Insights of the Rishis and Scholars on Sleep and Dreams

The Great Cosmic Dream

 Our lives are but a long sleep and dream, not of a mere personal nature but of our soul, which has had many lives in many different bodies and worlds of experience. Our physical lives are based upon forgetting our eternal origin and falling into the allure of a transient external reality, in which we lose our true spiritual identity and come to think of ourselves as only the physical body.

How long does our physical life continue unbroken? Most of us will reply as long as a lifetime. The fact is that our physical awareness is broken every day by the state of sleep. We spend around eight hours a day, or a third of our lives, in the sleep state. We know much less about the sleep state than we do about the waking state. We do not take sleep seriously or regard it as having any validity of its own except as an epiphenomenon of the waking state. Yet, there is much hidden within it, including the secret of what the waking state is based upon.

The Fact of Impermanence

What most characterizes a dream is that what happens in it is but a momentary affair, with no lasting result or continuity in the outer world. You cannot visit your dream locations in the waking state. Once a dream is over, it is quickly forgotten. We can experience great success or great difficulties in the dream state, but normally do not take them seriously once we awaken.

Though the waking state is more enduring than dreaming, it has similar limitations in time. It also eventually comes to an end and must be forgotten. The waking state is a kind of prolonged collective shared dream. We experience a common waking world that appears fixed in nature, what we call the material world. But if we look deeply we see that physical reality is changing every second. Modern physics has deconstructed physical reality and shown it to be an illusion of subtle particles and energy fields in a vast interconnected universe of space and light. Behind the apparent stability of the material world are ongoing changes that reveal its illusory nature.

The movement of the day shows its transient nature, with morning quickly turning into afternoon and evening. An hour can pass by so quickly that we fail to notice. The shift of the seasons through the year is the prime factor of change and transformation in the world of nature. The outer rush of prana in the springtime is followed by its inward withdrawal in the autumn. Most important is our own aging process through our biological clock, showing that our physical body is not a fixed reality but a limited movement in time. And our mind changes more quickly than the body, having ups and downs, even in the period of a few minutes or hours.

The transience of our lives indicates their dream-like nature. In the end—however things may appear to last, however much we gain or lose—they come to an end, which is to end up as nothing, whether it is yesterday’s food, our own childhood experiences, or the achievements of our adult life. The tragedy of those individuals who die young is a reflection of life’s unpredictable transience. In fact, none of us can be guaranteed that this current day is not our last!

Most of us have experienced this truth of impermanence in dramatic ways, going back to older family homes, for example, and finding that they have radically changed or that they are no more. We all lose our friends and family members in the course of time. Sometimes the world loses interest in us, particularly as we become older. Even if great world leaders pass away, in a few weeks they, too, are forgotten. The movement of time is relentless and leaves nothing standing in the end.

The experience of impermanence is the basis of much great art and literature, particularly tragedies. We all are unhappy facing the fact that we ourselves will eventually die. But we fail to see that our longing for eternal existence reflects the deeper reality of our soul, which is not bound by time. To discover that immortal soul, we must move beyond the illusion of time that is created by our daily cycles of waking, dream and deep sleep.

In the ignorance of deep sleep, we forget our cosmic reality and fall into a limited, outward-looking self-awareness. This is the stupor of the ego that causes us to take our physical body as our true nature and forget the wellsprings of consciousness within us. The obscuring power of deep sleep remains with us in the background through waking and dream.


Every Day as the Creation of the Entire Universe

Deep sleep state can be identified with Mula Prakriti, the root substance of the universe. If we can remain conscious and observe it, we can penetrate to the origin of creation. We can experience the creation of the universe every day, its unfoldment from pure consciousness to gross materiality, through the cosmic Aum vibration.

Behind deep sleep is the consciousness of Ishvara, the Creator, Preserver and Transformer of all, with which our soul is one. We can experience every day how Ishvara creates and absorbs all. This Ishvara is the Adi Guru or original teacher of yoga through the cosmic vibration Aum, as is taught in the Yoga Sutras. Our individual soul mirrors this cosmic creative process within our mind.

Actually, all of eternity is present at every moment in time. Each day and night reflects the movement of time overall as the day and night of Brahma, day being the cosmic creation and night its withdrawal, or pralaya. Eternity is the unending day of pure consciousness, whose dualistic shadows of day and night form our outer world of experience. Once we remove the ignorance from our minds, that will be our constant experience. Similarly, every point in space is the Infinite, overflowing with numerous Brahmandas, or cosmic eggs, unfolding various world systems.



Behind the daily movement of consciousness lies a great power, the shakti of consciousness, which drives this process. Nothing can stop the process of waking up, dreaming, and sleeping soundly every day. We can stay up later but eventually have to give in to this inner strength.

Shakti has a secret transformational power that we can cultivate. It develops into kundalini shakti, the inner power of awareness that brings us to the highest state of consciousness. The movement after deep sleep to pure awareness rests on kundalini shakti and forms part of its awakening, although this may not be specifically said in all the teachings on the four states. Kundalini shakti is the cosmic sound force and is composed of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. It is the power that arises from the primal sound, Aum, which sustains all the vibrational forces of the universe.

Sharing is a form of postive Karma

Sharing knowledge does not make less

More to Read