Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts
Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
Your interests (Optional)
This will help us make recommendations and send discounts and sale information at times.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
Sign In  |  Sign up
Your Cart (0)
Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend

Dreams: Glimpsing the All Illuminating Illumination

Article of the Month - July 2012
Viewed 23353 times since 15th Jul, 2012
An individual experiences the three states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep. A baby in the womb lies in deep sleep for about twelve hours, dreams for about nine hours and is awake for about three hours. As age advances sleep decreases. Out of these three states, the specialty of the wakeful state is that in it we transact with the outer world using our sense organs. Also, in contrast to the other two states, our eyes are open while we are awake. Hence this state is also called ‘Netrasthana’ in Sanskrit, meaning ‘placed in the eye’.

The Light (Jyoti) Illuminating Our Worldly Transactions

No transaction is possible without a light. What is the light which is necessary for our activities in the state of wakefulness? In daytime it is the sun; in the sun’s absence during night it is the moon and the stars; and when they are both absent, it is Agni, i.e. fire.

What is the Dream State?

Vedanta analyzes the dream state to bring out the nature of the light illuminating our dreams. When Vedanta discusses the world or its creation, the purpose is not to unearth the physics behind it, but rather to make us understand that the world in its essential nature (Swarupa) is nothing but the Supreme Soul Brahman Itself. Similarly, the discussion of dreams is not to understand the psychology of it, but only the intrinsic nature of the light (Jyoti) illuminating it.

During our waking state, our senses act through our gross body and conduct transactions. In due course, the Jiva becomes tired by this (Shankaracharya’s Commentary on Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.1). Then the Jiva leaves his position in the eyes (Netra-sthana), and descends to the heart. The organs of knowledge (Jnana-Indriyas), namely the power to see, hear, smell, taste and touch, all leave their locations in the gross body, and enter the mind (manas). This mind (with the organs of knowledge inside it), enters into the heart. Thus the transactions with the outside world come to a stop. However, the mind does not stop its functions (Prashna Upanishad 4.2). This is the dream state (Swapna).

The experience of dreams is the state where the sense organs (Indriyas) are resting, but the mind continues to experience without resting (Mahabharata Mokshadharma 275.24). However, the vital airs (Prana) animating the body do not leave their places and hence they continue to protect the physical (gross) body as they do when we are awake (Prashna Upanishad 4.3-4). That is why a sleeping body does not appear like an inauspicious corpse, but continues to be auspicious.

During dreams, the mind continues to supply from inwards the awareness to the Jiva, according to the residual desires (Vasanas) contained in the mind. These awarenesses are only vibrations of the mind without any external stimuli. However, in contrast to the waking state, when we are dreaming, everything is made up of our Vasanas. For example, though actually the body is sleeping here, in our dreams we may find our body walking somewhere else. Indriyas are resting here, but active in the dream; Breathing is regular here, but we may find ourselves gasping in a dream. Whatever we see in our dreams has no physical (gross) component to it, i.e. the content of the dream world is only the Vasana experienced inwardly in the mind of the dreamer (Shankaracharya’s Commentary on the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.10).

The Dream World

All transactions in the world make their appearances in our dreams. There is a whole world there. There are chariots, horses to pull them and also roads to drive them through. However, they are only visible to the dreamer, not to others. Here the world is not objective like the Akasha etc. seen in the world which is a creation of God (Shankaracharya’s Commentary on the Brahma Sutras 3.2.4). The dream world is false, there is not even a trace of objectivity in it. The content of the dream world is only the mental modifications of the sleeper, and not made up of the five primary elements (Pancha-Mahabhuta) created by God, which are the basic building blocks of the physical world, and which are experienced by all (Brahma Sutra 3.2.3).

Also, most importantly, the dreamer is untouched by the Paap (Sin) and Punya (Merit)) he performs in his dreams. This is because the mind during sleep is independent and out of the dreamer’s direct control. In dream one only sees the Punya and Paap, he does not actually do them (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.15). Not only this, even the pleasure and pain experienced in the dream state are only Vasanas. The transactions which took place in the outer world are seen in dreams by the dreamer staying within the body (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 2.1.18). That is why the Vedas describe the dream world as the creation of the Jiva. There are no chariots there, no horses and no roads. But he creates the chariots, horses and the roads (Br.U. 4.3.10).

