The Mother Divine
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By Sadhu Om as recorded by Michael James
5th December 1978

Question: If this waking state is a dream, how to explain the fact that each time we wake up we are in the same surroundings which we were in when we fell asleep, whereas in each dream we are in different surroundings?

Sadhu Om: We should not consider each period of waking to be a separate dream. The whole of our present waking-life, from birth to death, is one long dream, not many short ones. In this one dream we dream that we are now awake, but that this waking state is regularly interrupted by periods of sleep, and that sleep is sometimes interrupted by dreams. Those dreams are subsidiary to the one long dream of our present waking like state. They are dreams occurring within a dream.

The fact that dreams occur within a dream is illustrated by what many of us have experienced, namely waking up from one dream into another. That is, sometimes a dream comes to an end and we find ourself lying in our bed, so we think we have woken up and begin to go about our daily activities, but then we wake up again and realise that the first ‘waking’ was from one dream into another dream. Within a dream we can dream any number of subsidiary dreams, and within each subsidiary dream we can dream other dreams. Therefore, whatever dreams we may dream during our present life are just dreams within a dream.

Question: A friend told me that you had once explained to him that in a dream it is not the seer of the dream who projected it but the one who is sleeping, because the seer of the dream is part of the projection, but this does not seem to me to be correct, because we are both the dreamer and the seer. Is this what you actually said?

Sadhu Om: He misunderstood what I said. I did not say that the seer of a dream has not projected it but that the person we seem to be in a dream has not projected it. That person is not the seer but an object seen by us, so it is part of the projection. However, because we mistake ourself to be that person so long as we are dreaming, it seems to us that that person is seeing the dream world.

The same is the case in our present dream. We who are seeing this dream now seem to be a person in it, so this person seems to us to be the seer, even though it is actually an object seen by us. This is why we need to distinguish the seer from everything that is seen. Whatever person we seem to be is just a body and mind, which are objects seen by us, so as the seer of these objects we are distinct from them.

The dreamer of any dream is only ego. As ego we project each dream and see it. Projection and seeing are actually one and the same thing. This is why Bhagawan taught us dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda, according to which seeing (dṛṣṭi) is itself creation (sṛṣṭi). Whatever we see is just our own thoughts, which we create and see simultaneously, because we create or project a dream merely by seeing it in our own mind.

However, this explanation is not agreeable to everyone, because if we are strongly attached to the person we seem to be, we will not be willing to accept that this person and the world of which it is a part are all just thoughts projected by us. Therefore, different levels of explanation need to be given to suit different levels of spiritual maturity. For the more immature it is said that this world is created by God, and we are just a part of this creation, so it exists whether we see it or not. This is sṛṣṭi-dṛṣṭi-vāda, the contention that the world is first created and subsequently seen by us.

Many advaita texts and commentaries seem to support this view, and sometimes even Bhagawan gave replies that seem to support it, but they did so only to suit the needs of less mature minds. This is why many who claim to be advaitins do not accept that our present waking life is just a dream, and they can find plenty of support for their beliefs in ancient texts and commentaries.

For example, in the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad it is said that this ātman is brahman, but that it has four quarters. The first quarter is called vaiśvānara, whose domain is waking and who is aware of external objects, whereas the second quarter is called taijasa, whose domain is a dream and who is aware of internal objects. This implies that waking is not just a dream, and that what experiences waking and what experiences dream are in some way different, even though they are said to be two quarters of the same ātman.

Since the seeming existence of all insentient things is illumined by the mind, is the mind self-shining? No, it cannot be, because if it were self-shining it would shine even in sleep. Since it does not shine in sleep, it does not exist then, because existence and shining are one and the same thing. Existence is uḷḷadu or sat, and shining is uṇarvu or cit, and as Bhagavan explained in verse 23 of UpadēśaUndiyār, uḷḷadu [what exists] is uṇarvu [awareness]: because of the non-existence of [any] awareness other [than what exists] to be aware of what exists, what exists (uḷḷadu) is awareness (uṇarvu). Awareness alone exists as we.

If we consider our experience carefully, it will be clear to us that we who are now experiencing this present state, which seems to us to be waking, are the same ‘I’ who experienced all the dreams that we now remember, so why does the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad imply that the experiencer of this state is different to the experiencer of dream? Though we are the experiencer of both these states, we are now aware of our-self as if we were this body, whereas in any other dream we were aware of our-self as if we were some other body. Therefore, for those who are very strongly identified with their body and who consequently believe that what is perceiving this world is this body, the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad says that what perceives a dream is something other than the person we now seem to be. However, to indicate that the experiencers of each of these two states are not entirely different, it says metaphorically that what experiences waking is one quarter of our-self and what experiences dream is another quarter of our-self. This is therefore a preliminary teaching, intended to prepare people to accept deeper and subtler teachings in due course.

