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Dream State and Waking State Are Different Orders of Reality
Amy: In his book, James makes it sound like everything is an illusion, just another state of dreaming. If that’s so, why I can’t fly like in a dream? If we are not actually bound by materiality, why can’t we walk through objects? Surely it’s not only the limitation of mind!
Rory: That’s an interesting question.
In short, the dream state occupies one particular order of reality and the waking state occupies another. Each order of reality has its own set of rules and they don’t overlap. For instance, in your dreams you might murder someone, but when you wake up, you don’t go down to the police station and hand yourself in. The dream world inhabits one level of existence and doesn’t carry through to the waking world. If you’re in any doubt, try drinking that cup of coffee you dreamt of last night. ☺
The waking world is what we call vyavaharika satyam. This is the objective/empirical level of reality. Isvara governs the laws of this Creation – universal, inviolable laws, such as the appearance and dissolution of gross and subtle matter, and all the physical laws, such as gravity, conversation of energy, entropy, the spinning of the planets and the dance of birth and death.
The jiva is the self associated with the upadhi of a particular gross and subtle body. Actually, the jiva is part of Isvara, and isn’t separate from the rest of the Creation. But thanks to avidya (ignorance) the jiva takes itself to a separate, limited, entity. With its mind, the jiva spins a whole subjective reality – a realm of thoughts, beliefs, desires, fears and dreams known only to us. This is called pratibhasika satyam, the subjective realm. Our imagination and dreams occur at this subjective level of reality.
So our dreams belong to the pratibhasika (subjective) order of reality, and the waking world belongs to the vyavahariksa (objective) order of reality. When you’re in a particular order of reality, you are subject to its laws, which is why when you are awake, you are subject to the laws of Isvara – hence no defying the laws of gravity, etc. In Isvara’s domain you gotta play by Isvara’s rules. In the domain of your dreams, the laws are infinitely more fluid and unpredictable.