Two Great Truths of Absolute and Relative Reality

What is real and what is unreal? What is reality and what is illusion? So many of us think the daily life we lead is reality. And relatively speaking ~ Mother Earth being a schoolhouse and our reason for incarnating ~ this is true. But what gives the body life? The spirit? The soul? The Divine Absolute? Mira Prabhu discusses Relative and Absolute Reality within the metaphor of two birds perched on the branch of a tree: one eats the fruit while the other watches. Which is Relative and which is Absolute? Could it be that The Great Dream is reality and the wakeful state is an illusion?

mira prabhu


In my volatile teens, I was struck by the poignant beauty of an ancient metaphor (contained within the Mundaka Upanishad) that speaks of two birds perched on the branch of a tree: one bird eats the fruit of the tree while the other watches.

The first bird represents the individual self/soul; distracted by the fruits (signifying sensual pleasures), she forgets her lord and lover and tries to enjoy the fruit independent of him. (This separating amnesia is known in Sanskrit as maha-maya or enthrallment; it results in the plunge of the individual into the ephemeral realm of birth and death.) As for the second bird, it is an aspect of the Divine/Self that rests in every heart—and which remains forever constant even as the individual soul is bedazzled by the material world.

This teaching implies that it is ignorance of our true nature that creates a vicious cycle: the individual, being blinded by the illusion of existing as a separate…

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4 thoughts on “Two Great Truths of Absolute and Relative Reality”

  1. Tina, thanks for sharing…just saying that in Advaita, the three states of waking, sleep and dream are all considered UNREAL – but unreal not that they do not validly exist but in the sense that they are ephemeral states that come and go. Only the substratum of our being (considered to be sat-chit-ananda (existence-awareness and bliss) is considered to be REAL because it never changes and cannot be destroyed. It was this simple truth that I recently re-investigated and the results are beyond my wildest dreams. Love!

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  2. You’re welcome, Mira. My teacher’s name for the substratum is The Great Dream ~ an aspiration ~ the awareness, the source from which we all come and to which we all return. It’s an interesting choice of names, because you’d think a dream would be illusory and wakefulness would be reality; when in fact, as you say, all states of physical existence are unreal in that they are ephemeral. Wakefulness, sleep, and dreaming are all functions of the body and thus, transitory. The only thing that continues is the spirit ❤

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