Thursday, January 10, 2008

What Hinduism says about dreams?

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
evil spirits.
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
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.

The king
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!!

Related post in this blog:-


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful piece of mini-research? I had been looking for any reference to the dream interpretation in the Hindu tradition for a long time until came across your article. It is very useful. Thank you very much. By the way, do you know anything about Hindu dream interpreters? I mean what kind of titles they had? E.g. in Islam they were called mu'abbirs, exc. Thanks in advance.
Alim, Oxford

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Dream interpretation is part of astrology. The Hindu astrology is broadly classified into 5, of which samhita is one and sakuna is another.
Dreams come under both these.

Swapna satra (science of dream) as it is called, is a samhita dealing with meaning of dreams.
It is also part of sakuna (that depends on instant recognition of an ensuing event based on common sense knowledge of happenings in Nature) because it is possible for even a layman to understand what a dream conveys.

As such there didn't exist a separate class called dream interpreters in ancient India. Today some have come up- but mostly dependent on western thought on dreams.

Any experienced Hindu astrologer will be able to do dream interpretation.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Dear Alim,

If you want any book on Dream interpretation in Indian system, you can try "Swapna Prakaashika in Bruhannighantu Ratnakaram" by Paathaka Datta Rama Khemraj Sree Krishnadas, Sri Krihsna Press, Mumbai.

Charaka, Susruta, Varahamihira, Bruhaspathi, Parashara, Markandeya etc have written on dreams. You can find some reference to dreams in Vishnu puranam also.

May be I will do a post on a consolidated version on dreams given by all the above. Please keep hooked to google search on dreams in my blog.

Kamala R said...

I am very glad i reached your blog. I 've been dreaming a lot.. mostly i dream about gods.. i have seen naradar twice. Once Naradar said he was sent by Lord Vishnu to meet me and convey his message.. I've also seen other gods and goddess in my dream. I am maintaining a online dream journal from 2007 and are the address for my online journal.

Is there a specific reason as to why I have so many dreams?? And also, many of my dreams have come true.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Dear Invincible spirit,

I read your blog posts on your dreams. It seems they come under Freudian type and / or the imbalance in body humors.

According to Charaka samhita, there are 7 reasons for a dream.
1. caused by what is seen by the eye (in waking time)
2.caused by what is heard by ears.
3. caused by what is experienced by the senses.
4.desired ones.
5. imagined by mind
6. 'Ahrishta' - mentally percpeted which are premonitive
7. arising out of elements of the body (vata, pitta and kapha)

Most dreams explained by you come under the first 5 categories (explained by Freud as well).
Dreams such as seeing fire etc are caused by imbalance in bodily elements. If on the night of dreaming, you have acidity or excess bile, you may dream of fire, thirsty, heat etc. This comes under the 7th category mentioned above.

The 6th category are specific sightings in dreams which have been explained by many maha rishis. They only are premonitive. A sample of them can be read in Trijada's dream in sundara khandam.

I will be doing some posts on this category in my blog soon.

I suggest the advice given by sages that you recite Vishnu sahasranama everyday. On the morning after a disturbing dream, take bath immediately and visit a temple.

Reading Gajendra moksham from Bhagavatham after a disturbing dream is also recommended by sages.

shuvechha said...

hello! i am so glad i ended up in your blog.the only sole search is Google, but it did not help me much, so i want to ask you if you have anything to interpret about the dreams that i have been seeing, i have seen kali mata twice and this time,last night, i saw a crematory with a black coffin and many people around it(though, i am a Hindu from Nepal).and i also saw a demon in my dream.. thought both the pictures were in the form of postcard on my wall, it still confuses me a lot! please let me know, if you think you can help! thank you!

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Welcome Shuvechha.

Please read the previous comment by me. You will get the answer for your query. Your dream is mentally perecpeted and not intuitive nor indicative of future. Monitor the intake of food and see to it that have a calm mind before going to sleep.

Kamala R said...

Hi again.

I still dream of gods and still have dreams that are coming true. I have moved to phoenix, USA. Before Tsunami hit japan at least i had 3-4 dreams about it. I've seen lord shiva from an angle, and I must say he was most handsome I have ever seen. infact i had a huge crush for that entire day!Recently, I had a dream about having baby and goddess mariamma herself doing my seemantham (vazhaikaappu) and telling me that i'll have son named Adhi narayana.And i have these dream wagging war against a asura and sages giving me instructions as what i should be doing. These days i am not regular in writing my dreams.


Unknown said...

hello jayasree. went through your words...wantedd to tell you that its being really useful for me as i m doing research on dreams ? interpretation? and how this mystery is working in other religions. i m doing observation kind of research. thanks... looking fwd..

Unknown said...

thanks alot for such a valuable and helpful reseach. m a final yr media-arts student and ve been working for my dissertaion on dreams their interpreation, the reality. and what different religions have about this unsolved mystery.
looking fwd

karthik said...

i have had dreams of lust and incest it is disgusting is it a sin i am worried , i am on medication it is a side effect

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Karthik
You yourself have said the cause of the dream!

pannaga said...

