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States of Consciousness and Dreams

Modern materialistic science is not sure about the origin and nature of most psychic phenomena including dreams. This information can be found in Vedic scriptures.

Srimad Bhagavatam 6.16.53-54, 7.7.25 or 7.15.61 describes three material states of consciousness:

1. jagrata, awakened state (beta, 14-40 Hz, alpha, 7-14 Hz)
2. svapna, dreaming state (theta, 4-7 Hz)
3. susupti, deep sleep (delta, 0.5-4 Hz)

Beyond them is the fourth state (turIya) which is non-material (SB 6.5.12, 7.9.32, 7,15.54). On this level the Supreme Lord can be perceived. Non-pious persons can't see the Lord even in dreams, only due to bhakti (mad darzanam apuNyAnAM svapnAn te 'pi na jAyate tvaM punar dRdha bhaktitvAt pratyakSaM dRSTavAn asi, Narada Purana 2.54.80). Gaudiya Vaisnavas describe another, fifth state beyond turIya (turIyatItaH), dimension of love between the jiva and Krsna.

What follows are paraphrases of Vedanta-sutra (by Suhotra Prabhu) and corresponding Srimad Bhagavatam verses:

Dreams are created by the Supersoul to award the living entity with the results of insignificant karma. (Vs 3.2.1) SB 6.16.55
[The same concept is also found in Buddhist Arya Sanghata sutra 186. And our experience when we dream of something nice and then a bad thing happens and the other way round. This concept is visible in dreambooks.]

The Supersoul causes objects of desire to appear in dreams as they do in other situations (e.g. the waking state). (Vs 3.2.2) SB 11.13.32
[This is connected with the previous sutra.]

Dreams are features of the Supreme Lord's maya. (Vs 3.2.3) SB 11.13.33

Some dreams are omens; sastra and experts so declare. (Vs 3.2.4) SB 10.42.26-27

Objection: When one awakes from dreaming, he knows that his dreams were unreal. Therefore no value should be imparted to dreams.

Reply: The manifestation and the withdrawal of the dream world within the consciousness of the living entity is effected by the Lord. In the same way, bondage and liberation proceed from him also. (Vs 3.2.5) SB 3.7.10-12

The state in which consciousness is focused on the physical body (the waking state) is created by the Supreme Lord. (Vs 3.2.6) SB 6.16.53-54

Different statements in the Upanisads indicate that deep sleep is the result of the soul entering 1) the nadis (subtle channels that pervade the body from the center of the heart), 2) the pericardium, or 3) the Supersoul. The resolution is that the soul sleeps within the bed of the Supersoul, after having entered the palace (the pericardium) through the door of the nadis. (Vs 3.2.7) SB 11.3.35, 1.10.21

Because the Supersoul is the resting place of the soul in deep sleep, it is the Supersoul alone who awakens the sleeping soul. (Vs 3.2.8) SB 3.26.71

[Koran 6.60: "And He is it who takes your souls at night (in sleep), and He who knows what you acquire in the day (...)."]

When the living entity awakes from deep sleep, he is the same person. This is certain because of four proofs: 1) the living entity continues his unfinished karma, 2) he retains memory of his identity, 3) the scriptures so describe him as returning to the same body, and 4) he is bound by the scriptural injunctions (i.e. it is enjoined that the jiva cannot attain liberation while in the state of deep sleep, so he is obliged by sastra to return to the body from that state). (Vs 3.2.9) SB 11.3.39, 11.13.27,28

The state of swoon (mugdha) is midway between deep sleep and wakefulness. That is to say, the soul partially attains rest in the Supersoul. (Vs 3.2.10) SB 7.13.5

Interpretation of dreams can be found for example in Parama samhita ch. 9 or Agni Purana ch. 229 (here abridged):

"Some dreams are bad omens. In fact, they are nightmares. Examples: dreams about grass or trees growing on one’s body, when the dreamer is shaven-headed or is wearing shabby clothes or is falling from above. It is also bad to dream of marriages, singing, the killing of snakes, chandalas or animals, drinking oil, eating bird meat, playing with monkeys or chandalas, or when devas, brahmanas, the king or the guru is angry or when one's house had collapsed."

Remedies have to be found if one dreams such evil dreams. Brahmanas have to be worshipped, a yajna has to be performed and the dreamer has to pray to Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha or Surya.

Dreams dreamt in the first quarter of one’s sleep normally come true over the next one year. Dreams from the second quarter come true over the next six months and dreams from the third quarter over the next three months. Dreams from the last quarter come true over the next fortnight and dreams dreamt right at dawn come true within the next ten days. If one first dreams a good dream and then an evil one, it is the evil dream that will come true. Therefore, if one dreams a good dream, one should not sleep anymore and should immediately arise.

