Dreaming, Both are Illusory
is a dream. Diogenes of Sinope lived on this one idea. In bright daylight
he moved with a lantern, looking for an honest man.
During moments of extreme physical pain someone asked him whether he still
thought that the world was a dream.
He replied, ‘‘Yes, it is a painful dream’’.
The Mundaka Upanishad tells us that both the waking state and dream state of our
life are ultimately illusory.
These two states are a mere creation of our ordinary consciousness. The highest
level of our consciousness is the stage of Turiya, when we cease to see the
world of matter and feel only one consciousness everywhere.
The views of many famous philosophers of the West about this world and the life
therein are frustrating besides being sceptical to the core.
Bruno said, ‘‘The world is an eternal enigma, and our only connection with
it is that we form part of it when we live. At our birth we are ushered into a
world whose origin is unknown and with which we come into contact for the first
time then. A man is no more than an ant in the presence of the infinite. Man,
petty creature, may measure the heavens, sound the ocean depths and calculate
the movements of the distant stars, but he is himself a phenomenon among the
phenomena of the universe. He must finally quit the scene to reappear no more.
Death annuls all the features of life and life after death has supervened as an
exercise of pure imagination possible only in life. Truth, God, immortality are
delightful concepts, it is true, but standing on no verifiable basis’’.
How would Vedanta tackle the position of the sceptic? Before examining his
conclusion Vedanta would dispute the correctness of the premises.
It would point out the initial error in assuming that world and our waking state
are different entities. The world perceived in our waking cannot be logically
separated, from the state of waking because the world without it is a mere
The conception of a world by itself existing independently of the mind that
perceives (seer) does not accord with experience. The world is only a
determination of the waking state.
Vedanta turns the pessimism of the sceptic into a permanent bliss. The three
main principles of Vedanta are — Brahman is real (satya), the world is unreal
(mithya) and the ego (jiva) is none other than the real (Brahman).
The third one, the identity of jiva and Brahman is considered as the most
important. The Vedantic stance is that time, space and objects are not real
entities. They are super impositions upon Brahman. The whole universe of things
and beings is a long dream.
Atman or Brahman has been called eternal, all pervading. But one feels that
Atman is born and dies. This is because of one’s wrong identification with
one’s own body and mind, while Atman is pure consciousness, the inner self.
The illusion exists in the vision of one who is seeing it.
The non-apprehension of the real creates mis-apprehension. Everything gets
superimposed upon consciousness, me. Nothing can ever destroy me, who is of the
very nature of awareness.
If one incessantly contemplates upon this idea — ‘‘nothing can destroy me;
nothing can ever destroy me’’ and gets really convinced of it, then one can
rid oneself of the fear of death, the fear of all that is known here.
If anyone threatens such a man, he will be able to retort: ‘‘Whom are you
threatening? At the most you can destroy my body, but I am not that’’.
There have been great saints and mahatmas in the past, who replied thus even to
emperors and monarchs.
The emperor would threaten ‘I will kill you’! The mahatma would peacefully
reply, ‘‘You are going to kill me? That is the greatest joke I have heard.
Even Bhagvan cannot kill me, who are you to kill me? And when you kill me, I too
will see my body falling here. And when you cut off my head, I too will see it
falling down; because I am that which is in you, which is holding that sword.
Thus when you have killed me, I shall still remain and survive in you as
The unique experience of a man of realisation is described as: ‘‘That
effulgent conscious am I, which is self-established, all full without beginning
and end, and in which the illusory ideas of the worlds, the individual, the
disciple, the teacher and God, are all extinct.