Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Book Extract

Waking World is Unreal

Dennis Waite

Educated in Chemistry, he worked until 2000 in computing, after which he began writing.

His books to date are: The Book of One (2003), extensively revised in 2010; The Spiritual Seeker's Essential Guide to Sanskrit (India, 2005); How to Meet Yourself (2007); Back to the Truth (2007); Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle (2008); ‘Advaita Made Easy’ ( 2012).


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Publisher: Mantra Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-78279-996-2
Format: Paperback
Pages: 420
List Price: £20.99, US$36.95

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The World Appearance

Third objection to world being unreal

And this leads on to the third objection namely that, whereas the dream world is subjective, the waking world has objective reality. It is experienced as external to ourselves, whereas the dream takes place in our mind (K2.9 - 10). But this notion suffers from the same confusion as before. We only recognize that the dream world is ‘in our mind’ when we are awake; at the time of the dream, it is just as much ‘external’ as is the waking world when we are awake. We might as well say that the waking world is really non-existent since it disappears when we are in the dream or deep sleep states. At the time of the dream, I experience external objects and events in just the same manner. Their illogicality or even impossibility only becomes apparent on awakening. 

Similarly, when we recognize that turIya is the reality, we will also realize that the waking world has no objectivity of its own but is just an appearance within Consciousness. The objective reality of the two worlds is entirely relative to the standpoint of the observer. In fact, they are both mithyA.

From a ‘detached’ point of view, both waking and dream are similar experiences. Within the dream, there are ‘others’ who validate my dream experience. I have conversations with them and I assume (as a dreamer) that they see the same external (dream) world as I do. It is only from the vantage point of having woken up that I am able to see that this world was internally generated and (no longer) has any objective existence.

Of course I feel that I am unable to take a position from outside of this waking world to look at the situation in a similar fashion. And so I call the waking world ‘real’ and the dream world ‘false’. But in fact I do take such a stand every time I go to sleep. In the dream, the waking world is negated and in deep-sleep, both waking and dream are negated.

If we imagine a dream A in which we go to sleep and have a dream B. When we ‘wake up’ (from dream B into the dream A), we will say that the dreamt dream was ‘only a dream in the mind’, and that we are now (in dream A) in the real world. Of course, when we ‘really’ wake up into the waking world, we realize that both A and B were dreams and think that we are now in reality. Except that we are now effectively in dream C!

So long as we continue to believe in the objective reality of a separate world, we have not really woken up! The bottom line, with respect to this third objection, is that the experience of an external world does not mean that the world is real. Of course, we assume that it does, but an assumption is no proof at all.

If objects of both waking and dream worlds are unreal, that must include the people who inhabit them also, including the waker and the dreamer! If this is the case, it is denying the reality of the knower as well as the known. But this makes no sense as there has to be someone who is doing the denying! So who is it who sees or imagines these two worlds (K.2.11)?

This question highlights the danger of choosing the wrong word. Gaudapada actually uses the word vaitathya for the word translated here as ‘unreal’ but this should be regarded as a synonym for mithyA. The objects of the world are not unreal. Try walking in front of an oncoming car to demonstrate this! The objects (of both states) have reality relative to that state. What they do not have is absolute reality. Their reality depends upon I, the observer. That is I, the ultimate observer – Consciousness – not I, the separate person, which is equally mithyA. I, the waking person, cannot have absolute reality because I disappear, to be replaced by the dreamer or sleeper, when I go to sleep. I, the ego, also has only relative reality.

Gaudapada provides a preliminary answer to this question of who sees the worlds in K2.12, and introduces the concept of mAyA, which was mentioned in the introduction. He says that the scriptures tell us that it is the non-dual Self that ‘imagines’ itself and cognizes objects, by the power of its own mAyA. There is only the non-dual Self, or Consciousness. But he is suggesting here that this Self effectively creates a world, together with conscious beings to inhabit it, out of Itself. And, looking out at the world through the eyes of these beings, this Self 'forgets' that it is everything.

In fact, the ‘knower’ is not the original Consciousness but Consciousness ‘reflected’ in the mind of the observer. And we should never forget that all of this is really mithyA, like the snake misperceived in the rope.

