Essentially, there is only the One—and it’s real. But, its expressions vary and that’s the unreal part. So, really you are spirit, but when you express yourself in a human body, you become a human being. And when you express yourself in a young human body you become a child. When the body grows up a little, you become an adult. Then when it gets a companion you become a spouse, and then when you get a baby you become a parent. All of these—the baby, the husband or wife, the parent, the grandpa—are unreal because they keep on changing. You can’t keep them in the same position, the same situation always. The forms keep changing. So, the constant changing part is unreal. When you see one part of a human being, or one of its changes, it seems to be real at that moment—and the next moment, it is something else.

But behind those changes there is one basic essence, one true state, which is real. According to the scientists, all of what you see is nothing but atomic dust. And on that we all agree. We don’t need to go and read scriptures for that. They say that ultimately, if everything was put into one big pounding machine, there would be nothing but one pile of atomic dust. So from that dust we came. That’s probably what is meant in the Bible: From dust we come and back to dust we go. That is the atomic dust. And when that dust comes together, it expresses itself in different shapes, just as the clouds take various shapes, but they’re all just clouds.

So a spiritual seeker’s purpose is to keep the truth always in mind and to deal with the superficial changes. Keep your eye on the reality, and then deal with unreality. Don’t think the unreality is not good. You have to deal with the unreal, because you are in an unreal body, in an unreal changing world. If you don’t change with the changing things, you are not fit to be in this world. So change with the changing world. Is there not a saying, “When in Rome, behave as the Romans”? A person who has this knowledge, and knows the reality, will also behave like anybody else. He or she won’t be behaving in any way different from others, but will always keep an eye on the reality—like an actor on the stage.

Actors know their reality and at the same time, know their unreality. Not only are they aware of their reality, they know the reality of every actor there. If a group of classmates put on an annual play, in reality they are just one classroom of friends. But, Susan will put on the costume and makeup of a woman and John will dress as the husband named Jacob. A third student will become the child. If the child gets hurt and cries during the drama, and if John just stands there like a rock, not crying for the child’s pain, the play is ruined and the audience will throw tomatoes at him.

At the same time, if he forgets that he’s really John, and if he identifies himself with the part of the father that he plays, then again, the story is ruined. So he has to cry within the unreal drama, but within himself he is not crying. We’re all like that—in one sense, you don’t need to cry. But because we are on the stage, enacting our parts, we cry. We do many things. We become different people and have different relationships.

Ultimately, in reality, we all have the same one relationship to one another: we are spiritual brothers and sisters. We’re all one. But we’re just playing. If we could remember this, we can save ourselves from many worries, calamities, and troubles. And, at same time, we will act our parts very well so that the world drama can be a success. Yes, it’s all just fun, so enjoy the fun.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda