[Advaita-l] Difference between waking and dream states

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Thu Oct 19 01:42:15 CDT 2006

Difference between waking and dream states.

According to Advaita Vedanta the waking state is similar to the dream state.
In both the states the Reality, Brahman, is not known and things which have
no reality are experienced and are taken to be real. The things seen in
dream are found to be false on waking up from sleep. The objects experienced
in the waking state are accepted as real only until nescience is removed by

   Though the waking and dream states are similar, there is an important
difference between them. The difference is pointed out by SrI Sankara in his
commentary on brahma sUtra 2.2.29. SrI Sankara rejects the contention of the
Buddhists that, just as non-existent objects are experienced in dream,
non-existent objects may be experienced in the waking state also. In this
context he points out that there is a difference between the dream state and
the waking state. The difference consists in the perceptions in dream being
sublated immediately afterwards, while those in the waking state are not. To
a man who has woken up from sleep the objects perceived in dream never had
any existence at all, for he says "I falsely imagined that I was in the
company of great men. In fact, I never came in contact with great men; this
delusion arose because my mind was overpowered by sleep". But an object seen
in the waking state, such as a pillar, is not thus sublated under any
condition (until the dawn of Self-knowledge). Moreover, dream vision is a
kind of remembrance, whereas the visions of the waking state are forms of
perception. The difference between remembrance and perception, consisting in
the absence and presence of objects, can be understood by oneself, as for
instance when one says, "I remember my beloved son, but I do not see him,
though I want to see". That being so, it cannot be asserted by a man
who experiences the difference between the two, that the perception in the
waking state is false, merely on the ground that it is a perception, like
the perception in dream.

   Advaita vedAnta recognizes three levels of reality, prAtibhAsika,
vyAvahArika, and pAramArthika. Objects such as rope-snake, shell-silver, and
those seen in dream are prAtibhAsika. Everything that we experience in the
waking state (other than illusory objects such as rope-snake, etc,) are
vyAvahArika. Brahman alone is pAramArthika. This shows that waking and dream
states are not considered to be equally real or equally unreal. The waking
state has been attributed a higher level of reality than the dream state,
though from the standpoint of absolute reality, they are both mithyA, i.e.
neither real nor unreal.


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