In practical terms, what is concept, and what is reality?
I am no expert in matters philosophical, and so I am not referring here to academic or theological definitions. I am talking about looking at concept and reality in a way that can be applied realistically to our spiritual quest.
First of all, why is it important to look at the terms concept and reality? - Because on the spiritual journey, we are apt to mistake one for the other, and this can create some confusion.
Secondly, I suggest that concept and reality are not mutually exclusive! What I mean, is that one person's concept may be another person's reality and vice versa.
When a spiritual master says 'There is nobody' or 'All is one', she speaks from her reality, and her direct experience in the moment. For the student listening to her, it may sound like the ultimate truth, but he would have to look and see if it is indeed the reality for him in the moment.
Then the teacher may say that all suffering is only a concept in the mind. Again he speaks from his direct reality in the moment. But the student listening to these words will have to investigate for herself whether her own experience of suffering is real or not.
In each case, the teaching is at best a pointer - a finger pointing to the moon, as they say. When we mistake the pointing finger for the moon, we become confused.
'There is nobody' - is a spectacularly clear reality, and a particularly confusing concept. Imagine the plight of the student who looks upon this statement as the ultimate truth, without directly experiencing it. Her mind is liable to take the words literally and to discount her own experience as somebody. She is not sure whether she can trust her body-mind or anything it experiences, because doing so would assert the somebodiness which she believes to be in contradiction to the truth. For this student, at this time, the ultimate truth is a concept. And simply seeing that can clear the confusion.
There is nothing wrong with a concept. There is great beauty in it. For even as a concept, the ultimate truth finds great resonance in the student, because deep within her she knows the truth of it. Then when this truth finds expression in her direct experience, concept is now reality.
A concept is a concept when it is not aligned with experience. Concept and reality collapse into one another in the miracle of experience.
No matter what the experience is - ecstatic, good, bad or ugly, - stay with it and you cannot stray from the truth. Negate or deny your experience and you fall into the false division of concept or reality.