Here's an example how Māyā works and how innocently one gives absolute reality to mere appearance…
What is this?…
If said “Table”, that's correct.
Suppose you didn't, why didn't you say “wood”? After all it is just wood that looks like a table because of it's 4 legs attached to a rectangular wooden plank.
If we take the legs off, the “Table” label is no longer correct.
Hence it's an apparent table. It's a table as long as it looks like a table, until it no longer looks like a table.
Meaning, if it was a blackfriday… I'd fight, punch and scream to later enjoy the privilege of calling it “mine”.
All because one's focus is locked onto the name/form (nāma/rūpa) and not the truth of that form, being the wood.
Which means, the name/form is dependent on the truth of it, for it's existence. Without the wood, there is no table to fight over on a blackfriday.
Thus the table is Unreal. And the wood is Real.
This is simple example how duality operates. You see one side of the coin – at expense of not seeing the other. Meaning, “I don't know that I don't know about the other half – so the chance of further investigation doesn't even arise”. In which case – ignorance continues.
Same applies with some spiritual teachers doing their sincere best to guide their student to Truth. Owning to Māyā, the teacher does his/her best to teach you about the table, innocently failing to address the wood. This causes student to walk away with partial teaching, still carrying a doubt because the other half wasn't addressed.
Sooner or later, one continues to look for MORE knowledge… somehow sensing the fullness of Truth isn't full after-all.
This sense of incompletion is what motivates the continued seeking.
Meaning, seeking does not end until one has assimilated the FULL picture, with zero doubts and TOTAL certainty. This is traditional Advaita Vedanta's job. And it's been one of most successful teaching systems for ending the search. At least if it's taught properly by a qualified teacher.
To answer WHAT IS REAL takes a careful and precise teaching methodology by a competent ācārya (teacher).
The answer can't be figured out on your own. This statement is ego's nemesis. There are few exceptions of course like Ramana Maharshi, who himself performed Self-inquiry for 10+ years alone in a cave.
Why can't absolute Truth be figured on one's own? Because ignorance is only capable of interpreting through an ignorant mind.
Otherwise it would be as easy as popping on headphones, playing an audio book of Bhagavad Gita, or watching a chapter of Upanishads through YouTube… and journey over! In reality, you know this isn't the case.
Thus the intention of this post is to inspire you to recognize the unsurpassed value of seeking and learning directly from an ācārya of Advaita Vedanta. The teachers duty is to reveal the REAL from the UNREAL. The Truth from Falsehood.
What's more, attempting to be released from the grip of māyā on your own is impossible. Why? Because you (the reader, thinker, contemplation, feeler) is also product of māyā. These words and the entire internet, world, universe is māyā. Even Advaita Vedanta is māyā.
So how will you use māyā (that which is NOT) to get out of māyā? Only an ācārya, whose body-mind is also a product of māyā, who is not bound to the spell of māyā can help. Begin seeking one out ASAP! Where to find a teacher?
See resources page. Don't just watch their stuff on YouTube. But actually arrange to attend their physical event.
One physical meeting with a liberated ācārya/guru with a precise teaching methodology = 1000 years of solo study/watching/listening. If you haven't yet met such a teacher, then will likely disbelieve or dismiss this statement.