While there is no activity of the gross body in the dream state, from the point of view of the activity of the mind, there is no difference between the actual world (Jagat) and the dream world. However, the world created by God puts a leash on the mind during our waking state, where external objects pull us towards them. But, since the sense organs are inactive during dreams, the leash of the external world is snapped and the mind has a free play. The wakeful world created by God is well ordered through place, time and causal connections. This is not so the case with the world of dreams (Brahma Sutra 3.2.3). The dream world is totally false. There is no order there with regard to space-time and causality. What is a man now, becomes a tree the next moment; and the tree an animal. Dreams are only a recall of the memory of what has happened in the waking world.

There is no rule that one should see only what one has seen earlier. One can add his own imagination to the memory of what was seen in the waking state. However, what is impossible even to imagine, can never be seen in a dream.

Dreams: A Junction of This World and That World

Fourteen Dreams of Trishala, the Mother of Tirthankara Mahavira

Though dream experience is largely a memory recall of the transactions done in the waking state, sometimes something special may also be seen according to one’s knowledge, actions and previous experiences (including past lives). These may include seeing other worlds where one has to go after death. One does not directly experience the pleasures and pains of these other worlds in one’s dreams, rather one simply sees them. Therefore, the dream world is sometimes described as a junction between this world and the next (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.9). Not only that, one can foresee in dreams even the future events of one’s life. For example, one who never thinks about women, when he sees one in his dreams, can be assured that his desired endeavors will bear fruit (Chandogya Upanishad 5.2.8). Seeing a dark person with black teeth indicates the dreamer’s death (Aitreya Aranyaka 3.2.4). The woman and the dark man with black teeth are of course mental forms; however, the success of one’s Karma or one’s impending death foretold by the dreams are real, not false (Brahma Sutra 3.2.4).


Who Creates Our Dreams?

This question arises because different Upanishads seem to give different statements in this regard. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad indicates that the Jiva (individual soul) is himself the creator of his dreams. ‘He creates the chariots, the horses and the roads for himself’ (Br.U.4.3.10).

However, the Katha Upanishad says that God is the one who creates our dreams. ‘When all are sleeping, the One who is awake creating different sights in the dream is the divine Brahman’ (Katha Upanishad 2.2.8).

Further, the Prashna Upanishad attributes the creation of dreams to the mind: ‘During dreams, all the senses merge in the great mind. This mind experiences the grandeur of dreams’ (Prashna Upanishad 4.5).

Therefore, the three texts give three different versions as to who is the creator of dreams. Remember however that we all know the Vedas contain no contradictions (See Exotic India Article of the Month September 2010). Thus we will see how Shri Shankaracharya has reconciled these apparently differing statements about the creator of our dreams.

The Answer:

The creator of his dreams is indeed the Jiva himself because it is clearly said that he ‘creates for himself’ (Brhadaranyaka). None of the other two quotes explicitly use the word ‘creates.’ This is logically correct also because it is only the Jiva’s Vasana that appears as the dream world.

Objection: But the Jiva sometimes gets undesirable dreams also. How can he be the creator if he has no control over his dreams?

Resolution: Yes, of course. Jiva does not have control because it is God who shows up his dreams as per his Vasana.

Doubt: Then we have to say that God is the creator?

Reply: That is not right. Suppose one eats too much and gets a stomach ache; nobody says that it is the Vaishnavara (fire in the body which is responsible for digestion, and which is a form of God, Bhagavad Gita: 15.14) which is responsible for this pain. They say that the individual has caused it himself. It is true that he does not want this pain. He has no control over it either; but still he is himself responsible for it. He has no control over it after he has over-eaten. Had he control while eating, he would not have had the pain at all.

Further Doubt: How then does the Prashna Upanishad attribute the creation of dreams to the mind?

Resolution: It is because the Jiva experiences dreams using the instrument of his mind. For example, when rice is being pounded, even though there is someone responsible for the pounding, we say that "this pestle pounds well". Thus, the responsibility for the dream world is attributed to the mind even though it acts as a mere instrument, while it is the Jiva who is actually the creator of dreams. The Vedas adopt the style of direct teaching from the Guru to disciple; the Guru uses the words according to the situation. One who cannot understand this may think that it could be a contradiction.

Does the Jyoti Illuminating Our Dreams Belong to the Body?

Above we have read about the light (Jyoti) facilitating our transactions when we are awake. There the illumination comes from the sun, moon etc. But in the dreams there is no scope for any of them to operate. The Katha Upanishad says:

‘The sun does not shine there. The moon, the stars, the lightning do not shine there. Nor does fire’ (KaU 2.2.15).

However, in the dream state too the Jiva gets all the awarenesses just as he does when he is awake. What is the Jyoti for them? It is certainly not from the outside. It has to be only from inside. The question is: Is this Jyoti connected with the body or something different? According to one view this light is of our body. How do we say that our body has the capacity to generate a Jyoti? Because of the fact that when one rubs ones eyes one sees stars inside. Similarly, the Jyoti in dreams too is related to the body. This is the view of those who do not believe in the Vedas.

