Sleep, Dream and Wakefulness

Daily we sleep and frequently we all dream.  Rest of the period, we are awake and active. We accept these changes in our body and mind as natural. We take no notice of these changes unless there is a break or a problem in the sequentially built in program.  These states of mind and body are basic to our very existence and form the core activity of our life. Superficially they may seem to be merely physical and physiological changes: but if we ponder over, they do have a deeper significance as every other human activity does.

As our life period is broadly divided into above distinct divisions, we need to examine their nature. We spend about three fourths of our life time awake.  A very minor portion of the remaining time – may be one percent of it – is apportioned to dreams. The rest is sleeping time.

When we are awake, our eyes, ears, nose and other sense organs, called “INDRIYAS”1 in Veda are active and do their job. They are sending messages to the mind (MANAS)2, which in turn is reporting to the next higher in command, residing further inside. With the help of the mind, directing the INDRIYAS do their job, we are able to roam all corners of the universe. Sitting before the TV tube, we are able to land on moon, go round Mars, and reach all countries of the world. With assistance of mind alone, we are able to reach hell, heaven, and every known and imaginable idea, thing or place. In Vedic terminology, the word for universe is VISWAM.  But Viswam comprises not only the physical universe but also the imaginary worlds, we think of. VAISWANARA is the one who is capable of wandering the entire Viswam. Hence we are Vaiswanaras, when awake. Brahman, the universal creative and driving force is also Vaiswanara. Vaiswanara aspect of Brahman is manifested in us while we are neither sleeping nor dreaming.

In the dreaming state, all the indriyas are becoming one with Manas3. All the functions of Indriyas have been transferred back to mind. All experiences are through mind only and we “live” in the subtle body (Sukshma Sareera).

Dream world has different parameters from the real world. Story or the incident is condensed time- wise.  It is like video cassette of 90 minute duration giving a story of a generation or even a century. In addition, past and present incidents get mixed up in the same time frame. Territorial integrity is also not maintained. While the incident is taking place in Africa, the locale may change to Tahiti or Burma.

The nature of this strange world must give us at least some indication of how the information passes from the physical body to the inner core.  We will come to that later. The subtle world in which the drama of dream is being enacted can be experienced only with the help of mind.  The specific capacity of the Manas to scan through the dream and convey the information further down to the “PURUSHA”4 (person or self) inside to “experience”, is termed “TEJAS”.  The experiencing Purusha is “TAIJASA”.  Taijasa world is also not created by us. If we could, we will avoid the dreams that scare us to death and make us jump out of our bed!  Brahman, creating the dream world and making it alive is Taijasa Brahma. We being the chips of the same old, very old block, we live, enjoy and suffer in this entirely different world also.

The incidents moving fast in the dream world are without reference to time and space of real world. When the information is passed on from the subtle body to the think tank or “knowledge – bin” for storing, it is quite probable, that the event is stripped of its time and place’ tags. By the time the message reaches Jnana Deha (Consciousness), even the skeletal event loses its identity. It is broken into primordial, minuscule forces that shaped the event and then stored in the mother board. Manas our versatile gadget, capable of recreating the entire story, brings out the coded message; reveals the story in all its details of time and place, in flesh and blood, when needed. This is the process, what we call recollection

Mind, awake all the time, even when Indriyas are at rest, must also have rest. During its rest, the door through which we peep into both inner and outer worlds is closed. In this state as explained in Vedas, we have no desires and no dreams even5. The Self, now in deep sleep, but who will wake up to be an active person later, is called “PRAJNA”.  Prajna is one who has his prajnas (capabilities) within himself.

The Universal Brahman also will be in the same state when all the creating and sustaining activities cease to exist. The cessation of activities continues till the starting of next cycle with a Big Bang. The Prajnana Brahman is macroscopic while we are the microscopic editions!

We are swimming through the stream of life every day, splashing our hands on these three types of waves, continuously rising to the surface.  If these incessant waves cannot make us realize what we are, nothing else, indeed nothing else can!

1INDRIYAS – The word Indriya’ is derived from Indra. Vedic word Indra has several meanings including Brahman. Consequently, in this context Indriya means the quality of Brahman or one that reminds Brahman.


2MANAS – one that makes us conscious of; aware of.  Manas in association with Indriyas make us aware of outside world and also the Vaiswanara Brahman, therein. Standing alone, manas makes us aware of inner world along with the Brahman there.

Vedas describe in detail the inner workings of ourselves with precision. The words used are technical in nature and have specific meaning.  The same words, when they later crept into Sanskrit, gathered different meanings. So the best way to get at the meaning of a Vedic word is to look for it in Veda itself, as it is the only book in that language.  Veda does give the meaning and explanation, invariably, as it is a self contained book. Hence, in explaining a concept, even though more familiar words like mind for Manas and sense organs for Indriyas are used, it is requested to consider them standing for the original Vedic words with the intended meanings only and not otherwise.


3 “— MANASYEKIBHAVATI ” – Prasnopanishat of Atharva Veda ( 4-2).


4 “ESHA HI  DRASHTA, SPRSTA,  SRUTA, GHRATA, RASAYITA, MANTA, BODDHA, KARTA, VIJNANATMA, PURUSHAH ”  – That Purusha is the one who sees, touches, hears, smells, tastes, thinks, preaches, does and is conscious.  Prasnopanishat of Atharva Veda    (3-10).



The state in which one sleeps and has no dream or desire is called SUSHUPTAM.

– Mandukyopanishat of Atharva Veda.  [This statement is an example of how Veda gives meaning and explains the technical words used therein.].

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