Waking Up from the Dream of this So-called Waking World
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on February 21, 1988.)

The mind, which is the medium of thinking, is more a process in the manner of a movement than just a thing operating in our body like an entity distinct from our physical embodiment. It is essentially a potential of energy capable of acting and reacting in respect of given circumstances, and maintaining an individuality of its own until the particular effect required to be produced by these actions and reactions is not produced. When the requisite effect is produced by this procedure of action and reaction, by an intricate pattern of movement of the nature of a process, the individuality of the mind overcomes itself. Often we say the mind dies. It does not actually die; it steps over the limitations of its erstwhile individuality and gathers up a momentum in the direction of another formation of itself, as long as it does not exhaust its potential for an immense kind of action and reaction in terms of the forms of sensation that we would call objects. The objects, so-called, seen in this world are centres of evoking reactions from the mind in correspondence with the potential of the mind. That is to say, a particular mind does not act on every kind of object in the world, nor is it true that all the objects in all creation have a uniform type of impact on the mind.

The entire world does not present itself before any particular individual mind. A segment of creation, a part of this vast ocean of objects, alone is capable of entertaining a response from a particular mental mode. Likewise, no particular mind – your mind or my mind or anyone’s mind – can equally and uniformly react to all the things in the world. In other words, all things in the world cannot attract us, and also all things in the world cannot repel us. It is not that we can have a desire for everything in the world at the same time, nor is it true that we can have an aversion for all things at the same time. There is a fractional partition, an individualised and highly self-centred activity going on in the form of the cognition of an object. A cognition is a mental perception of a thing. A sensory perception is generally distinguished from cognition, and is just called a percept.

The sensory perceptions also are activated by mental cognitions only. Our joys and sorrows are mental operations, not so much sensory activities. Our loves and hatreds do not originate from the eyes or the ears or any organ of sensation. These organs of sensations are harnessed for a particular purpose of activity by a mode of the mind, which is what we call love or hatred, like or dislike, action, etc. There is an internal operation going on which energises the sense organs and drives this chariot of the body with the velocity of these horses of the senses in the direction of a set of objects to be acquired or avoided.

Actually, in any particular action of the mind – for instance, an activity in the direction of acquisition of some particular set of objects, loves of things – an automatic exclusion of other things also takes place. It is not that today we love a thing and tomorrow we hate another thing. The dual operation is a simultaneous effect produced. It cannot concentrate on any particular object for the purpose of acquiring it unless other objects are debarred entry into the mind at that particular moment. If all the objects act upon the mind simultaneously, there would be no possibility of empirical life, sensory existence or a worthwhile mental life at all. We would be in a veritable sea of cognitions from which we would not be able to select any particular type for the purpose of our individual satisfaction.

We are individuals, every person, without exclusion, and therefore, the mind acting through an individual operates in an individualistic fashion so that it asks for individual groups of situations, circumstances or objects, and excludes all conditions that may obstruct this centralisation of these sets of objects for the purpose of concentration, that is, a desire for acquisition.

The reason for this peculiar activity on the one hand from the mind in the form of a cognition of things, and on the other hand from the side of objects in the form of an impact produced by them on the mind, is a consubstantiation, we may say, of the structure of the mind as well as the objects. There is a kinship of substance and a structural pattern between the mental stuff and the stuff of objects. If the constitution of the mind were totally different from the constitution of the objects, there would be no relationship between the mind and the objects, and there would be no cognition of anything in the world.

The Sankhya and the Bhagavadgita tell us that the material of the universe, which is called prakriti, is constituted of three forces – equilibrium, called sattva, disturbance and activity, called rajas, and fixity and stability, called tamas. The mind has these characteristics. It is torpid many a time, disturbed and agitated at other times, and equilibrated sometimes. The action of the mind on objects of sense is in proportion to the preponderance of the qualities mentioned in a particular object or a set of objects. Sattva attracts sattva, rajas attracts rajas, and tamas attracts tamas.

The potential for equilibrium, harmony, in the outer world becomes the object of the sattva aspect of the mind in an individual. That is to say, a sattvic person visualises the harmony of things in the world. The person in whose mind the sattva or equilibrium preponderates visualises, sees, beholds balance, equilibrium and a system of perfection operating in all things in the world, while the rajasic mind, a mind that is predominantly active, agitated, disturbed and extroverted sees a disbalance in things, distraction everywhere and disunity among people, and cannot visualise the possibility of a concordance of people. There is always discordance; nothing is good in this world. “It is all confusion, chaos and misery,” is what a rajasic mind will declare. The tamasic mind is prone to violence, destruction, and ending all things – ending oneself as well as others. It cannot tolerate the presence of anything. It sees the death of all things.