The Light Illuminating Our Dreams is Not of the Body

The above view however is wrong. The reason is as follows: One who had seen something with his physical eyes in the wakeful state, sees the same again in a dream even after becoming blind. Therefore the seer must be someone who is different from the eyes. Previously what was seen with the eyes is now seen without the eyes. Therefore, this Jyoti does not belong to the eyes, i.e. it is not connected with the body.

Objection by the Atheist (Non-Believer in the Vedas): Not like that. What we meant was that whatever is seen by the sense organs when we are awake is recorded in the mind as Vasana. This Vasana itself shows up as objects in dreams. Therefore the mind now plays two roles – as the seen object and also as the seer. Therefore the light in which we see the dreams (Swapna-Jyoti), is of the mind, which we know is related to the body.

Reply by Vedantin: In that case it is agreed by you that the seer is different from the eyes. Further if you say that the mind is the seer of dreams, what then is the instrument through which it sees the dream? For example, in the waking state it is our eyes which serve as instruments to view the world. We have already seen that they cannot serve as instruments for us to see dreams. If we take the mind as the seer of dreams, then it will require an instrument other than itself to see the dream. However, no such instrument exists. (Brahma Sutra 2.3.38)

In fact, it is but our common experience that the mind (and everything else) is absent when we are in deep sleep (Sushupti). Therefore, the true seer is the one who is different from the mind, and witnesses the mind’s absence during deep sleep.

Therefore, the light illuminating our dreams does not belong to the mind either.

The Light Illuminating Our Dreams is that of the Atman (Soul)

This much is now decided: The Jyoti in dreams must be of one who is even beyond the mind. This is the Atman. Who is he? It is the one who is witnessing the absence of everything including the mind when we are in deep sleep. Though it is difficult to apprehend him, nobody doubts his existence. Therefore he shines in his own Jyoti, not by someone else’s. This is the Atman’s self-illuminating nature (Swayam-Jyotishtava), which is its essential nature (Swarupa).

Conclusion: The Facility with Dreams

Everybody knows the existence of the Atman, because no one can deny the ‘I’ in oneself. However, we are too used to viewing the Atman through the lens of certain conditioning adjuncts (Upadhis), superimposing the nature of these Upadhis on ourselves. For example, if the body is male one thinks he is a man, if female, he thinks he is a woman. Both man and woman are Himself, but He is neither a man or a woman. Therefore, in order to understand the Self-Illuminating (Swayam-Jyotishtava) of the Atman, he is to be freed from the outside lights and the lights of the Upadhis. What has been done in the dream state is precisely this. It is through the dream state that we get introduced to the soul’s self-illuminating nature. Though this Jyoti is same Jyoti which illuminates the waking state also, its pure and unalloyed nature remains unrecognized there in the humdrum of the external Jyotis. In our dreams this humdrum is suppressed and therefore its recognition becomes easy. Indeed, our countless salutations to our Atman, who by gracing us with the dream state, removes our darkness with its light, baring itself as the ‘One, Pure Illumination’, illuminating all other illuminations.


This article is based almost entirely on the teachings of Param Pujya Swami Paramanand Bharati Ji. However, any errors are entirely the author's own.

References & Further Reading:

