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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Sandhyadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutras 1-6)

The soul in the dream state.

Sandhye srishtiraha hi III.2.1 (319)

In the intermediate stage (between waking and deep sleep) there is (a real) creation; because (the Sruti) says so.

Sandhye: in the intermediate stage (between waking and deep sleep, i.e., in the dream state); Srishtih: (there is real) creation; Aha: (Sruti) says so; Hi: because.

The state of dream is now considered.

Sutras 1 and 2 are Purvapaksha Sutras and set out the view that what we see in dreams are true creations because of the word 'Srijate' (creates).

The word 'Sandhya' means dream. It is called 'Sandhya' or the intermediate state because it is midway between waking (Jagrat) and the deep sleep state (Sushupti). That place is called the intermediate state or place because it lies there where the two worlds or else the place of waking and the place of deep sleep join.

Scripture declares, "when he falls asleep, there are no chariots, in that state, no horses, no roads, but he himself creates chariots, horses and roads, etc." (Bri. Up. IV.3.9-10). Here a doubt arises whether the creation which takes place in dreams is a real one (Paramarthika) like the creation seen in the waking state or whether it is illusory (Maya).

The Purvapakshin holds that in the dreaming state there is a real creation.

In that intermediate state or dream the creation must be real, because scripture which is authoritative declares it to be so, "He (the individual soul) creates chariots, horses, roads," etc. We, moreover, infer this from the concluding clause, "He indeed is the creator" (Bri. Up. IV.3.10).

Further there is no difference between the experience of the waking state and that of the dream state. Atman in dream gets pleasure by going in a car, hearing music, seeing pleasure-sights and eating sumptuous food even as in the waking state.

Hence the creation of the dream state is real and originates from the Lord Himself, just as ether, etc., sprang from Him.

Nirmataram chaike putradayascha III.2.2 (320)

And some (the followers of one Sakha, namely, the Kathakas) (state that the Supreme Lord is the) Creator; sons, etc., (being the lovely things which He creates).

Nirmataram: Creator, the shaper, the builder, the maker; Cha: and, moreover; Eke: some (followers of the particular Sakhas of the Vedas); Putradayah: sons, etc.; Cha: and, also.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent gives a further argument to show that the creation even in dreams is by the Lord Himself. "He who is awake in us while we are asleep, shaping one lovely thing after another, that is Brahman" (Katha Up. II.2. 8).

'Kama' (lovely things) in this passage means sons, etc., that are so called because they are beloved. The term 'Kama' does not denote mere desires. It is used in this sense in the previous passage also, such as "Ask for all Kamas according to thy wish" (Katha Up. I.1.25). That the word Kama there means sons, etc., we infer from Katha Up. I.1.23, where we find these Kamas described as sons and grandsons, etc.

Even in dreams the Lord Himself creates just as in the case of the waking state. Therefore the world of dreams is also real.

The scripture declares "This is the same as the place of waking, for what he sees while awake the same he sees while asleep" (Bri. Up. IV.3.14). Hence the world of dreams is real.

To this we reply as follows.

Mayamatram tu kartsnyenanabhivyaktasvarupatvat III.2.3 (321)

But it (viz., the dream world) is mere illusion on account of its nature not manifesting itself with the totality (of the attributes of reality).

Mayamatram: mere illusion; Tu: but; Kartsnyena: entirely, fully; Anabhivyaktasvarupatvat: on account of its nature being unmanifested.

The thesis adduced in Sutras 1 and 2 is now criticised.

The word 'tu' (but), discards the view expressed by the two previous Sutras. The world of dreams is not real. It is mere illusion. There is not a particle of reality in it. The nature of the dreamworld does not agree entirely with that of the waking world with respect to time, place, cause and the circumstance of non-refutation. Hence the dream world is not real like the waking world.

In the first place there is in a dream no space for chariots and the like, because those objects cannot possibly find room in the limited confines of the body. If you say that the soul goes out and enjoys objects, how can it go hundreds of miles and return within a few minutes?

In a dream the soul does not leave the body; because if it did, then one who dreams of having gone to London would find himself there on waking, while he went to sleep in Bombay. But as a matter of fact, he awakes in Bombay only.

Further while a man imagines himself in his dream going in his body to another place, the by-standers see the very same body lying on the cot.

Moreover a dreaming person does not see in his dream other places such as they really are. But if he in seeing them did actually go about, they would appear to him like the things he sees in his waking state.

Sruti declares that the dream is within the body, "But when he moves about in dream, he moves about according to his pleasure within his own body" (Bri. Up. II.1.18).

In the second place we notice that dreams are in conflict with the conditions of time. One man who is sleeping at night dreams that it is day. Another man lives during a dream which lasts for ten minutes only, through fifty years. One man sees at night an eclipse of the sun in his dream.

In the third place, the senses which alone can bring the sensation of sight etc., are not functioning in dream. The organs are drawn inward and the dreaming person has no eyes to see chariots and other things. How can he get in the twinkling of an eye materials for making chariots and the like?

In the fourth place the chariots etc., disappear on waking. The chariots etc., disappear even in the course of the dream. The dream itself refutes what it creates, as its end contradicts its beginning. The chariot is suddenly transferred into a man, and a man into a tree.

Scripture itself clearly says that the chariots, etc., of a dream have no real existence. "There are no chariots in that state, no horses, no roads, etc."

Hence the visions in a dream are mere illusion.

The argument that the dream world is real, because it is also a creation of the Supreme Lord like this waking world is not true, because the dream world is not the creation of the Lord, but of the individual soul. The Sruti declares "When he dreams he himself puts the physical body aside and himself creates a dream body in its place" (Bri. Up. IV.3.9.) This passage of the Sruti clearly proves that it is the individual soul who creates the dream world and not the Lord.