The gunas of prakriti attract as well as repel the very same gunas of prakriti operating in the mind. The Bhagavadgita verse here in this context is: guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta iti matvā na sajjate (B.G. 3.28). One does not get attached to anything knowing the implicit and hidden fact that in the cognition of an object or the perception of anything it is not I that sees or you that perceives, it is the subjective side of prakriti colliding with the objective side of itself. Nature summons itself. It asks for itself, as it were. It calls itself, wants itself, and cannot rest without calling itself in this manner in the object of the world. While it emphasises its presence in the subject and while it emphasises itself in an object, it directs itself towards the required or expected fulfilment in a given subject or person.

The satisfaction that we feel in the perception of an object is the correspondence by way of equanimity that is established at the time of this perception by the operation of a particular guna in the mind in respect of a similar guna operating in the object outside. Well, if the preponderance of a particular type of guna in the object does not tally with the preponderance of a particular guna in the mind or the sense organs, there is repulsion held by the mind in respect of that object. We dislike that person; we dislike that object.

Now, this like for a particular person or thing, or dislike for a particular person or thing, is not actually an ethical action or a moral of attitude that we are putting forth deliberately; it is a natural action that is taking place, of which we have no knowledge in our state of mental ignorance – namely, that correspondence causes attraction and discordance causes repulsion. There is nothing in the world which can always be in a state of attraction. That is, nothing in the world can always be in a state of preponderance of the quality exactly fitting into the nature of our mind at any given moment of time, nor can any object be repelling us always because at one time or the other it will fit into the pattern of our thinking in some condition or the other. Thus, likes and dislikes, loves and hatreds, are said to be illusions. They are meaningless perceptions basically, finally, if the whole circumstance is visualised purely from a psychological or scientific manner. Nature acts upon itself.

Now, on one hand in the process of the evolution of the universe, nature has segmented itself into the objective side constituted of the subtle body basically, the pranas, the senses and manas, buddhi, ahamkara, chitta. The particular emphasis or stress laid on a specialised formation of this inner component becomes a particular individual, the subject of perception, as they call it. But the object of perception is a grosser form whose constitution is basically earth, water, fire, air and ether – the mahabhutas. The mahabhutas mentioned in the Sankhya enumeration of categories are these elements: prithvi, ap, teja, vayu, akasha. All the objects in the world, everything, including the entire astronomical universe, the house that we are living in, the mountains and the rivers, are just permutations and combinations of these prithvi, ap, teja, vayu, akasha – earth, water, fire, air and ether – the gross elements. The cognition of these elements is the particular prerogative of the subjective side because of the fact that there is an element called the mind in the subject, and in the object the mind principle is not supposed to be manifest to that extent.

The cosmological doctrine tells us that the transparency of the substance of the mind, though it is also essentially made up of tanmatras only, is such that the light of the Atman manifests itself, reveals itself, splashes itself forth through this mirror-like, glass-like medium of the mind, and this inner consciousness reflected or refracted through the mind beholds the object outside. The Purusha, the Atman, the simple Pure Consciousness, the kustastha chaitanya or the brahma chaitanya, as we may call it, shackled up in this little body of the individual, peeps through the aperture of the mind as sunlight may peep through a little hole in the window and cast a strong beam of radiance in our house. In a similar manner, as it were, this universal sea of consciousness which is flooding all things and which is also at the back of our very existence, incapable of manifestation through gross objects, through this gross body, but able to manifest itself through the transparent medium of the mind, cognises the objects as if it is outside. The words ‘as if’ are something to be underlined here. Nature itself beholds itself as other than itself in the act of perception through the sense organs.

