Dreams and the Mind

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When we dream, we are totally unconscious. We remember only a little bit of our dreams. We do not really remember many dreams, even those which spring up from the depths. By the time we are out of it, we forget it. In order to develop an awareness of the dream, first of all we should develop our awareness and alertness. This can be done through the practice of dhyana yoga. What happens in sleep can also happen in meditation. Dhyana yoga is a state where you are aware; sleep is a state where you are completely unconscious. The dreams you remember in sleep are just a small part of it. Saints and yogis have tried to develop a method through which you maintain total awareness of the complete functions of the mind. Whatever is happening to your mind, whether higher awareness or lower awareness, whether it is manifesting the subconscious or the unconscious, whether it is a manifestation of manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha, anandamaya kosha, or pranamaya kosha, in meditation you are constantly watching it. It is the best way that you can watch the various functions of your mind.

What is a dream? The dreams that you remember represent an area of mental activities. All dreams, right, wrong, true, involuntary, fantastic dreams like flying or being underneath a train, represent an area of mental activity. They also represent the quality and status of your mind: schizophrenic, neurotic, psychotic, abnormal, improved, moodha chitta or dull mind, kshipta chitta or afflicted mind, vikshipta chitta or deranged mind, ekagra chitta or focused mind, niruddha chitta or restrained mind. These different areas of the mind are indicated by these dreams.

Therefore, in Sanskrit it is called swapna. Swapna means swayameva apnoti iti swapnaha. Swayameva means it is within you. A dream is not unreality. A dream represents a quality of the mind. If you are fair, black, brown or yellow, tall or short, that represents a quality of the body. You may be lame, have a squint eye, big biceps, or be lean and thin, it is the quality of the body. There are billions of people in the world but no two people are alike. That is called the quality of the body. As you have the quality of the body, you also have the quality of the mind, which according to the modern concept is in three layers: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. In Samkhya, they have different layers of the mind from the point of total andhakamishra, where the mind is completely primitive and without any function, to the point of enlightenment. The nature, functions and expressions of the mind can be seen in meditation. When you meditate, first of all you must pick up for yourself a tool. Mantra, yantra or mandala is the tool. These are the three tools and with the help of these, you are either descending or ascending.

You ascend into the different areas of the mind. What do you find there? First you find distractions, vikshepa. Then you find samadhi like savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, asmita, then samprajnata samadhi. Prajna means awareness. Then gradually you go to asamprajnata, which is no experience at all. Total zero, shoonya. Lord Buddha used to talk about shoonya. He talked about asamprajnata when there is no awareness, there is total absence. Then there is nirvikalpa samadhi.

During the period of meditation when you are watching your mind and mental activities, do not try to suppress anything, whether it is a bad thought or a good thought. This is important. I am suggesting this to you because most of us for the last few hundred years have been making mistakes. We are trying to be religious, and by trying to be religious we are trying to be puritan. If you sit for meditation and an idea of kama, krodha, moha, desire, anger, infatuation, comes, what will you do? You will say, ‘This is not a good thought. I must remove it.’ Why should you remove it? It is neither good nor bad. It is what you are, you must know it. Where do they come from? They come from you. If your liver is bad, and if there is an imbalance in the hormones, your body will have a foul smell. There is no use putting powder, cream or lavender because the smell remains there.

In the same way, there is no use trying to eradicate these thoughts. A sadhaka on the path of meditation must understand that he is trying to understand the whole mind and if the thoughts of kama, krodha, and so on come to the mind, they stay only for a short time if you do not interfere with them. If you interfere with them, they will continue to be with you the whole life. This is my experience.

Whenever your mind is becoming aware of something, please remember that it is its own quality, its own personality and you should know it. If you are jealous, you should know it. If you have got a pashu quality, instinct, you should know it. There is no use trying to eradicate it, because there is a law of evolution. According to the laws of evolution, the mind is subject to changes. Even if you do not change your mind, the mind will change. The mind of the people of the 20th century and the mind of the people of the 27th century cannot be the same. The mind of the 20th century is not the mind which you had in the 15th century during the period of Akbar, Shah Jahan, Birbal. People thought differently.

Mind is always a progressive substance. According to Samkhya, it changes. According to yoga it changes. In the Yoga Sutras it is clearly written ‘parinamaha’, transformation. The cloth is a parinama of cotton. From cotton into yarn, yarn into a piece of cloth, then it went to the tailor and you get your shirts made. What is ghee? It is parinama, as there are stages between milk and ghee. What are they? They are called bhoomika. Anything is subject to parinama. Therefore, my mind is also subject to parinama. It has never been the same. When I was born or in my previous life it must have been different.

Our dreams must be known by us through the development of a very systematic practice of meditation without any association of guilt. You should not associate your own guilt. Because we are not papi, sinners. It is a wrong attitude. What sin have I made, and what sin have you made? You are bound by the law of karma. You as well as everybody are bound by the law of karma. The mind functions under certain regulations, rules and systems. If you do something wrong or have a wrong way of thinking, it is none of your business. It is not your responsibility. You are just enacting your nature.

Therefore, many people believe that we are sinners. I say, ‘No. We are not sinners.’ Let us sit down in meditation and witness the mind from the beginning, as if dreams are coming, and develop many extrasensory qualities. We have intuitive insights, we know about what has happened and what will happen. We know the future of the whole of humanity and everything becomes clear.

2 February 1982, Trichy, Tamil Nadu