Unlike the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, which distinguishes the experiencer of dream from the experiencer of waking, when I explained to that friend that the person, we seem to be in a dream has not projected it, I did not imply that the experiencer of dream is in any way different to the experiencer of waking, firstly because what we now take to be waking is actually just a dream, and secondly because we who experience all dreams are one and the same ego. This one ego is the dreamer of all dreams, and dreaming entails both projecting and perceiving a dream. The point I was making is that we, the dreamer, are not whatever person we dream our-self to be. The person we seem to be in a dream is a part of our dream, so it is not the dreamer but something dreamt by us.

What actually shines by its own light, therefore, is only our real nature, because we alone exist and shine in sleep, and we do so without the aid of any other light, because nothing other than ourself exists then. Everything else appears and disappears, but we exist and shine by our own light of pure awareness at all times and in all states without ever undergoing any change, so we alone are eternal, unchanging and self-shining. Therefore what is real is only ourself, as Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of NāṉĀr, ‘yathārthamāyuḷḷaduātma-sorūpamoṉḏṟē’, ‘What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [the real nature of oneself]’, and in verse 13 of UḷḷaduNāṟpadu, ‘ñāṉamāmtāṉēmey’, ‘Oneself, who is jñāna [awareness], alone is real’.

This is what Bhagawan implies in verse 160 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai: The spurious being who roams about as ‘I’ is just something that occurs as one among the shadows [images or pictures].

The term he uses here to mean ‘spurious being’ is ‘pōli uyir’, in which pōli means spurious, false, imitation or seeming, and uyir means more or less the same as the Sanskrit term jīva, namely life, living being or soul. But here it is not used in the sense of ego but in the sense of a living being or person, because ego is the formless seer whereas the person it mistakes to be ‘I’ is an object seen by it, so Bhagawan says here that this person is ‘one among the shadows’, thereby comparing it to one among the shadow pictures on a cinema screen.

It is necessary for several reasons to clearly understand this distinction between ourself, the dreamer, and whatever person we dream ourself to be. Firstly, it explains why, though we are the creator of all that we see, we seem to have no control over what we are creating, because as soon as we begin to dream any dream, we mistake ourself to be a person in our dream, and thus we seem to be just a small part of our creation. In other words, instead of experiencing ourself as the creator, we now experience ourself as a creature, and as such we have no control over our own creation.

Secondly and most importantly, we need to distinguish ourself, the seer, from everything we see, including the person we seem to be, because unless we do so, we will not be able to effectively investigate what we actually are. In order to investigate ourself, we need to focus our entire attention on ourself, thereby withdrawing it from everything else, so to do so we need to understand clearly that we are just the seer and not anything seen by us.

Sadhu Om: Someone once asked Bhagawan whether devotees who had spent time with him but later left him or even turned against him, such as Perumal Swami, who put a court case against him, had wasted the precious opportunity that they had been given. He replied that their association with him cannot go in vain. Even the worst of people will be benefitted by such association, because the seed of bhakti and vairāgya will thereby be sown in their heart. Though it may not sprout immediately, in due course it will certainly sprout, grow and bear fruit. It may take more time, but it can never fail.

Sadhu Om:[talking to a devotee of Bhagawan who understood very little about his teachings]: We all read about Bhagawan’s teachings in various books, and thereby we understand something, but mere casual reading is not sufficient. We need to think about them very carefully and deeply. This is called manana, which is a necessary prerequisite for effectively practising what he taught us. The more deeply we immerse ourself in his teachings, the more we will learn from them. What he has taught us is very simple but nevertheless extremely deep and subtle, so we can understand them only to the extent that we think deeply about them and put them into practice.

The more we think about his teachings and try to practise them, the more clarity he will give us from within, and thus we will gradually come to understand from our own experience that his silent teaching is always going on in our heart, and that we need to turn within to experience it. Even though he has left his body, he is still guiding us as effectively as he did during his bodily lifetime. We come to understand this clearly as a result of his silent presence in our heart.

If we spend our whole life studying and thinking about his teachings, our life will not have been wasted. Even if we are unable to go sufficiently deep in the practice of self-investigation and self-surrender, if we go deep in contemplating his teachings, that will be a worthwhile and fruitful way to spend our life. Meditating on his teachings is a good practice of guru-bhakti, second only to actually practising them, because the more deeply we think about them, the more clearly will we understand them, and the more we understand them, the more our love to put them into practice will grow.

If we truly love Bhagawan, we will love his teachings. From love comes knowledge. The more we love him and his teachings, the more we will dwell on them; the more we dwell on them, the more we will understand them; the more we understand them, the more effectively we will be able to practise self-investigation and self-surrender; and the more effectively we practise them, the more the clarity of true knowledge will shine brightly in our heart. This is why he said that bhakti (love) is the mother of jñāna (true knowledge).

(To be continued)

Michael James assisted Sri Sadhu Om in translating Bhagawan’s Tamil writings and Guru Vācaka Kōvai. Many of his writings and translations have been published, and some of them are also available on his website, happiness of being.

Courtesy: Mountain Path