The peculiar character of the sense organs is to project all things as some external existences and never permit the awareness that they are inwardly connected with the very act of perception, the perceiver himself. The psychology of perception, the theory of knowledge, as they call it, demonstrates the great truth that even the perception or the knowledge of a solid, concrete object outside is not a simple act as we may take it to be. When I see you or you see me, or we perceive anything in the world, a great transformation takes place in consciousness in a threefold manner, of which a twofold aspect becomes patent in our awareness, and the third aspect is totally obliterated from our perception. A threefold perception becomes a twofold phenomenon for people like us so that when we behold an object we are aware that we are beholding the object, and we are also aware that we are seeing an object outside. These two aspects of perception are clear before our eyes. But there is an element which is not known to us, namely, the very possibility of perception of an object. How does it become possible for an individual to know the existence of the world outside unless there is a consciousness which is the medium of knowing and also the knower himself? Not only is it the knower of all things and the medium of connecting the knower with the known, but it also has to be implanted in the very object itself so that it establishes a kinship in a threefold manner between the subject that knows and the object that is known, the seer and the seen, the perceiver and the perceived.

So it is the adhyatma purusha, the subjective perceiver on the one hand, and also it is the adhibhautika prapancha vastu, an objective phenomenon beheld by the sense organs externally. It is also the possibility of this perception itself. The objects do not jump into the sense organs of any perceiver, as is well known, nor do the sense organs go physically and touch any object. The mysterious operation taking place between the perceiving mind and the perceived object is the whole drama of consciousness.

Do you know how you become aware of things in the dream world, for instance? So-and-so that is dreaming becomes the subject of perception. You are in the state of dream, and you are beholding a large world of space, time and objects. The objects are there, so far away from you located in space and in time. You are aware that these objects are in your presence.

Now, compare this condition with the causative factors of the phenomenon of dream itself. The mind of the waking individual has split itself into the dreaming individual and also the dreaming objects. It has become, on the one hand, the dreamer himself. A part of the waking mind has become the dream subject. Another fraction of the waking mind has become the dreamed-of object. But not only that, it has played another trick altogether: It has created a distance between the seeing individual, the beholding, perceiving individual, and the perceived world. It has created a gap between the seer and the seen. There is a space and a time element operating between the dream subject and the dream object, but what is the substance of this space-time division that is there between the perceiver and the perceived in the dreaming state? The very mind of the waking individual has become threefold. A tripartite operation takes place in dream. One solid, indivisible, single waking mind becomes a threefold phenomenon in dream: that which beholds the dream, that which is beheld in the dream, and that which makes the perception or the beholding of objects possible at all.

This is exactly what is happening in the waking state. The condition of our perception of all the things in the world is similar to dream perception, but we cannot know that such a state of affairs is actually prevailing because whenever we are in a particular condition, we get involved in that condition. We can never objectively assess anything in this world because anything that becomes an object of our consciousness becomes part and parcel of our own life. We get emotionally tied up with that situation so that impartially we cannot judge anything in this world. The emotional involvement of the waking mind in this threefold phenomenon of dream becomes so intense that in dream no one can know that he is dreaming. A person who is emotionally involved cannot know that such an involvement has taken place. When you are involved wholly and sunk into a particular situation, you cannot know that you are so sunk.

In a similar manner as is in the case in dream – that an involved mind in the state of dream cannot become aware that a dream is taking place, and it is not a reality that is being seen in dream – so the entire emotional content of individuality gets absorbed in the whole process of world perception, and we cannot know that we are in a very same state of mistaken perception today in the so-called waking life as we had been and as we are many a time in the dreaming condition.

As I mentioned, the waking individual, the waking mind, so to say, becomes a tripartite operation in dream, and we know what the aspects of this tripartite operation are: the subjective side, the objective side and the process of perception. Similarly, here in the waking state a higher reality appears as adhyatma, adhibhuta and what we may call adhidharma, or the perceiving medium. Sometimes it is also called adhiyajna, as is seen, for instance, in the Eighth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita.

To absolve ourselves from this intricate involvement, to wake up from this dream of this so-called waking world is the entire process of spiritual practice – yoga abhyasa. The religion of man, the spirituality of the seeker, or the yoga of the yoga student is this deliberate effort exercised in the direction of freeing consciousness from an emotional involvement in this tripartite division of cognition: myself, yourself, and that which is between us both.

The yoga samadhi that is spoken of in the yoga system is nothing but the realisation of the presence of a common content in this threefold division of perception so that the common content actually is the perceiver, the perceived object, and also the process of perception. Who is the dreamer? The one indivisible waking mind has become the dreamer. Who is that thing? Who is the person that is seen in dream? Which is that object that is beheld in dream? It is the very same waking mind in one aspect. What is the pramana, or the perceiving medium, becoming a consciousness of the object perceived? This also is the very same waking mind.

