7. Sanjay Dixit

    I buy company shares from stock exchange by paying Rs. 10,000 cash to broker.

    In this the company, the stock exchange are false. I, one who paid Rs. 10,000, broker, Rs. 10,000 cash are unreal. One who is perceiving the event is the only reality.

    I hope my understanding is correct. Pranam.

    • Gnyana Sangha

      Try again. Re-read the full post.

  8. Parthvi Oza

    Thank you so much again for explaining so beautifully and simple..Jagat Mithya !!

  9. Vikash Raj

    Hello Didi, I am reading this post on a mobile device. The post and mobile is not false. The reading is not real as the process of reading is temporary arising/falling within my own awareness. Hence, the reading of this post on a mobile device is an illusion.


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