There are many good dreams. For example, dreams that involve mountains, palaces, snakes, the dreamer riding on a horse or a bull. It is also good to dream of white flowers in the sky or of trees. Especially good dreams are those of the dreamer’s possessing many arms or many heads, of grass and bushes sprouting form his navel, wearing white garlands or clothes, of eclipses of the sun, the moon or the stars. If in a dream you see that you have caught hold of the enemy’s flag, that surely means that you will triumph over the enemy. If you actually dream of defeating the enemy, the interpretation is clear enough. Eating rice pudding, drinking wine or blood or even of eating wet meat are good too, like those of a clear sky, of milking a cow, a buffalo, a lioness or a she-elephant with one’s own mouth. Other dreams which have good interpretations are, for example, dreams of the dreamer’s receiving blessings from devas or brahmanas or of being anointed with water. The dreamer who dreams of his coronation is blessed. And he is doubly blessed if he dreams that his head has been cut off or that he has died or even that his house has been burnt down. The relatives of such a dreamer increase in number and he also prospers. It is good to dream of musical instruments being played, of riding a bull, or climbing a tree. Wet clothes, trees laden with fruit and clear blue skies in dreams are especially good.

Some dreams are produced by ghosts: (Garuda Purana 2.23.1-12)

Garuda said:

1. What do the ghosts do in their ghosthood? When do they speak sometime? Please tell me, o Lord of gods!

The Lord said:

2. I shall tell you about their form, signs and dreams. Being oppressed by hunger and thirst they enter their former home.
3. Though possessed of airy forms, they give signs to their sleeping descendants, o bird.
4. They visit the place where their sons, wives and relatives sleep.
5. If a person dreams of a horse, an elephant, a bull, or a man with deformed
face, if a person awakened from sleep sees himself in the opposite side of the bed, this is all due to the workings of a ghost.
6. If a man is fastened with chains in dream, if his dead ancestors demand food in dream,
7. If one snatches the food from him while he is eating in dream, if thirsty, one drinks water,
8. If in dream one rides a bull or moves with bulls or if one springs up in the sky or goes to a holy place hungry,
9.-10. If one speaks aloud among cows, bulls, brahmanas, horses, elephants, deities, ghosts and demons - this is due to the working of a ghosts. Many are the signs of ghosts in dream, o bird. It is due to a ghost if one sees his wife, relative, son or husband as dead.
11. He who begs in dream oppressed by hunger or thirst should give pindas to the manes to ward off coming distress.
12. If one sees in dream his son, cattle, father, brother, wife, getting out of house, it is due to the working of a ghost.

Counteracting bad dreams

sadyaH phala-pradaM puNyaM

duHsvapna-nAzanaM puNyaM
viSNu-pAdodakaM zubham

In the ViSNu-dharma PurANa, Uttara-khaNDa, it is said: "The beautiful water that has washed Lord ViSNu's feet quickly brings great auspiciousness and the benefits of pious deeds, destroys all sins, nightmares, obstacles, diseases, and sufferings. (Hari bhakti vilAsa 9.57-58, from ViSNu dharmottara)

tad ahaM zrotum icchAmi
nRNAM duHsvapa-nASanam

"I wish to hear how one may become free from bad dreams."

duHsvapna-darSanaM ghoram
AvekSya bharatarzabha
prayAtaH kiM japej jApyaM
vibudhaH kim anusmaret

"O best of the BhAratas, what mantra should one chant, or whom should one meditate upon and remember to become free from bad dreams?"

Lord NArAyaNa answered this question in the following words:

ye mAM tvAM ca saraz caiva
grahasya ca vimokSaNam
ye smarizyanti manujAH
prayatAH sthira-buddhayaH
duHsvapno nazyate tezAM
susvapnaz ca bhavizyati

"Those sincere devotees who attentively remember the history of how I delivered Gajendra from the crocodile [Srimad Bhagavatam 8, ch. 2-4], will become free from the influence of bad dreams. Their dreams at night will always be peaceful and auspicious." (ViSNu sahasra nAma stotra from MBh 112)

he nAtha karuNA sindho dIna-bandho kRpAM kuru
tvAM maheza mahA-jJAtA duHsvapnam mAM na darzaya

Oh Lord, Oh ocean of mercy, Oh friend of the grief-stricken, Oh Lord of lords, Oh omniscient one, please be merciful upon me and do not show me bad dreams. (Vairagya Martanda 12.205)

Bad dreams are counteracted by pronouncing: hanumAn garuDa bhIma duhsvapna rakSa mAm.

"If one is having a bad dream, placing a knife under the pillow or rubbing saliva on the temples will stop anything from happening." (anonymous)

My experience with counteracting both negative and positive dreams is by chanting Hare Krishna mahamantra or by seventeen names of BhagavadgItA from Vaisnaviya-tantra-sara (gaGgA gItA ca sAvitrI...).

Dreambooks: I have tried several but they were often incorrect and sometimes contradicting themselves. As the most reliable I found two: the classical one by Artemidoros and the one compiled by Vera Kubistova-Skochova in Czech language. It's available both in printed and e-version, e.g. here.

Dreams (Brahmavaivarta Purana)
Garuda Purana
The butterfly dream - an explanation by Baladeva Vidyabhusana

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