In a similar manner, analyse the situation in waking. A common operation is mistaken for a threefold operation. My seeing you, and your being seen by me, as well as the process of my seeing you through the sense organs and the action of the mind, all these three aspects of knowledge, empirical as they are called today – psychological, scientific or logical knowledge – all this actually is a fantastic drama played by a single content operating through all things in the universe, an awareness total, supreme and absolute in its nature.

Even as the waking mind is aware of itself – and this awareness of the waking mind it is that becomes partially awareness of the dreaming subject, partially awareness of the object outside and partially the medium of connection – so also there is an awareness that is transcendent, tantamount to an inclusive operation of the seer, the objects seen and the process of perception and cognition. That is a consciousness, an awareness that is a true awakening. As we have awakened from our usual dream in sleep, we have to wake up again from this dream of this world of perception. The Yoga Vasishtha tells us this jagat is a long, prolonged torture of dreaming a thing which is not really there outside. Its outsideness is a drama; it is an inaction of a universal awareness. As long as one is aware that oneself is actually beholding another outside, bhandana, or bondage, cannot be avoided. Bondage is the belief that another thing is there outside, and freedom is the absolution of consciousness from this bondage of perception of externality.

For this purpose, the Yoga Vasishtha has a threefold sadhana prescribed: pranayama, manonirodha and brahmabhyasa. Vasishtha speaks of three types of spiritual practice among many other details which he mentions in an elaborate manner. Prananirodha is one of the ways by which we can restrain the mind from an unnecessary affirmation of itself in an object external to itself. The emotional content in the mind will get thinned out by prananirodha. We breathe very heavily, inwardly as well as outwardly. I need not go into the details of this technique, as many of you know what pranayama is. The shorter we breathe, the calmer is the mind, until the breath moves within the nostril only and it does not go out, and tends to a temporary cessation of activity, causing a temporary cessation of mentation also.

The prana and the mind are like the obverse and the reverse of the same coin. By controlling the mind, the prana can be controlled, and by controlling the prana, the mind also can be controlled. If we catch hold of the mechanism of a clock, the pointers of the clock also cease. If we catch hold of the hands of the clock, the mechanism ceases to operate as long as we are holding the hands tightly. Similarly, the mind ceases from its distracted activity so long as the prana is withheld, and similarly, the prana automatically gets restrained when the desires of the mind get attenuated.

So, apart from the practice of the prananirodha, there is also a technique of direct attack on the mind which is called manonirodha, the restraint of the desires of the mind. It is the intensity of the desires in the mind that causes the intensity of the heaving of the breath. The more disturbed we are in our mind, the more rough and uneven is our breathing. There is no harmony in the inhaling and the expulsion of the breath in a person who is emotionally disturbed and who is in a state of tension inwardly. So manonirodha is the subdual of the desires of the mind.

By an analysis of the kind that we have conducted just now, we understand the absurdity of manifesting desires and the foolishness involved in our thinking that we are actually acquiring an object or are repelling an object, and that our loves or hatreds have any meaning at all. This little psychological analysis as we have noticed just now will tell us that there is a great blunder committed by us every day in our asking for things and our repelling things or excluding things from ourselves – that is, desiring and hating.

Several methods of manonirodha are prescribed in the Yoga Vasishtha. Any one of you can go through the details in the text. The most potent sadhana Vasishtha prescribes is brahmabhyasa. Tat chintanaṁ tat kathanaṁ anyonyaṁ tat prabodhanam, eta deka paratvaṁ ca brahmābhyāsaṁ vidur budhāḥ. This is meant for the highest type of spiritual seekers. In the beginning, a little bit of pranayama exercise is necessary, and a great effort also is to be exercised in the restraint of the desires of the mind. But the last stroke that we can deal upon all these misleading activities in the mind is brahmachinta. In a similar fashion also we are told in the Bhagavadgita: tadbuddhayas tadātmānas tanniṣṭhās tatparāyaṇāḥ (B.G. 5.17). Tadbuddhaya: the intellect contemplates only that. Tadatmana: The soul is sunk into it. Similarly, tat chintanam: Day in and day out you are brooding that particular thing which you have lost as your great treasure. And when you speak to people, you speak only on this subject and you do not talk anything else.