  • Bharati, Swami Paramananda.Vedanta Prabodh Varanasi, 2010
  • Goyandka, Shri Harikrishnadas. Translation of Shankaracharya's Commentary on the Eleven Upanishads (Hindi): Gorakhpur, 2006.
  • Gupta Som Raj. Upanisads with the Commentary of Sankaracarya, Five Volumes Delhi
  • Goyandka, Shri Harikrishnadas. Shrimad Bhagavad Gita (Translation of Shankaracharya's Commentary into Hindi): Gorakhpur, 2006.
Post a Comment
Post Review
Трубки для кальяна в наше время пользуются особым доверием. Большое количество женщин любят курить качественные сигары. Если вы хотите купить элитный табак или элитные сигары, то мы предлагаем вам кликнуть на наш сайт. На доступны разнообразные сигареты и аксессуары. Если вам нужны принадлежности для кальяна, то вы сможете выбрать отличные товары на портале. Фирма функционирует не второй день и предлагает вип покупателям сигары отличного качества. В это время интернет-магазин сигар очень ценится среди разных клиентов, и вы можете выбрать там табак высокого класса. Если вам необходимы пепельницы, то организация рекомендует рассмотреть аксессуары европейских разработчиков и различной цветовой гаммы. Важно отметить, что предметы торговли есть в продаже не всегда. Сейчас товары очень быстро заказывают и иногда их необходимо заказывать заранее. Если вы любите сигареты Oscar Black, но купить их вам не постоянно удаётся, на сайте интернет-магазина вы можете их забронировать. Там находятся в каталоге и сигареты Oscar One Nano. В последние месяцы безумно известны стали сигареты Mac Blue Q-type. Если вы хотите подобрать что-то универсальное, то табак для трубки в ассортименте также есть. В наличии практически всегда доступен табак Al-Sharq Darband. А если вы желаете купить табак для клуба, то лучше брать табак для кальяна на сайте фирмы. Сегодня организация невероятно распространена и вы можете приобрести сигареты оптом по вкусной цене. Для постоянных покупателей у компании есть индивидуальные интересные варианты. В наше время интернет-магазин сигарет уже успел завоевать доверие у разных граждан Казахстана. Нужно выделить, что в Казахстане не так уж и просто выбрать элитные сигареты, но руководство интернет-магазина делает всё для того, чтобы такая вероятность была у клиентов ресурса.
Excellent e-commerce website with the most exceptional, rare and sought after authentic India items. Thank you!
Cabot, USA
Excellent service and fast shipping. An excellent supplier of Indian philosophical texts
Libero, Italy.
I am your old customer. You have got a wonderful collection of all products, books etc.... I am very happy to shop from you.
Usha, UK
I appreciate the books offered by your website, dealing with Shiva sutra theme.
Antonio, Brazil
I love Exotic India!
Jai, USA
Superzoom delivery and beautiful packaging! Thanks! Very impressed.
Great service. Keep on helping the people
Armando, Australia
I bought DVs supposed to receive 55 in the set instead got 48 and was in bad condition appears used and dusty. I contacted the seller to return the product and the gave 100% credit with apologies. I am very grateful because I had bought and will continue to buy products here and have never received defective product until now. I bought paintings saris..etc and always pleased with my purchase until now. But I want to say a public thank you to whom it may concern for giving me the credit. Thank you. Navieta.
Navieta N Bhudu
I have no words to thank you and your company. I received the Saundarananda Maha Kavya that I have ordered from you few weeks ago. I hope to order any more books, if I will have a need. Thank you
Ven. Bopeththe, Sri Lanka
Subscribe to our newsletter and discounts
Share with friends
Related Links
"One uniqueness of our Vedic religion is that it allows for salvation not only through renunciation (nivritti) but also through the path of material happiness (pravritti).... If dharma makes it mandatory that conjugal pleasure be restricted to the life partner, how is it that Krishna indulged in the amorous sport of Rasa with others' wives?.... Some stopped cooking, some stopped feeding, some stopped eating, some stopped washing clothes etc. and ran away.... Upanishads call the jiva in waking state as Vishwa and the dreaming jiva as Taijasa (Mandukya Upanishad Mantras 3-4)."
Krishna's Rasa Lila: The Vedantic Perspective
"But to pull this statement out of context and give it as an advice for anyone is far from correct…. But how is one to recognise the guru? Obviously, he will be able to understand the difficulties of the disciples and clarify to them the meaning of the scriptures on the basis of logic and experience…. They will have to search in their own neighbourhood only….The guru chosen by him should be at least better than himself!…. Of course, if the ideal guru whose features have been enumerated in the beginning is available, then the sadhaka should immediately go and surrender to him…. It is just like going to another teacher for higher education, after completing the education in a school."
The Qualities of a Guru and How to Find One
"This middle path lies in between extreme asceticism on one side, and extreme indulgence on the other…. When standing under a Ashok tree, tired and exhausted, she raised her right hand for seeking support of a branch of the tree…. The unique balance that defined his entire life was pre-determined in this duality….One day, in the palace garden he frightened his attendants…. He ate less and less till his diet reduced to a sesame seed, and himself, to a mere skeleton…. Seven days after the attainment of enlightenment gods sent food for breaking his fast…. However, he postponed his ‘nirvana’ for three months till he visited the places he had reminiscences of."
The Light That Enlightened Millions
(The life of Buddha in the popular mind)
