The Gurbani stresses that this physical world, and all the experiences associated with it, is only a dream (“ਸੁਪਨਾ”). In other words, as repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani, it is important to realize that one’s life on earth is tantamount to a dream.
- ਨਾਨਕ ਕਹਤ ਜਗਤ ਸਭ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਜਿਉ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਰੈਨਾਈ ॥੨॥੧॥: Nanak kahat jagat sabh mithiaa jiou supnaa rainaaee ||2||1||: Nanak says, the entire material world is illusion like the nightly dream ||2||1|| (sggs 1231).
Mirage seen in the desert is nothing but rising hot air, which gives the seer an illusion of water. When we see mirage as a river of water, we do not perceive the rising hot air. However, the moment we perceive the mirage to be the rising hot air, we do not see water in the mirage anymore! In other words, it is only when the division between the seer and seen is given up, we see the two as of one substance; leading to the Realization that there is only One Truth, all else is illusion – Mithiya! (ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਸਗਲ ਹੈ ਸੁਪਨੋ ਦੇਖਿ ਕਹਾ ਲੋਭਾਵੈ ॥ ਜੋ ਉਪਜੈ ਸੋ ਸਗਲ ਬਿਨਾਸੈ ਰਹਨੁ ਨ ਕੋਊ ਪਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਤਨੁ ਸਾਚੋ ਕਰਿ ਮਾਨਿਓ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਆਪੁ ਬੰਧਾਵੈ ॥ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੋਊ ਜਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਾ ਰਾਮ ਭਜਨ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਵੈ ॥੨॥੩॥: Ih Sansaar sagal hai supano …). (sggs 1231).
While in the dreaming state, the dream appears to be true to the dreamer. However, on waking he realizes that it was just a passing dream! On account of conditioned consciousness (false ego-sense or Haumai), the mirage-like phenomenal world of names and forms appears in the living entity. Each person experiences within himself whatever his desires and related fears (Vaasnaas, intoxication with Maya, etc.) has given rise to. In reality, this world appearance is nothing but a long dream, which appears to be permanent (or real) to the conditioned consciousness (Haumai or ego).
- ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਬੁਦਬੁਦਾ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਨੀਤ ॥ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਤੈਸੇ ਰਚੀ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਮੀਤ ॥੨੫॥ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਚੇਤਈ ਮਦਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੈ ਅੰਧੁ: Jaise jal te bodbodaa upjai binsai neet. Jag rachnaa tesai rachee kahu Nanak sun meet ||25|| Praanee kashoo n chetaee mada Maya kai andh: Says Nanak! O my friend! Listen, as the bubbles in the water well up and disappear again, so is the (play of the) universe created (by the Lord). ||25|| But, blinded by Maya (from spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਲੋਂ), the mortal does not think (about the spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਬਾਰੇ) at all. (sggs 1427).
In nutshell, the dream is a deceiver. For example, a beggar may become a king in the dream. But upon waking up, he still remains a beggar.
In other words, the dream creates a substitute! That is, a dream can never be fulfilling.
Similarly, this life or this world cannot be fulfilling. For only the Truth or Reality can be fulfilling. Nothing is enough in this life or in this world to fulfill one’s selfish desires or passions.
Accordingly, this world is said to be a dream world, and this life is said to be a dream life. The Gurbani wants to awaken us from this dream state. Why?
The ephemeral nature of our existence should make us ponder about what is really worthwhile to pursue in this dream world. Can all our possessions, wealth, name, fame, etc, be of any consequence after we die? Outside this world all these cannot be of any use to us. While asleep, suppose a king were to dream of himself as a beggar in rags, would his royal status (or affluence) in life help him get a better dress in his dream? Can the water of real life quench the thirst experienced in one’s dream?
Therefore, the True Giaanee (the Wise One, the Gurmukh, the Enlightened, the God-Realized, etc.) looks upon the world as a mere dream, temporary, unreal or Mithiya. He has no doubts about this life or this world. (ਮਿਥਿਆ ਭਰਮੁ ਅਰੁ ਸੁਪਨ ਮਨੋਰਥ ਸਤਿ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਮਨਸਾ ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸੀ ਜਾਗਤ ਹੀ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥੩॥ (sggs 485).
- ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਬਿਕਾਰੁ ਸੰਸੇ ਮਹਿ ਤਰਿਓ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥: Ihu sansaaru bikaaaru sanse mahi tario Brahm Giaanee (sggs 13).