Initially, this may seem like a straight forward question; however on deeper inspection it becomes apparent that reality is different for everyone.
On a basic level, we have been brought up to believe in what we perceive with our five senses. This understanding can be seen as personal or subjective reality. In obvious ways, if you are color blind, then your reality will be different from someone who is not. If you are deaf, your reality will be different from someone who can hear.
Quantum Physicists take this notion further. They believe that everything that exists is just an idea or thought. Through research they have shown that if you have a strong enough magnifying glass, you would discover that everything comes down to being energy and empty space. Nothing that we see is solid.
It has also been shown that there is no differentiation between anything. The empty space we see is the same substance as the solid objects we see. Phantom limb is a great example of this. Photographs taken using a technique known as Kirlian photography; shows auras around all objects. When photographing an amputated limb in this way, the complete aura is visible.
When we look at life from that basis, we may be led to conclude that everything we see is made up of these components;
• Nothing is solid
• Empty space manifests as substance, therefore it is intelligent an amenable to thought
• Nothing is separate from anything else
Our senses tell us that life does not look like that to us normally. What we see is separation, division, solid objects and anything else we perceive through our subjective filters. Therefore, my experience of reality will be unique to me, and no-one else can ever fully experience it as I do.
Eastern philosophers believe reality to be anything that is unchanging and constant. Our experience shows us that nothing in the world is static; therefore must we conclude that nothing in the world is real? Our thoughts change from moment to moment, nature changes with the seasons, the body heals of ailments and life seems to follow a cycle of constant change.
The Buddha taught that life is impermanent; we are born into a cycle of birth, death and rebirth, until we are liberated. The liberation he spoke of was from the mind, and when we understand the constant unchanging nature of the Universe we would be free.
I know from times of deep contemplation I have been able to be present and aware in the moment. What was profound was the stillness and silence that is always there, which is usually missed because of the continual projection of thoughts on to it. It makes me wonder if that stillness and silence is the constant unchanging reality the Buddha referred to.
Now we are left with what appears as two conflicting realities existing side by side; the one we see and perceive in, and the one that science has revealed. It may be that knowing both realities can be beneficial. Perhaps by keeping both in mind we may be less likely to judge. Making it easier to remind our-selves that all is not as it seems; it is only a product of our individual perception and not reality.