"Contrarily metaphysicians and theologians perceived his form as it manifested in the Upanishads and Puranas….The ‘Advaita’ philosophy also contends that the entire Creation is just the extension of One…. Dance illustrates one of the ever-first cosmic acts with which Shiva seems to have tamed violent motion and separated from it rhythm, moves that communicated emotions and states of mind – human mind and the cosmic, and disciplined and defined pace…. Unlike Vishnu who resorted to dance for accomplishing a contemplated objective, Shiva has been conceived more or less as a regular dancer performing for accomplishing an objective as also for pure aesthetic delight…. Unfurling locks of hair and his snakes floating into space portray the dynamics of the act."
Shiva, the Nataraja
"There is Rama, the son of Ayodhya's king Dasharatha in his human birth, and there is Rama's divinity, his divine aura that overwhelms the Tulasi's entire Ramacharit-manas, one manifest - with attributes, and the other, unmanifest - without attributes. With main emphasis on his majesty in South Indian tradition this crown is taller than usual. His 'khadgasana' images are usually in three modes; one with his right foot moved forward represents him in a commander's disposition ready to rush for protecting a devotee in crisis or redeem him from some calamity. Harihara, a form in which he shares with Shiva half of the body. Basically a bird Garuda is seen for ages as Vishnu's ardent devotee, a learned human being and an auspicious presence, and in iconographic tradition often conceived with a man's face, anatomy, ornaments and ensemble. The Puranas are replete with tales of Garuda's divine exploits."
Iconography of Vaishnava Images: Vishnu
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"Bhishma undoubtedly is one of the central figures of the Mahabharata.…. One should not venture out too early in the morning…. But one should not go to sleep with wet feet….A person who desires to live long should never irritate the following three…. One must shun company of people who criticize the Vedas…. If we are traveling, one must find shelter inside a house…."
Living the Full Life: 50 Instructions from the Mahabharata
"Her epithet in the Devi-Mahatmya is Mahalakshmi. She is the wrathful four-armed goddess of battlefield represented holding in them various weapons…. A form of Lakshmi seated over a lotus laid over a golden seat and a pair of white elephants…. Except in some classical forms in Lakshmi-Narayana imagery Lakshmi is ordinarily two-armed…. Incarnation theory is the crux of Vaishnavism. Vishnu incarnates alone but Lakshmi also incarnates in simultaneity…. Though very rare some enthused artists have conceived on Ardhanarishvara line also Vishnu’s Ardhanarishvara images."
Iconography of Vaishnava Deities: Goddess Lakshmi
"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"She has always believed that this would redeem her of her distress….A coconut, otherwise an ordinary dried fruit or the source of edible, or at the most, beauty oil, has always been revered as an auspicious object effecting good and well-being and the food that gods most loved….The tree in the Buddhist tradition was later identified as Bodhi-tree, seated under which Buddha had attained Enlightenment….Body gestures and symptoms, signs, indications among others must have been the early man’s tools of communicating oneself and knowing and understanding the world around….Kirttimukha was initially conceived as a mystical mask….Lion does not figure in the wide range of animal toys or figurines excavated from Indus sites."
Auspicious Symbols in Indian tradition
"Here is a fragment from one of the most poignant episodes of Indian history…. This piece of history is from the Mahabharata…. She was dying with shame but inside, like a true kshatrani (woman of the warrior race), she was burning with anger…. I have heard that women who follow dharma were never brought before a public court….Greed is the destroyer of dharma. I do not desire a third boon…. Draupadi was as forgiving as mother earth herself…. Just then Arjuna saw his dear friend Bhagawan Krishna approaching him…. “Leave him, leave him. He is a brahmin and worthy of our worship. Their mother should not cry, like I have at the death of my children."
Analyzing the Eternal Dimensions of Dharma Through Itihasa (History)
"It concedes that for an orderly social life a division into four groups based on the principle of varnadharma is necessary…. Each individual sometimes acts in a sattvika manner while at other times he may act in rajasic or tamasic manner, which means that the manifestation of a particular guna depends on circumstances…. Though all the three gunas are present in everyone, different persons are driven to act differently…. The karma that I have to perform should depend on my inherent gunas and should have the ability to regulate these gunas…. There is no instant transition to moksha…. An individual has to make his way towards moksha only through worldly life."
Varnashrama Dharma: A Logical View
"Only a certain fraction of this karma is chosen by God in order to form the blueprint of our next birth…. The fruit that one experiences in this birth is due to prarabdha and a portion of the present agami…. Similarly, a fish in the Ganga does not accrue punya because of always living in Ganga…. A good karma can be annulled by a bad karma and a bad one by a good one…. Sometimes we also hear that prarabdha cannot be got rid of. It has to be spent through…. Bhagawan Vyasa says that for the full result of the karma to manifest, three things are necessary…. Then how to understand the statement that prarabdha should unavoidably be experienced?"
Theory and Practice of Karma: Some Salient Features
Show More
All rights reserved. Copyright 2018 © Exotic India