One who understands his spiritual nature, although living within the physical body, sees himself as transcendental to the body; just as one who has arisen from a dream gives up identification with the dream body. A foolish person, however, although not identical with his material body but transcendental to it, thinks himself to be situated in the body, just as one who is dreaming sees himself to be situated in an imaginary dream body.

Because of this misidentification the conditioned soul is subjected to the miseries of material life. A man may see a tiger swallowing him in a dream, and he may even cry from the experience of this nightmare. But actually there is no tiger and there is no suffering; it is simply a case of misidentification with the dream-personality.

Another man who is awake by the side of his sleeping friend sees no tiger there. The tiger is a myth for both of them, namely the person dreaming and the person awake, because in reality there is no tiger; but the man forgetful of his awakened life is fearful, whereas the man who has not forgotten his position is not at all disturbed by nightmares.

Similarly, a person who is awake to his spiritual nature is not disturbed by the temporary appearance of material happiness and distress.

One who is sleeping may also see many objects of pleasure in a dream, but such pleasurable things are merely creations of the mind and are thus ultimately useless.

Similarly, the living entity who is asleep to his spiritual identity also sees many sense objects, but these innumerable objects of temporary gratification are creations of the Lord's illusory potency and have no permanent existence. The dualities of happiness and distress experienced in this so-called awakened life are said to be dream-like for a person who has awakened to his spiritual nature.

All miseries experienced in the hard struggle for material existence are, therefore, only due to the ignorance of our spiritual nature. The subtle and gross material bodies are created by the material modes of nature, which expand from the potency of the Supreme Lord. Material existence occurs when the living entity falsely accepts the qualities of the gross and subtle bodies as being his own factual nature. The illusory state, however, can be destroyed by real knowledge.


In our ordinary lives we live mainly in ignorance of our spiritual nature and can be compared to dreaming people who are in illusion. To understand spiritual reality it is necessary to wake up to the process of self-realization. Briefly, it is our desire and attachment for worldly enjoyment, based on the conviction of the reality of this world, that supports the illusion in our waking life just as it is our conviction of its reality that supports the dream. In the dream our hopes of happiness and fears of destruction will never be realised because they are unreal. Through the process of yoga-meditation and self-realisation we should understand that this is true of the waking world also.

The temporary appearance of this world is not absolutely unreal. It has some reality behind it but we cannot know its true reality while we are desperately clinging to the false appearances of things. The material creations are manifested for some time as perverted reflections of the spiritual world and can be likened to cinemas which display a false reality of shadows and light. They attract people of less intelligent calibre who are attracted by such false appearances. Such foolish men have no information of the reality of spiritual life, and they take it for granted that the temporary material manifestation is the all in all.

But more intelligent men with knowledge of self-realisation understand the material manifestation to be nothing but the shadow of the Lord's spiritual abode. The Lord's external manifested energy in the form of material existence is only temporary and illusory like the mirage in the desert. In the desert mirage there is no actual water. There is only the appearance of water. Real water is somewhere else.

Similarly, the manifested cosmic creation appears as reality. But reality, of which this is but a shadow, is in the spiritual world. The Absolute Truth is in the spiritual sky, not the material world. In the material world everything is temporary and relative truth. That is to say, one truth depends on something else.

This cosmic creation results from interaction of the three modes of nature, and the temporary manifestations are so created as to present an illusion of reality to the bewildered mind of the conditioned soul, who appears in so many species of life. In actuality, there is no reality in the manifested world. There appears to be reality, however, because of the true reality which exists in the spiritual world, where the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna personally resides with all the eternally liberated souls.


A dream, although temporary in its occurrence, is a factual experience of the dreamer and cannot be considered as false. We all have dreams and this fact cannot be denied, because dreams are a by-product of the sleeping process. But the visions that we see in dreams have nothing to do with the reality of an awakened person. They are just our mind's imaginations. If a dreaming person identifies himself with the dream body and considers the dream to be reality that is certainly an illusion.

Similarly a mirage in the desert is a factual occurrence of nature and cannot be stated as false, but to consider the mirage as reality and seeing water in a hallucination is certainly an illusion.

In the same way, this material world is also a temporary effect of nature and cannot be stated as false. But, however, to consider the temporary appearance of nature's manifestation to be the only reality and to misidentify oneself with the by-products of matter is certainly an illusion.

A dream is only real in so far as it is part of the dreamer's consciousness. But the dreamer is not only emanent in his dream creation but he also transcends it. On awakening he can distinguish between reality and the illusion of the dream world.

Just as the dream personality and the dream objects lose their appearance of reality when the dreamer wakes up, similarly this material existence, which is compared to a dream, loses its apparent reality when the heavily obscured self wakes up to his spiritual identity.

The spirit soul is actually transcendental to the modes of nature and has nothing to do with the temporary appearances of this material world.


Understanding the Supreme 2003 All rights reserved