1.38 स्वप्नानिद्रज्ञानालम्बनं वा

svapna-nidra-jñānālambanaṁ vā

svapna – dream state; nidra – sleep, dreamless sleep; jñāna – knowledge, idea; ālambanaṁ – object of (or support for) meditation; vā – or

Or, (the mind can be stabilized) by using the knowledge acquired from contemplating the dream state or the state of dreamless sleep as its support.

1.38   svapna-nidra-jñānālambanaṁ vā 

Or, (the mind can be stabilized) by using the knowledge acquired from contemplating the dream state or the state of dreamless sleep as its support.

So, I think for many people this sūtra sort of causes a little bit of confusion in terms of what has actually been discussed here. In his commentary, Vyāsa actually has very little to say about this verse, and there are many ways in which it can be appreciated. So, sleep is considered an activity that is under the influence of tama-guṇa – the mode of ignorance, but there are things that can be learned both from sleep and the dream state. By contemplating the dream state, or when we consider rather, or contemplate on what is the dream state, the mind at that time is highly active, but the body is generally very still.

And what is it that the yogi contemplates upon when remembering or reflecting on this? And it is the idea that ‘I’ – the observer; the seer; this spiritual being within – I am actually untouched by the experience. I know and understand that this experience is a fantasy that passes, and yet I remain. Sometimes the example is given, that in a dream state, a person may be being attacked by a vicious wild animal or some other person, and in that moment they are screaming out for help or in great agony over what is going on, but when a person is awakened from that state, then immediately there is this recognition that, “Oh My God, that was all just… you know, a fabrication in my mind”. And I feel my heart beating fast, and now it is beginning to slow down, and I feel relief in the recognition that that was simply a dream state. This would be a form of contemplation that yogis would often use in relation to the material experience, or what we refer to as ‘life’ – that it is simply almost like a passing dream state; it is temporary; it is constantly changing; there are experiences of pleasure and pain. But when one awakens from this – meaning that they become realized of their true spiritual identity, then it is both a relief, and it provides a whole new way of looking upon the experience of life and the things that we will encounter.

So, in reference to the dreamless state, there is always this awareness, that when a person has awoken from a dreamless sleep who was like, “Oh, I was totally knocked out there! I was completely gone! And it was like my mind was not active at all. There were no thoughts; there were no dreams going on.” That it was almost like a mini death. But in reflecting upon that, the yogi considers that the body and mind, at that time were inactive, but that the ‘I’ – the spiritual person – that ‘I’ did not cease to exist during that time, even though my body and my mind were not experiencing any sensual stimulation whatsoever. It was not like I ceased to exist; I did continue to exist and having passed through that experience, I am now conscious and aware that it happened to me. So the Vedas are filled with references to sleep and dreamless sleep, and what I will now just share with you a handful of these examples from just one of the Puranas. All these examples I’ll share are found in the Bhāgavat Pūraṇa. And I will not do any commentary on it I do not think. We will probably just read through them… and there’s quite a few references here – certainly not all of the references, but quite a few. And it will help us to understand and appreciate what it is that is being referenced.

“While awake, the living entity enjoys all of his senses the fleeting characteristics of the material body and mind; while dreaming he enjoys similar experiences within the mind, and in deep dreamless sleep all such experiences merge into ignorance. By remembering and contemplating the succession of wakefulness, dreaming and deep sleep, the living entity can understand that he is one throughout the three stages of consciousness and is transcendental. Thus, he becomes the lord of the senses.”

“The individual soul bereft of spiritual consciousness has many ideas and activities created in the mind by the external energy. They have been existing from time immemorial. Sometimes they are manifest in the waking state and in the dream state, but during deep sleep (or what’s referred to as unconsciousness) or in trance, they disappear. A person who is liberated in this life (jīvan-mukta) can see all of these things vividly.”

“Just as a person experiencing a dream or daydream does not remember his previous dreams or daydreams, a person situated in this present body, although having existed prior to it, thinks that he has only recently come into being.”

I cannot resist just stating that this is an incredibly wonderful transcendental truth that we could meditate upon, that is incredibly relevant to our situation within this particular body, in this particular life.

“A sleeping person imagines an alternative reality for himself and, seeing himself as having various names and forms, forgets his waking identity, which is distinct from the dream. Similarly, the senses of one whose consciousness is bewildered by illusion perceive only the names and forms of material objects. Thus, such a person loses his memory and cannot know You.”

Of course, the ‘You’ being referenced here is Īśvara.

“Similarly, the spirit soul is eternally the same despite its material condition of life. We have practical experience of this. When we are absorbed in deep sleep without dreaming, the material senses become inactive, and even the mind and false ego emerged into a dormant condition. But although the senses, mind and false ego are an active, one remembers upon waking that he, the soul, was peacefully sleeping.”

“One who is enlightened in self-realization, although living within the material 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 was dreaming sees himself situated in an imaginary body.”

“When a person is in deep sleep, he dreams and sees in himself many other objects, such as great mountains and rivers or perhaps even the entire universe, although they are far away. Sometimes when one awakens from a dream, he sees that he is in a human form, lying in his bed in one place. Then he sees himself, in terms of various conditions, as belonging to a particular nationality, family and so on. All the conditions of deep sleep, dreaming and wakefulness are but energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should always remember the original creator of these conditions, the Supreme Lord, who is unaffected by them.”

And now their final verse, “The body of such a liberated yogī, along with the senses, is taken charge of by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and it functions until its destined activities are finished. The liberated devotee, being awake to his constitutional position and thus situated in samādhi, the highest perfectional stage of yoga, does not accept the by-products of the material body as his own. Thus, he considers his bodily activities to be like the activities of a body in a dream.”

In these really wonderful verses, we see how just a small idea that was presented here by Patañjali, has been actually expounded upon in so many ways and in such depth. And this applies, of course, with all of the teachings that have been presented here. So, some of the early commentators speak of this verse also, in relation to a person dreaming of Īśvara. And they state that if one’s day is spent in meditation upon Īśvara, then one may dream of His transcendental form. Such an experience is ecstatically transcendental, and is not considered to being produced by, or affected by, the guṇas – the material modes of nature. So, in such a state, one having such a dream, it is not simply the mind being influenced by the mode of ignorance – tamas-guṇa, but it becomes a transcendental experience, and part of the process of self-realization of such a transcendentalist. Thank you very much.