We have also watched this movie 'Inception' and as we were in discussion about the topic of 'dreams and its reference in Hinduism', came upon this website. I see a lot of masters in this field on this web site and wanted to share this dream of mine to know what it means. I have had about atleast 6-7 dreams that have come true. Mostly these come true after a few years, sometimes 3-4 years. They are specific to certain situations in real world. When the dream happenes [or happened], it just goes by like any other 'run of the mill'. Ex: I am in Bangalore city, sitting on the stairs of the entry to a house. Its not my house or any relatives. I will be riding my bicycle and its starts to rain /pour. I stop my bicycle on the footpath [side walk] quickly to prevent myself getting drenched in rain and enter into this small passage to a house [on first floor]. The stairs are in the passage and the house on top. I sit on the 3rd step of the stairs, with my feet on the 2nd step. Very disticnct and clear picture. The window, color of a towel hanging outside, the rope etc.. are all very vivid in my mind [frm the dream]. Its after 3 years or so, that this "setup" happens in reality. When the dream happened, I was in a different city [160 kms away from bangalore - Mysore city, studying for my Engineering]. When the real event took place, I suddenly remember and "recollect" the dream. Any comments on how I would interpret / infer from these dreams.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe in my dreams. They kind of foretell whether good or bad thing is going to happen.
There is one dream which I am unable to intepret.
I went to 5 different temples and asked for the same wish. On all the 5 days I dreamt
that someone(or group of people) was(were) sweeping floor. In all the occurrences I either stopped them from sweeping or they
collected the trash and kept in dust bin. What does that mean. I am sure it has something to do
with the wish I asked for. Can you interpret it.

Anonymous said...

i committed a sin in my dream.whenever i scolded God i got that dream (twice).I used to believe God .After knowing some facts I could not believe God.I felt insecure.I thought human-being could mend the world.But in my dream i committed the sin.I feel very much guilty.What should I do?(If I am religious,believe God)After years also, I am feeling guilty.Now I am praying God.Before Shiv Ratri ,I am getting non-random thoughts,feeling insecure.This time I went to temple.I earlier ,seven years ago had medication.5 years ago I got terrible dream that i commit a sin.1 yr ago i got almost same dream committing a sin.whenever I disrespect God,then or after sometime I get the dream.I feel less confident.But after i went temple i get a dream which i It because of believing God?what should i do for the earlier dreams?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I found it somewhat helpful. A few years ago, I had an amazing dream where I was walking to a massive festival in India. The festival occurs 4 times in 12 years at 4 different places. In my dream, I was traveling to a future festival, and it was very important that I go. I told many people about my dream. I had never heard of the Kumbh Mela, but then I googled my dream and learned all about it. I was meant to have my dream, and I now see life in a new way.

akee said...

i saw a dream i am sinking into a deep sea n about to sink…and i called someone for hlp..a poor little child gave his hands n hold me up n i came out of the deep water then i saw myself saying thnkxx to lord hanuman in front of the idol of hanuman g under a tree.. the boy asked me to gave him some money .i told boy that i will take care of him throughout my life ,his studies his livlihood.. i gave him my home number..then i again saw myself thnking lord hanuman g..thn when i turned back ,the boy dissapeered n my draem ended..

Jayasree Saranathan said...

A research article on dreams:-


One hypothesis is that dreams are a catharsis to the vicissitudes of daily life; another is that they reflect a disruption of the nervous system.

Whatever they are, scientists agree that everyone dreams, usually during the stage of sleep called REM sleep, which most people go through three to five times a night. Most sleepers forget their dreams right away; heavy dreamers remember them more easily. About 5-6 per cent of the population report having nightmares.

“Nightmares are not a disease in themselves but can be a problem for the individual who anticipates them or who is greatly distressed by their nightmares. People who have frequent nightmares may fear falling asleep – and being plunged into their worst dreams. Some nightmares are repeated every night. People who are awakened by their nightmares cannot get back to sleep, which creates artificial insomnia,” Dr Zadra said.

The source of a recurring nightmare may be a traumatic event. Returning soldiers sometimes, in their dreams, see the scenes that marked them. Consumption or withdrawal of alcohol or psychotropic drugs may also explain the frequency or intensity of nightmares.

The good news is that nightmares are treatable. Through visualization techniques, patients learn to change the scenario of one or more of their dreams and repeat the new scenario using a mental imagery technique. It can be through a life-saving act or a supernatural intervention. All in mid-dream!

cyanide said...

Thank you very much sir, can the sleeping position also be a reason for nightmares?

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tar group said...

Hi and glad to come upon your blog. I need some explanation on some dreams my mum has been having frequently lately. She has been dreaming of some old colleagues and friends who have passed on for some years. In most of the dreams, she converses with them and olthe latest on giving and receiving money. It had gotten me very worried as she is in her 70s. I hope it's not a bad omen for her. Hope to get your point of view. Tq very much.

R.Shankar said...

Dear Madam,
Congratulations for your book on MBH timing.
Coming to dreams, does a recurring dream mean a prediction or a vaasana from the past?
I've been getting a dream from childhood, of going in a train somewhere in Kerala, and missing it on the way and sometimes searching for the baggage. I grew up in Kerala. We can also discuss this privately if it suits.