According to Hindu Thought, dreams are real and caused by the Supreme
Brahman. They can either be prophetic or retributive.
The earliest references to dreams are found in Rig veda which are
mystic than symbolic.
It is said that dreams are manifestations of
By praying to Lord Varuna, a person can protect himself
from the evil dreams.
Lord Varuna is also called as Lord of Rta, the
Law-giver who distributes the good and evil dreams in tune with the
punya or papa-karma that the subject has to experience.
By praying to
this Lord, the evil dreams are consigned to Trita Aptya. (the 3rd
level of consciousness or antharyamin?).
There are verses on dreams in Atharva veda which speak about swapna
in two-fold characteristics, namely, the state of sleep whose Lord
is Yama and what it (sleep) contains.
The second one is about dreams
which are in nature of retributive justice done to the dreamer by the
Lord of Rta – by praying whom one can get the evil dreams transferred
to the evil-doers (how?)
But one important verse in Atharva veda found in XIX-57 gives an
indication of prophetic nature of dreams.
It says, " Thee that are `harsh' by name, mouth of the black-bird (shakuni) –
thee, o sleep, we thus know completely.'
The term `krishna shakuni', meaning
black-bird is symbolic of omens. It had been in vogue in those days
to listen to the signs and sounds of birds to predict what is to
come. The word shakunam indicates that dreams are speculative.
Coming to upanishaths, there are many references to dreams in a
number of upanishaths. But the core theme of all had been that it is
Brahman who creates the dreams – something that runs counter to Freud
and other modern psycho-analysts.
The pramanas for dreams as being
the creation of Brahman can be found in Ramanuja Bhashyam to Brahma
sutras 3-2-1 to 3-2-5. (available in ramanuja.org).
But the very next
sutra says that dreams serve as omen. Thirijada's dream in sundara
khandam and Andal's dream are worth mentioning here.
Two inferences are drawn from Ramanuja's write-ups (according to K.C.
Varadhachari who has done an elaborate research in Ramanuja's works)
(1) Not all dreams are prophetic. The individual who is self-
controlled, leads a moral life and is self-surrendered at the feet of
the Divine would be relieved of evil dreams.
With an increase in his
morality and Divine consciousness, he would not dream at all. For him
the dreams are of true nature, occurring in real life.
The true dream
is said to happen to him at twilight, the sandhya between waking and
sleep state when he is receptive (consciously) to Divine
manifestation within himself. The impressions as unfolded by the
Divine at that time is remembered by him as dreams and they are found
to happen in real life.
(2) Most dreams are retributive in nature having an ethical
justification. They evoke joy or sorrow or pleasure or pain.
There are dreams in which the dreamer smells or tastes etc. (the causes are
discussed in some upanishaths like ShArIrakOpanishath and
These feelings are in consonance with the nature
of karma that the dreamer is destined to undergo. This is understood
by the fact that good dreams have after-results of bodily fitness and
bad dreams leave one physically and mentally exhausted and weak.
Added to this is the feeling of dis-quiet and fear after a bad dream
or a nightmare.
The main book of reference for dream –interpretation is Charaka-
samhita by Charaka, part of which is supposed to be based on Valmiki
Scholars are of the opinion that Charaka has based his
interpretations on `consensus of opinion' on different dream –
implications that existed at his time – than on shAstric pramanas.
One pramana we have is from Chandogya which states that dreaming of
women means success. But going by Bramha sutra 3-2-6, we know that
dream- reading has sruti-pramana and that there were dream –readers
too. But as far as this writer knows, any literature on pramana-based
dream-reading (other than charaka's) is not existent today.
What we have with us now is based on interpreting from the retributive angle.
(In contrast, Charaka's linking of dreams to specific diseases or
success or defeat seem to have no logical or retributive basis.)
Based on the above notion, it is possible to bring out a logic
between dreams and reality.
For instance to the question on snake, biting the dreamer in dreams,
the logic is related to Rahu dosham,
if ever it exists in the subject's (dreamer) horoscope.
If it does
and if the subject is issueless
(the most common debilitation caused by Rahu),
the dream is said to signify an end to that debilitation.
Under other conditions (than the one mentioned),
it is interpreted
that the impediments caused by Rahu in Gochara or in dasa-bhukti
cease to exist from now onwards.
By the snake-bite, it is implied
that the harm is done (or over) and the subject is now free from the
harm. This is both retributive and predictive. (The retributive-ness
contains in itself the predictive aspect)
Food for thought:-
There is a story from Vikramaditya's life, whereby it is stated that
a person approached him with a plea that he (Vikramadithya) help him
retrieve the gold coins that was lent by him to another one in his
The king asked him to come back the next day with the promise
that he would get back the gold coins from the other person.
then had the same number of gold coins tied in a bag and hung on top
of a pole.
A mirror was placed at the ground in such a way that the
image of the coin-bag can be seen in the mirror.
The king delivered justice by asking the `lender' to take back from the image found in
the mirror, what he has lent in his dreams!!
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