The present volume collects twenty-two papers delivered all at a conference held in April 2004 in Paris on 'sleep and Dreams in the Indian
World'. It shows that dreams have always been considered here to be major experiences deeply interwoven with life.
Dreams are a tool allowing a reading of the mind, life and word. They hold a function in the literary discourse, be it classical or
contemporary; they can also be prophetic in religious biographies or in the popular tradition. The disturbing nature of dreams could lead to the
introduction of rules regulating the sleep. Further, the acts of sleeping and dreaming are a source of life as seen in various aspects of Buddhist,
Jain and Brahmanical art.
The multiplicity of approaches illustrated by this book reflects the richness of the Indian in-depth perception of dreams and its readiness to
incorporate dreams at any level of life and any system of thought.
The papers included in the present publication derive from a conference on "Le sommeil et les reves dans le monde indien. Eclairages
comparatifs" (Sleep and dreams in the Indian world . Comparative Enlightenments) held at the University of pairs-3, Sorbonne Nouvelle, in April
2004, 5th to 7th under the patronage of the University of pairs-3 and the national centre for scientific research.
This meeting concluded a series of conferences initiated by the research team "Langues, Textes, Histoire et civilisation du monde Indien"
(LACMI) which was a combined team of university of paris 3-sorbonne nouvelle and the national centre for scientific research or "centre
national de la recherche scientique" (CNRS), until it recently merged with the team "Monde iranien" to form the new "Mondes iranien et
Since 1989, the date of its creation, LACMI had organized thematic conferences bearing on classical Indian culture, which brought together
team members and guests from other institutions and various countries. After an initial international conference in 1996 for the centenary of the
sanskritist louis renou, more were to follow. "La norme et son application dans le monde Indien" (The norm and its applications in the Indian
world) held in January 1999 at the Ecole francaise d, Extreme- orient in paris, was succeeded by "Les ages de la vie dans le Monde indien" (Ages
of life in the Indian world) which took place at the university of Lyon-III in June 2000, and "Penser, dire et representer 1’ animal dans le monde
indien” (To think, to say and to represent the Animal in the Indian World) held at the Ecole Normale superieure, Paris, in March 2002. As in the
present case, each conference was followed by the publication of its proceedings.
Dreams are fascinating because they reflect a hidden part of ourselves. Whatever the culture or the period, men and women have always
questioned themselves about the nature and significance of their dreams, and their daily occupations, cultural creations or intention paid by
scholars to "dreams in India" reflects this multiplicity of views.
While most of the scholars from France and abroad taking part in the conference had already researched the topic of dreams in relation to a
specific aspect of Indian culture in their own work, it was felt desirable to broaden the scope towards the field of dream and sleep research
laboratory of the University of Lyon-1, which is a leading institution in this field.
As Jurgen Hanneder's article shows, Indian philosophers defined the nature of the real world as being a long dream from which one awakes from
once its nature is known, and analyzed the position of dreams in their study of the states of consciousness. Dreams are still "read", "narrated",
"analyzed", "used" in daily practice in a contemporary Hindu ashram in order to reach higher states of consciousness as experienced by Madhu
Tandan. They are likewise considered in a medicinal context, being at the threshold between life and death, and formulating a message from the
unseen world which can be analyzed and lead to the application of remedies (Martin Mittwede).
Dreams are described in all aspects of Indian literature, where they hold a function in the literary discourse; they occur in classical narrative,
dramatic or epic texts (Jean-Pierre Osier, Sylvain Brocquet, Eva De Clercq) as in contemporary Tamil literature (Chantal Delamourd). A certain
ambivalence is also noted here, since texts simultaneously resort to psychology and the popular understanding of dreams as omens (Jean-Pierre
Osier); they also offer a means to move between different levels of reality (Sylvain Brocquet). They play an overwhelmingly dominant role in
religious and philosophical literature (Luce BaraZer-Billoret, Serinity Young, Daniele Masset, Pierre Lory). The vocabulary used to refer to
dreams and sleep in the Indo-European languages proves to have been extremely diversified and rich (Georages-Jean Pinault).
Dreams are part of popular traditions, and as such, act as omens (Hartmut O.Rotermund, Joachim K.Bautze). The prophetic nature of dreams is
clearly evidenced by the Svapnacintamani written in the twelfth century by Jagaddeva and published, with its German translation, by Julius von
Negelein in 1912; this function remaind a major element in everyday life as attested by the existence of illustrated manuscripts, eventually
known as "Svapna Darshan" or "svapna darpan", originating from Rajasthan and Chamba (Joachim K. Bautze). At a different level, prophetic
dreams are commenly present in religious biographies: Buddhists, for instance, justified various events in the Buddha,s life with the existence of
prophetic dreams which serve to relate the historical and "real" biography to its "spiritual"nature (Anna Maria quagliotti), or which appear as a
rehearsal before a forthcoming event (Claudine Bautze-Picron). These dreams punctuate not only the mental life of the Buddha, but also of
characters closely related to him, his mother being not the only one since his father and wife were also both visited by prophetic dreams, their
comparative study obviously suggesting the existence of a system of dream interpretation in Buddhism (Serinity Young). The interest in dreams
never ceased in Buddhism and did not remain limited to the Buddha’s life: Tibetan monks could also experience the power of dreams and
perceived them as an inspirational source (Daniele Masset).
Dreams not only hold a particular position in Buddhist literature, but also serve a function in saiva initiatory rituals (Luce Barazer-Billoret), and
dam interpretation is to be seen in jain literature, too . Moreover, Jains introduced strict rules to regulate their monks’ "way of sleeping" in order
to prevent them from being controlled by dreams, since they can lead to unconscious sexual arousal (Nalini Balbir). Similar concerns are
encountered in the traditional judicial literature (Jean Fezas).
Present in literature, dreams were also illustrated in religious art, the most famous by far being the dream had by Maya, mother of the Buddha
(Anna Maria quagliotti), a topic which found its way into all the countries of Asia; less known is the dream had by the future Buddha-a dream
which relates him to Visnu sunk in his cosmic sleep (Claudine Bautze-Picron). Dreams are had while sleeping and sleeping gods lie down: from
the depth of their sleep, life arises as shown by the iconographies of Visnu reclining on the snake Ananta/Sesa (Anne- Claire Juramie) and of a
female deity who has given birth to a child (Anne Casile).
Dreams cross over intellectual boundaries, creeping into any and every aspect of artistic and literary material. The abundance of this material
reveals how dreams have held and still hold a major position in religion, law and monastic rules, how they interfered in the daily life of the
dreamer, how they were perceived as paving the way to higher spiritual or psychological levels. The present volume is but a modest attempt at
showing their still under-estimated importance in Indian civilisation.
I would like to thank Luciano perez and Joachim K. Bautze for the help which they offered at various stages in the preparation of this
volume. Most of all, I express all my gratitude to Sanjana Roy Choudhury for her endless patience and keen interest in publishing this
After completing her M. Phil. In Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Claudine Bautze-Picron became a research fellow at the
National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris. As an art historian, her research has mainly focused on eastern India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
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