A look at the treatment of dreams illusion and reality in Vedanta.
अथ हैनं सौर्यायणि गार्ग्यः पप्रच्छ | भगवन्नेतस्मिन्
पुरुषे कानि स्वपन्ति कान्यस्मिञ्जाग्रति कतर एष देवः
स्वप्नान् पश्यति कस्यैतत् सुखं भवति कस्मिन्नु सर्वे
सम्प्रतिष्टिता भवन्तीति || १||
Gargya then asked: ‘Master, when a man’s body sleeps, who is it within that sleeps, and who is awake, and who is dreaming? Who then experiences happiness, and with whom are all the sense organs united?’
The Great Sage Pippalada answers:
तस्मै स होवच |
अत्रैष देवः स्वप्ने महिमानमनुभवति | यद्दृष्टं दृष्टमनुपश्यति
श्रुतं श्रुतमेवार्थमनुशृणोति देशदिगन्तरैश्च प्रत्यनुभूतं
पुनः पुनः प्रत्यनुभवति दृष्टं चादृष्टं च श्रुतं चाश्रुतं
चानुभूतं चाननुभूतं च स्च्चासच्च सर्वं पश्यति सर्वः पस्यति || ५||
“While in dream, the mind revives its past impressions. Whatever it has seen, it sees again; whatever it has heard, it hears again; whatever it has enjoyed in various countries and in various quarters of the earth, it enjoys again. What has been seen and not seen, heard and not heard, enjoyed and not enjoyed, both the real and the unreal, it sees; yea, it sees all.”
4.3.9 to 4.3.20
9. "And there are only two states for that person: the one here in this world and the other in the next world. The third, the intermediate, is the dream state. When he is in that intermediate state, he surveys both states: the one here in this world and the other in the next world. Now, whatever support he may have for the next world, he provides himself with that and sees both evils (sufferings) and joys. "And when he dreams, he takes away a little of the impressions of this all—embracing world (the waking state), himself makes the body unconscious and creates a dream body in its place, revealing his own brightness by his own light—and he dreams. In this state the person becomes self—illumined.
10. "There are no real chariots in that state, nor animals to be yoked to them, nor roads there, but he creates the chariots, animals and roads. There are no pleasures in that state, no joys, no rejoicings, but he creates the pleasures, joys and rejoicings. There are no pools in that state, no reservoirs, no rivers, but he creates the pools, reservoirs and rivers. He indeed is the agent.
11. "Regarding this there are the following verses: ‘The effulgent infinite being (purusha), who travels alone, makes the body insensible in sleep but himself remains awake and taking with him the luminous particles of the organs, watches those which lie dormant. Again he comes to the waking state.
12. ‘The effulgent infinite being (purusha), who is immortal and travels alone, guards the unclean nest (body) with the help of the vital breath (prana) and himself moves out of the nest. That immortal entity wanders wherever he likes.
13. ‘In the dream world, the luminous one attains higher and lower states and creates many forms—now, as it were, enjoying himself in the company of women, now laughing, now even beholding frightful sights.
14. ‘Everyone sees his sport but him no one sees.’ They say: ‘Do not wake him suddenly.’ If he does not find the right organ, the body becomes difficult to doctor.
18. "As a large fish swims alternately to both banks of a river—the east and the west—so does the infinite being move to both these states: dreaming and waking.
19. "As a hawk or a falcon roaming in the sky becomes tired, folds its wings and makes for its nest, so does this infinite entity (purusha) hasten for this state, where, falling asleep, he cherishes no more desires and dreams no more dreams.
20. “In him are those Nadis called Hita, which are as fine as a hair split into a thousand parts, and filled with white, blue, yellow, green and red juice.They are the seat of the suble body, which is the storehouse of impressions. Now, when he feels as if he were being killed or overpowered, or being chased by an elephant, or falling into a pit, in short, when he fancies at that time, thorough ignorance, whatever frightful thing he has experienced in the waking state, that is the dream state. So also, when he thinks he is a god, as it were, or a king, as it were, or thinks: "This universe is myself and I am all": that is his highest state.
