This World is a Dream

The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) 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 says, the entire material world is illusion like the nightly dream ||2||1|| (sggs 1231).
  • ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿਮਾਨ ਹੈ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਥੇਨਾ ॥: All that is seen is an illusion (sggs 1083).
  • ਜਿਉ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਅਰੁ ਪੇਖਨਾ ਐਸੇ ਜਗ ਕਉ ਜਾਨਿ ॥ ਇਨ ਮੈ ਕਛੁ ਸਾਚੋ ਨਹੀ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਗਵਾਨ ॥੨੩॥: Understand this world as one sees (many objects in) dream.O Nanak! Without divine Naam, none of the (objects appearing in the world) are true or everlasting. ||23|| (sggs 1427).

In order to Awaken from this ‘dream’ like world, the Gurbani uses an another superb example of deer’s illusion or delusion (‘ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ’, mirage,), an illusory city in the sky and the passing shade of a tree. This mirage analogy appears time and again in the Gurbani urging us not to get attached and run after this ‘mirage’ like world appearance, which appears to be real to a deluded mind.

  • ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਝੂਠੋ ਇਹੁ ਜਗ ਦੇਖਿ ਤਾਸਿ ਉਠਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥੧॥: This world is false like the deer’s delusion (mirage). (As a deer chases after mirage and dies chasing it), similarly, (the Maya stricken person) on beholding this world runs after it (and suffers – ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ) ||1|| (sggs 219).
  • ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਗੰਧਰਬ ਨਗਰੰ ਦ੍ਰੁਮ ਛਾਯਾ ਰਚਿ ਦੁਰਮਤਿਹ ॥: Misled by the wicked intellect, (mortal) assumes an illusory image of a city, mirage, and the transitory shade of a tree to be real (sggs 1356).

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॥: This whole world is like a dream, seeing this, one does not know why one gets coveted on beholding it… (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 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 ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਭਜਨ ਪਰਤ ਤਾਹਿ ਜਮ ਫੰਧ ॥੨੬॥: As the bubble in water wells up and disappears again, so is the (play of the) universe is created. ||25|| But, blinded by the intoxication of Maya (blinded from spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਲੋਂ), the mortal does not think at all (about the spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਬਾਰੇ). Says Nanak – without the uniting with Mool, (such mortal) is caught by the noose of death. ||26|| (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 Bikaar (lust, anger, greed etc.).

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?

  • ਜਗੁ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਬਾਜੀ ਬਨੀ ਖਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਖੇਲੁ ਖੇਲਾਇ ॥: The world is (as if) a dream, the world is a game, the person goes away playing this game of (life) in a moment. (sggs 18).

Therefore, the True Giaanee (the Wise One, the Gurmukh) 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 ॥: (Watching this Leelaa) the man believes worldly objects (ਪਦਾਰਥ) to be True (permanent, etc.), but they are like objects (ਪਦਾਰਥ) seen in the dream (i.e., untrue) – ‘ਮਿਥਿਆ ਭਰਮੁ’ (Mitthiyaa Bharam) (sggs 485).
  • ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਬਿਕਾਰੁ ਸੰਸੇ ਮਹਿ ਤਰਿਓ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥: This world is engrossed in Bikaar and doubts. Only the Brahm Giaanee (the one who possesses spiritual Knowledge) swims across (this world full of Bikaar and doubt). (sggs 13).

In short, the Gurbani asks us not to get attached and run after this dream-like world appearance. Because, to run after this timebound phenomena would be to deny the Timelessness. In other words, the Gurbani urges us to ‘be in the world but not of the world!’

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).

3 comments

  1. According to the Gurbani, the conditioned (faulty, Bikaaree, Haumai, false-ego sense…) mind causes all sorrows:
    ਏਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਅਵਗਣਿ ਬਾਧਿਆ ਸਹੁ ਦੇਹ ਸਰੀਰੈ ॥ (sggs 1012).

    So, as indicated by the Gurbani, the remedy is annihilation of this mind:
    ਨਾਨਕ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰਿ ਮਿਲੁ ਭੀ ਫਿਰਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥੧੮॥ (sggs 21).

    And again – the Gurbani tells us – this mind can be arrested (annihilated, caught, killed, conquered…) with the Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Aatam-Giaan, Spiritual Wisdom, Shabad-Vichaar, Gurmat…):
    ਗਿਆਨ ਕਾ ਬਧਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੫॥ (sggs 469).

  2. For me, I feel there is nothing real (even as I write this). I believe this life is a test with everyone put in place to be my teacher. I feel very lonely with my feelings because they are hard to explain and if no one is real then that means I’m only speaking to myself; therefore I am writing this not to Grace but to myself.
    To me this world seems to be getting more complicated as each year passes and it’s becoming more difficult to handle. I really don’t know why I was put in this time and place and what is expected from me. I feel I need an instruction manual – some would say that’s what a Bible, Koran or Torah is, but I have no faith in those. I’m tired

  3. I would like to know if anyone can advise if there is a way to actually recognize this world IS a dream, and not truth. to actually feel and know without any doubt that this world is just make believe…???? where is the secret door that will open into Divine Reality ???? there must be a door…..is that door my true spiritual Self ???

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