Dream Space, Awake Space and Mind-Space

[This short extract, in addition to providing the answers, also serves as an example of the incisive logic and inductive and deductive approach taken by Sage Vasishta in explicating the nature of the world to Rama in the well-known Advaitic scripture, Yogavasishta. The present material is from Chapter 2: mumukshu vyavahAra prakaraNa (The Conduct and Behavior of a committed Seeker), Original text: Shri K. V. Krishna Murthy; English translation: Ramesam Vemuri]

Where do the brahmANDa-s (multiverses) of the present time exist? They are in space.  What is space exactly?

One definition for space is that because of which it is possible for two objects to exist separated from one another.  We can also define it in another way. Space is that in which all the known objects are located.  But your dream world is also known to you! Can you say where do the rivers, mountains and all the other things of your dream world are located in the present awake world space? 

If we draw a graph, we can define the position of an object in the three-dimensional space. Can you point out where the mountains, rivers, houses etc. of your dream world are located in the awake space?  We cannot because they are not there in space. But you have seen them. Where were they when you saw them?  You would say that the dream world objects were born in the mind, existed in the mind and finally dissolved into the mind.  We agree with that.  Let us not for now worry about their birth or dissolution. Let us just find out where they exist. You say they were in the mind.  That means, all the rivers, mountains, clouds, sky, stars etc. which you have seen in your dream exist in your mind.  In other words your mind has provided the place for so many varieties of things to exist.

We have observed according to one definition that the space is that which gives place to the objects to exist.  According to that definition then, your mind is also a space! So the mind can be called as mind-space (mAnasAkAsha).

You have seen one space in your dream and that is not this outer space.  It is a different space.  The space you have seen in your dream is a part of your mind-space.  Please make a note of that.

If you observe carefully, you will find that not only the dream world but also the awake world exists because of your mind.  When your mind is present, you have this world for you.  When you don’t have your mind (as in deep sleep), you don’t have this world too.  So, as a matter of fact this awake state world is also in your mind.  Thus, what you call ‘space’ in this wakeful state world is also embedded in your mind.

What is Subtlety? 

Space is the subtlest of all the things in this world.  What is ‘subtlety’?  The number of senses with which we can detect an object defines how coarse or subtle it is. An object which can be sensed by more sense organs is grosser than that which can be sensed by fewer sensory organs. For example take a piece of rock.  You can see the rock piece with your eye and identify it.  You can touch with the hand and identify it.  You can smell and identify it.  You can put it on the tongue and taste it to identify.  If there are two pieces of that rock, you can identify it from the sound that comes when one piece is struck against the other.

So, you can identify a rock with all the five senses — eye, nose, ear, skin and tongue.  If you take air, you cannot identify it with your eye or with your nose or with your tongue.  But if the air passes over your skin the sense of touch can identify air.  By hearing the sound when a breeze blows, you can identify air.  It means air can be identified with only two sense organs – skin and ears whereas a rock can be identified by all the five sense organs.  So, air is subtler than a piece of rock.

Space is Matter:

How do you recognize space?  Space is cognized only by indirect means. One way is through the sound that emanates when one thing strikes against another.  When you hear a sound, you can say there were two different things that were once separated from one another, but now are crashing against each other. Whenever we notice friction between two things anywhere in the world, we may infer that they ought to have been separate from one another and have come closer later.  ‘They were separated from each other’ means that there was space in between them.  So, if sound is produced in this world, space must have been there earlier between the two objects.

In other words, for sound to emerge, it is necessary that space must pre-exist between two things.  That’s why the elders declared that sound is a quality of space.  When we detect a sound with the aid of the ear, we automatically imagine the existence of space.

We do not see anything to be present between the roof of the house and us on the floor. We infer space to be present in-between.  Therefore, space is said to be “invisible.” It means that space is not graspable directly by any of the five sensory organs. Hence, space is the subtlest of the five fundamental elements (panca bhUta-s).

Pervasiveness:

The subtler the object, the more pervasive will it be in nature.  Air pervades the earth because air is subtler than the earth. Since space is the subtlest of all the things, it surrounds and pervades all other things in this world.

Now coming back to the object called mind, where do you think the mind is located within space?  Do you think it is in the head?  If it is confined within the head, how can it detect the things in the distant stars and galaxies which are millions of miles away? Though it appears to leave its footprint on the piece of meat in our skull, we have to admit that it is much bigger than the brain. We had concluded a while ago that the entire creation comprising space along with the whole cosmic world is embedded within such a mind.

We have also established that whatever pervades the most is the subtlest and that what is pervaded is relatively grosser.  When we combine both these conclusions, we can say that the mind-space is subtler than even the ‘invisible’ cosmic space.

The take home message from the above discussion is that:

  1. All the objects present in this creation are located in the space out there.
  2. The space out there along with all the objects is located in the mind-space. And
  3. Mind-space means the space called ‘mind.’

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