It does, indeed, sound fantastical. And yet this is precisely what happens when I the waker go to sleep and dream! Whilst dreaming, I fully believe that I am in a complex, fully populated world of others; and yet everything is produced in my own mind, by itself, out of itself. The apparent plurality is self-delusion. Relatively speaking the waking world is no different. None of it has independent, substantial reality; it is all only name and form of myself, turIya.

Who-I-really-am is not the waker, which is Consciousness identified with this material body and believing in a separate gross universe. Both body and world effectively disappear when I go to sleep. And I am not the dreamer, which is Consciousness identified with the mentally created subtle body and dream world. These creations disappear when I wake up or go into deep sleep. The reality is that I am the Consciousness which is doing the identifying; that which is present throughout all of the three states and which does not change.

When I enter the dream, I (now the dreamer I) forget all about the waker I, believing that I am now completely awake in this mentally created dream world. And when I enter deep sleep, I forget both. All these experiences come and go but I, as Consciousness, remain unchanging as that in which they all arrive and depart. They are transient and their reality is relevant only to the ‘I’ which temporarily rules in that particular state. I, as Consciousness, am the only absolute reality. Recall again the metaphor of the actor playing several roles.


Below is the list of contents from the book (which, as the title implies, aims to give a short, traditionally authentic, and comprehensive introduction to the subject):


Search for happiness
Title of this book
Brief Note on the Presentation
A (very) little Sanskrit background
OM = Everything = God
Structure and Content of the Text
Gold Ring Metaphor
Reality and Unreality
Means of Acquiring Knowledge, with an emphasis on Inference
Relevance of Scriptures
Vedantic Inference
Cover Image


States of consciousness
The Waking State – vishva and virAT
The Dream State – taijasa and hiraNyagarbha
The Deep-Sleep State – prAj~na and antaryAmin (Ishvara)
Summary of the three states
The ‘Fourth’ – turIya
Investigation into OM
Silence – amAtra
Comparison of the States – Ignorance and Error


Unreality of dream
Unreality of waking world
First objection to world being unreal
Second objection to world being unreal
Third objection to world being unreal
Fourth objection to world being unreal
Accepting the world as mithyA
Falsity of waking and dream objects
Criticism of dualists
jIva is never born
Pot space metaphor
Scriptural Negation of jIva


Refutation of Other Philosophies
satkAryavAda vs asatkAryavAda
Refutation of sAMkhya theory
Refutation of dvaita theory of karma
Refutation of Buddhism
Nothing can come into existence (K4.53-56)
An aside discussion of the Sanskrit in these four verses


Theories of Creation
Creation according to scripture
Creation According to Reason
The concept of mAyA


Popular Belief
Origin of Belief
Advaita is different
Why does Advaita teach duality?
The Delusion
Mistaking the Self
Rope and snake metaphor
Magic Elephant
How does Duality come about?
The delusion of duality
Firebrand metaphor - only Consciousness is real
Truth of the Self/Reality
Reality for awakened jIva


The mind and its ‘death’
Knowing brahman
Problems and Misconceptions


OM – The 4 aspects of consciousness
karma and bhakti yoga
Knowledge and the fruit of knowledge
Meditation on OM
Summary of what should be done and benefits
chin mudrA
Removal of obstacles



shAnti pATha and Introduction by Shankara
Mantra 1
Mantra 2
Mantra 3
Mantra 4
Mantra 5
Mantra 6
Mantra 7
Mantra 8
Mantra 9 (and kArikA K1.19)
Mantra 10 (and kArikA K1.20)
Mantra 11 (and kArikA K1.21)
Mantra 12

The state of swoon, faint or coma
Lucid Dreaming

APPENDIX 3 – chidAbhAsa
The ‘real I’ verses the ‘presumed I’ – An Examination of chidAbhAsa

APPENDIX 4 – manonAsha
manonAsha – not the literal death of the mind


The five basic vowels
The compound vowels
The first group of consonants (guttural)
The second group of consonants (palatal)
The third group of consonants (cerebral)
The fourth group of consonants (dental)
The fifth group of consonants (labial)
Table of basic consonants
The semi-vowels
The sibilants
The complete alphabet
Further study



GLOSSARY – Sanskrit terminology



The second extract from the book, on the meaning of the 'chin mudrA' sign may be read here.
The third extract, on 'Creation according to reason' is here.




Page last updated: 20-Nov-2015