In the first of two parts, Sadhguru looks at the nature of dreams, and how they tie in with the unwinding of karma.

Sadhguru: When an individual dreams, it is called a fantasy. When a group of people dream, it becomes a society. When the universal dreams, it generally passes off as reality. A dream is a certain reality, and reality is a certain dream. The best thing about a dream is, when you wake up, it’s over. So it is with the so-called reality – when you wake up, it’s over. Medically, if we check the parameters of your body in sleep, it is just in a slightly lower state – you could be meditating. So sleep is just a more relaxed state of wakefulness, or wakefulness is a more agitated state of sleep.

Is this some kind of play of words, some kind of entertainment that we can think, “Okay, dream and wakefulness are the same, reality and dream are the same?” It is not so. You know reality only the way your senses interpret it for you. You do not know it the way it is. So what you call “reality” is an interpretation of your mind, what you call “dream” is also an interpretation of your mind. Whatever happens in your mind is another kind of reality. We can call it “psychological reality.” For most people, their dream is far more powerful than their thought process. Unfortunately, they don’t remember most of it.

The unwinding of karma

The process of life can be interpreted as an unwinding of that which has already been done. When we say, “Your life is the way it is because that’s your karma,” it simply means, your life is an unwinding of that which has already been done. But life situations may not collaborate very well with the karmic substance that you have. If you are trying to do a dream with eyes open and seek the cooperation of the world to do your dream, it is a hopeless way to live because the world will not cooperate with your dream. They have their own stuff. In a dream, you are able to create a conducive atmosphere for the kind of winding that you have. Only if life has gone beyond the unconscious unwinding of karma and it has become a conscious process, then, wakefulness is more meaningful. If life is limited only to unwinding of that which has already been done, a dream is definitely a better space to do it.


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Can you accumulate karma in a dream? The accumulation of karma is not in the activity that you perform. It is in the volition or the intention of one’s action.

In the yogic culture, Shiva, the Mahadeva, is described either as utter sleep or absolute wakefulness. This is the state of a fully conscious one: either he does not exist, or he is on. There is no in-between reality for him because if there is nothing to unwind, there will be only stillness and awakening. There will be no dream state. When I say “dream,” I’m not only talking about the scenery that happens when you are asleep, even when you have your eyes open, you are in a dream state. Right now, how you are experiencing the creation is completely dreamy. It is not the way it is.

The power of the dream and the flimsiness of the dream are simultaneously present. For one who is lost in the dream, it is a powerful thing. For one who is looking at it from a little distance it is such a flimsy thing. It just depends on how you have positioned yourself in relation to your dream.

So can you accumulate karma in a dream? The accumulation of karma is not in the activity that you perform. It is in the volition or the intention of one’s action. Are you capable of an intention in a dream? Can you decide, “Today, I am going to have this kind of dream?” No. There is no volition in a dream. So a dream is only a process of unwinding. Even during the day, most of the time you are only unwinding that which has already been done. Your anger, your ambition, your frustration, your love, your passion, your hatred, most of this is only unwinding of karma, not your doing. You will realize this only when you try to stop it. Let’s say you got very angry with someone yesterday, and today, you are determined, “I don’t want to get angry with this person.” But when you meet him you will see, once again you get angry. Obviously it is not your doing. Most of the time, you are only doing the reverse of what has already been done. Only when you try to transform yourself, you will realize this. This unwinding of the karmic process seems so real, seems like it is you who is doing this. When we say “karma,” we are saying, it is your doing. When one believes that whatever he is doing, he is doing out of his intentions, it is a very basic state of ignorance.

Losing self-interest

There is a chant that says, “It’s all you, Mahadeva, it’s all you. My evil is my mind’s doing, my actions are my body’s doing – where am I? I don’t even exist. It is all yours.” If a true devotee says this, then it is a very beautiful state of realization. If the mind says this, then it is a very gross level of cunning. Most human beings have learnt to pass the buck to someone else or something else whenever things that are happening are not to their liking. Only if you are willing to pass that which you like and that which you do not like, that which is failure and that which is success to someone else, it is okay. If your wellbeing and your distress both are being passed to someone, that’s okay. If you are only willing to pass your distress, not your wellbeing – you are trying to make a bad deal with someone. No one is going to buy this deal unless he is an absolute fool.

Even the dimmest person is very clever when it comes to his self-interest. Only when human beings get more and more intelligent, they are less and less concerned about their self-interest. The dimmer they are, the shrewder they are about their self-interest. Have you noticed this? Being interested in the limited self is a foolish thing. It’s a terrible loss that is happening to an individual human being and to humanity as a whole. When he could be interested and involved in the grandeur of the cosmos, he is interested in one little person who is not worth anything. When intelligence expands and starts looking at a variety of things, a human being is not so concerned about his self-interest. If one’s intelligence truly flowers, he has no self-interest.

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