Reification is a way of conceptualization or objectification or mental modeling through which we form ideas, beliefs, and make an understanding of our surroundings. However, I saw a youtube video which explains that we have to overcome reification and/or social conditioning for spiritual enlightenment. But, the video does not explain the 'how'.

So, my question is, how can we change/work-on our perception of the surrounding/ environment/society/beliefs, etc so that we see things as they are, like 'yathabhutam'?

4 Answers 4


Brilliant video, agreed. (The first 9 minutes are really great, then he gets distracted and starts rambling.)

He answers your question right there in the video. He says, reifications are overcome by questioning them.

Let me explain in my own words.

Reifications is the substance the ego is made from. Since ego is a conglomerate of reifications, by overcoming the ego you overcome reifications and vice versa.

And how do you overcome the ego? By letting go of attachments, biases, prejudices, overgeneralizations.

How? Start by watching yourself in the middle of daily situations, watching your behavior and your mind, your state of mind, your emotions. See how you react, how you get angry or irritated or scared etc. See what situations and most importantly what thoughts trigger these reactions these states in you.

Then try and notice how in these situations the ego is trying to defend itself. The conglomerate of reifications is trying to defend itself by convincing itself that its reifications are right. It's a kind of feeding, upadana, the ego is feeding itself by cycling over these thoughts, by holding onto these reifications, prejudices, overgeneralizations and so on.

The more you watch it the better you see it, and then you should make a resolve to not allow the ego to keep on feeding and defending itself. You make a promise to yourself that every time you see your ego justify itself, you will challenge it.

For example, if you have a prejudice against dark-skinned people, you catch your ego holding on to it. You catch yourself feeding onto the thought "I'm better because my skin is lighter. I am more civilized." You notice how your ego tries to convince itself that it is better than someone else. As soon as you notice that, you stop it. You tell your ego: "not so fast, this is a reification. There are plenty of horrible people with white skin and plenty of highly evolved people with dark skin". Then you force yourself to behave in accordance with this understanding. You go and talk with dark-skinned people with friendly love and friendly respect. Most importantly, you change your attitude.

Similarly in other situations, whenever you feel "it must be this way only and not another", "only this is good - the rest is bad", "only my opinion is valid, the other is not". All of these are reifications the ego feeds on. By systematically stalking and catching the ego in the middle of real life situations, social situations, especially the ones where you get emotional - you can recognize and overcome your reifications.

Once you develop the habit of doing this, your mind will automatically challenge its stereotypes and generalizations.

The most important point to understand, you don't need to be in a monastery in order to practice prajnaparamita. You must practice right in the middle of Samsara, because reifications are the very building blocks of Samsara itself. By working with reifications as they manifest in your emotional reactions in your everyday life you're not just learning to see things as they are - you are walking the real path to real Enlightenment.


By the way, when the speaker in that video says that animals do not reify nor suffer, with all respect he is not well-informed on this detail. Animals do engage in semiosis and as all semiosis is essentially reification therefore animals do reify. For example when a bear smells honey and assumes that means food (an example of primitive semiosis), if he or she climbs a tree and finds an empty hive the bear's assumptions fail and there's arising of dukkha, of course! It's just not as deep and convoluted a tangle as it is with humans but animals absolutely do reify and suffer.

  • 2
    You must practice right in the middle of Samsara - this short sentence is extremely illuminating, the meaning of which is overlooked by many.
    – user17652
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 14:38

First off, it’s a brilliant video.

Normally, spiritual teachings don’t explain what meditation practices are doing, focusing instead on how to do them. That is, we engage in a practice, following instructions, with a goal in mind, which must, sooner or later, itself be let go of, but we never question how the meditation does its magic, nor even what—in general—spiritual insights are an instantiation of.

Well, the speaker in that video does explain what they are—a lifting of the veil of reifications of things, concepts, identities, qualities, even of time and space positioning, that we take to be real in, and of, themselves, and to which we are attached. And the one very important point he makes, is that the work of meditation—its magic—is to strip us bare of everything we hold dear—and that will offend us, possibly even harm us temporarily, which is why it’s never pointed out to beginning meditators. Only the end goal is spoken of.

So, with that foreshadowing, my answer is that the “how” that you are looking for is a meditative practice—any meditative practice that appeals to you, so long as it goes beyond mere “mindfulness.”

And as you should see by that answer, the “how” is long and involved, so other than someone telling you what vocabulary to use to denote its various stages and aspects, in your language of choice, you won’t find a simple answer.

However, I can point you to two articles that go into significant detail about what these reifications that we hypostatize are, and what we are trying to overcome with meditation—the first article—and then, how the process is universally found in all spiritual traditions, using four examples, showing what the ‘moves’ are in plain English (these are articles that I published):

Understanding Experience What is a meditative experience? Well, first, what is an experience?

A Universal Direct Path to Enlightenment Showing how Plotinus, Jigme Lingpa, Xu Yun, Avalokitasvara & the Buddha described the same necessary meditation moves to reach enlightenment.

I hope this helps you.


For sutta references, reification can be understood as "name and form".

SN22.28:1.2: “Mendicants, if there were no gratification in form, sentient beings wouldn’t love it.
SN22.28:1.3: But since there is gratification in form, sentient beings do love it.
SN22.28:1.4: If form had no drawback, sentient beings wouldn’t grow disillusioned with it.
SN22.28:1.5: But since form has a drawback, sentient beings do grow disillusioned with it.

The escape from reification is meditation on the formless:

DN34:1.4.27: Renunciation is the escape from sensual pleasures. The formless is the escape from form. Cessation is the escape from whatever is created, conditioned, and dependently originated.

But meditation on the formless is a huge leap. We have to start somewhere concrete. The first part of mindfulness meditation is:

MN10:3.2: It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

With even the first step we can count breaths to loosen the grip on reification. Reification is deeply embedded in our day-to-day life. It takes a lot of practice. The Buddha recommends mindfulness meditation (MN10). And as the wonderful video says, it will take quite some time.


The Buddha calls the process of reification "papañca" and points it out as the source of all conflicts in the world both internal and external which is a really profound yet difficult point for us to reflect on. I would recommend The Ball of Honey Sutta MN 18 and the introduction to it by Thanissaro Bikkhu where he expands on the process of papañca and how to overcome it - also worth looking at the other suttas mentioned there: https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN18.html The Ball of Honey is really worth multiple multiple reads!

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