Suchakascha hi sruterachakshate cha tadvidah III.2.4 (322)

But (though the dream world is an illusion), yet it is indicative (of the future), for (so we find) in the Sruti, the dream experts also declare this.

Suchaka: Indicative, suggestive; Cha: moreover, and; Hi: because, as for; Sruteh: from the Sruti; Achakshate: say, affirm; Cha: also; Tadvidah: dreamexperts, those who know the secrets of dream.

An argument in support of Sutra 3 is given.

The word 'Tadvid' or expert means those who know how to interpret dreams such as Vyasa, Brihaspati, and the rest.

Well then, as dreams are mere illusion, they do not contain a particle of reality? Not so we reply: because dreams are prophetic of future good and bad fortune. For scripture says "When a man engaged in some sacrifice undertaken for a special wish sees in his dreams a woman, he may infer success from that dream-vision" (Chh. Up. V.2.8). Other scriptural passages declare that certain dreams indicate speedy death, e.g., "If he sees a black man with black teeth, that man will kill him."

Those who understand the science of dreams maintain that "to dream of riding on an elephant and the like is lucky while it is unlucky to dream of riding on a donkey." "Whatever a Brahmin or a god, a bull or a king may tell a person in dream, will doubtless prove true."

Sometimes one gets Mantras in dream. Lord Siva taught Visvamitra in dream the Mantra called Ramaraksha. Visvamitra exactly wrote it out in the morning, when he awoke from sleep.

In all these cases the thing indicated may be real. The indicating dream however, remains unreal as it is refuted by the waking state. The doctrine that the dream itself is mere illusion thus remains uncontradicted.

The word 'creation' in dream in the first Sutra is used in a secondary and figurative sense. The soul's good and bad deeds bring about pleasure and pain enjoyed during dream, by means of dream-experiences. In the waking state the light of the soul operates along with the light of the sun to bring about experiences. The dream state is referred to, to show the self-activity of the soul even after the senses are shut off and there is no operation of external light. It is this fact that is the primary teaching. The reference to creation in dreams is secondary.

The world of dreams is not real in the same sense as the world consisting of ether is real. We must remember that the so-called real creation with its ether, air, etc., is not absolutely real. The world of ether, etc., vanishes into nothing when the individual soul realises its identity with the Supreme Soul.

The dream-creation, however, is stultified every day. That the dream is mere illusion has therefore to be understood very clearly and decisively.

Parabhidhyanattu tirohitam tato hyasya bandhaviparyayau III.2.5 (323)

But by the meditation on the Supreme Lord, that which is hidden (by ignorance, viz., the equality of the Lord and the soul becomes manifest), because from him (the Lord) are its (the soul's) bondage and freedom.

Parabhidhyanat: by meditation on the Supreme Lord; Tu: but; Tirohitam: that which is hidden; Tatah: from Him(the Lord); Hi: for; Asya: his, of the individual soul. Bandhaviparyayau: bondage and its opposite, i.e., freedom.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says: The individual soul is a part (Amsa) of the Supreme Soul, just as a spark is a part of the fire. Just as fire and spark have in common the powers of burning and giving light, so also the individual soul and the Lord have in common the powers of knowledge and rulership. Therefore the individual soul may by means of his lordship create in the dreaming state chariots and the like at will (Sankalpa) like the Lord.

This Sutra refutes it and says that the soul now is different from the Lord on account of Avidya or ignorance. The rulership is hidden by ignorance in the Jiva state. It becomes manifest only when in the state of meditation on the Lord. This ignorance is dispelled by the knowledge, "I am Brahman", just as through the action of a strong medicine the power of sight of the blind man becomes manifest.

The Sruti declares "when that God is known all fetters fall off; sufferings are destroyed and birth and death cease. From meditating on Him there arises on the dissolution of the body, a third state, that of universal Lordship; he who is alone is satisfied" (Svet. Up. I.11). Till the knowledge dawns the individual soul cannot create at will anything real.

Lordship does not come to man spontaneously. It does not on its own accord reveal itself to all men, as the bondage and freedom of the individual soul come from the Lord. That means: from knowledge of Lord's true nature, i.e., from realisation of God freedom comes; from ignorance of His true nature comes bondage. Till such realisation comes, where is then any power of creation?

Dehayogadva so'pi III.2.6 (324)

And that (viz., the concealment of the soul's rulership) also (results) from its connection with the body.

Dehayogat: from its connection with the body; Va: and, or; Sah: that (the concealment of the soul's rulership); Api: also.

Sutra 5 is amplified here.

Such hiding of power is due to embodiment of the soul. The state of concealment of the soul's knowledge and Lordship is due to its being joined to a body, i.e., to a body, sense-organs, mind, intellect, sense-objects, sensations, etc., on account of ignorance. Just as fire is hidden in wood or ashes, the knowledge and power of the soul are hidden, though the Jiva is really the Supreme Lord. Hence the soul does not itself create. If it can, it will never create unpleasant dreams. No one ever wishes for something unpleasant to himself.

The soul's knowledge and Lordship remain hidden as long as he erroneously thinks himself as the body, etc., as long as he is under the wrong notion of not being distinct from those limiting adjuncts.

Sruti declares that the soul is non-different from the Lord. "It is True, it is the Self, Thou art That, O Svetaketu!" But its knowledge and power are obscured by its connection with the body.

Though the dream-phenomena are like waking phenomena in their having relative reality. The Sruti itself declares that they do not really exist. As the dreams are due to Vasanas acquired during the waking state, the similarity between the dream state and the waking state is declared.

From all this it follows that dreams are mere illusion. They are false.