18. When the self remains in the dream state, these are its achievements (results of past action): It then becomes a great king, as it were; or a noble brahmin, as it were; or attains, as it were, high or low states. Even as a great king, taking with him his retinue of citizens, moves about, according to his pleasure, within his own domain, so does the self, taking with it the organs, move about according to its pleasure, in the body.
He (Indra) said: "Venerable Sir, although this dream self is not blind even if the body is blind, nor do its eyes and nose run when the eyes and nose of the body run; although this self is not affected by the defects of the body, "Nor killed when it (the body) is killed, nor one—eyed when it is one—eyed—yet they kill it (the dream self), as it were; they chase it, as it were. It becomes conscious of pain, as it were; it weeps, as it were. I do not see any good in this." "So it is, Indra," replied Prajapati. "I shall explain the Self further to you.
4. The second quarter is Taijasa, whose sphere of activity is the dream state, who is conscious of internal objects, who is endowed with seven limbs and nineteen mouths and who is the experiencer of subtle objects.
1 Harih Aum. The wise declare the unreality of all entities seen in dreams, because they are located within the body and the space therein is confined.
2 The dreamer, on account of the shortness of the time involved, cannot go out of the body and see the dream objects. Nor does he, when awakened, find himself in the places seen in the dream.
3 Scripture, on rational grounds, declares the non—existence of the chariots etc. perceived in dreams. Therefore the wise say that the unreality established by reason is proclaimed by scripture.
4 The different objects seen in the confined space of dreams are unreal on account of their being perceived. For the same reason i.e. on account of their being perceived, the objects seen in the waking state are also unreal. The same condition i.e. the state of being perceived exists in both waking and dreaming. The only difference is the limitation of space associated with dream objects.
5 Thoughtful persons speak of the sameness of the waking and dream states on account of the similarity of the objects perceived in both states on the grounds already mentioned.
6 If a thing is non—existent both in the beginning and in the end, it is necessarily non—existent in the present. The objects that we see are really like illusions; still they are regarded as real.
7 The utility of the objects of waking experience is contradicted in dreams; therefore they are certainly unreal. Thus both experiences, having a beginning and an end, are unreal.
8 The objects perceived by the dreamer, not usually seen in the waking state, owe their existence to the peculiar conditions under which the cognizer i.e. the mind functions for the time being, as with those residing in heaven. The dreamer, associating himself with the dream conditions, perceives those objects, even as a man, well instructed here, goes from one place to another and sees the peculiar objects belonging to those places.
9—10 In dreams, what is imagined within the mind is illusory and what is cognized outside by the mind, real; but truly, both are known to be unreal. Similarly, in the waking state, what is imagined within by the mind is illusory and what is cognized outside by the mind, real; but both should be held, on rational grounds, to be unreal.
11 If the objects perceived in both waking and dreaming are illusory, who perceives all these objects and who, again, imagines them?
12 It is the self—luminous Atman who, through the power of Its own maya, imagines in Itself by Itself all the objects that the subject experiences within and without. It alone is the cognizer of objects. This is the decision of Vedanta.
13 The Lord, with His mind turned outward, imagines in diverse forms various objects either permanent, such as the earth, or impermanent, such as lightning, which are already in His mind in the form of vasanas, or desires. Again, He turns His mind within and imagines various ideas.
14 Those that are cognized internally only as long as the thought of them lasts and those that are perceived outside and relate to two points in time, are all mere objects of the imagination. There is no ground for differentiating the one from the other.
15 Those that exist within the mind as subjective ideas and are known as unmanifested and those that are perceived to exist outside in a manifested form, both are mere objects of the imagination. Their difference lies only in the difference of the organs by means of which they are perceived.
16 First of all is imagined the jiva, the embodied individual and then are imagined the various entities, both external such as sounds, forms, etc. and internal such as the pranas, sense— organs, etc., that are perceived to exist. As is one's knowledge so is one's memory.